Return to Transcripts main page


Pressure Builds On Putin to Slow Rebels; One-on-One With Rebel Leader; Two Americans Killed In Gaza Conflict

Aired July 21, 2014 - 06:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Two Americans fighting for Israel killed, and Hamas claims an Israeli soldier has been captured. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry now en route to the region. Can he calm the violence? Wolf Blitzer is live from Jerusalem.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is the moment of truth for Russia.


BOLDUAN: A special edition of NEW DAY starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It is hard to say good morning to you from where we are in this violent region of Eastern Ukraine. This is a place scarred by violence. We are surrounded by constant threat. A lot of media here as you see. A truck was just pulling in to pick up even more bodies that have been laying out here in the heat for hours and hours.

The ground here now stained with the blood of 298 victims. When we showed up the scene was so raw, our first instinct was to say a prayer for the victims and the obvious indignity going on before we even reported. There are hard questions about who did this and why and what will happen next.

But there's also a lot of evasion and there's a lot of playing of politics here and we're going to take it all on for you this morning and show you what's happening here in the final resting place of MH17. There's a lot of news this morning. Let me get you back to New York for the headlines with Kate and John -- guys?

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Chris. We'll get back to you shortly. We've got the other major story that we're following, of course, in Israel. Wolf Blitzer is on the ground in Jerusalem after the deadliest day for both sides in the surge of violence between Israel and Hamas. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

But again, both international pressure and anger are growing towards Russian President Vladimir Putin this morning for not doing more to stop the rebels in Eastern Ukraine. He's distancing himself, though, from the disaster, accusing other nations of exploiting the tragedy. This as the U.S. says there's mounting evidence that Russians are training the rebels and also equipping them.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: The United Nations Security Council set to vote today to condemn the downing of that plane. International body also weighing a resolution calling for immediate access to the wreckage for investigators. Meantime, Ukraine's prime minister coming out strong this morning, just a few hours ago, against the Russians.


ARSENIY YATSENIUK, PRIME MINISTER, UKRAINE: We ask all respective governments to participate in this investigation and to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these who committed this international crime.


BOLDUAN: Let's get back to Chris who is live in Eastern Ukraine with much more on the ground -- Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you, Kate, very much. Sorry. Little communications delay here. Behind us you'll see the reality of the situation the Ukraine prime minister said 272 bodies recovered, 250 refrigerated. That would make sense because we've seen about 20 bodies laying out here in the hot sun and this dump truck and these men are loading them on. Hopefully they'll join the others in a more dignified place.

We also understand that experts from the Netherlands are here and that they're going to be put in charge of this investigation, which has just been completely random in terms of its sophistication so far. But there is some cause for hope this morning in a situation that has been begging for some from the beginning.


CUOMO (voice-over): A show of force by those controlling MH17's crash site, the devastation seen here surrounded by hostility as those in control are the very people suspected of shooting the plane down over Eastern Ukraine. Startling satellite photos show acres of ground scorched by the explosion at the point of impact.

On the ground we're told hundreds of bodies removed at the hands of government emergency workers along with a group of coal miners, inexperienced but allowed in by pro-Russian rebels. The remains of more than 250 loaded into two refrigerated trains.

The Ukrainian government negotiating with militants for the bodies to be transported with no information about when they will be identified or where they'll end up. The scene here exposed, fuelling international concerns of tampered evidence.

(on camera): You can tell that this piece hit, rolled and then was moved. That's going to be a really big distinction for investigators.

(voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted a team of international experts conduct work on the site to ensure security. Rebel leaders claim to have the plane's cockpit voice and data recorders, which may hold critical information about MH 17's last moments.

In audio intercepts released by the Ukrainian government, the alleged commander says Moscow is very interested in the black boxes and urges his subordinate to find them. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of that audio.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence points to the mounting evidence of Russia's involvement, including evidence that pro-Russian rebels secretly moved a heavy arsenal of weapons into place days before the crash.

