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First MH17 Bodies Arrive in Grieving Netherlands; Remembering the Lives of MH17 Victims; Obama Slammed for Non-Stop Fundraising Amidst Global Turmoil; FAA Extends Tel Aviv Flight Ban Another 24 Hours; The Poisoning of a Former Russian Spy Gets a Closer Look

Aired July 23, 2014 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: A night on a day of significant developments in the search for answers in the downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

We begin not there but in a very different place. A different place from the feels for the 298 people came to rest, their names down there at the bottom of your screen tonight. A different place from where they lay seemingly forever surrounded by armed thugs, political posturing and propaganda bordering up an obscenity. A different world from the war zone that created the conditions in which 298 men, women, and children could be blown from the sky. A different place, thank goodness, in every way imaginable.

Today, in quiet dignity, the coffins bearing some of the remains of the 298 people aboard flight 17 arrived in the Netherlands.


COOPER: They arrived to a nation in mourning, a country stunned by the horror of the loss.

Forty coffins carrying the first victims of flight 17.

The king and queen of the Netherlands were there to greet them, so were the people who loved them. But no one yet knows exactly which victims these are.

A day of national mourning in the Netherlands, a day of grief and sorrow around the world.

Today, finally, there was dignity.

A bugle's call followed by a moment of silence.

Then, one by one, each unadorned wooden coffin loaded into waiting hearses. It was a 60-mile journey to the town of Hilversum, the first leg of a long journey home. Tens of thousands lie in the road, on the highways, cars stopped to watch. And it overpasses scattered applause at the solemn procession passed underneath.

In churches throughout the Netherlands, prayers were said. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, be with them and stay with them, God. Give them light in the darkness.

COOPER: Music helped mourners begin to heal.

The coffins finally arrived nearly four hours after landing, two roses tossed gently towards the hearses.

This was just the beginning, the beginning of the identification process, the beginning of more arrivals still to come.


COOPER: It was an extraordinary thing to witness. According to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine, authorities have had 74 coffins to depart tomorrow.

Joining us now from Amsterdam is Michel Krielaars of the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad with me here tonight and Aviation Correspondent Richard Quest.

Michel, let me start with you. You knew people onboard of flight MH17 and as a citizen at the Netherlands, what was it like to be there today on this first national day of mourning in some 50 years?

MICHEL KRIELAARS, JOURNALIST, NRC HANDELSBLAD: I've never seen my people as much in shock as today. I think this is -- When the airplane was shot down, it was -- a day since the Second World War and that was -- many people died in one day because of an act of war as of last Thursday.

And for me, today, my neighbor died, he was the famous HIV researcher Yvonne Ryder, and a (inaudible) and he was an acquaintance of mine and (inaudible), even though probably they weren't in those coffins, but I was very close to them. And I was sitting at the office with my newspaper this afternoon and then I watched it on television when the two airplanes arrived (inaudible) airport and I really was very moved and I have seen people in tears. Many of my colleagues as you know journalists are often very noisy people, they have also cried, they were all, yeah, probably in tears, all very emotional.

COOPER: Well, Michel, Richard Quest and I had the privilege really of anchoring our coverage for about two hours this afternoon as the hearses made the procession. And it was just extraordinary. Richard talked about a sense of community that, you know, the people who were aligned in the roads, the family members who were there, they didn't know who was in those coffins. But it didn't -- it almost didn't matter. There was this sense of being together and I certainly have the sense that it goes beyond just the Netherlands that the sense of community really was something today that all those who were watching around the world today truly, truly felt. And you must feel that very strongly there right now.

KRIELAARS: Yeah. It's -- The Holland used to be a very church going country 50 years ago. And today, it was like that, the time's, you know, the past returned. People were united. They were standing on the roads throwing flowers to the cars with the coffins. And it's -- it was like in a movie. Actually, I couldn't see my eyes when I saw all these people being united everywhere. And actually, it's since last Thursday that people react everywhere like that.

COOPER: Richard, again, I mean you and I watched this along with the world for much of this afternoon and I keep coming back to that word that you used "community" and just the enormity of the moment.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: As I said at the time, today, we were all Dutch, we were all German, we were all New Zealand, Canada, British, German, Malaysians, Australians, South Africans ...

COOPER: Indonesians.

