Return to Transcripts main page


Malaysia Airlines Jet Explodes Over Ukraine; Interview with Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine Foreign Minister; Israel Launches Ground Offensive; Interview with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti; Interview with Congressman Peter King of New York

Aired July 18, 2014 - 08:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Take a look at this video. It was posted on Instagram actually. It purports to show passengers boarding and putting their luggage away, a simple thing that takes on a whole new significance right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Indeed. U.S. official says it was a missile that brought down the plane. It came down in a rebel- controlled part of eastern Ukraine. That is key because officials there now say that both black boxes and the missile launcher have been taken to Russia, 298 people were killed and there are no reports as of now of any Americans on board.

Ukraine and Russia pointing fingers really at each other. Ukrainian officials accuse pro-Russian separatists of downing the jet. But Vladimir Putin says it was Ukraine's military campaign against the separatists that's to blame here.

BOLDUAN: As we mentioned, Chris is on the ground in Kiev, he has the very latest on all the developments there -- Chris.


The violence is going on, on the opposite end of the country in the eastern end. The violence is active there. There's word the militants have allowed for humanitarian aid to come in for relief. That is not completely true. There's a lot of skirmishing going on, so it's going to be difficult to get to the debris field here and very much unsettled nerves while life is pretty much ordinary here in Kiev where Nic Robertson and I.

You've been here from the beginning with this, Nic. Take us through it.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, we know that the government says 181 bodies have been recovered. That they have search and rescue teams on the ground, that the area they're in is controlled by the pro-Russian separatists, that there are ongoing conflicts. They talked about 19 different incidents of ongoing conflict, battles in that particular area right now.

The plane disappearing from radar over this country almost 24 hours ago right now.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Erupting in a ball of flame and a plume of black smoke, Malaysia airlines 17 headed to Kuala Lumpur.

The U.S. says it was shot down in midair. On the ground, 298 bodies and debris scattered across Eastern Ukrainian fields.

I. BEZLER: Set off to search for the shot down plane and take the pictures of it. A plume of smoke is visible --

ROBERTSON: Overnight, a newly released phone call provided by the Ukrainian government purports to show a pro-Russian militant revealing to a Russian agent how they were the ones who accidentally shot down the Boeing 777 with a surface-to-air missile system, thinking it was a Ukrainian military plane.

"MAJOR": Well, we are 100 percent sure that it was a civilian plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there a lot of people?

"MAJOR":! The debris was falling straight into the yards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any weapons?

"MAJOR": Nothing at all. Civilian belongings, medical scraps, towels, toilet paper.

ROBERTSON CNN cannot independently verify this phone call.

Further alleged evidence a of pro-Russian involvement an ominous message on Twitter, "We warned you, stay out of our skies" posted by someone claiming to be a Russian-backed rebel commander, Igor Strelkov, that post later removed, not long after, the plane was identified as a passenger plane. Travelers from all over the world killed.

Ukraine's president is calling the incident a terrorist attack.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: We ask all respective governments to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these bastards who committed this international crime.

ROBERTSON: U.S. Senator John McCain is laying blame right at Russia's door.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: The separatists could have only gotten that capability from Russia and so therefore, the culpable party here is Vladimir Putin.

ROBERTSON: But Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine is to blame, saying, quote, "This tragedy would not have happened if there had been peace on that land or in any case, if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed." (END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: So while the Russian president is blaming the Ukraine government for creating a hostile environment, he does not say -- Putin does not say the militants didn't do this. It's an important distinction.

ROBERTSON: It is. He's not specifying at the moment, but at the same time, he seems to be clouding the issue as well.

CUOMO: That's right. And so, Nic, thank you very much for the reporting, because you were here when I was interviewing the foreign minister of the Ukraine and he is not mincing words. I asked him whom do you think is responsible for this, with an emphasis on Russia? Here's what he said.


PAVLO KLIMKIN, FOREIGN MINISTER, UKRAINE: We intercepted a number of phone calls between the terrorists and they are talking about shutting down the plane exactly yesterday.

CUOMO: Terrorists yesterday talking about shooting down the plane and the time was close to when it happened?

KLIMKIN: Exactly. And also put on their Facebook the message about shooting down the plane. So, it's absolutely -- it's absolutely clear, it's up to us to have responsibility on that.