KERRY: We have a video showing a launcher moving back through a particular area there out into Russia with at least one missing missile on it. So we have enormous input about this which points fingers.

CUOMO: This is that video posted by Ukraine's interior ministry of a BUK missile launcher heading back into Russia, suggesting it conducted a launch according to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. I spoke with the rebel prime minister about those accusations.

(on camera): The belief of western community and of Ukraine is that a Russian missile brought down this plane and there is suspicion it had something to do with fighters from your region. What do you want to say to people who believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't know what to say because the world community doesn't want to hear it. We had no reason to take down this plane and Ukraine had this reason to destroy our government.


CUOMO: You have to remember, while it's good to hear this message from Ukraine's prime minister that Netherlands is coming in, there's going to be cooperation, the bodies are going to be taken care of, Ukraine is not in control of where I'm standing right now. The man you just heard is, prime minister, self-appointed, Borodai. He had very different answers to the questions needed to be asked.

The man sets up like a warlord. He is surrounded by very well armed men, who we are told are Russian trained. But conversation was too important to avoid and the questions were put to him. Here is what he had to say.


ALEXANDER BORODAI, DONETSK PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Yes, it is true, so to speak. These items resemble the black boxes very much, but I cannot officially declare these are the black boxes. We do not have the experts that can say, yes, it is them and not anything else.

CUOMO: So please answer the allegations. Ukraine and western intelligence authorities say there was a tweet connected to the DPR that said that your forces had taken control of a Russian missile system that it took from Ukraine that they've intercepted conversations bragging that they had taken down the plane. So if you have the tweet and the conversations and the pictures that all point to your forces, how do you deny that it was your forces that brought down the plane?

BORODAI (through translator): It is very simple to disprove it. All the information that comes through the internet in my opinion is practically all lies.

CUOMO: So the tweet is fake, the conversations that they say they intercepted are fake, the picture of the missile system moving back across the border, is that fake as well?

BORODAI (through translator): I am telling you again, we have never been in possession of even a single BUK system. I can list all the means of defense we have in our possession. All these means of defense are capable of crashing only the low-flying targets.

CUOMO: There's a new report that Russia is helping train your forces from a base not far from your border. Is that true? Is Russia helping train your forces to fight against Ukraine?

BORODAI (through translator): I will not comment on this question. You should ask Russia this question.

CUOMO: But why no comment, Mr. Prime Minister when you're in control of Donetsk, why wouldn't you tell me?

BORODAI (through translator): You know a question addressing the Russian federation, I don't have the moral right to answer because at this moment I am speaking as a representative of the Donetsk People's Republic. I consider it not quite right.

CUOMO: This site, four days it's been and bodies are still there in the sun. You can imagine if it were your family member how you would feel about their body being out there for so long. Why were they allowed to stay there so long? Why weren't the bodies taken care of and given dignity sooner?

BORODAI (through translator): You know, it's a fantastic story. The thing is that as soon as members of OSCE arrived, they notified us that if we started moving the bodies, that we will be responsible. It got to the point where it resembled if not a horror movie, then black humor. When an old woman comes to our rebel groups and says, look, there is a body of a headless man fell through the roof straight onto my bed, please take this man away. The rebels say no because they are following instructions.

CUOMO: Can you guarantee that international help will be allowed in right away now?

BORODAI (through translator): Yes, of course. We give these guarantees. We invite them here and are waiting for them to be here as soon as possible.

CUOMO: Understand why I'm asking. They call this the biggest crime scene in the world right now, 298 people were killed, maybe as part of a conflict they had nothing to do with, and those families had to see the bodies of their loved ones rotting in the sun, so they're angry, too. It's hard to see it and that's why I wanted to ask you why you weren't taking care of it sooner. People want answers about what happened up in the sky because those people, as you know, did not deserve to die.

BORODAI (through translator): I understand. I am trying to get rid of the fog of war and want to make you understand that we were trying to push for these bodies to be collected as fast as possible.

