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Remains of Plane Crash Victims Removed from Ukrainian Crash Site; Violence Between Hamas and Israel Continues; New Poll: Majority Believe Russia Responsible for Downing of MH-17

Aired July 22, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It may seem like a small thing to someone, but to the families it will give a little sense of closure, a little sense of respect, and that may go a long way in what has been a long process of indignity.


Finally headed home, the remains of 282 victims arrived in Ukrainian- controlled Kharkiv overnight by train. While privately disturbed by the lack of respect for the dead, Dutch forensic experts expressed a measure of satisfaction.

PETRO POROSHENKO, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: I'm very impressed about the work that was done over here, overseeing the means and the people who did it.

CUOMO: Now away from pro-Russian rebels the remains can be flown to Amsterdam where they will finally be identified through DNA testing and repatriated. Most of the passengers were from the Netherlands, 16 people remain unaccounted for. Five days in the combination of open warfare and militant control have blocked any real inspection of the crime scene by international experts.

In the middle of a media frenzy the self-appointed prime minister signs a pact with Malaysian officials, and later in a second media fest, turns over the flight data recorders.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full, and unimpeded access to the crash site. What exactly are they trying to hide?

CUOMO: Experts say the plane's black boxes may hold vital information about what brought flight 17 crashing to the ground, but warn they may provide very little information about who is responsible and why. This new-found openness was matched by Russia, announcing they have proof a Ukrainian plane may have been flying near flight 17 when it fell from the sky. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, the Ukraine president firing back at Russian officials.

POROSHENKO: Instead of doing such irresponsible statement, they have an opportunity to send their representative and present to the commission all the necessary evidence.

CUOMO: And reminding that despite the apparent goodwill of local militia they are not the good guys.

POROSHENKO: Don't name them separatists. There is no separatists there. They are terrorists. They are killing innocent people.


CUOMO: So much speculation flying around. So much hardship, at least one step closer for the victims to making it home. So what do we know and what is really still just more question than it is a suggestion of anything factual?

Let's bring in Christiane Amanpour, of course our senior foreign correspondent. Christiane, I know John and Kate are going to talk to you about the bigger issues. Let me talk to you about two specific things to this site. The first is, all of this international outrage, more must be done. The president of the United States says full and open access. The locals in charge say, yes, were want that. How come foreign entities aren't making more of an effort to come here and be on the ground, because as you know the suggestion that eastern Ukraine is just too hot, while true, it is dangerous, there are many hot places in the world and international bodies are on the ground in all of them? Why not here?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is an active war zone, as you've been describing yourself, and the onus the international community has put on President Putin to get his pro- Russia separatists to stand down. In my interview with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko he announced a 45-kilometer ceasefire zone around the crash site in order to facilitate investigations. When I asked him why there was fighting around Donetsk yesterday, he said my soldiers are being attacked. We are trying to push them back, but we want to facilitate investigators coming to that crash site. So they are coming, as you've seen, in dribs and drabs, but not enough.

You mentioned that picture of a fuselage John did that is in the "New York Times." It's also in the British newspapers, and it does show what investigators and analysts say are shrapnel hits, shrapnel marks on the fuselage of that downed plane, plus a big gaping hole. So while some may be asking questions as to who did it and what, the huge bulk of forensic analysis and international opinion and evidence is that this was done by that Russian system, by pro-Russian separatists, possibly with Russian help as well, and that's where all of this is now waiting for President Putin to act.

CUOMO: Let me ask you one more specific question here and then I'll give it to John and Kate. The black box, the pageantry, you should have seen it, Christiane. The self-appointed prime minister surrounded by media, signing the pact with the Malaysians. I'm speaking sarcastically about it because I'm suspicious of it. Is there a chance that this is a chance to gain legitimacy, to get this pact by this local authority? I have the black boxes themselves, and the main question, which is who did this and what happened and it will tell us within the plane, but was there a little bit of a political play here?