QUEST: ... Indonesians, Philippines. And today, we were all -- all those countries are individual, national identities was exhumed as we joined something that was far greater. And what that greatness was today was the reclaiming of decency and the reclaiming of principle and value. Because no matter how heinous the act that have taken place that caused these people to perish or how they had been treated body bags on trains across Central and Eastern Europe Today, we were able to say, "No. This is what we stand for."

So, at one point and I don't know whether you feel the same way but at one point, it was the most difficult of assignments to talk this through. But frankly, it was also one of the easiest because you have to look at it and it wrote and spoke itself.

COOPER: And also Michel, I mean I -- one of the things I tweeted out this afternoon was, "Thank God for the Netherlands." the way you came together and the way your country showed such dignity and such grace and juxtapose particularly it shines so brightly, juxtapose to the horror that we have witnessed not just in the act of the shooting down of this plane but the horror of the day after the day, of the way the victims of this crash have been treated really up until today, up until this moment.

KRIELAARS: And you're completely right. Truly, you have seen the speech of Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans gave in the Security Council and it was also a very emotional speech. It was a speech about decency, about respect, about humanity, and that's the thing which does exist in Eastern Ukraine at the time being.

COOPER: And it's one of the things we replayed in fact today in our coverage, Richard, and I honestly can't even repeat what the foreign minister said. I can't get through it because I find it so moving to this moment.

QUEST: Well, then you'll forgive me if I do remind you what he said. After the attack happened, let us try and imagine what those people were going through. Did they lock hands for that last moment? Was there a silent glance between them as they had a silent goodbye? Did they hold their children more closely as they realized the end might be close?

You can't help but recognize that this is the clarion call. Politicians are elected for a purpose. Frans Timmermans told us, "Yeah, we are elected and now we must give voice to that which has to be done."

COOPER: Michel, it also is stunning when you consider this is just the first, this is just the beginning. There are, I believe, two more planes said to be arriving tomorrow. This is just the beginning of this process that will take weeks if not months in some cases. Do you know what happens tomorrow? I mean, is -- tomorrow is not a national day of mourning. It's not, correct?

KRIELAARS: No. But tomorrow, two other planes will land. I think of them will take 75 bodies to Holland and there will be a small ceremony but it will be the same ceremony as done being today at Eindhoven airport. There will be present one cabinet minister. There will be a present -- several officials from the government. Of course the king and queen would be there and the prime minister also on that but the whole ceremony with all these military and police being present will be the same as today. And they will also drive in a (inaudible) to this military base where they are going to proceed with (inaudible) identification of the bodies.

QUEST: Unless anybody thinks that this is in any shape or form moving to a closure or a conclusion, 74 coffins will be returned to the Netherlands. 40 came back today but there are coffins we do not know how many victims are inside. It's gruesome, it's distasteful, it has to be faced that there may still be -- there are probably are still recoveries to be made.

COOPER: And we know that for a fact that one of the OSCE monitors today are in an interview. I saw -- said that he was out at the site -- one of the sites and saw people still out there. We don't know how many and again, there's still a lot to learn. We're in a place in that -- what the foreign minister said later on in our broadcast because I do want people to hear, Michel, what your foreign minister said at the United Nations. It was just such a powerful statement of humanity in the face of all this.

Michel, I appreciate you being on with us on this broadcast. And again, my thanks and I give the thanks to many people for the way your country and your countrymen have handled this. Thank you very much.

KRIELAARS: You're welcome.

COOPER: Richard is going to stay with us for a moment. I do want to go to Ukraine where Ivan Watson has spent the day amazingly, the all but abandoned crash site or one of them.

Ivan, you were there, what was it like today?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you've said, it felt very much abandoned. I was struck that on the day when the Dutch were coming out and showing such grace after the entire world have been calling for free access to this crash site even -- have seen a United Nation security council resolution calling for it.

The site itself had no security whatsoever. I did not see any investigators working through the ruins. In fact, much of the debris clearly has been removed in some of the areas just within the last 48 hours. We know that this site has been contaminated again and again and again over the last six days. Again, no protection whatsoever, just wreckage and burned grass in these farm fields of Eastern Ukraine. The only people at sunset kind of -- remotely keeping an eye on the area were the villagers living nearby who seemed to have gone back to farming. So, yes, the place where these people died last Thursday very much feeling abandoned and ignored right now.