CUOMO: I want to give you one last opportunity to answer this question. The belief of the western community and of Ukraine is that a Russian missile brought down this plane, and there's suspicion it had something to do with fighters from your region. What do you want to say to people who believe that?

BORODAI (through translator): What can I say? I have addressed this topic many times, but I am under the impression that myself and my colleagues are not being heard. Let's look at the real facts. Firstly, we didn't have any motive to target this plane. But for Ukraine, our enemy, the crash of this plane is very beneficial.


CUOMO: One thing is for sure, Borodai is right, he had no motive to target the people on MH17. They had nothing to do with this situation on the ground. Everything else is up to being challenged, the idea that he and his forces did not move have the bodies because they were referred not to by the OSCE, we've asked and they were told that is a lie, that they were never asked to do that.

There were cranes here moving things around. Nobody advised them to do that either. Holding the black boxes, not advised by anybody to do that either. While this was not a comfortable conversation with this man, this man eyeing us very carefully right now, these questions had to be asked if there's ever going to be a clear picture of what happened here.

Unfortunately, the world attention and the lack of action here is not unusual to what's going on around the globe right now. Wolf Blitzer standing in the midst of another conflict that desperately demands international attention. Wolf, good to hear you there.

BLITZER: Chris, I want you to be careful over there. You're doing amazing reporting, you and our entire team on the ground over there. We'll get back to you shortly. It's a brutal situation in Eastern Ukraine, a brutal situation over here as well.

The battle along the Gaza strip has been taking a very, very ugly turn, the deadliest day yet. More than a dozen Israeli soldiers, nearly 90 Palestinians killed on Sunday alone. Two of the casualties on the Israeli side are Americans. And Secretary of State John Kerry left Washington about five hours ago. He's on route to the region.

First stop Cairo. He hopes to try to broker a ceasefire. He'll eventually show up here in Israel. Other stops as well. But first, let's go to Gaza to CNN's Karl Penhaul who is on the scene for us. Carl, what are the latest developments right now?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is still heavy fighting apparently going on in eastern parts of Gaza. We've heard air strikes going in. We've heard artillery occasionally, also. We've heard the sound of assault rifles firing, possibly an indication that there's some kind of hand-to-hand fighting going on between Israeli troops and militant factions there.

Gaza militants have continued to fire rockets. What we cannot overstate enough is in the course of this war between the militants and between Israel, the majority of the casualties on the Palestinian side have been civilians, between 70 and 80 percent according to the United Nations. On the other side in Israel so far, the majority of casualties have been military. But let's take a look at the impact on the civilian population of fighting over the weekend.


PENHAUL (voice-over): Fleeing for their lives, few belong innings, just the clothes on their backs. As they go, Israeli bombs blast their neighborhood. This man says he had to abandon his own mother.

SAMEH GREGA, SHAJAYA RESIDENT: She refused to leave.

PENHAUL (on camera): Since first light thousands of people have been streaming down this street, one of the roads that Israelis in a pamphlet drop told civilians they could transfer safely along without fear of being bombed. As they walk, we're hearing explosions all around.

(voice-over): A human tide just trying to cling to life.

"They're just hitting us, hitting and hitting," he says.

At Gaza's main hospital, no more space for the wounded. No choice except ever transfer the bleeding and the dying to other clinics. For those who didn't make it, a resting place on the blood-soaked floor of the morgue.

A brief ceasefire at Shujaiyeh was just enough time to take away the dead and wounded and for a few more to escape. It was at best a shaky truce.

"We went to get our things but the Israeli soldiers fired at us," this woman says.

The Israeli military took casualties, 13 dead, many more wounded. Few details about how or where, but the Israeli army's highest lost in a single day since Lebanon in 2006.

Addressing the Israeli people, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered condolences, but vowed Israel will complete the task and return peace to his country.

Peace is something the people of Gaza also want, but are unlikely to see for days and maybe weeks yet.


