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Syria Cease-Fire Efforts; Thalidomide Scandal; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 25, 2016 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: after five long years of war, can Russia and America's latest cease-fire for Syria actually


My exclusive interview with Moscow's ambassador to the E.U., Vladimir Chizhov.


VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, MOSCOW'S AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: No cease-fire is ever 100 percent water-tight. There may be violations. But the essence of

any peace effort like this is to be able to overcome those difficulties.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Plus, I speak to the man who exposed the tragedy and the truth behind one of the darkest medical scandals of our

time. Acclaimed journalist and writer Harry Evans joins me live.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Trying for a second time in about as many weeks, the world now waits to see if the guns will fall silent in Syria, as a cease-fire, brokered by

the United States and Russia, goes into effect at midnight tomorrow.

And the United Nations tomorrow will name a new date for peace talks to resume. That's as the U.N.'s World Food Programme admits its first aid

drop into Syria by air has failed.

Nearly half the pallets carrying food and other emergency medical supplies drifted away and are so far unaccounted for. Four of them landed

in or around the drop zone and were damaged as the parachutes didn't open properly. But the U.N. says it will try again tomorrow.


STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: More needs to be done more effectively. And certainly if we all hope the cessation of

hostilities take hold effectively, they will have an impact on the acceleration of reaching the people in need in Syria, not only in the

besieged areas but everywhere.


AMANPOUR: Now ever since President Putin announce at the U.N. in September that he was entering the air war, Moscow's stepped-up role in

Syria has given it and its ally, President Assad, the upper hand. Indeed, Russia has not let up the intensity of airstrikes in the days and hours

before the cease-fire is due to take effect, trying to eke out the most bargaining power possible for Assad at the political talks.

Russia's ambassador to the E.U., Vladimir Chizhov, joined me earlier from Brussels.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Chizhov, welcome to the program tonight.

CHIZHOV: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any hope that this time the cease-fire will stick any better that last time?

As you remember, in fact, it was blamed on Russian bombing that the last cease-fire didn't even go into effect.

CHIZHOV: Well, I think what we witnessed today is a serious effort primarily by two major factors, the Russian Federation and the United

States. And the terms of the cease-fire proposed, they actually create, oh, what you would call a dividing line in the good sense of the word, for

all the various fighting factions in Syria that have to choose which side they are on.

If they accept the proposal, then they become part of a political process and would be welcome at the future resumed negotiations in Geneva.

If they don't accept, that would mean they side with ISIL and Al-Nusra and the like, who are considered to be terrorists.

AMANPOUR: Yes, Ambassador, since Al-Nusra and ISIS are not -- obviously not covered by this cease-fire, how does this actually work?

And wouldn't it be easy for the Russians or the Assad regime to keep up their bombing, you know, either targeting ISIS or saying they're

targeting ISIS?

CHIZHOV: Well, as far as Russian air force is concerned, it will certainly continue to target ISIS and Al-Nusra and the Syrian army,

commanded by President Assad, will continue its ground offensive, so that is quite obvious.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this --


AMANPOUR: -- what if this doesn't work?

The United States and others have been talking about a plan B, they haven't exactly spelled out what that plan B is but some speculating

perhaps increased sanctions on Russia or other such measures.

What do you understand to be plan B?

CHIZHOV: Well, Russia does not have any plan B and we have heard nothing from others, including the United States, of the existing -- of

existence of any plan B. And I think the very talk about it is very unhelpful because if you launch a major initiative, a peace initiative in

this case, and immediately start talking about what happens if it fails, then your own commitment to that can be questioned.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a broader question.

Now you have obviously been listening to all analysis, watching what's going on on the ground and you know very well that a lot of people are

saying that Russia has really seized the advantage; it has had a very strong mission in Syria and that the West has been dithering and that

Russia has gained a major strategic advantage in the region and in Syria, compared to the West.

Do you accept that?

Do you accept that Russia is playing a very strong and the upper hand in Syria?

CHIZHOV: Well, first of all, it has not been Russian intention to make this as a contest with the West, you know, fighting for influence and

for certain positions in the region.

What Russia has been focusing on is to combat the obvious threat of terrorism, represented primarily by ISIL and also Al-Nusra and other

organizations, that have actually sucked in thousands of members from various countries of the world, including Russia, including our neighbors,

Central Asian countries and others. And also many European countries.

