Return to Transcripts main page


Who Shot Down MH-17?; Russian President Speaks out on MH-Flight Crash; Families in Mourning over Flight 17 Crash; Death and Destruction in Gaza

Aired July 21, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a compromised crash scene creating anger and frustration this morning. Pro-Russian separatists refusing to step aside as investigators tried to figure out who shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

Families furious over how the bodies of their loved ones are being treated, as the world waits to hear what was recorded on the doomed plane's black boxes. We have live team coverage and all the latest developments straight ahead.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The bloodiest day yet in Gaza. Violence intensifying as Israel bombs more neighborhoods and move in more troops. Overnight, the U.N. calling for an immediate ceasefire. Secretary of State John Kerry on his way this morning to Egypt to try to work out a deal. As we learn now two Americans have been killed by Hamas. We are live on the ground in Gaza with the latest.

Welcome back to EARLY START. A very busy Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Thirty minutes past the hour right now. We welcome all of our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

A gruesome scene unfolding this morning at the Flight 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian rebels pulling bodies from the wreckage. They're storing them in refrigerated rail cars. Outraged families are telling demanding that the rebels step aside and provide unlimited access to international investigators.

Secretary of State John Kerry calls the conduct of the rebels grotesque, slamming what he calls drunken separatists who are refusing to surrender control of this crash site. Those same separatists, these rebels now claiming they have recovered the jet liner's flight data recorders.

Listen to the prime minister of Ukraine just moments ago slamming the pro-Russian rebels for refusing to step away from the wreckage.


ARSENIY YATSENIUK, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: I don't care about not rebels, but these Russian-led gorillas. They are not rebels. I expect nothing from the Russian government. What they can do, they can supply weapons, they can send well-trained agents, they can support these gorillas, but they have to stop.


BERMAN: I want to bring in senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, now live from Donetsk in Ukraine where a war has been raging all around him all morning. It's important to note.

And Ivan, we hear the outrage right there in Ukraine's prime minister his voice. But he is not alone. The outrage in many ways growing from leaders around the world.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. But it is important to note that the rebels have allowed increasing access. For example, Dutch forensic experts have arrived at the Torez train station where scores of not more than 100 of the dead are stacked in train cars and are expected to then move on to the crash site later today.

A team of dozens of international experts, most of them from the Netherlands, which suffered the biggest loss of life. More than 190 people dead aboard the flight as well as U.S., Australian, British, German experts as well have landed in a Ukrainian government controlled city, about five hours' drive away from here. And if the frontlines are open and it's safe or presumably going to be driving in this direction, to also start to investigate the crash site.

The rebel leadership here in this rebel-controlled city of Donetsk they've said that international experts are welcome to come and join the investigation. But their credibility really being slammed. One of the voices coming out against them is the prime minister of Australia, which lost at least 27 citizens last Thursday aboard Malaysian Air Flight 17. Take a listen.


TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There's no doubt that, at the moment, the site is under the control of the Russian backed rebels and given the almost certain culpability of the Russian backed rebels in the downing of the aircraft having those people in control of the site is a little like leaving criminals in control of the crime scene.


WATSON: Criminals in control of the crime scene. The Australian prime minister saying he's spoken directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to apply pressure on the rebels to open up the investigation and to hurry up the process of getting the bodies to a place where experts can identify them and start to re-patriot them to their home countries.

The Australian Russian prime minister saying he's hearing the right words from Vladimir Putin but they have to be backed up by deeds. The Russian president, in his own statement last night, he called this a tragic event. But he also warned that people should not try to score political points off this tragedy -- John.

BERMAN: Ivan Watson for us in Donetsk.

I do want to be clear here because it does seem you are reporting some progress at the scene of the accident, which would be a positive development. But I do suppose the real test here is what happened to these flight data recorders.

WATSON: That's right. That's one of the big mysteries here. And our own Chris Cuomo, he asked the self-declared prime minister of this separatist region of Donetsk, where are the flight recorders. And the prime minister responded somewhat coyly. He said well, we've recovered some, quote-unquote, "technical objects," but we're not aviation experts. We don't know if these are the black boxes.

But he's also not sharing photos of it. He's not letting people like us film whatever these technical objects are. So four days after the plane went down, nobody knows where the black boxes are.

BERMAN: Hence the doubt, hence the skepticism. Hence the outrage.

Ivan Watson live for us in Donetsk this morning. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. This morning grieving Flight 17 family members are begging the Russians and the rebels in eastern Ukraine to give international teams complete access to the crash site. The thought of their loved ones being piled into train cars almost too much to bear. Pictures of children's books, just too much to bear, at the crime scene.

Listen to Drew Ryder of Minnesota trying to stay strong after losing his brother and sister-in-law on Flight 17.


DREW RYDER, BROTHER OF PLANE CRASH VICTIM: It's very difficult to lose loved ones. And I'm not kidding you that -- in saying that, you know, we are hurting a lot. But we also feel very comforted by the fact that we think they're in a better place. When we go to church, and it's going to be tough because we're going to have all these people -- I can't even do it now. It's just very difficult when it becomes personal.