COOPER: I mean, this is really extraordinary to hear this and again it points to the value and the importance of actually going and reporting and going to the front lines as nobody does better than Ivan Watson.

But, Ivan, what is to be done? I mean, if you can get out to this search area, why are there not -- again, this -- any international bodies out there or international -- bodies is the wrong word, any international monitors or investigators or at the very least people there to search for the dead, to search for the victims, there maybe as many as 98 to 100 victims still out there laying out at various scenes -- sites all throughout that crash zone. What is -- Where are they?

WATSON: I don't have an easy answer for that, Anderson. We know that international monitors from the OSCE have been making daily visits out there. We know that there have -- had been Ukrainian government civil aviation experts who've been able to go visit even though the separatists are at war with the Ukrainian government and they don't recognize it. We know that there have been some forensics experts, members of the Malaysian delegation who have gone out to the crash site.

But the fact is, is that you have the giant tail of this doomed plane just laying in a farm field and other scraps of this plane just kind of daunting the surrounding farm fields. If there's any perhaps consolation of this corner of Ukraine is a beautiful area. They are rolling fields, it is pastoral and there perhaps maybe some piece in that. But no, I do not see -- what we had heard was supposed to be the world's biggest criminal investigation crime scene.

COOPER: And Richard Quest, I'm not even talking about investigating the crime scene. I'm not even talking about looking through wreckage. I'm talking about 98 souls -- 100 souls is as many as somebody making an effort to bring them home.

QUEST: It's inconceivable what Ivan is telling us tonight. It is inconceivable that it is being so difficult. But I am guessing and Ivan can confirm or otherwise that the issue is safety, the issue is a wall that continues in the very region and ...

COOPER: But if -- But, Ivan, you're saying -- I mean, OSCE monitors are -- can go to this site and are now getting unfettered access. From what I've been told, they're not obviously trained or even equipped with body bags with anything to pick up the dead. But getting some people out there to bring back the remains, to -- with body bags, that is not a -- that complicated and undertaking if OSCE monitors can get there, you would think some teams of forensic investigators could get out there to at least again bring these men, and women, and children and infants in some cases home.

WATSON: Again, I don't have an easy answer for this. I do have to stress that, OK, this crash site that has been the focus of so much attention. Yes, you can travel freely to it but other parts of the surrounding region are not easy to move around.

Anderson, today, just about a half hours drive away from where the remains of flight MH17 are laying in the farm fields, the separatists shot down two Ukrainian war planes, fighter jets, they shot them down. They say with shoulder-mounted surface to air missiles. So, if you can imagine this place where this commercial airliner, with all these innocent victims were killed, overhead we were hearing throughout the day the roar of war planes very high overhead and other planes were shot down just six days later.

The Ukrainian government says it was in an altitude of 5,000 meters. And the separatists do block access to other areas in the region because they say of ongoing battles. The region there is an active war zone and perhaps that's the reason why bigger teams haven't come to the scene there.

COOPER: Ivan Watson, I appreciate the report and Richard Quest as well. We, of course, will talk more tonight and in the days ahead about what the pieces of the plane themselves have to say about what and who brought it down.

Next, though, what the people who lost loved ones are saying including the words of a grandmother who lost her two precious grandsons. It managed to see some hope, some hope today through her tears.


COOPER: Well, as hard as it is to consider with the families of 298 people are going through right now, it's hard as it is to talk about, it is also an honor and inspiration to speak with some of them. We want to continue to honor them by showing you all of their names. You're going to see them throughout these two hours at the bottom of the screen tonight.

We've had a privilege and I've been all struck frankly at the generosity and love that survives inside people who have been through so much as New Day's Chris Cuomo discovered this morning.


CHRIS CUOMI, CNN'S NEW DAY CO-HOST: I'm standing right now with the Calehr family. This is Harum, this is Samira and this is Yasmin. Harum's two nephews were lost on flight MH17. This is their mother. This is their grandmother. How difficult has this been to lose the little ones, to lose the one you care about the most and in a way where they were not only far away but everything that followed afterwards? How have you managed to stay together with the family?

