Return to Transcripts main page
CONNECT THE WORLD
Australia Committed To Finding MH370; Russia Pulls Some Troops Back From Ukrainian Border; North Korea Fires Artillery Into South Korean Waters, South Korea Responds; UN Panel Urges International Committee To Act Now On Climate Change
Aired March 31, 2014 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAX FOSTER, HOST: Tonight, scouring the water: teams hunt from the air and on the sea for any sign of a missing plane whilst the families and friends of those lost remain stuck in a state of uncertainty.
Also ahead, the Russian prime minister pays a visit to Crimea as Russia shuffles troops in the region. Tonight, we'll look closely at what Moscow's next moves might be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL ADGER, UN INTERGOVERNEMNTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE: The impacts of climate change are universal. They are being felt in every part of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: With climate change already impacting every person on the planet, we ask an environmental scientist whether rising temperatures means disaster or opportunity.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.
FOSTER: So you know we are following breaking news coming out of Nairobi, Kenya in the last 20 minutes or so we've heard that six people are reported dead following an explosion in the easterly suburb of Nairobi, Kenya. We're hearing that -- via a tweet actually from Kenya's official national disaster operation center. It's adding that nine others are critically injured. The cause of the blast isn't clear. We'll bring you details as soon as we can confirm them for you.
First, we bring you the latest on the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. 10 planes and 11 ships crisscross the Indian Ocean on Monday trying to find anything to prove the Boeing 777 went down in the area. But they came up empty handed yet again.
Four objects spotted by search aircraft only described as promising have turned out to be nothing more than old fishing gear.
Another Australian ship is set to join the search fleet. It's carrying special equipment to build -- to locate the airline's black box. But it's not expected to arrive until Thursday. We'll be live from Australia in just a few moments. But first, a report from Will Ripley who is with the CNN team that is following the Ocean Shield.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: We are heading away now from Garden Island off the coast of western Australia where the Ocean Shield just moments ago began its three day journey to the search zone and the Indian Ocean where it will attempt to locate the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. This journey -- and what's going to happen is really unclear. And here's why, this ship has a lot of crucial technology on it, technology that could be the key to solving this mystery.
There is a black box locator, a giant underwater microphone that is towed behind this boat, listening for the sound from the inflight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. But the problem is that giant microphone, as powerful as it is, it can only hear for about a mile around. So we have to be within a mile of the black box to get a signal. And with only about a week of battery life left and still no clear leads as to where 370 may be in this massive Indian Ocean, the technology pretty much will be useless unless we can narrow down that information.
There's other technology on this ship as well. An underwater drone that can scan the ocean floor looking for debris. But again, even that technology can only cover about 50 square miles a day.
And we are talking about a search area that's well over 100,000 square miles. The task of finding this is still too difficult even for technology like this.
But nonetheless, the journey for the Ocean Shield now underway. The hope, if this ship can be positioned in the Indian Ocean, if we can get it close to the area and then if one of the search planes or one of the search boats spots some debris, something that's connected to flight 370, this ship will be ready to help solve the mystery.
Will Ripley, CNN, off the coast of western Australia.
FOSTER: Well, a new Australian joint agency coordination center is being formed to centralize the search. And Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the search effort is just ramping up. He also vowed to keep looking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: We are searching a vast area of the Indian Ocean. This is a very, very difficult task. It's far more difficult than the search for the Air France aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean a few years ago, because we had very precise information as to where that aircraft had come down. We've just got very general information about where this aircraft has come down.
But nevertheless, we are giving it the very best shot we can. And if anyone can find this aircraft, it's us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Well, as we await more breakthroughs in this baffling mystery, we're also learning more about the people on board that missing jet.
Sara Sidner tells us about a young couple who'd embarked on what was meant to be a very special trip.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was supposed to be the happiest time of their lives. Newlyweds, Norli Akmar Hamid and Muhammad Razahan Zamani, were on their way to their honeymoon in Beijing. Zamani was particularly excited because after safely up for a whole year, he was taking his very first trip abroad with the woman he adored.
MOHAMMAD SAHRIL SHAARI: First time going offsite in the country.