ROMANS: Personal for so many families. Our coverage continues with Erin McLaughlin live from Amsterdam.

Erin, how are the families coping? I know you've spoken with some of these family members who -- I mean they are grieving and they are outraged.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are coping as best they can, Christine. But I think this news coming from the Dutch Foreign Ministry that a team of forensic experts has finally arrived in the Donetsk region making their way to those refrigerated trains and then expect to have full access to the crash site later today.

Well, I think that is a welcome development for many of the families here in the Netherlands. The Dutch prime minister saying it is this country's number one priority to have those victims identified and their bodies repatriated back here so that they can be given the funerals, the dignity that they deserve.

Just yesterday, I was speaking to one mother. She was here at the Schipol Airport. She was laying flowers, adjusted the makeshift memorial over that way, and signing a book of condolences. She lost her son, just 23 years old, and his girlfriend, on board MH-17. She told me that she's well aware of those media reports of looting and body snatching coming from the crash site. And she had this message for Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Take a listen.


SILENE FREDRIKS, MOTHER OF CRASH VICTIMS: Mr. Putin, please take care of my son and my daughter and bring them home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who knows where they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who knows where the bodies are. Where did they take them?

FREDRIKS: I can do nothing but wait for their bodies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did they take them?

MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have any idea of where your son's body and his girlfriend --

FREDRIKS: No idea. I don't even know if --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe they took it. Maybe it's there. Maybe it's in one piece, maybe 1,000 pieces.

FREDRIKS: No one knows.


MCLAUGHLIN: You could hear the anger, the outrage, the shock and confusion in their voices. She told me that it is her human right to be able to bury her son -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Erin McLaughlin.

It's so tough, so tough for those families.

Our coverage of who shot down that flight continues. We'll be back right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Well, the horrified families waiting for the return of the remains of their loved ones. U.S. officials say the evidence is clear that the Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky by pro-Russian rebels. Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that Russia stop the rebels from blocking investigators who are trying to get to the crash scene. He's pointing fingers squarely right now at Vladimir Putin, claiming that the United States has been tracking a major flow of Russian weapons into eastern Ukraine for months.

ROMANS: The Russian president basically breaking his silence, releasing this statement saying, quote, "We have repeatedly called on all parties to immediately stop the bloodshed and to sit down at the negotiating table. No one should have the right to use this tragedy to achieve selfish political objectives. Such events should not divide but unite people."

To help us break down this statement from the Russian president, let's bring in Lilit Gevorgyan, senior analyst at HIS Global Insight.

How much pressure can Vladimir Putin put on the separatists to unwind what is happening there, to allow international monitors to get in there, to allow some semblance of an investigation?

You heard from the Australian prime minister, you've heard from Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, you've heard from John Kerry, secretary of state. A lot of foreign leaders are saying, Mr. Putin, you must put pressure on here.

LILIT GEVORGYAN, SENIOR ANALYST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT: Well, I think it has somewhat worked, as we've heard reports that the rebels have allowed some access to international investigators. So it seems that it is working. Of course, four days have passed and there's also concern that some of the evidence might have been tampered. And that's a serious concern.

But we shouldn't really overestimate Putin and the Russian government control and influence over the rebels. I don't think it's 100 percent. Of course it's significant. And it seems that under the international pressure, the Russian president has tried to do something as the international investigators have managed to get into the crash site.

BERMAN: I have been struck by the carefully chosen language that Vladimir Putin has used since this crisis broke the other day. He tried to place blame on Ukraine for creating the situation that allowed it to take place. However, he has not said that pro-Russian rebels did not shoot down this plane. He's made clear -- he's been very careful not to say it wasn't them.

Do you think that's the case and why do you think that might be?

GEVORGYAN: I think their main message is there has to be an investigation, an independent investigation, that should decide who is actually responsible for this tragedy and the statement that we heard is pretty much reflective of that position. At the same time, what is interesting in Putin's statement is that he's insisting that there should be an effort to resolve their conflict, that all parties have to come together.

In a nutshell, it goes back to the former Russian position that a diplomatic solution has to be found to conflict yet. As we've learned today the events are developing and the Ukraine forces are advancing on eastern Ukraine cities held by rebels.

BERMAN: Lilit Gevorgyan, thanks so much for being with us, helping us analyze the situation there. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: And the rifts deepen.

BERMAN: Indeed.

ROMANS: The rifts deepen between Russia and the rest.

BERMAN: A lot -- a lot going on this morning. One of the major developments and so many stories. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Kate Bolduan joins us now.

Good morning, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Hey, guys. You've been all over it and we're going to continue this coverage. We're focused on Ukraine this morning and the very latest on the attack of MH-17. A very busy weekend, a lot happening there. We'll stay on top of it.

Right now, it's a tense game of finger-pointing leaving so many families stuck tragically in the middle. Bodies of 298 victims still in limbo this morning. Many of them being placed in refrigerated train cars. Where else can they be put?