HARUM CALEHR, LOST NEPHEWS IN MH17 CRASH: I don't know. First, I think it's adrenaline. I mean, it's just indescribable. We're all in a haze. We're so numb. We're so sad. And of course we keep thinking about the most important thing, how much did the kid suffer and we just hope and pray that they didn't. It was all over very quickly.

CUOMO: Harum, I am sorry to meet you this way.

H. CALEHR: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Thank you so much. So am I. I appreciate it though. Samira, our heart goes out to you. I'm so sorry for what you've lost and you, Yasmin.

YASMIN CALEHR, LOST GRANDCHILDREN IN MH17 CRASH: Thank you and thanks CNN to show the world what's never have been shown. It's not just us, it is people crying every minute for the same reasons we are crying. I don't know where humanity is going but when I see you and everybody and the flowers there's always hope. And we have to move on. I don't how, but we have to, because they were incredible kids. I just told you they were just incredible. We never knew how many lives they touched until now.


COOPER: Well, as we mentioned earlier 74 coffins will be returning from Ukraine tomorrow in addition to the 40 today. The remains are being examined and identified at a Dutch military base.

In addition, to being our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has also received training in forensic medicine. He joins us tonight with the insight and what investigators hope to learn. He joins us from the Netherlands

Sanjay, how difficult is this identification process? Obviously, you know, there's a whole range of what authorities are going to have to deal with right now.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. There's no question. Lots of different groups of people involved and, you know, this isn't a standard sort of autopsy, you know. In some ways when you're doing an autopsy, there's three things you're trying to establish which is cause of death, the matter of death, and name, identification of the person. Here, you have a pretty good idea in the cause and matter of death. So, this is really about identification.

We know that there were 40 coffins brought, for example, here to the Netherlands but we don't know what that represents. How many souls, how many different people that could be more than 40, it could be less than 40. So, just the basics like that need to be established. But I'll tell you in some ways, it's surprisingly simple. There's some basic things, Anderson. You want to look at things like clothing, identifying body marks, piercings, tattoos to try and make some of those identifications. Dental records has become increasingly important in this situation because we heard so much about the idea that the remains -- there may have been contamination of the sight that could interfere with things like DNA analysis, even finger print analysis, or dental records. Again, a very simple thing and something that's been a gold standard that will probably be much more likely use here, Anderson.

COOPER: And it's sickle to hear and to talk about this, but family members have already been briefed on all of this by Dutch officials. I spoke to one family member, a man who lost two of his nephews onboard the flight, who said that Dutch officials were very blunt with them and he actually appreciated that that they went through in great detail how the identification process would take place. They already took DNA samples. Is there -- Since how long it may take for the identification process to be complete certainly on those people who have actually been recovered because of course there are still others who are still out in Eastern Ukraine.

GUPTA: Right. Yeah, well, you know, on the first point -- I mean, that the situations -- I mean, just imagine these families are getting calls. They want to make sure that these families get one call that the investigators don't have to keep going back to the house over and over again.

So, they do need to be blunt in terms of trying to obtain sort of identifying features of the person, but also dental records, possibly DNA. Even if they can't find DNA of the individual on question, they can use certain programs to take DNA from first degree relatives and make a match that way. But taking that all into account, it's hard to say how long this will take. They create these large temporary morgues with these different stations to accomplish all this work. Yes, some 75 investigators on the ground doing this sort of thing. So, you know, the Tripoli plane crash back in 2010, Anderson, you may remember, 104 took about 30 days to get back positive identification. So, it's a little bit an open question.

COOPER: Sanjay Gupta, it's good to have with you. Thanks.

When we come back, the growing controversy of the FAAs decision to ground flights to Tel-Aviv for another day.


COOPER: Welcome back. As the White House deals with multiple global crises, some Republicans are slamming President Obama for continuing his fundraising schedule while so much is going on in the world and appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live has been next. But the White House says the President can do nearly everything he would do in Washington while he's on the road for fundraisers in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That's doing little of course to sound on his critics.

Joining me now is the Hoover Institution's Kori Schake, who is a former aide to President George W. Bush, also Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley.

Doug, how do you see this, this criticize, I mean, is this any different than the criticism that George W. Bush use to face in the Crawford ranch or that Ronald Reagan use to face under his ranch in California.