CUOMO: So, why do you think they would shoot down a passenger aircraft?

KLIMKIN: That I don't know. You never know what is in the head of terrorists?

CUOMO: There was nothing in the phone calls to suggest a motive?

KLIMKIN: It's, indeed, a real tragedy. But for the terrorists, it's a different thing.

CUOMO: Now, the separatists, the militants, the terrorists, depending on your perspective, they say they blame the Ukrainian government, that this was an attempt to take down the President Putin's plane and, you know, to -- a basically hostile action from Ukraine to Russia. How do you respond to them?

KLIMKIN: Well, it's ridiculous. Almost all the separatists leaders are actually Russian. Some of them were clearly in Russian special services. If they're going to shoot the Putin's plane, there is something wrong with the Russian system, I would say.

CUOMO: No, they're saying that you did it, the Ukrainian government used their own assets to attack the Russian president. That's why this happened.

KLIMKIN: Firstly, we don't have such assets on the ground, because we simply don't use any anti-air missile capabilities there. And we don't have such capabilities in Donetsk and Luhansk. And we checked with our military forces. There's no way our forces could be engaged in any way in this incident or in any of the incidents all around.

CUOMO: Now, another question that is very important right now is, OK, so, if it were militants, if it was a group of militants that did it, how did they get this weapon? Is it true that this type of surface- to-air missile was taken from the Ukraine military recently by militants? Is that true?

KLIMKIN: No way. We checked also with our relevant authorities, there is no way how they could get Ukrainian assets. But you should understand, you can buy probably Kalashnikov on the black market, but you can't buy anti-air missile or tanks --

CUOMO: A Kalashnikov is an assault rifle, but this is a big truck about the size of a telephone pole.

KLIMKIN: Exactly.

CUOMO: So you would have to be given this; you would have to have special training. And you're saying, as far as you know, there is no BUK system or similar surface-to-air missile that was taken from the Ukraine military.

KLIMKIN: No, not at all.

CUOMO: So you believe it had to come from the Russian military and be given to one of the militant groups.

KLIMKIN: Or probably both by some, you know, exercise by separatists. We have to find it out.

CUOMO: The Russian government, Russian President Putin says this is your fault, the Ukraine government, because you are maintaining hostilities in that area. You're causing this trouble and this is what happens. Do you accept that?

KLIMKIN: If you see the recent advance, if you see the whole inflow of money, mercenaries, weapons, heavy weaponry including tanks, including armored vehicles and including anti-air missile, you clearly see what's going on. So, we understand whose responsibility is that.


CUOMO: So two quick points. One, we do not really know yet what brought down this plane, and there's so much information for the people who matter most, the families of the victims here that has not been ascertained yet and that has to be a priority.

That leads to the second point. The foreign minister is not certain about some of his answers because Ukraine is not in control of the eastern part of this country. There's violence going on there right now. We're being told it is a better opportunity for CNN to get into the region going under the host of one of the militant groups than with the Ukraine military, guys. So that just gives you some context and the foreign minister made very clear and the situation makes very clear this hostility in eastern Ukraine will not be settled without Russian influence.

Back to you in New York.

BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, Chris.

We do get news moments ago. It's a preliminary classified U.S. intelligence analysis of the situation, and it says it was most likely a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists that brought down MH17. This analysis also says intelligence officials telling CNN, "We cannot say with complete certainty but we do not think the missile came from the Russian side of the border."

So, all signs continuing to point to pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Further complicating the situation, quite honestly, with all of this, let's discuss all the new developments and what we know and where this investigation, when it begins is going to go.

Joining us now are CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, CNN's military analyst, as well as CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski, and CNN host Fareed Zakaria, all here to help kind of weed through this all.

Fareed, let's get to what we are looking at in this situation. We have this new analysis coming out from U.S. intelligence analysis. They believe it's most likely a missile that shot down this flight. It was from fired by pro-Russian separatists inside Eastern Ukraine.

But it leads to the fact that this offers huge implications politically, we were talking about the military, geostrategic. That can't be overstated.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: It can't be overstated, because this is -- this is very rare. It's very, very unusual, and it is important to point out, to kind of underscore something Chris pointed out.

That part of Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, is not under the control of the Ukrainian government. It is under the control of these pro- Russian separatists who are trained and funded, financed by the Russian government. Many people believe that a lot of those so-called pro-Russians are actually Russians, that is to say they are Russian special ops forces.