SIDNER: The first they have been on a honeymoon, cousin, Mohammad Sahril Shaari said. The honeymooners never made it to their destination. Their plane left on March 8th, Flight MH 370, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"He was so excited to go. He was already on the plane. It was just a matter of reaching his destination. I just feel so helpless," he says. "We really don't know. And we have never experienced these things before."
Shaari says he's been to every family briefing, listened to every detail, and felt every bit of heartbreak as the days change to weeks without any sign of the missing plane.
SIDNER (on camera): When we met you, you were smiling and talking with us. How do you stay so positive during all of this turmoil?
(voice-over): "It is difficult. We look happy on the outside, but we're dying inside. Only God knows what's inside of me."
He says one of the worst days for the family was this day.
NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is therefore, with deep sadness and regret, that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH-370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
SIDNER: Malaysian officials then informed the families all lives were lost. But a few days later, the acting transportation minister talked of the remote but possible chance of finding survivors.
HISHAMMUDIN BIN HUSSEIN, ACTING TRANSPORTATION MINISTER: I'm always hoping against hope, and I'm praying. And (INAUDIBLE) also in any remote manner has always been to find for survivors.
SIDNER (on camera): Who do you believe?
SIDNER (voice-over): "I prefer to believe Mr. Hishammudin because he has vowed to carry on searching till we find this plane, while our prime minister has said that the plane ended in the Indian Ocean, though he didn't say it had crashed or anything like that."
Leaving a lingering hope that this marriage did not end in tragedy. Sara Sidner, CNN, Kuala Lumpur.
FOSTER: And we are hoping to cross to Kyung Lah very soon in Perth who has got an update on the latest day in searching and the look ahead as well, which will be beginning in the next couple of hours.
We've made the search for Flight 370 one of our top stories online. Get up to speed on the latest developments by visiting our website CNN.com/international.
Still to come tonight, North Korean unleashes its artillery batteries, prompting South Korea to return fire. Why a maritime flashpoint is suddenly hot again. Coming up.
Also ahead, it's happening and no one is immune. We'll have the latest assessment on climate change and find out which countries are most at risk.
A bit later in the program, on the Russia-Ukraine border, Putin decides to pull back some of his forces. Why is he doing that? We'll ask a regional expert.
FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Max Foster. Welcome back to you.
Let's go back to our top story now. It's been 23 days since Flight 370 went missing. And search teams have yet to get any concrete lead. It's so frustrating for the families.
Kyung Lah joins us live from Perth with the very latest on this.
Kyung, we hear about the box that's with the airplane and it's sending out these signals, isn't it, but it's not going to go on forever. So is the pressure against the search teams in terms of the pings?
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the search teams are certainly aware of a ticking clock. And that's something that they've felt throughout this entire week that they've been searching from this particular air base.
What they do know is that they want to bring the evidence back for these families.
As far as the pings themselves, this -- the end date isn't really clear. It's approximately one week, but it could last a little bit longer. So that's why we saw the Ocean Shield depart today with the U.S. navy device. If the debris field is found, then it will be deployed. They are hoping that those batteries last longer, Max.
FOSTER: And in terms of the search area, what are they looking at now, because it seems to be getting more focused, but how sure are they about the area?
LAH: It's -- they're as sure as they can be. When we asked that exact question to the prime minister, how sure are you that this is the right area since just a couple of days ago that was traumatic move of the actual search area. He says that we believe we are searching in the right spot, using the best technology available, this is the area.
The area is estimated to be about the size of Poland. It's -- it is constantly shifting and moving. when I was up with the United States P8 plane, what they were trying to do is to basically mow the sea, if you will, going back and forth across the water. And these are set areas that they're going over through the Australian authorities.
So what they're trying to do, Max, is chip down at this very large area day by day.
FOSTER: And how is the relationship working between Australia and Malaysia, because obviously Australia very much leading things right now. Malaysia still has legal control of the whole search. Are there tensions there? How is it building?
LAH: We haven't felt any tensions, because basically we've just been dealing with the Australian authorities. As soon as we landed here in Perth, it was very much a focused Australian led investigation, all the information coming form Australia. Everything seems to be running quite well.
It does sit in stark comparison to what we saw out of Kuala Lumpur and what we're continuing to see out of Kuala Lumpur. Even just this change today of the final words out of the cockpit, that doesn't exactly sort of bring any confidence to how the Malaysians are handling it.