Is this the same?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's similar but I think people just need to leave the president alone on this one. I mean, after all Abraham Lincoln ran on election the middle of Civil War. After he run for reelection in the middle of World War II people have to do politics why you're president.

And we bet up Jimmy Carter terribly during that Iran hostage crisis for his Rose Garden strategy being hold up in D.C.

So I think the President is smart not to be on Jimmy Kimmel, continue some of his fundraising. We keep an eye when he needs to get back to the White House quickly.

COOPER: Kori, in terms of the optics, the public component of being a President. People need to feel their leader is in fact leading. In your opinion, is the President dropping the ball with the public components as far as the foreign policy crises are concerned?

KORI SCHAKE, FMR. AIDE FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it is kind of unseemly that the president is doing so much fundraising. But I agree with Doug that actually politics goes on even on its crisis. I would mind the less that the President was making fundraising stuff if he was doing a better job managing the international crises.

COOPER: Well, to that point, I mean, I think in the New York Times, you were quote as saying that you think President Obama has an Ad Hoc Foreign Policy. What do you mean by that?

SCHAKE: Two things. First, he accesses the choices he makes in one conflict that will no effect on the choices on other people choices elsewhere. And that's clear they're not true. And the second is that the President's vision of the international order.

In fact, you said in Los Angeles today or yesterday that the old order isn't holding. But the new -- But we're not where we need to be in terms of creating a new order. And that's quite right. The new order that he wants to emerge, a new order is emerging. It's not the one that president wants. It's one where the Russians behave in ways that alarm all of Europeans.

We are stepping back, expecting that others will step forward and make the same choice as we would and mostly they're not going to do that.

COOPER: Do you -- Doug, usually I don't agree with that but, I mean, do you think conducting foreign policy has changed over the years that this idea of kind of a one size fits all doctrine make sense?

BRINKLEY: Yeah. I don't think the president can do a doctrine right now. He's done a number of those. He gave a big speech at West Point not long ago, you know. John Kerry's burning himself out, trying to do diplomacy. Who can criticize Kerry for trying in -- between Israel and Palestine to get a peace settlement there that people have been beating up on him, that he's tried too hard and it's not quite working. He's over there working on that crisis. I do think though that the president might have to take and give an address to the American public. The Peter Baker article points out seven of eight things unraveling and I do think when this, perhaps maybe Monday, the president is going to need to do a primetime, address the old style on all the networks and talk about particularly Putin and Russia and what's going on. Meanwhile, we got to get a ceasefire in the Middle East.

COOPER: All right. Doug Brinkley, good to have you on and Kori Schake as well. I appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up next, the fighting in Gaza and the battle over banning flights into Tel Aviv.


COOPER: Then to the FFA ban on the U.S. airliners that are flying to and from Tel Aviv, now it runs until tomorrow afternoon. It was put in place after a rocket hit about a mile from Ben Gurion International Airport. Some other airlines also canceling flights.

A Hamas spokesman calls that "A great victory for the resistance." Israel's government says the airport is safe and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees. He flew to Tel Aviv as you may know on Israel's El Al Airlines and spoke with Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem along with the mayor of that city.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: But you cannot shutdown everything just because one terrorist, some place on the other side of the world says, "I'm going to be a threat."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: Here's what folks are going to say, you're a pilot. We know you're a pilot.


BLITZER: But these are experts at the FAA. Are you suggesting that the FAA is being politicized ...

BLOOMBERG: I have no ideal. You have to call the FAA.

BLITZER: The FAA and their statement there ...

BLOOMBERG: No, I didn't write the statement. I don't know what they said. And you can't put words in my mouth, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to tell you, I'm ...

BLOOMBERG: I'm just telling you what I think about the FAA. They are well-meaning. It's a great organization. They make airlines and airports safe in America but not as safe as Ben Gurion and El Al are and the fact that one rocket falls far away from this airport, a mile away doesn't mean you should shutdown air traffic into a country and paralyze the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well Wolf joins us tonight from the Israel. Ben Wedeman is in Gaza.

Wolf, we just heard a bit of your interview with Michael Bloomberg. Israeli officials have seen -- I mean, they are very much see this ban as a victory for Hamas, yes?

BLITZER: They certainly do. They think it's a major victory for Hamas. All of U.S. carriers and most of the European carrier, several of the Asian carriers, they've stopped flying in and out of Israel following the FAA's initial 24-hour suspension, now followed by a second 24-hour suspension.