AMANPOUR: I think they are under obviously a massive amount of international pressure, and with even these self-declared people who live in a parallel reality as you yourself have now been able to see, Chris, they live in a parallel reality, calling themselves prime minister, doing this, doing that, thinking they have any right over the crash site whatsoever. As the Australian prime minister said, it is like criminals being in charge of the crime scene. So this is a major problem, and they are obviously feeling some of the international pressure.

But as you say, they do also want to be taken seriously and legitimately as a legitimate body. Petro Poroshenko has put paid to that. He told us in no uncertain terms, please, don't even refer to them as separatists. These are terrorists. And he says that because they are believed to have shot down this plane with civilians, not just that, but shooting, as he said to me, you know, three to 11 of my soldiers every single day, and that's why we keep fighting.

And here's one more very important fact. Petro Poroshenko and the Ukrainian military were beginning to make massive headway in imposing Ukrainian central control over that separatist region of east Ukraine after the elections. It was only after the inclusion of various missiles into rebel hands that started shooting down Ukrainian military fights that the balance of power shifted again a little bit towards the rebels, and this is a very important fact. And the question is who allowed them to have this materiel and significant jump in military power? And that's what all this centers on right now. Again, nobody thinks the civilian plane was brought down intentionally but was brought down by mistake.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: By mistake, that's exactly what I wanted to ask you about, Christiane, because you've got the focus on what's changed on the ground but also what is changing kind of in terms of the international blame game. I want to get your take on what you make of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and what he said to reporters yesterday. He essentially said that this was a mistake. This was an accident. This wasn't terrorism.

And here's the quote, just to remind our viewers. He said to reporters following the U.N. Security Council meeting, "If they think they shot down a military jet, it was confusion. If it was confusion, it was not an act of terrorism." And he's talking -- the "they" he's referring to is pro-Russian rebels. What do you make of that? Is that an opening? Is that the off-ramp for Vladimir Putin?

AMANPOUR: I think it's a little bit of both. I think that he's acknowledging, again, international pressure. Remember, he's sitting in New York, and weight of international opinion and outrage is clearly felt in New York, unlike perhaps in Moscow where a massive propaganda machine continues to tell the people of Russia that this was the Ukrainian responsibility. It is truly a parallel reality that's going on in Moscow.

So perhaps Vitaly Churkin is able to absorb a little bit of the outrage and the objective analysis that is being put out in the west and in other parts of the world, including in Malaysia and Australia and all other parts of the world.

On the other hand, the Russians have again reacted in a way that is simply unacceptable to most of the international public opinion, and that is the defense minister himself yesterday came out and purported to show evidence or said that he had evidence that actually was a Ukrainian military jet, as Chris just reported, in the vicinity MH-17 during its flight. Well, this is reminiscent of what the Russians did -- in fact, the Soviet Union did, back 31 years or so when KAL-007 was brought down, over and over again saying we have evidence that shows x, y or zed, anything but the fact that it was Soviet orders that brought down a passenger plane. And this is reminiscent of what's going on right now.

They keep challenging the U.S. and others, OK, show us your intelligence. They know perfectly well in many instances governments don't put military intelligence into the public domain. But -- so they are still obfuscating. And you keep asking why President Putin at this moment of truth doesn't start pivoting to some kind of cooperation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But has he, Christiane? Do you think that these pro-Russian rebels would have turned over the black boxes, would have turned over the bodies, would have allowed investigators greater access to the scene? Do you think these rebels would have done it without pressure or at least the tacit support or approval from Vladimir Putin?

AMANPOUR: I think they are getting the message loud and clear, but it's unclear as to how much they were told to cooperate. Handing over the black boxes is basic. There was a lot of false information as there often is in the fog of the catastrophes that these black boxes had gone to Moscow. The Ukrainians said that they intercepted conversations saying that Moscow wanted them and that the separatists were sending them there under orders. But in any event, that's not the case obviously, and they have now been handed over to Malaysian authorities and the investigators.