So two -- it appears to be two entirely separate investigations. Australia very much focused on search and recovery. Malaysia much more focused on the events that led up to the disappearance of this plane.
FOSTER: Kyung Lah, thank you very much indeed. Still no solid news.
Meanwhile, the German government says Vladimir Putin has ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from the Ukrainian border. The Russian president made the revelation in a phone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier today. The Ukrainian troops are still poised on the border to defend themselves in case of an invasion.
Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev paid his first visit to Crimea since the region was annexed. He promised economic reform until Crimeans, their salaries and pensions will be raised in line with Russia's.
Tensions running high on the Korean peninsula tonight after North and South Korea traded artillery fire across the disputed maritime border known as the northern limit line.
Pyongyang doesn't recognize that border, but warns Seoul early on Monday that it will be conducting live fire drills in the area. Andrew Salmon has more.
ANDREW SALMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It began as an exercise -- North Korean forces firing artillery into the waters of the Yellow Sea close to the disputed maritime border with South Korea. But it rapidly became something much more perilous when a number of shells landed inside South Korean waters. South Korean forces responded in kind, firing a barrage of their own into North Korean waters. After three hours, both sides pulled back from the brink. And the guns fell silent.
The shelling follows recent North Korean missile tests and threats to conduct a new kind of nuclear test. The timing of these actions coincides with annual spring exercises carried out by South Korean and U.S. forces.
Seoul and Washington claim these exercises are defensive. Pyongyang, however, insists their preparations for nuclear attack.
Thankfully, there were no casualties today. But the danger of a war of nerves is it can spiral out of control. And with South Korean and U.S. military exercises scheduled to continue, all eyes are now on what North Korea may do next.
Andrew Salmon for CNN, in Seoul.
FOSTER: Egypt continue to draw the ire of the international community for the treatment of three al Jazeera journalists held on terrorist charges. They're again denied bail earlier on Monday, but had a chance to make their case to the judge in the open court, denying allegations they were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
CNN's Ian Lee was there.
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was a roller coaster of emotion today inside the courtroom for the three al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fahmy. For awhile there, it looked like they were going to be released on bail. That couldn't be the case.
The three journalists were able to address the judge, saying that they were not members of the Muslim Brotherhood, that they're legitimate journalists working inside Egypt out in the open, not in secret, also saying that they posed no risk to society or the state and that they should be released on bail.
Mohamed Fahmy also saying that because of an injury he sustained before the arrest, he should be released on bail, so he can have medical treatment, Baher Mohamed saying also that he should be released on bail, because he has a baby about to be born.
We were also expecting to see today video evidence that the state says show the al Jazeera journalists fabricating footage as well as spreading false information. al Jazeera says that these stories that aired on their network are just going to prove that these are legitimate journalists working in the country.
And this is really one of the key components of the charges against three journalists. While they didn't have the video equipment in the courtroom today so the judge postponed the trial until April 10.
Ian Lee, CNN, Cairo.
FOSTER: Police in Rio de Janeiro are intensifying efforts to crack down on crime as the city gets ready to host the World Cup this summer. Security forces launched a weekend defensive to retake a drug trafficking stronghold near the international airport.
Shasta Darlington has the details.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: More than 1,000 police, backed by armored vehicles and helicopters moved into a sprawling shanty town in northern Rio de Janeiro over the weekend hoping to squeeze out violent drug gangs with the World Cup less than three months away.
Now in fact, forces from Rio's special operations battalion warned about this operation ahead of time hoping to avoid shootouts and possible deaths. In that sense, it was a success. They moved into the Complex Jimareir (ph) with some 130,000 residents without a single shot being fired. In fact, this operation is part of a larger drive known as the pacification effort. Rio has already sent police into dozens of favelas, or shantytowns, hoping to secure them ahead of the World Cup and of court the Olympic Games, which will be played two years later in 2016.
In the case of the Complex Jimareir (ph) it's a few kilometers from the International airport and has really become something of a stronghold for drug gangs in part, because they've been squeezed out of these other communities.
It was such a problem that Rio officials have asked for help backup from federal troops. And we'll see over the next month army soldiers also moving in and taking up positions, also because there has been something of a resurgence of violence in some of the favelas that were already pacified.