They've see it as a clear victory for Hamas. And by the way, Hamas sees it as a clear victory for Hamas as well because this is very painful, very damaging to Israel's economy. Tourism for example is so important that Ben Gurion Airport is Israel's gateway to the outside world and if it's going to remain shutdown to foreign carriers, that's going to be a severe blow to Israel.

COOPER: Any movement on a ceasefire?

BLITZER: I don't see a whole lot of movement. You're hearing talking, your certain statement is coming from Hamas, your certain positive statement is coming from the Palestinian authorities. Secretary of State John Kerry says he's making some progress.

The Israelis, they don't see a whole lot of progress. They would like to see a ceasefire. Hamas stops firing rockets and missiles into Israel. Israel will end its military campaign there and then start dealing with a lot of the other issues that have been so problematic.

Hamas wants to deal with those issues. Apparently right now, even before there's a formal ceasefire and I think that's the (inaudible).

COOPER: Ben, what's the latest in Gaza tonight?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's been another bloody day, the death toll now almost reaching 700. What we did see however in three locations in the Gaza strip was that there was a brief -- it wasn't even a ceasefire, the Red Cross coordinated with the Israelis and with Hamas to go into three separate areas to try to retrieve the dead, the wounded, those who might be trapped in their homes.

In fact, we went it with the Red Cross into Shuja'iya. I saw really, how severely destroyed parts of that neighborhood were. That's where a lot of the fighting has been going on. But during that operation, we came under fire repeatedly. It's not clear from which side, but at a certain point, there was a large explosion just up the street. It appears it was the Israelis saying, "It's time to go." Well, Anderson.

COOPER: Ben, is it all possible to get a sense on the ground who is actually winning on the ground in Gaza? I guess it depends on how one defines winning, what you believe the objectives are but what's the sense on the ground?

WEDEMAN: Yes, Anderson. It also depends, sort of where you're standing, whether you're a Palestinian here or Gaza or an Israeli on the other side of the fence. Certainly here, Hamas does feel it's accomplished quite a lot. And they would tell you, they're winning. In fact, you know, we monitor Hamas media very closely and they are claiming that they have successfully caused this ban on U.S. flights to Ben Gurion Airport. They say they have isolated Israel.

They point to the Israeli death toll. 29 soldiers killed in the last five days. Keep in mind during 2008 and 2009, only six Israeli soldiers were killed in almost three weeks of fighting. Hamas says that they proven that they can paralyze Israel with their long range rocket fire, that on the ground Israel really hasn't been able to come into Gaza in the way they did in 2008 and 2009 and that is because of their increased -- Hamas's increased military capacity and capabilities.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman reporting, Wolf Blitzer as well. Thank you.

Coming up tonight, the poisoning of a former Russian spy gets a closer look. Was the Russian government behind this man's shocking deterioration and ultimate death?

That's next.


COOPER: Well, the downing of Flight 17 in question, the Russian involvement have raised chill where Moscow's concerned, it's a familiar kind of feeling because it reminds us of other human tragedies, very public ones that are suspected of having root in Russia. Tonight, another chapter in one of them, the mystery that reads like a spy thriller, the British government is now taking a closer look of whether Russian President Vladimir Putin's government was behind the death of a former spy nearly eight years ago. Randi Kaye investigates.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko fell ill suddenly on November 1st, 2006. Within days, his skin turned yellow, his hair started falling out. For three weeks, he remained hospitalized, slowly dying.

His wife spoke to CBS's 60 minutes about the last words from her husband who she called Sasha.


MARINA LITVINENKO, ALEXANDER LITVINENKO'S WIDOW: Then I told him, "Sasha, I have to go to home." Then he told me, "Marina, I love you so much."


KAYE: Doctors could tell he'd been poisoned but by what? And by whom? On the day he became ill, Litvinenko met up with former Russian agent Andrey Lugovoy, here at London's Millenium Hotel.

Litvinenko had a cup of tea. That tea now believed to have been lays with poison.

That poison is a rare radioactive isotope called Polonium-210. Only takes is a tiny spec to kill. It's tasteless, odorless and very hard to detect. It turns out, 97 percent of the global supply of Polonium- 210 is made in Russia's nuclear reactors.