Now the pressure is building on Russian president Vladimir Putin to get the rebels to back off to allow international monitors in and other international organizations in to allow for an independent investigation of what happened. But will enough pushing actually get him to act.

Chris is live in eastern Ukraine. We're going to be following all the developments there.

Plus, we're going to be looking at Gaza, of course. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers have been killed. At the same time the death toll in Gaza itself climbing over 500. Secretary of State John Kerry is now heading to the region.

Got that and a whole lot of news going on this morning. We'll bring it all to you. Top of the hour.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Kate. We'll talk to you soon.

BOLDUAN: All right, guys.

ROMANS: As Kate mentioned, over the weekend, the deadliest day yet in Gaza. More bombs falling as Israel increases its ground attacks. This morning Hamas showing no signs of letting up. We are live after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Two Americans are among the 13 Israeli soldiers killed Sunday in the deadliest day yet in Gaza with nearly 100 Palestinians also reportedly killed. Officials said the death toll in Gaza now tops 500 after two weeks of intensifying violence.

The American soldiers killed while fighting for the Israelis identified as Max Steinberg of San Fernando Valley, California, and Sean Carmeli of South Padre Island, Texas.

Secretary of State Kerry calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, quote, "as soon as possible." But Israel is expanding its ground offensive. And despite the deaths of hundreds of innocent Palestinians, Prime Minister Netanyahu is not backing down.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I'm very sad. When I see that, I'm very sad. We are sad for every civilian casualty. They are not intended. This is the difference between us. The Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians.


ROMANS: Let's bring in Karl Penhaul live from Gaza with the latest developments on what has been an escalating situation now for two weeks.

Any side of an off-ramp, Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not right now, Christine. In fact, while you guys were in break, an Israeli airstrike went in just about a half mile from our live position. Seems to have been some kind of airstrike and sent a very large cloud of dust and smoke into the air. That is cleared now. But this kind of stuff has been going on throughout the morning and throughout the night. Sometimes closer but a lot of fire this morning once again being concentrated in eastern Gaza.

At times, we see parts of the skyline clear that buildings there are on fire. We've heard artillery going and we've heard air strikes going in. From time to time, we can also hear the rattle of assault rifles indicating that perhaps Israeli forces and Gaza militants are fighting it out hand-to-hand as well. The Israelis of course are making their point saying that they are coming this far into Gaza to try and destroy some of those militant tunnels.

But that has not been successful. They have not been successful shutting down those tunnel because even this morning both the Israeli military and Hamas' military wing say that once again Hamas commandoes have managed to burrow into Israel and engaged Israeli forces in combat there.

And the other major development, really overnight, was the announcement by the al-Qassam Brigades, that's the military of Hamas, claiming that they have captured an Israeli soldier in fighting earlier Sunday. We are still waiting for confirmation from the Israeli military. So far they have not confirmed whether one of their soldiers is in the hands of Hamas. But if that proves to be true, that could be somewhat of a game changer because Hamas would use that to gain both political and military leverage.

Think back only to 2006 when militants captured the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It took more than five years to broker a deal on that one but ended up with more than 1,000 Palestinians walking free from Israeli prisons. And certainly, that announcement by the al-Qassam Brigades has proved popular with the civilian population. When that broadcast was made on television, we heard spontaneous applause and cheering going up from many of the apartment blocks around our building.

We just have to see how that plays out on the battlefield today, though. See what Israel's response is and also, of course, to follow very closely to see whether to get independent confirmation of Hamas' claims that they have taken a prisoner -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Stay safe, Karl Penhaul, for us this morning in Gaza.

The our other top story, Malaysia Airlines reeling after its second deadly disaster in four months. Ahead, what can the struggling airline do when we get an EARLY START on your money next.


ROMANS: All right. Stock futures are lower. Global markets are down a little bit this morning.

Malaysia Airlines needs a turnaround and it needs it quickly. It's been losing money for years now. Two major disasters in four months. Bloomberg this morning reporting the carrier will present a turnaround plan this week.

Malaysia Airlines also says it will offer refunds to any travelers who want to cancel their tickets. Passengers can also postpone their flights for free.

The question, will those flights have any passengers? The company is not commenting, won't tell us on how many have canceled flights. But we're seeing reports of travelers fleeing the airline in large numbers. Experts say that turnaround plan, it could mean bankruptcy as a possibility. Another possibility the company may have to go private. Certainly an uphill battle for this airline.

All right. Just about one minute to the top of the hour. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news live from the final resting place of MH-17 in a hostile area of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and the world is ramping pressure on Vladimir Putin. New evidence as to who shot the plane down and the possible attempts to cover it up. The crash site controlled by rebel fighters, 298 bodies now in limbo, their memories and dignity at the mercy of a larger battle.

We have hard questions for the rebel leader as families and the world demand answers and action.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking, the deadliest day yet for both sides in the Middle East crisis. Two Americans fighting for Israel killed, and Hamas claims an Israeli soldier has been captured.