And you have to remember, Rio de Janeiro will not only host a number of key games, including the closing match at its Maracana Stadium, it's also the main destination for the hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to Brazil for this month-long sporting event.
Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.
FOSTER: Everyone is looking forward to it.
Well, live from London, this is Connect the World.
Coming up, an urgent warning for UN experts on climate change. They say the world must take action now to prevent potentially catastrophic effects.
Putin (inaudible) possible drawback from the Ukrainian border. But Ukrainian troops show no sign of budging. We'll bring you the latest on that.
FOSTER: Returning now to a story that we've been following for you out of Nairobi in Kenya. We brought you word of a blast in the capital's easterly suburb. We're now getting the first video from the scene of the blast. Let's take a look at it. Kenya's officials national disaster operation center reports that six people died, nine were critically injured.
We're going to try to get updates for you, but at the moment this is the very latest video that comes out of Nairobi, of course, of that terrible incident last year.
Food shortages, natural disasters, mass migration, even war -- UN experts say the risk of all of these threats could get even worse if the world doesn't do something now to combat climate change.
They issued a call to action today in a landmark report on greenhouse gas emissions. It says these emissions could cost governments around the world more than $100 billion a year if left unchecked, in some cases causing irreparable damage. And no is immune.
As Rosemary Church now reports, experts say the chance to turn down the heat is slipping away.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN CORREPSONDENT: 2013 was a year of extremes -- Australia baked in 40 degree temperatures, the hottest year on record Down Under.
In Europe, it was the rain setting records overflowing river banks and causing billions of dollars in damages.
And then there was Haiyan, the devastating typhoon, which tore through the Philippines, claiming 6,000 lives.
Some scientists say this kind of extreme weather is connected to climate change.
Once a debatable issue, climate change is now felt the world over, according to a new report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report also looks ahead, predicting big problems of primary concern: agriculture, access to drinking water and the health and economic effects of extreme weather phenomena.
Temperature increases of just four degrees Celsius, combined with more hungry people, would pose a great risk to food security. Major crops like wheat, rice and maize and the tropical and temperature (sice) regions in which they grow are especially at risk.
What is dry is likely to get drier, and what is wet, wetter, according to the report. Drought conditions, leading to shortages in drinking water.
The coastal and low lying parts of the globe, storm surges, a rise in sea level and flooding pose tremendous risks.
Damage to coral reefs, melting glaciers and possible extinction of species unable to adapt are also very real possibilities if action is not taken.
But the report is also tasked with finding solutions.
CHRISTOPHER FIELD, PICC WORKING GROUP 2: It looks at ways we can combine adaptation, mitigation, transformation of society in an effort that can really help us build a world that's not only better prepared to deal with climate change, but is fundamentally a better world.
CHURCH: Rosemary Church, CNN.
FOSTER: And for more now on what today's report could mean for you and the world at large, we're joined by environmental scientist Richard Alley. He served on the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.
Thank you very much indeed for joining us, professor.
We get these reports every year. And they're often very grim. What would you say defines this particular report?
RICHARD ALLEY, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST: The biggest message that comes out of this is that while we really are already experiencing negative impacts of climate change, whether or not those become really bad and really damaging is up to our decisions. We will decide whether the report is clear that the losses rise with greater warming. So we will decide how big they become.
FOSTER: There's a big debate, of course, out there about that. But this report does seem to show that more countries are affected by the climate change. So there are people in these countries, you say, who can make their own difference.
You and I, how can we make a difference every day in our everyday lives?
ALLEY: Yeah, a huge number of ways. I mean, unfortunately there is something in this report for everyone. And if you have a coast, if you grow food, if you do almost anything, climate change can cause troubles for you.
And as the changes get bigger, the coasts go up much faster.
That comes back to in the shorter-term, seeing what's coming and getting ready for it. In the longer-term, the scholarship is very clear that if humanity moves towards a sustainable energy system, we hold down the damages, we hold down the costs, we provide power for everyone and we end up better off.
FOSTER: We just want to look at some of the detail of the report, because here's a look at some of the countries most at risk of the elements of climate change, as we understand it, many of them are so incredibly poor.
South Sudan making the top five environmental damage caused by the oil industry there seen as the big concern. Haiti, high on the list because of its extreme exposure to climate related events, high poverty levels and weak infrastructure combined with over reliance on agriculture as well.