But this is right now -- about that investigation, but about much, much more. Vladimir Putin has to do more than talk about the black boxes. He has to talk about standing these separatists down and recognizing international law. And to that point and to that end in Europe today, in Brussels, EU foreign ministers are going to be starting a process of potentially ratcheting up sanctions.

And I'll tell you a lot of the conversation, both here in England, in Great Britain, where David Cameron the prime minister has really sounded very, very hawkish, much more hawkish than ever before, where the chancellor of the exchequer, the treasury secretary, George Osborne, has said we cannot afford the economic hit of big countries bullying little countries and violating international sovereignty. We cannot afford nor can the world afford the economic hit of civilian planes being blown out of air. That is a much bigger economic hit potentially than imposing sanctions on Moscow.

The prime minister of Malta who admitted on CNN that in the past he was willing to say well let's get all the facts. Let's see what Putin has to say and the Ukrainians have to say about what's going on in Ukraine. Since the downing of the MH-17 he said these questions are over. This has now crossed a line and we have to target Russia more pointedly.

And here's the thing. When sanctions are imposed, and that is sanctions obviously instead of war, let's face it, first and foremost sanctions usually involve military sales. Right now France is talking about helicopter assault warships to Russia. The international community wants them at least not to do that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Wolf in Jerusalem. Let's get to the current crisis unfolding here. The fighting seems to be escalating between Israel and Hamas. The diplomacy is escalating at the same time. Secretary of State John Kerry still in Cairo, and Ban Ki-moon is on his way here to Israel. I was struck. The first thing -- almost the first thing that the secretary of state did once he got to Cairo, met with Ban Ki-moon, was announce that the U.S. was going to provide nearly $50 million, $47 million in emergency humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. What did that say to you as far as his efforts to try to establish some credibility to get a ceasefire, shall we say?

AMANPOUR: Well, I think it showed that the political pressure is mounting. The scenes and the sites of these now, you know, more than 600 Palestinians, so many of them children being slaughtered, is very, very difficult for the world to bear. Let's again say 604 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Authority, and about 27 Israelis, but the proportion of civilians amongst the Palestinians is about 70 percent to 80 percent whereas the overwhelming number of Israeli casualties are military. So the world is piling on the pressure because they cannot stand it.

However, of course, it does seem that Hamas is the holdout on the ceasefire. And I spoke to the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni yesterday, and she, as you remember, was the lead Israeli negotiator for the now defunct peace process, and she said, look, we want, and as you know very well, Wolf, and as our audience knows, the Israelis had agreed for a few hours to the previous ceasefire that the Egyptians tried to broker, and Hamas didn't.

But again, I was struck by your conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when you asked him if they now agree to a ceasefire, will you agree. And he seemed to say, well, you know, we've got to attack these tunnels, and that is now the message now from Israel, that these tunnels have to be attacked. So can Secretary Kerry do what President Obama says, which is a ceasefire right now? That is what we're going to see after his trip to Jerusalem where you are, Wolf.

BLITZER: He should be here I suspect sometime later today. Christiane, thanks so very much. By the way, the Israeli military says of those Palestinians who were killed, they claim that about 170 or 180 are what they describe as Hamas militants, so that's the Israeli military assessment right now. Let's go back to New York with Kate and John. BOLDUAN: Wolf, thanks so much, keeping an eye on both of those big

fronts, those big international stories. Let's take a look at the other headlines we're keeping an eye on for you. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone.

A body found last month has been identified as suspected owner of the South Korean ferry that sank back in April. South Koran police used DNA to identify the badly decomposed remains of Yoo Byung-Eun. A manhunt on for Yoo after he did not show up for questioning by prosecutors in connection with that ferry accident.

Calling out the guard. Texas Governor Rick Perry announcing plans to send as many 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border, saying that he's grown tired of lip service, as he called it, from the federal government in dealing with the influx of Central American children. The White House says the number of children apprehended at the border has dropped sharply this month to about 150 daily.

