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Tensions Flare Between Russia And Ukraine Over Crimea; Ukraine: Minsk Ceasefire Constantly Violated; U.S. Commander: ISIS In Retreat. Aired 11-11:30p ET

Aired August 11, 2016 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:47] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST: Tonight on the program, Ukraine puts the country's troops on high alert as tensions with Russia ramp up once

again. Moscow accuses Kiev of launching an attack near Crimea. Kiev says that's insane. How serious is this latest escalation? Also to come on the

program, U.S. military top brass leading the fight against ISIS say the terrorists are on the retreat, but is it a turning point or not? Joining

the show live from Baghdad, Colonel Chris Garver, who is a spokesman for the operation. And meet the refugee women stitching their lives back

together after fleeing war.

Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program, I'm Michael Holmes, in for Christiane this week. Well, with the world's focus on Syria, Iraq, and

ISIS, it has been easy to overlook another hot spot, and that is Ukraine.

The fighting has never really stopped there. Pro-Russian rebels battling for control of territory in the east of the country. Peace agreements, by

and large, ignored and a mounting death toll of combatants and civilians. And now, another potential trigger for perhaps more conflict, in the place

Ukraine says Russia stole from it in 2014 -- Crimea. Claims by Russia of a terrorist incursion, claims by Russia that that is a lie. And Russia is

trying to create a pretext for perhaps taken even more Ukrainian land. CNN's Phil Black reports.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could these scattered items trigger yet another large scale military conflict in Ukraine? Russia's

secret security service, the FSB, released this video, which it says shows explosives and weapons that were intended to be used against targets in

Crimea, the large peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine two years ago. The FSB says this man was one of the Ukrainian saboteurs it stopped in

operations that also resulted in the deaths of two Russian personnel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says these events cannot be allowed to pass. He accuses Ukraine's government of embracing terror instead of

peace. Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, described the accusations as insane and a pretext for imminent Russian military action. He's ordered

Ukrainian forces to their highest state of alert. Once again in Ukraine, tensions have suddenly escalated, and there's a sense anything could


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does present this idea of either something is stirring in Ukraine again, some form of potential offensive, or this is

Russia just using this as a pretext to basically blame Ukraine for not being very cooperative.

BLACK: Meanwhile, in Ukraine's east, this is what a ceasefire looks like.

These are Ukrainian government soldiers. There is daily fighting in this part of the country where Russian backed militants have carved out their

own territory. International observers say June and July saw a big spike in violence and the United Nations points to a dramatic increase in

civilian casualties, mostly from heavy weapons.

This was all supposed to stop after the signing of the Minsk agreement in February last year. But since then, all parties have continuously accused

each other of breaking that peace deal. The U.S. view, Russia's violations are more frequent and more serious. America's ambassador to Ukraine,

Jeffrey Pyatt, tweeted, Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions.

He says new Russian weapons systems have made the situation more volatile. Russia denies fuelling the war. Analysts say that's key to Russia's


[23:04:58] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia can always distance itself from actually being involved in the conflict, so the separatists in the east are

not -- in Russia's narrative, they're not Russians. They're not supported by the Russian state. What's happening in Crimea, it was the Ukrainians'

fault, in their eyes.

BLACK: Ukraine often resembles a stalemate, but it's not a frozen conflict, regularly boiling over and reminding the world there is an active

European war with the potential to escalate much further. Phil Black, CNN, London.


HOLMES: And my next guest says the West should punish Russia further, more sanctions. She is the Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister, Ivanna Klympush-

Tsintsadze, and she joined me a short time ago from outside Kiev.


HOLMES: Deputy Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time. Now, according to the Russians, of course, you've got two attempted incursions

over the weekend. There are two dead Russians. What do you say to those allegations? Was Ukraine fomenting unrest, planning sabotage in Crimea?

IVANNA KLYMPUSH-TSINTSADZE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE: I'm sure this is a provocation by the Russian Federation. There is not any evidence

that the Russian federation has presented to the world, along with this accusations of Ukraine, and I'm sure that this is seeking another point of

escalation for Russian Federation in Ukraine.

HOLMES: Let's talk about that. President Vladimir Putin vowing what he called further security measures in response to, again, quoting him, stupid

and criminal acts. What do you think that means?