African countries account for 14 actually out of the 20 most at-risk nations. Sierra Leone comes in third on the list. And the second most at- risk country in terms of climate change is Guinea-Bissau. The most at-risk country in the world, actually, Bangladesh, because it's exposure to extreme weather events, susceptible population, weak institutional capacity to address these problems factored into its ranking.
What's interesting about this is that we're all affected by climate change, but actually our day-to-day lives are affected much more about the sort of country that we live in.
It's very clear that the losers are poor people in hot places and people who haven't been born yet. And the people who are least hurt are actually the people who caused the most change, which is relatively wealthy people in colder places.
If you have winter bulldozers and air conditions, a little change is not very costly to you. You can build walls against the sea, you can work in a hot summer. You may lose a blizzard that closed the airport.
If you don't have winter bulldozers and air conditions, making it hotter is not a good things for you.
And these things feed on each other. So the report is clear that there are projections that climate change will displace people. Displaced people sometimes cross borders into neighboring countries that may not want them to be crossing in. And so there's a chance of raising social strife there.
The report is clear that there's a good chance of indirectly climate change increases the risk of violent conflict. And people in violent conflict are more likely to be hurt by climate change. So, these things sort of feed back on each other in ways that are not pretty.
FOSTER: Professor Richard Alley, appreciate your time. Thank you very much, indeed. We get these reports every day, but they only change incrementally, and are sometimes difficult to understand. But certainly some grim results coming out from this year's.
The latest world news headlines are just ahead for you, plus the Russian prime minister's visit to Crimea. He promises Crimeans they'll be better off under his country's leadership, but will they? We'll discuss that in just a few minutes.
FOSTER: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, the top stories this hour. We're following news of an explosion in Nairobi, Kenya. It happened in the capital's Eastleigh suburb. This is the first video from the scene of the blast. Kenya's official National Disaster Operations Center reports that six people died, nine were critically injured. Do stay with CNN for updates on that.
The search for Flight 370 has wrapped up for the day and crews have come up pretty empty-handed again. Australia says it's ramping up efforts to find the missing plane. They sent a ship carrying special equipment to the search area. It's expected to arrive on Thursday.
France's prime minister has quit. Jean Marc Ayrault has presented his resignation to the French president. Interior minister Manuel Valls is set to replace him. It comes after big losses for the Socialist party in local elections on Sunday. In the last hour, President Francois Hollande spoke about the resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCIOS HOLLANDE, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): Today, it's time to move onto a new stage, so I entrusted Manuel Valls with the mission to run the government of France.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: There's heightened tension between North and South Korea after the neighboring nations exchanged live fire. South Korea's news agency, Yonhap, reports North Korea fired several artillery shells as part of a military exercise. South Korea says it fired back because some shells fell into South Korean waters.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed Sunday's ballot as a clear victory for his party. The vote was a widely seen as a referendum on his government. CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson reports.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proven himself somewhat politically indestructible. He has emerged with a convincing electoral victory after Sunday's nationwide local elections, despite the fact that he has been facing the worst anti-government protests in more than a decade and a corruption scandal that led to the resignation of at least three of his cabinet ministers.
When he gave his victory speech on Sunday night, he had some harsh words for his political rivals, particularly the followers of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER OF TURKEY (through translator): We will not surrender to Pennsylvania and their offshoots in Turkey. For tomorrow, there may be some who flee. There are some who have already fled. I have personally filed legal complaints against some of them. I warned that they could flee. We will enter their lair. They will pay for this. They will pay the price.
WATSON: For more than a decade, Erdogan has won election after election by appealing to his base. They tend to be working class, pious, conservative Muslim Turks who seem to be standing by their man. His party won more than 45 percent of the vote on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the biggest opposition party failed to get more than 30 percent of the vote. The one key race, the race for mayor in the capital city of Ankara was neck-and-neck, and that opposition party is appealing those election results.
Still, this does reveal the weakness of the main opposition party. A big question will be how will Erdogan use his electoral mandate? Now, in the last ten days, he has shut down access to popular social networking sites Twitter and YouTube, and there are fears that he could crack down harder on his political opponents.
Ivan Watson, CNN, Istanbul.