Three teens in New Mexico are facing murder charges this morning for allegedly beating to death two homeless men in Albuquerque. Police say the men's bodies were so badly disfigured they have yet to be identified. The teens allegedly used cinder blocks, bricks and a metal fence pole in that attack. Police say the teens may also be linked to a number of other attacks on homeless people in recent months.

New this morning, concerns that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, virus could be transmitted through the air, not just through close physical contact. In a new study, Saudi scientists say they found fragments of the virus in an area -- in the air, rather, near an infected camel. The respiratory illness has killed more than 300 people and infected hundreds more since it was discovered first two years ago. Most were in the Middle East but cases have spread from people who traveled to their region and then home to their home nations.

In the air -- changes the game for sure, yikes.

BOLDUAN: Definitely does. Thanks so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, what do Americans think of Israel's action in Gaza and any Russian connection to the downing of Flight 17? We have a new CNN poll, coming up.

BERMAN: Plus, with these two major stories, we'll get perspective from someone who knows a lot about both subjects, deeply, deeply involved. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright joins us to discuss. Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Who do Americans think is responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17? A new CNN/ORC poll shows that more than 8 in 10 believe that Russia is directly or indirectly responsible for the crash. So how do Americans think the U.S. should involve if evidence shows

that Russia is to blame? That's where the politics come in. Let's turn to CNN political commentator and Republican consultant, Margaret Hoover, as well as John Avlon, CNN political analyst, and the editor- in-chief of "The Daily Beast".

Good morning, guys.


BOLDUAN: So the heels of -- look, it shows kind of not a surprise that public sentiment is that Russia is probably involved. And, if involved, they're probably going to cover it up. That's where the public sentiment is in the CNN poll. But we thought it was interesting, when you look at if Russia is found to be responsible, how should the United States act? It showed that 71 percent talked about -- 71 percent said that they supported economic and diplomatic sanctions, diplomatic means over military or no action at all that. That really talks -- speaks to where the public is right now, right?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and it dovetails with the president's approach so far. I mean, that needs to be said. He's come under a lot of criticism for his sort of tone in handling these international scandals and sort of the geopolitical meltdown, in many regards, but that line he seems to be pretty much aligned with the American people. And the American people got it right in terms of who is to blame here, folks. 51 percent say Russia is indirectly involved, ding, ding, ding.

BERMAN: Yes, but you hear people criticizing the president -- you know, John McCain and Lindsey Graham talking about what the president has done and not done in the issues surrounding Ukraine and the conflict there. And it is interesting to see that 71 percent essentially land where he is right now.

HOOVER: Well, it's a -- it's also a first step, right, John? I mean, it's a -- diplomatic and economic sanctions is a first step. You Samantha Powers, who's generally seen as more of a realist, more of a pacifist on the side, had very tough language at the U.N. about Russia, extremely tough, probably the toughest of all -- of the other nations represented at the Security Council.

I think you have -- Americans have it right. What really matters here though is how the Europeans respond. Because, frankly, the trade -- we can have economic sanctions with Russia, but we are a very -- we are de minimus amount of their GDP compared to the Europeans.

BOLDUAN: Well, you've already seen that, the United States had taken stronger unilateral action in terms of sanctions. Europeans have not followed suit on that.

We -- maybe I -- maybe I'm not reading the right stuff. But so far on this I have not seen what I would think would be the typical kind of partisan reaction to taking a world event, even if it is a tragedy -- these poll numbers don't matter a darn thing to the people who've lost family members, of course -- but they often jump on this to take this as an opportunity to really criticize the president by and large for his timid foreign policy or somehow linking this to Obama administration action.

I haven't seen that yet. Am I missing something?

HOOVER: I haven't seen.

AVLON: You have seen some of the wingnuts say that this is -- that President Obama's responsible for this to the extent that he created an environment that Putin felt he could arm rebels with impunity. Allen West said that, the former Congressman from Florida.