And we certainly -- the least thing we want is for those people, having acquired combat experience in terrorism, to go back to their home

countries, including Russia, and to spread that experience in terms of terrorist attacks. So this is our number one aim, is to make Russia safer

from the menace of terrorism.


CHIZHOV: Secondly, we understand that the situation in Syria is indeed a conflict that needs a political solution. And I would say it's a

double-spared (ph) effort.

On the one hand, we acknowledge and we support that any solution to a conflict like the one in Syria can only be political But on the other

hand, you cannot fight terrorists organizations like ISIL with political means only. So you need to have teeth in the form of military support.

AMANPOUR: I just want you to expand on that because obviously what you're saying, you have placed your bet on Assad being the strongest person

to help you fight what you call terrorism.

Now there are many people who would disagree with Russia's analysis and say that Assad has actually been responsible for the rise of ISIS.

But be that as it may, there have been huge accusations and visibility from the ground that, in the last few weeks Russia has been bombing medical

centers and education facilities and, around Aleppo, forcing more and more refugees out towards Europe.

In fact, in the Munich Security Conference, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, basically said that his military leaders

witnessed what they call the weaponization of refugees; namely that you and Assad continue to bomb civilian areas to drive them out of Syria, force

them to head towards Europe, when they're then Europe's problem.

Is that your way of ending the war or forcing an end to this on your own terms?

CHIZHOV: Well, as conspiracy theories like that are abundant but no single proof has been provided to corroborate allegations that Russian

airstrikes have hit any medical facility or any educational facility.


CHIZHOV: As far as the refugee crisis is concerned, we understand the difficulties that the E.U. is facing today. And since I am here in

Brussels, talking to E.U. representatives, I understand that they have not yet managed to make a single position how to agree how to handle the


But it's not Russia's aim to sort of create something that will push additional refugees towards Europe.

AMANPOUR: One final question on the cease-fire. Secretary Kerry has said that he is not here to vouch that it's absolutely going to work.

The question, he says, will be, will Russia work in good faith?

What is your answer to that?

Well, I think what Russia has been doing so far is adequate proof that we are acting in good faith. Let me tell you that in situations like this,

no cease-fire is ever 100 percent water-tight. There may be violations.

But the essence of any peace effort like this is to be able to overcome those difficulties and to prove its viability. So people should

not turn away from this, I would say, ultimate chance of bringing peace on to Syria.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Chizhov, thank you very much for joining us from Brussels tonight.

CHIZHOV: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: Now the war in Syria, of course, keeps adding to the upheaval in the region. In war-torn Afghanistan, little Murtaza Ahmadi

melted hearts all over the world, wearing his love of football great Lionel Messi by fashioning his hero's jersey from a plastic bag.

Well, now Messi has returned the love. He sent Murtaza a real shirt, signed, of course, with a few extra for his family.

When we come back, another hero, not to one but thousands of children, who became adults looking for justice. Legendary journalist Harry Evans on

bringing the thalidomide scandal to light -- that's next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

My next guest personifies investigative journalism. He is the original hard-charging newspaper editor with the fierce instinct for

getting the kind of story that changes lives and changes society.

Under his tenure at Britain's "Sunday Times," Harry Evans' pursuit of truth and compensation for victims of the --


AMANPOUR: -- thalidomide catastrophe was a watershed moment for Britain and for British journalism. And this fight for justice is being

told in a new documentary called, "Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the last Nazi War Crime."


AMANPOUR: And that man is now 87 years old, former "Sunday Times" editor, journalist and writer, Harry Evans joining me live in the studio.


HARRY EVANS, JOURNALIST: Thank you, going on 78 years --

AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. You could be, given the work that you keep doing and the boundaries that you keep breaking, which is pretty amazing.

First of all, tell us how you discovered the thalidomide story and what made you carry on to the very end to get justice.

EVANS: Well, I'm still going with it. When I was a newspaper editor, I was a very young newspaper editor and I saw pictures of the babies at

Cherry Hospital. And I was kind of horrified at what they had to endure. So I put something in the paper.

People didn't like. When I got to the "Sunday Times" I got hold of documents from the company which distributed this thing. And my hair stood

on end because it was obvious that they had marketed this drug for pregnant when they hadn't any idea whether it would damage pregnant women or not.