PENHAUL: Right now, there is no sign that militant fighters are shrinking away from this battle with Israel. In fact, in terms of guerilla warfare, an asymmetrical war between a much more powerful Israeli army and a smaller guerilla force like Hamas, Islamic jihad and other factions -- well, for Hamas they're giving a pretty good account of themselves in guerilla warfare terms. We've seen once again them staging cross border raids through tunnels that the Israelis have failed to shut down so far but are certainly fighting hard to do so.

And also worryingly overnight, we saw those claims, Hamas' military wing, the Al Qassam Brigade, that they may have captured an Israeli soldier earlier in the day, Sunday. If it does prove true, and so far the Israeli military have not confirmed that, but if it does prove true, Hamas is likely to exploit that to use that as political and military leverage, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: And the Israelis say, Karl, as you know, their priority number one is doing away with those tunnels from inside Gaza, that go into Israeli, potentially could allow Hamas militants to crawl through and attack Israelis inside Israel. That's priority number one.

Karl Penhaul on the scene for us in Gaza -- Karl, thanks very much.

Later this hour, I'll speak live with Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev. He'll join us here on NEW DAY. We'll get the latest especially on that Hamas claim that they've captured an Israeli soldier.

In the meantime, let's go back to New York for more news -- guys.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Wolf, on the situation there in Israel and Gaza.

Meanwhile, here at home, a lot going on as well.

Michaela Pereira for a look at the headlines.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again. Good morning to you.

Yes, here are your headlines at this hour. I want to take a look at the fires that are burning in the Pacific Northwest. Cooler temperatures today could help those fire crews that are battling 21 uncontrolled wildfires in Washington state and in Oregon. Nearly a million acres have already burned. At least 150 homes have been destroyed. One person died trying to save his home. Officials say some 35 hot shot crews are on the scene battling the flames and hopefully those milder temperatures will aid in the firefight.

Four EMTs have been assigned to modified duty for their response to a dying New York City man put in a choke hold. New video shows the EMTs offered no medical help as 43-year-old Eric Garner laid dying on the sidewalk. The officer who put Garner on the chokehold has also been stripped of his badge and gun pending an investigation. Garner will be laid to rest Wednesday.

Happening today, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts held off a surprise assault by the Taliban in 2008 even after being injured by a hand grenade. Nine soldiers were killed, 27 others wounded in that attack. Pitt said he is accepting the medal for all the soldiers who fought with him that day.

BERMAN: Brave, brave soldiers they are, too.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

Let's take a break. A lot of news coming up on NEW DAY, including U.S. and its Western allies holding Russian-backed rebels, trying to hold Russian-backed rebels accountable for the attack on Flight 17. We're going to talk with CNN's Christiane Amanpour about what she thinks, what she thinks Vladimir Putin is now saying about the disaster, what she thinks he'll do.

BERMAN: Plus, we're going to go inside the battle for the control of this crash site, so crucial. Chris Cuomo is on the ground there. He takes us inside.



JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is the moment of truth for Russia and for Mr. Putin, where they need to stop just saying things and they need to make sure that they happen.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Where is Putin? I would say Putin, you have to man up.


BOLDUAN: You hear it right there, top American officials losing patience, it seems pretty apparent, with Vladimir Putin. Two Malaysian planes are waiting the fly to Ukraine to help return the remains of victims of the MH17 disaster. But will rebels allow any of that to happen and how can tensions be cooled in this expanding conflict? Well, the urgency could not be overstated.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. And, of course, Chris and Wolf will be joining in the discussion as well.

Christiane, a lot happened over the weekend. We heard from John Kerry on all the Sunday shows here in United States saying over and over again that this is a moment of truth for Vladimir Putin. Big words, but what does that mean? What does that mean for the U.S. response?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the U.S. and the Western and the rest of the world's response. Ukrainian officials have constantly said they want to see the world talk with a united voice, one voice to President Putin because it is absolutely clear that President Putin has significant influence over those separatist rebels or at the very least, and at the very least significant influence over his own military closing that border.