FOSTER: Getting more details on this explosion in Nairobi in Kenya that we've been following for you in the last few minutes. It's happened in the capital's Eastleigh suburb. A senior Red Cross official tells CNN's Zain Verjee the blast appeared to be a, quote, "deliberate attack."
This is the first video from the scene of the blast. Kenya's official National Disaster Operations Center reports that six people died, nine critically injured. Stay with us for more updates on that as we get them over the coming minutes.
The German government says Russian president Vladimir Putin has called for a partial withdrawal of troops from the Ukrainian border. Putin made the revelation in a phone call with Angela Merkel earlier today.
Meanwhile, Russia's prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has flown into Crimea for the highest-level visit since the peninsula was annexed. He promised to raise salaries and pensions in the region to Russian levels. Medvedev assured Crimeans that they'd be better off in Russian hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY MEDVEDEV, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): As a result of joining Russia, not a single citizen of Crimea and not a single citizen of Sevastopol should lose anything. They can only benefit from it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: While Putin is signaling a deescalation of tensions on the border, Ukraine has so far made no moves to pull back its troops. Officials in Kiev say they fear Russia may be just repositioning its forces. Karl Penhaul is near the border for us now, and Elise Labott joins us from Washington. First of all to you, Karl. Better describe the atmosphere there.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've been charting all this diplomatic to and fro and also the statement out of Moscow during the course of the day, and so have the Ukrainian soldiers here on the ground. And really, their response to what they're seeing is to bring more armor up to near the Russian border.
Now right now, we're less than ten kilometers from the Russian border, and in the course of the day, we've seen the Ukrainian troops bringing up vehicles like this, an armored vehicle mounted with a cannon, as part of this battle unit as well. There are also T-64 tanks, that's a Soviet-era battle tank, but still a very serious piece of kit that can fire rounds right up to the border from this position.
And also, dotted around these potato fields, there are anti-aircraft guns as well, because what the Ukrainian soldiers here are telling us, and they've been looking using their radar stations and other listening equipment.
They've been saying that there is still a significant number of troops across in this corner of northeast -- on the northeastern border between Ukraine and Russia, and they say that the Russians also have tanks and that they also have helicopter -- attack helicopters as well.
But it's not only really the story here about how the Ukrainian soldiers are responding. They are clearly still on very high alert. All these vehicles, incidentally, are loaded with munitions inside. But it's also about the response that the civilian population are giving as well.
We have traveled over the last few days through border villages, and there, young men in villages are dividing up into civilian civil defense units, and they say that if the Russians do roll across, they will launch a guerrilla-style war against them using the swamps and the forest as their bases, pretty much like their grandfathers did as partisans in the second World War.
We also heard a priest preaching to his flock saying don't turn the other cheek. If the Russians roll in, we will all stand and fight.
FOSTER: Karl, thank you very much, indeed. Let's cross to Elise, who's in Washington, now. Because Elise, obviously, US intelligence very much focused on this right now, and they got their own numbers on how many Russian troops are on that border. Does the US government think that there could potentially be an invasion?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, this is the thing. They don't know. What officials have told us is that they -- Russia appears to be, quote, "tactically ready" to do so, but they really didn't -- it depends on who you talk to.
There are some officials that think yes, he's planning to invade. Some others think he just wants to get this kind of land bridge or land access for Crimea. Others think that he's just trying to do things to destabilize the Ukrainian government in advance of the May election.
What we're hearing from the State Department spokesman Jen Psaki, just issued a statement a short time ago saying, "If reports that Russia is removing troops from the border are accurate, it would be a welcome preliminary step. We would urge Russia to accelerate this process."
Now, as we've been saying, it's unclear whether they are, in fact, withdrawing, whether Russian troops are withdrawing from the border or just repositioning. Jen Psaki saying that the US is also urging dialogue, Russia, take steps to talk to its Ukrainian counterparts and also take steps to deescalate the situation.
This was the topic of a four-hour meeting yesterday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Lavrov. It does seem as if the rhetoric, at least, has toned down a bit, both sides saying that they want to find a diplomatic solution.
You hear Secretary Kerry talking more about Russian interests, Russian interest in Ukraine, less bellicose language about sanctions. But clearly, the situation is still very volatile, and the US is looking for Russia to pull back.