They pretended it wouldn't. But of course it did because with these women, all over the country, didn't know why their babies were being born

with terrible internal damages, no arms, no legs possibly. I was -- I was gobsmacked, as you say.

AMANPOUR: And this particular drug was marketed as a cure for what?

EVANS: Well, this drug was a sleep -- it was prescribed by doctors on the health service -- God bless them, they didn't know what they were doing

-- because a formal government committee called the Cohen committee had approved it and it was taken for sleeping sickness. But basically --

AMANPOUR: Morning sickness.

EVANS: -- morning sickness -- morning -- it was a euphoric, made you feel great. It's a wonderful -- interviewed one of the mothers, said, "It

made you feel great."

Well, it did but it also was doing terrible internal damage, depending on when you took it. If you took it one time, it took ears off; another

time, it'd take your stomach out, another time, take an arm off.

AMANPOUR: Wow, so it had an exponentially more powerful effect.


EVANS: Well, yes it did -- those -- you could -- if you survived the first pill, you'd keep your arms but you might lose something else.

So -- but this -- just think of the families. There -- first of all, some husbands left their wives because of this. Just think of them trying

to bring up these children. And we had a minister of health, a Tory minister called Enoch Powell, who wouldn't do anything. He wouldn't have a

public inquiry; he wouldn't give them any compensation.

It was just as if we'd had an air crash and we said, we don't have anything to do with this.

So this story is the serial story of scandal, of indolence, complacency, resistance from the government, resistance from the law.

AMANPOUR: And you, at the "Sunday Times," with your inside investigative team, broke the whole lid off this and got compensation. Now

I want to play one clip from your film.

Victims said, you know, that there wasn't much hope at the time for babies who were born with these terrible birth defects because of


We're going to listen to one of them, Kevin Donnelly, who has told the filmmakers the following. Let's listen.


KEVIN DONNELLY, THALIDOMIDER: There was a very low level of expectation when we were all born. We were all written off and my mother

was told I'd probably only live for about six weeks.

And in fact, when I was born, apparently, they thought I was stillborn and I was put in some kind of a container, put under me mother's bed. And

I don't know whether I coughed or someone knocked the box or something, there was some kind of movement and then they realized I was alive.


AMANPOUR: I mean it is extraordinary. They didn't care at all about these babies and they practically threw them out with the trash.

EVANS: A lot of babies had put aside to try -- you know, the wonderful Kevin, as Jack Ashley, don't forget, when you're giving me some

compliments, the team, Jack Ashley and Alf Morris, two Labour MPs, nothing would have happened without them.

Kevin, who so articulate represents the spirit of the thalidomiders, they fight -- fought the difficulty. He was the height, Jack Ashley said,

of two whiskey bottles. And the whiskey makers was, were appalling, you know.

AMANPOUR: You know, your new film, the one that's just been done, is actually called, you know, it's called "Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans

and the Last Nazi War Crime."

Now this is the shocking new evidence that you have, which is why you've updated this investigative story.

Tell me about that, how is it the last Nazi war crime?

What is the connection between thalidomide and apparently this chemist --


AMANPOUR: -- who worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp?

EVANS: Called Otto Ambros, was sentenced to eight years at Nuremberg, there he is.

And the -- he was working on nerve gases. And Martin Johnson, a third of my trust, took some of the "Sunday Times" material further, give him

credit to that.

And we discovered that the probable origins of this was in the death camps. And he was appointed -- many Nazis were appointed to the board of

this company, called Chemie-Grunenthal in Germany.

The real scandal here, Christiane, if I might just emphasize this, is that when the German trial came and all the people who inflicted this drug

upon the world were tried on criminal charges, there was a political conspiracy -- I think that's not putting it too strongly -- to get them


And so the trial ended with no convictions. And, just listen to this, the company was given immunity.


EVANS: Because it was a political deal. And it's -- that's part of the great story still to come.

The thing about this thing is that, by the way, this pill is still being absorbed in Latin America?



AMANPOUR: Thalidomide is being prescribed in Latin America?

EVANS: It's because it's useful for the symptoms of leprosy and the symptoms of multiple myeloma --

AMANPOUR: So not to pregnant women?