KLYMPUSH-TSINTSADZE: I'm sick and tired of hearing these accusations from the Russian president so far. You know, this is something similar when he

is trying to tell to the whole world that Russian troops or regular army troops are not present on the Ukrainian (inaudible), that he's not

occupying Ukrainian (inaudible). That's the same thing that he was saying when he just started illegally occupying Crimea back in the beginning of

2014 and only a year later, he has admitted that, yes, those were Russian troops on the territory of Ukrainian Crimea who actually helped to

illegally annex that territory. And this requires a very serious and strong reaction from the international leaders.

HOLMES: If Russia does make further territorial moves in Ukraine, what, in your view, should the west, NATO, do about it?

KLYMPUSH-TSINTSADZE: Well, first of all, I would like to have a -- an immediate reaction from the west, and I would like to have -- to see

immediately additional sanctions against Russian Federation being imposed. That would lead to stopping Russian Federation from such an action. I do

understand that we, as Ukrainians, we are looking for solution to this conflict that Russia has incurred upon us in political and in diplomatic

field. And that's why we are, even though it's very hard for us to go on and on, we are very -- honoring all of our commitments within Minsk

process, within Minsk peace negotiations, while President Putin is right now making a statement that questions the process, the Minsk process, and

unfortunately, no reaction so far has been poised by our partners in Normandy format (ph).

HOLMES: Well, there is that very suggestion, that part of the reason for this, perhaps, could be that he's trying to not go ahead with those talks.

He said, immediately, he said that it was proved pointless by what the Russians say happened in Crimea. They say those talks are now pointless.

Do you think that's part of the strategy, to stall those talks and keep the status quo?

KLYMPUSH-TSINTSADZE: That could be part of the strategy, to try to point out -- to try to accuse Ukraine in ruing the Minsk negotiations, and

that's, I think, what he's trying to do right now. That's pretending that he is the one who's adhering to those.

But I want to remind you that, unfortunately, the basic principles of these negotiations -- peace negotiations of Minsk, like cease-fire, are being

every single day violated by those militants that are supported by Russian regular troops in the eastern territory of Ukraine.

[23:09:49] That every single day, we are losing military personnel, and just yesterday, two kids were injured as well from those shellings, and

this has been reported and proved by OEC special monitoring mission, so the whole world would observe the real situation there. And therefore, we

cannot move further right now with implementation of Minsk, until the basic security conditions will be present, therefore, for moving on political


HOLMES: All right. We'll leave it there. Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, thank you so much for being with us.



HOLMES: And still to come on the program, ISIS under pressure as allied forces press on the extremist group. We speak to the military spokesman

for Operation Inherent Resolve live from Baghdad. That's coming up next.


HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. The enemy is in retreat. Those words from the commanding general of the U.S. fight against ISIS. Sean

MacFarland in his briefing from Baghdad.


LT. GEN. SEAN MACFARLAND, U.S. ARMY: Although it's not a measure of success and it's difficult to confirm, we estimate that over the past 11

months, we've killed about 25,000 enemy fighters. When you add that to the 20,000 estimated killed prior to our arrival, that's 45,000 enemy taken off

the battlefield.


HOLMES: So, is resistance crumbling, and what would a victory against ISIS even look like? Colonel Chris Garver is a spokesman for Operation Inherent

Resolve. He joins me now from Baghdad. Colonel, good to see you. The claim, ISIS is being hit hard, it is in retreat, 45,000 fighters taken off

the battlefield. I guess the question is, how many remain, and what is their battlefield capability?

COL. CHRIS GARVER, U.S. ARMY: Great, thank you for having me on your show. Well, that's something, clearly, that we're trying to figure out every day

as to how many fighters are still on the battlefield, but we have seen, and as my boss mentioned, General MacFarland mentioned last night, we have seen

that when we go some place new, it's easier for us to get there, and when we fight, they don't fight as hard. So we do see that their combat

capability on the battlefield is reduced. We're always trying to figure out how many they are. The official estimate still is between 19,000 to

25,000 ISIS fighters between Iraq and Syria, but we're trying to confirm that on every day.

HOLMES: Given the predicted eventual territorial defeat of ISIS, the question, of course, then, is then what? I mean, these are not people to

just give up, and I suppose the issue is, are we then going to see an insurgent group that will wreak havoc, continue to destabilize in Iraq and

Syria, but also wage increasingly violent jihad against the west?