But I think it's a forgone conclusion, even though officials aren't saying this publicly, that Crimea is gone, it is part of the Russian territory. Now the game is to make sure that Russia does not move any further into Ukraine, Max.
FOSTER: Elise and Karl, thank you both very much, indeed. Well, at the center of all of this is, of course, Vladimir Putin. His maneuvers over the last few weeks have kept Ukraine and the West very much on their toes.
But what's his end game? To explore this, I'm joined by Orysia Lutsevych from the think tank Chatham House. What's your theory?
ORYSIA LUTSEVYCH, RESEARCH FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: I think we can pursue three clear goals with this. One is to destabilize the government and to prevent consolidation of Ukraine towards more integration with the West.
The other theory is also to tell the story to Russians that these kind of people-powered revolutions are fake, they are instigated by the West, and they cannot work.
But also, try to negotiate something with the West over the former Cold War world. Because Putin believes that the West violated some of the agreements that Russia and the West reached as the Soviet Union was collapsing.
FOSTER: Do you think he is planning to go into Ukraine?
LUTSEVYCH: I think he keeps options open. It depends on what he does after he crosses the border, because it's easy to roll over 100 kilometers with tanks. But what do you do after? Do you -- how do you legitimize you're there?
And it's important to see what's happening in the eastern part of Ukraine. Today in Donetsk, the local council is demanding Kiev to organize a local referendum and to give status to the Russian language. In a way, they are echoing what President Putin was proposing Kerry.
FOSTER: Yes, but they're not doing -- they're not doing a Crimea in that area, are they? That's the thing. So, what's -- is Crimea the end in terms of pushing for land? And from here it's really just prodding the West?
LUTSEVYCH: Well, Crimea was the low-hanging fruit for Putin. He had troops on the ground, he really had the strong Russian sentiment, and he played on that.
Now, on the eastern part of Ukraine and in the south, we see huge pro- Ukrainian demonstrations. We see this growth of patriotism, people saying we will fight for our land. So, it's not obvious that the military solution with the troops would be a strategy for him.
FOSTER: What does he want from the West? Because he seems to be saying we're independent and we don't care about your sanctions, we're a strong country. Keeps referring back to the Soviet Union. What does he actually want from them? Because he's effectively been kicked out of the G8 as well, so he's not getting anything back from them.
LUTSEVYCH: I think for him, he wants to reassure his influence in the near abroad, as he calls it, the former Soviet republics going around Russia. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia. In a way, he wants to say this territory belongs to the Russian sphere of influence, and he wants the West to acknowledge it, which is very improbable scenario for the West to accept.
That's why we have the tension. And that's why the claims that Putin has are now turning towards internal setup of Ukraine. Let's talk about making Ukraine a federation, whereas in Ukraine, 70 percent of citizens support unitary state.
FOSTER: So, you don't necessarily think he wants to reclaim land that was controlled by the Soviet Union? He just wants to give this sphere of influence and say this is who we are, that's who the West is, you need to listen to us. You've gone too westerly.
LUTSEVYCH: It's true that way you interpret. But also, I think Putin wants to see his model of development in place.
Because what we have is a certain clash between Western standards, European standards, and Russian style of governance, with semi-autocracy, with high levels of corruption, with strong centralized control. So, how will Ukraine develop in the future is detrimental to Putin's own model of development in Russia.
FOSTER: Well, it's a fascinating process. We'll wait to see what happens on that border. We're watching it very closely. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us for that.
Now, live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN BRENNAN, WINGSUIT BASE JUMPER: Two, one!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOSTER: Flying high, very high. We meet a woman whose idea of fun has her taking to the skies, no less.
FOSTER: Since the beginning of time, man has dreamed of flying like a bird. Nick Glass traveled to Chamonix in the French Alps to meet a woman who's made that dream come true.
BRENNAN: Right before you get to the edge of the cliff, you work yourself up. You've got these nerves going, you're breathing hard. And then you walk down to the edge. You have to calm down. You have to slow down your heart rate, you have to breathe deep.
And once you realize that you're in a good physical and mental spot, you squat down, you lean over, and then you push.
Three, two, one!
NICK GLASS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meet Ellen Brennan, the fastest woman in the skies.
BRENNAN: Woo! Wee!