BOLDUAN: Will that -- will it come later, though, do you think?

AVLON: I mean, look, I think there's a natural human decent reaction to try not to politicize dead bodies.

BOLDUAN: Which is a --


BOLDUAN: Well thankfully we still have some human decency there.

AVLON: We haven't quite crossed that threshold. But there is still -- you know, the rumblings you still hear overall about the president's leadership with regard to American assertive leadership abroad. And that's against the backdrop of American people that are weary of foreign wars.

BERMAN: Let me talk about Israel for a second here, because we see demonstrations all around the world, in Europe especially, against the Israeli action in Gaza right now. But in the same polling that we're just talking about right now, we asked the American people what they thought about Israel's actions in Gaza, and a majority say they are justified.

Now, the American people perhaps maybe not as supportive of Israel as they may have been 10, 20, 30 years ago, but that's still a pretty sizable majority.

HOOVER: I think -- look, I think in the wake of 9/11, frankly, Americans have a very strong understanding for needing to secure your country and for needing to defend yourself against radical jihadism, right? So when you have civilians and tunnels being dug from Gaza into a sovereign country and you have insurgents coming into your country and invading your property, Americans understand the need to defend yourself and defend the borders. I think that's just a very basic understanding Americans have. And, you know, and it's sad it's tragic that Hamas is frankly using civilians as propaganda in this war. And frankly I think that's probably why you've seen a drop in favorability towards Israel maybe over the last six months. We saw this in the CNN/ORC poll -- it dropped from like 70 to 60 percent. I think the propaganda war works frankly.

BOLDUAN: I want to get your take on that as well. But then when you take this all together, by and large, you've got these two huge international crises that really are facing President Obama. At the same time, he's heading out west for fund-raisers.

Now, these headlines we've seen before. Sticking to his travel plans at risk of looking bad. Obama keeps fund-raising schedule through world events. Is this fair criticism to be coming at the president?

AVLON: This is fair criticism to the sense that it's typical criticism. President Bush was criticized for fund-raising during crises, and the White House response is, well, it's more difficult to disrupt the president's schedule.

BOLDUAN: We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

AVLON: Right, we can walk and chew gum, and obviously the backdrop of a mid-term election.

BOLDUAN: He can, but as John pointed out to me when we were talking about, he can do both. Should he?

AVLON: Right. And, look, politics is perception. And when there's a question about assertive American leadership, you can see why people say, look, just because you're going to give a fund-raiser in Florida and give preamble (ph) remarks for five minutes ahead about a world crisis, that seems tonally off, and that's a credible criticism. But I think you've got to pull back and keep in mind this is the kind of situational ethics you see in partisan politics. They always criticize the other guy for fund-raising.

HOOVER: But it does send a signal when the president stops his planned events and comes back to the White House, it connotes a seriousness of the event and it connotes a seriousness that the United States is taking the world event.

AVLON: Right, and that's true --


HOOVER: Either way -- he can -- of course he can handle it either way.

BERMAN: Make no mistake, Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, the whole world watches every word and every action spoken, so that little gestures can matter a whole lot. Again, that goes for Democrats and Republicans.

BOLDUAN: The White House did say if this -- if he's needed back at the White House, if he needs to be -- if to handle this, he needs to be back at the White House, we can change our travel plans. I mean, so they do point that out.


BOLDUAN: I'm on neither side of that.

BERMAN: It's great to have you guys here.

HOOVER: Good morning. Great to be here. BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the remains of many Flight 17 victims, they're now on their very long journey out of the conflict zone. People who love them desperate for answers and desperate to get them home. A look at what life has been like for the MH-17 families. We're going to be live from Ukraine.

BERMAN: Plus, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, she joins us with her perspective now on Russia's role in the MH-17 disaster. Also, does she see any hope for an end to the bloodshed in the Middle East? Stay with us.