So, what has happened over the last weekend is that many of the European leaders have spoken to him in no uncertain terms, echoing what secretary of state has said, that this is a moment of truth for Vladimir Putin. This is a moment where he has to choose, they say, between continuing the obfuscation or turning the corner and finally trying to do something that will stop him becoming -- and Russia -- a pariah state. As we look into this, it is absolutely clear from all sorts of open source information, as well as what we're hearing from government intelligence, that it was a Russian-based system or Russian-made system, most likely used by the rebels those rebels that brought down that plane.

And interestingly, Russian President Putin and their Foreign Minister Lavrov have not specifically denied it. They have not denied it. So, there is wiggle room, the West hopes.

BERMAN: What does, in not so -- how far will these European leaders be willing to go now, Christiane, because up until now they've been hesitant to act with their wallet. They get gas and oil from Russia. They've been hesitant for sanctions. Will they be willing to go that far now?

AMANPOUR: Well, the headlines today in Europe, here in London for sure, is that West hands Putin an ultimatum. And they are talking much more sanctions. Tomorrow, there will be another round of discussions between Western leaders, between European leaders, as to how to increase the sanctions.

The British chancellor of the exchequer, otherwise known as the treasury secretary, the finance minister has said today it is more expensive for us to live in a world where a major power does not respect international borders and brings about these kinds of tragedies than it is to actually impose sanctions to try to bring some pressure. So, sanctions are now being talked about much more seriously.

But, you know, you are right. For the last several months since this has been going on, the world has not been fully united on it. The U.S. has put sanctions on various individuals targeting certain individuals, et cetera. They haven't had so-called sector-wide sanctions on areas of the economy and we're not sure that will happen.

But they are ratcheting up and piling up the pressure on Vladimir Putin right now. And really he is the only one, the only one, who can bring any influence to bear on the separatists.

CUOMO: Christiane, I want you to help me out on the ground here to connect some dots. I mean, obviously, what you're saying is going to be well heeded by everybody because it's clear at this point, maybe economic sanctions aren't enough, especially with Europe's dependency on the gas out of Russia and the need for that market on the investment side.

So, it then comes to what else can you do? You have to figure out the situation here ton ground first. Borodai, the self appointed prime minister of this region, wouldn't answer my questions about whether or not Russia was helping him, which I thought was curious to say the least.

What does that mean to you that he would not acknowledge Russia?

AMANPOUR: Well, they've been playing this double game for months now. They've been saying, hey, we're just independent. We are separatists who want this and that from the Kiev government and we want to carve out our own little state.

Chris, I've seen this picture before, I've watched this movie before, and it's called Bosnia. And it happened in the '90s. In this case, President Putin is playing the Milosevic game, the double game of encouraging separatists and then pretending that they don't actually have influence.

This is already precedent in international experience. They do have influence. They can, as I say, at the very least, close their border so that these heavy weapons don't come across.

But more than that, and I listened very carefully to your interview are Borodai, and he wouldn't answer your question. He did deny they would have shot it down themselves on purpose.

Well, that's not the accusation. Nobody is saying they shot it on purpose. They're saying they may have made a mistake, wanting to shoot a Ukrainian military flight. But they're not even willing to say they shot it down by mistake.

The Russians, Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov, have not yet denied that specific allegation. So, there is some wiggle room. And, obviously, President Putin and Russia has suffered to the extent over the international opprobrium and the limited sanctions that have already been imposed. Their stock market, their economy, their flight of capital, the lack of confidence in their economy has all come home to roost.

Now, we can get the message to actually turn this corner and take the Ukrainian president's outstretched hand of a peace plan. And I have an exclusive interview with the Ukrainian president later today and we'll see what his plan is now to face off with Vladimir Putin, Chris.

CUOMO: That will be so important because as you well know, Ukraine is not in control of the region where I am right now.