What this points out is that the strategy that Vladimir Putin has had all along in Crimea and in Ukraine has been to do stuff with plausible deniability, with the ability to say what? What are you talking about? We weren't involved, because you're using various freelancers, mercenaries, you have free agents.

Well, that looked good when he did it in Crimea, he was able to do the annexation and nobody could point a finger at him. Here, we see the cost of it. These are likely trained, poorly armed, not very well, you know, integrated into a military structure, and probably the radar they were using was able to tell them there was an airplane, but it was not the kind of sophisticated radar that the Russian military would have, which plugs into the larger aviation systems and can say that's a civilian airliner.

So, now, you see the cost of Russia's special ops strategy, which has been this tragedy, you know, which killed these 295 souls.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And also when you look at it, this can't be just a ragtag group that finds this BUK, finds this missile system and launches it off. This takes -- this takes training. This takes a lot of capability to be able to operate it correctly.

Chris Cuomo is on the ground in Kiev, and I know he wants to join this conversation.

Go ahead, Chris.

CUOMO: Fareed, something that would be helpful to understand. On the ground here, something that's a little startling, very little confidence that the United States can do anything to push Russia to do the right thing in this situation. The Ukrainian foreign minister said in no uncertain words, always somewhat humbling for him I'm sure, this will not end unless Russia gets involved to make it stop. But then I was told, and they don't know what the U.S. can do, because right after putting the sanctions in, that was supposed to be harsh, a plane was taken down.

What do you believe the U.S. can do vis-a-vis Russia to make a difference in this situation?

ZAKARIA: Of course, you're exactly right. The thing to remember is the United States may be the world's only superpower. It may be the one that has all the capacity. The problem is Russia is the 800- pound gorilla right next door. And at very low cost, the Russians can destabilize Ukraine, even while pretending not to, even while promising what they're going to do is to cooperate, they send in these special ops. They allow these things to happen.

So what we have to hope the United States and Europe have to tell Vladimir Putin, you have got to let the government of Ukraine get back control of that territory. That is the key.

Once the Ukrainian government actually has control over the territory that is Ukraine, that Putin says he recognizes that government, he recognizes its authority. Well, let those -- the government forces clear out these pro-Russian militants, take control of this region and then you will have some stability.

But right now, as you point out, Chris, the only way you can even get to that region is to do it through the cover of those pro-Russian militants. The Ukrainian government does not have control of its country. That should be our first goal.

BERMAN: I want to bring in military analyst here, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. You know, Rick, we just got a look at the preliminary classified

U.S. intelligence analysis of the situation, confirming what we've been talking about for the last 20 hours or so, the suspicion it was this BUK missile system that brought down this flight. It was a missile that shot it down.

Explain to me the capabilities of this missile system, and what kind of training it takes to operate it.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, this is a very sophisticated system. It's a radar-guided missile. It's about 16 feet long, and it can take out targets as high as 72,000 feet.

So, the flight envelope that this civilian aircraft was operating in was right in the middle of that, it would have been very easy.

Now, remember, civilian aircraft does not carry any defense armament or electronic warfare. It's not a maneuvering target. So, it was easy to shoot this down.

That said, you can't just turn it on and fire it, you have to be trained. So the training regimen for something like this is usually six to nine months. Now, they've only had this for a very short period of time, and they were able to use it? That tells me there was some training or there was some advisers there helping them do this.

BOLDUAN: One interesting point that came out this morning -- let's bring Richard Quest on this, Richard, is that Ukrainian intelligence sources, they say that missile launcher is now back in, now in Russia, and the black boxes as well are in Russia. You said maybe a little bit of a surprise because they're not so easy to find.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, look at the debris field. We know it's five to six kilometers wide, several miles across. Just look at the debris field, and start imagining how you would find it. This would be relatively challenging, not terribly challenging for experienced investigators, who remember the size of these boxes, they're about this big, and if you just look at where they would have been, we know if we look at this area, you will be looking for the boxes near the rear of the aircraft, which is where they are stored, and near the tail, supposedly where they will be least impacted by any craft.

It's not easy to find them and once you have found them, you've got to make sure they're in reasonable condition for transportation, and once you do that, of course, you have to be incredibly careful how you open them, so you don't damage the digital information inside.