GLASS: And a pioneer, one of just a handful in the relatively new sport of wingsuit BASE jumping. The idea is to launch off a vertical cliff wearing nothing but a winged jumpsuit and a parachute.
Today, Ellen is flying, soaring over snow and glaciers in the French Alps. She's made Chamonix in the valley below her home and helped make it a playground for a new generation of bird men.
At 26, Ellen is highly experienced. She's made 600 wingsuit jumps. But today is a little different.
Just below the spike of Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain, a granite spike, the Aiguille de Midi. If she completes a jump from here, a flight of some 3,000 meters, it will be her longest to date.
BRENNAN: It's scary, especially at Aiguille de Midi right now. It's new. Not many people have jumped it. You have to repel down to a little rock that's not comfortable to stand on. You squat down, you lean over, and then when you've almost reached the point of no return, then you push.
And at that moment, everything is calm for just that moment. Everything's moving in slomo. You feel the pressure starting to go into your arm wings. You start to see the sides of the wall come up faster and faster. And you're in this mindset of just acceptance.
And in three seconds, sometimes even shorter, your suit has inflated and you're officially flying away from the cliff. And those are the most vital three seconds of any jump. That's where you make or break it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, and go!
GLASS: Everyone recognizes that this sport is as dangerous as it is thrilling. Only the most experienced skydivers can take up the challenge. With speeds of up to 200 kilometers an hour, the biggest kick comes from flying close to the ground. But it's also a bigger risk.
GLASS (on camera): Do you know how many people have died?
BRENNAN: From the calculations we've done, we've we want to say maybe one in ten.
GLASS: One in ten?
BRENNAN: I hope it's not like that, but I'd have to say that I've had quite a few friends die doing this.
GLASS (voice-over): Having flown for one minute and 22 seconds, her longest-ever flight, she pulls her parachute and floats gently down.
When I was a kid, I never believed I would be able to fly down a mountain. And now we're doing it. All the time. Daily. It doesn't get any better than that. I'm living my little-kid dream.
FOSTER: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, the economy is recovering and the bubbly is flowing once again. We see how the champagne industry is hoping to rediscover its fizz.
FOSTER: The thirst for champagne in the UK has been drying up in the past few years as consumers have turned to less-expensive sparkling wines, but it's fair to say that's now changing as the economy picks up. Isa Soares has more.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten thousand bottles with a value of more than a quarter of a million dollars. This is liquid gold, and those sniffing it, sipping it, and spitting it know it. But behind the notepads and the intense scribbling is an industry hoping not to go flat.
SOARES (on camera): How much has the champagne industry grown? Has - - did it lose any of the fizz, so to speak, during the economic crisis?
FRANISE PERETTI, UK DIRECTOR, CHAMPAGNE BUREAU: So, yes. The past five years have been a time of less growth and more stability in the UK market. But certainly, we are and we will remain the number one export market for champagne for a very long time.
And I think the beauty of London is that we are attracting -- the city is attracting an awful lot of emerging consumers. So, as they come here, they are also contributing to a market remaining top of the pops.
SOARES (voice-over): Helping it to regain that spot, a new way of dining, with bubbly as part of the casual menu. Think hot dogs and champagne. According to the Champagne Bureau, roughly 30 to 35 percent of all champagne sold here in the UK is being drunk in bars and restaurants.
BRUNO PAILLARD, PRESIDENT, COMITE CHAMPAGNE: Globally, we cannot say that champagne has not been affected by the recession. But the positive thing about it is that the sparkling wine category globally is growing, and champagne is still very much a leader.
SOARES (on camera): The message this year is clear: champagne is back. And that's pretty understandable, the European economy doing slightly better. And that basically means that you and I have a bit more purchasing power. We can spend our money on more refined, sophisticated drink.
With champagne, best to watch out, it has a lot of catching up to do. Carver and Prosecco, if you remember, did particularly well during the recession. So, while we're not seeing corks pop left, right, and center here, there is definitely room for celebration.
Isa Soares, CNN, London. Cheers!
FOSTER: She still hasn't come back, I should note. The team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you, facebook.com/CNNconnect, have your say. And you can also tweet me @MaxFosterCNN, your thoughts please, @MaxFosterCNN.
That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you very much, indeed, for watching. Goodbye from London.