EVANS: Well, pregnant women are not supposed to take it. But women are still being born -- still giving to birth to children without legs and


AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness, in Latin America?

EVANS: Yes, in Peru is the case recently, apparently.

AMANPOUR: Oh, my goodness.

EVANS: A friend of mine actually is very conscious and they're doing great work. But it's -- you know, the Germans have done a great thing

about refugees. They should look at the justice system, which allowed this appalling immunity -- you know, the effect of the immunity was to -- they -

- in Spain, they still haven't had compensation.

And who's fighting them?

The same company that got given immunity.

AMANPOUR: Wow, I mean, it is extraordinary. You know, you are persistent, you're patient, it's not just what you did, blowing the lid off

thalidomide. You got the investigative news bug early. You took -- you did, you know, contributed to the end of the death penalty here, to women

getting Pap smears here.

Tell me, how did those come about?

And this changed society.

EVANS: Well, it's -- it is appalling. I mean, unfortunately, the same minister of health, Enoch Powell, would not introduce Pap smears;

2,000 women were dying in Britain.

I read a paragraph of -- in a -- someone.

I said why don't we have one?

And we couldn't get an answer. Local MPs raised it, kept getting answered no, sir; no, sir; no, sir. I won't do it. In Northern Ireland,

we tried to expose what was going on. I was -- well, you ask me, I was assisted by the most brilliant investigative attorneys, Bruce Page and

Marjorie Wallace and Elaine Potter, they were incredible.

So I --

AMANPOUR: These are game-changing stories. I mean, it changed society. It changed women's health, the death penalty obviously changed

this society.

What gave you the investigative bug?

And do you think it's as strong today?

And are we missing something?

EVANS: I think it's as strong today -- the means of delivering it are less strong.

What happen gave it me basically was when I was a young kid, I was 12 and my father took me on the beach at rill (ph), he was a steam train

driver. And I was furious with him. Because he talked to people on the beach and some of them --

AMANPOUR: At Dunkirk, when the troops were retreating --

EVANS: -- troops had come back from Dunkirk and they were telling him a story of what had happened at Dunkirk that was completely different from

the propaganda stuff that was put out.

AMANPOUR: So a defeat was being portrayed as a victory?

EVANS: Exactly right. And Winston Churchill, after my father said, victories are not won by evacuations and that was a sobering thing that

Churchill said.

But my dad had seen it.

So I thought how does -- how come he knows this?

And I realized, he's reporting, that's what should matter.

AMANPOUR: And you got the bug?

EVANS: Reporting.

AMANPOUR: And we've been richer ever since.

EVANS: Anybody that -- you know, the kind of reporting you do, if I may say so, is absolutely incredible and it's so important.

AMANPOUR: Mutual admiration society, Harry Evans, thank you very much. You're a hero.


AMANPOUR: And we turn now to another British legend but this one has made his name high above Queen and country.

Last night, the BRIT Music Awards here in London recruited the British astronaut Major Tim Peake to honor Adele's truly out-of-this-world success.


TIM PEAKE, ASTRONAUT: Congratulations to the incredible Adele. She's taken the world by storm and is a true global icon. I really wish I could

be there in person to present the award. And so rest assured that we're all (INAUDIBLE) up there.

ADELE, SINGER: Thank you. I can't work out if I'm crying because of that video because it's Tim Peake did it. My kid is going to be thinking

I'm so cool.


AMANPOUR: So cool indeed. Imagine being awarded by an astronaut from space.

And when we come back, more from the BRITs with a moving tribute to the late, great David Bowie --


AMANPOUR: -- who did actually bring the first ever "Starman" to Earth, that's next.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, are you still having a hard time imagining a world without David Bowie?

Six weeks since "The Man Who Fell to Earth" floated back up to the stars, the BRIT Awards, London's prestigious annual music fest, paid

tribute with his friend, Annie Lennox, Gary Oldman and the singer Lorde, once described by Bowie himself as "the sound of tomorrow."

She teamed up with his old band to perform his old hit, "Life on Mars."



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now when news of the performance reached David Bowie's son, the director, Duncan Jones, who wasn't at the ceremony, he

tweeted, "Finally found the links to tonight's BRITs. Just beautiful. Thank you."

And thank you. That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can also listen to our podcast as well as see us online at and

follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.