I'm not saying for a moment that they could not have found them relatively quickly and have them on their way to Moscow. I am saying that, in this wide debris field, we have to take a hint of caution that these two boxes have been found so quickly by untrained searchers and shipped off to Russia.

BERMAN: And the answers do lie in that field which is which control over it is so crucial now. Fareed, I want to ask you one more question here, because we talk

about the tragedy, 298 lives lost. We talk about the extraordinary tensions that had been in that region before yesterday and certainly remain today.

However, is there a new opportunity now, because, gosh, if the facts bear out the way we think they will with Russian separatists responsible for this, won't the world finally gather together to put the pressure on Vladimir Putin to somehow solve this situation?

ZAKARIA: I think that is the opportunity. The opportunity here is that Putin is probably feeling somewhat defensive, and is not going to use this as an opportunity to try to press claims.

So, as I say, the first goal has got to be to allow the government of Ukraine to take control. Just think about what Richard Quest was just talking about -- the Russians are going to control the debris. They're going to control the black box.

This doesn't make any sense. This is all happening in Ukraine on Ukrainian territory. It should be handled by the Ukrainian government obviously in collaboration with international authorities.

This is the opportunity particularly because -- let's be honest, the United States has been pretty tough on Russia. The problem has been Europe. Well, lots of the people unfortunately who died here are Europeans.


ZAKARIA: And so, there might be an opportunity, might change public sentiment, which then will change political sentiment.

I was struck by the fact that President Obama did not come out very strongly and forcefully and condemn this. The White House seems to be somewhat cautious. So are the major European capitals -- and you wonder, we know that Putin spoke with President Obama. He might have spoke within Chancellor Merkel in Germany as well. Is there something going on behind the scenes that we don't know about, because it is striking that all the Western countries are being somewhat quiet about what is frankly a blatant act of international terrorism.

BERMAN: Is he giving Vladimir Putin some room here? Vladimir Putin had some bluster there, but certainly not the extent of the bluster that we often see from the Russian leader.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. Fareed, thank you so much. Rick Francona and Richard Quest with us here as well.

Let's take you to the other major story we're following this morning, the Israeli ground offensive taking place in Gaza.

For that, let's get to Wolf Blitzer who's on the ground now in Israel -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, thanks very much. Israel's ground operation in Gaza turned deadly. An Israeli

soldier was killed as "Operation Protective Edge", as the Israelis call it, expanded. The Israelis say they're trying to destroy Hamas tunnels that militants are using to try to infiltrate Israel. Hamas says Israel will pay a heavy price for these latest ground actions in Gaza.

Let's get the Palestinian perspective. Joining us now is Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He's an independent Palestinian lawmaker, once ran for president of the Palestinian Authority.

Dr. Barghouti, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to get to these substantive issues. You came from a Palestinian hospital here. What did you see?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LAWMAKER: I saw three people injured in Gaza, two of them are children, a young boy and a young girl who were hit with Israeli shrapnel in the head. They have serious brain trauma. I'm not sure if they will survive.

And I saw another Palestinian, 20 years old, who is a disabled person. He cannot speak, he cannot hear, yet he was hit with an Israeli bomb which blew him up, and he is now completely paralyzed from the waist below.

BLITZER: How do they get from Gaza here to Jerusalem?

BARGHOUTI: Through ambulances.

BLITZER: The Israelis open the borders to allow them to come through?

BARGHOUTI: No, the border was open. That was one week ago, and now, it's closed. But they couldn't come with an ambulance straight to the hospital. They had to be transferred from one ambulance to another, walk a distance in very serious condition.

The problem here is that you see the Israeli army using indiscriminate and disproportional force which is becoming like a massacre, because 270 Palestinians have been killed so far, two-thirds of them are women and children and more than 2,000 people are injured and two-thirds of them are children and women.

BLITZER: So, when the Israelis say Hamas is to blame because they should have accepted the Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire, what do you say?

BARGHOUTI: I say this is a misrepresentation. In my opinion what is happening is an effort to dehumanize Palestinians and ensure that Israel is a victim in a war it is conducting on Palestinians. This is not an attack on Hamas. It is an attack on all Palestinians.