British police followed the radiation trail. And in 2007 Lugovoy with Litvinenko's murder. But Lugovoy is now a member of the Russian parliament and Russia has refused to extradite him to the UK. He's denied any wrong doing. But did someone at the Kremlin ordered the hit?

Litvinenko worked for the FSB, the successor to the KGB. While there, he became a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, who at that time headed the FSB.

In 2000, Litvinenko moved his family to London, hoping they'll be safer there but his criticism of the Russian government continued. He publicly blame the Kremlin for various terrorist acts.


ANDREI NEKRASOV, ALEXANDER LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: Alexander's whole point and possibly the hatred he generated in his own ex-colleague was that the FSB, Russian Security Service is becoming like a criminal gang. So if it's true, he predicted his own murder.


KAYE: On his death bed, Litvinenko pointed a finger at Putin, who by then had become president of Russia, telling another friend this.


ALEX GOLDFARB, ALEXANDER LITVINENKO'S FRIEND: You may succeed in silencing one man, but the whole of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.


KAYE: Putin has always denied any involvement. But know the British government has announced the public inquiry, a closer look at whether President Putin and Kremlin may have been behind the 2006 murder.

More than seven years after Alexander Litvinenko died. This maybe his family's best chance at finding out if Russian leaders ordered the killing.

Randi Kaye CNN, New York.

COOPER: It's an incredible story. Just to have -- We're going to have more of the really extraordinary day, the extraordinary moments in a profoundly sad and moving day in the Netherlands as the first remains of victims were finally getting the respect and dignity they so deserve.


COOPER: Well, early in the broadcast we are talking about the deeply moving words the Dutch Foreign Minister this week of the United Nation, his country as you know lost a 193 of its citizens on flight 17. And a measurable lost compounded by the unconscionable treatment of the victim's remains and by questions that can never be answered. At the UN, Frans Timmermans gave voice to his country's amends grief and outrage -- grief and outrage which we saw today as well. Let's listen again.


FRANS TIMMERMANS, DUTCH FOREIGN MINISTER: How horrible must have been the final moments of their lives when they knew the plane was going down. Did they lock hands with their loved ones? Did they hold their children close to their hearts? Did they look each other in the eyes one final time in a wordless goodbye? We will never know.

The demise of almost 200 of my compatriots has left a hole in the heart of the Dutch nation, it has caused grief, anger and despair. Grief for the loss of loved ones. Anger at the downing of a civilian aircraft. And despair, after witnessing the excruciatingly slow process of securing the crash site and recovering the remains of the victims.

The last couple of days we have received very disturbing reports of bodies being moved about and looted for their possessions.

Just for one minute I am not addressing you as representatives of your countries but as husbands and wives, as fathers and mothers. Just imagine that you first get the news that your husband was killed, then within two or three days you see images of some thug removing the wedding band from their hands. Just imagine that this could be your spouse.

To my dying day I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs and that human remains should be use in the political game. If somebody here around the table talks about a political game, this is the political game that has been played with human remains and it is despicable.


COOPER: And today in the Netherlands was day like no other. It's a country which has 17 million people. And as Dutch journalist putted, everyone as a handshake away. Today as you saw the Dutch received the first remains of victims. They did it with the respect and care that the victims deserve and they reminded the world what true humanity looks like.


ANGUS HOUSTON, RET. CHIEF MARSHAL OF THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE: We stand together today united in grief, with the families and friends who have lost people they cherish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear God, we are confused and very upset and angry that this was allowed to happened, that there was no respect shown to the bodies of people who lost their lives.

How can it be that people like you and like me that people have just been taken from us on the way to a conference, on the way to a holiday? Relatives of ours, friends of ours gone. How can that be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For all those present here in the church I would like to ask you to please stand. And let's now have one minute silence.

A disaster of last week has been etched in the memory of us, all of us in the Netherlands. Today we are joined together in our grief. We can not take away the grief. What we can try and do is be there, be there, joined and united in our faith, in our hope and above all joined in love.


COOPER: I'll be back on the air tomorrow at noon, Eastern Time as more of the victims of flight 17 return to the Netherlands and again tomorrow night, of course at 8:00 p.m. for 360.

CNN Tonight starts now.

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