And what does Hamas has to do with Israeli decision to bombard five hospitals, including a house with disabled people, killing two disabled people. BLITZER: Rockets and missiles are still coming into Israel from


BARGHOUTI: This can be stopped immediately, and Hamas as we were told and I spoke to them, they are ready for a complete cease-fire, if it is accompanied with also lifting the siege on Gaza, which has been there for eight years. A siege on Gaza is an act of aggression, too.

The most important thing is at that moment the Israeli army cut electricity and water for 300,000 people. We as health professionals are unable to reach the people in this district and it's very risky and dangerous.

BLITZER: You believe the Obama administration, Secretary Kerry, even the president, partially responsible for this current escalation. Explain why.

BARGHOUTI: In my opinion, the whole international community is responsible, because they are not --

BLITZER: Is responsible?

BARGHOUTI: Responsible, because they are not restraining the Israeli attack on Gaza, and on this very small, little enclave with 1.7 million people living in this 100 square miles. In my opinion, Prime Minister Netanyahu made sure this happens by making strategic (INAUDIBLE) failed.

He made everything possible to destroy the option and possibility of peace based on the two-state solution. He knew he was dragging the area and this place into serious conflict, and now, he's trying to solve the problem of the longest occupation in modern history with an expanded occupation.

BLITZER: We just got word that the pope has telephoned both President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, urging that -- he says actions on behalf of fanatics don't leave us anywhere. It is true that many innocent suffer and pay with their lives. We have to move forward and insist on this path of prayer for peace.

Can the pope help?

BARGHOUTI: He can help morally, but the country that can help most is the United States because it is the country that is giving Israel the money, it is the country that is giving Israel the weapons.

If President Obama wants, he can immediately tell Netanyahu, please stop because you are killing civilians, you are creating one of the worst massacres in modern history and you are complicating the situation instead of solving the problem of occupation and a system of apartheid on the ground against Palestinians, you are making it worse.

BLITZER: We got to go. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, thanks very much for joining us.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. So, you got the Palestinian perspective. Earlier, we heard the Israeli perspective, Michael Oren is joining us here on NEW DAY.

So, this conflict clearly, Kate and John, continuing.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Wolf. And your coverage continues on the grouped there in Israel. Thank you so much. Wolf, we'll get back to you.

Also coming up next on NEW DAY, how will the Obama administration respond now to the attack on Malaysia Flight 17. We're going to talk with Congressman Peter King of the House Homeland Security Committee. What he thinks should happen now.


BLITZER: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem.

All eyes right now are on Ukraine, to see how the country will respond to the apparent missile attack that brought down that Malaysia Flight 17. So, how should the United States government help after months of escalating tensions with the Russian President Vladimir Putin?

We're joined now by Congressman Peter King. He's a Republican from New York, key member of the House Homeland Security Committee, as well as the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

How much blame do you put on the Russian President Putin for what happened? Because I know a lot of your Republican colleagues and even some Democrats say he's at least partially responsible.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Wolf, from almost everything we know right now, you have to say that Putin is largely responsible.

If you're a world power and you give this type of sophisticated weaponry to a group of insurrectionists you're responsible for what happens after that. Now, I don't believe Putin wanted to shot this -- to have this plane shot down, but it's almost criminal negligence on your part if you give this type of weaponry to the separatists.

And also I would raise the issue of whether or not there are any Russian special operators in there, because again, are these rebels trained enough to be able to carry out an attack of this type?

So, one way or the other to me the blame is largely on Putin and I think we have to hold him accountable.

Let me also say, Wolf, and I'm not trying to be partisan here -- I think the president has to show more world leadership. For him to barely mention this, or mention it in passing in a speech in Delaware, and then go to two fund-raisers last night in New York -- I can't imagine Eisenhower or Reagan or Kennedy or Bill Clinton doing this.

So, I think it's important for the president to step up today and mobilize Western support as far as economic sanctions, severe economic sanctions, and the fact that so many Europeans have been killed, again, may give them more impetus to get involved.

And also, I think we should consider taking away landing rights to our airports and western airports as a signal to Putin that this violates to me all norms of international behavior by a world power.

BLITZER: Well that would be a major, major development.

Our Chris Cuomo is in Kiev. He's Ukraine right now, Congressman. He's got some serious questions for you as well.

KING: Sure.

CUOMO: Hey, thank you, Wolf.

I've been listening to the coverage there. Please stay safe where you.

Congressman, thank you for joining us.

Let me just give you a feel of what's going on there in Kiev.