GARVER: Well, that's something clearly, as I said, we're looking at every day. We are concerned that it's going to morph as we beat them on the

battlefield. They haven't won a battle in the last nine months on the battlefield, and we've seen in areas where they've lost, they start to

shift to more terrorist tactics. They attack civilians, they use suicide vests, and we see other tactics that they use to try to drive attention

away from the losses that they face on the battlefield. But we know that this group wants to attack us in our home countries anyway, so a loss here,

which strips away the prestige of this so-called caliphate, which takes away their area where they plan, where they resource future operations, and

where they gather and recruit fighters from around the world, taking that away from them reduces their capability to project that terror into the

rest of our countries.

[23:15:08] HOLMES: And it's interesting, when you say that, their literal response -- reactions to the loss of territory, but talk more about the

significance of the loss of -- without territory, the caliphate ceases to exist, and I'm curious what you think that does to the mentality of ISIS,

the leadership of ISIS. What damage does it do to the organization?

GARVER: Well, we've seen, through our intelligence gathering, and we've seen out in the open press as well, we've seen that their morale is lower.

We know that they're frustrated, that they're still trying to figure out how to stay viable on the battlefield, stay in control of those towns where

they're fighting, and as you know, they're fighting in Manbij, Syria right now, and it will be a few days to a few weeks until they've captured -- the

Syrian Democratic forces have captured that town, but we know ISIS is frustrated inside that town as well. So we see a reduction in their

morale. We see a reduction in their leadership capability, and we continue to attack their leaders where we find them on the battlefield. We've

attacked their leaders and continue to take leaders off the battlefield as well. So we see a reduction in their leadership capability as well.

HOLMES: So, what, then, does victory look like? Or is this just going to be an ongoing global war without a real definitive end in sight?

GARVER: Well, we see a definitive end inside Iraq and Syria in terms of defeating the caliphate and defeating ISIS militarily in Iraq and Syria.

We think that means they've been stripped out of all the towns inside Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the Iraqi security forces can defend their borders and

then deal with whatever ISIS may morph into, be it a terrorist organization or an insurgency. The Iraqi security forces are trained and ready to deal

with that threat. Clearly, the global coalition needs to look at what happens afterwards and how do we deal with this in our own countries to

ensure that these attacks that we've seen in Europe, and inspired attacks that we've seen in the United States, don't happen in our own countries


HOLMES: Most people thought there wouldn't be an attempt to retake Mosul this year. That was always the conventional thinking, but now it does

appear, by all accounts, it probably will be this year. Some are saying as soon as October, perhaps late September, last week of September. Either

way, how are preparations going, the logistics, the forward planning, the prepositioning? How is it all going, the plan?

GARVER: Well, the plan is moving according to the plan. The campaign plan is on track, and we've seen it's gone slower in some places and faster in

others. But we are ready to start building up that logistical footprint to support the Iraqi security forces as they get set, they train, they equip,

and we have advisers with them to help prepare them for that next mission, which is going to be the big fight in Mosul.

HOLMES: And how concerned are you about the big question, which is, what then? After Mosul is taken, what about the day after? In Fallujah, we saw

cases of Shia militia going in, putting Shia flags around the town. That is not the sort of thing that's going to go down well in Mosul, the issue

of rebuilding and governance are crucial when it comes to the sectarian aspect, are they not?

GARVER: They are. And what we've seen is that the planners from the government of Iraq to the coalition to the international organizations

prepared to support those civilians that flee Mosul, they're already discussing those right now. They're discussing those plans and trying to

figure that out as to what happens the day after. We are already training the force that will hold Mosul, the police and the local tribal fighters,

who will help protect Mosul from ISIS coming back the day after that battle is won.

HOLMES: When you look further afield, and I know your focus is in the immediate AO, area of operations that you're in, but you look further

afield and you see where ISIS is squeezed, it does branch out, and we're seeing that in Libya as well. What are your thoughts about action that is

being taken there? Is this going to be a whack-a-mole thing? Or do you think in a territorial sense, ISIS is defeatable?

GARVER: Well, as you said, our focus is here in Iraq and Syria. That is the combined joint task force's focus. But the whole world has to look at

where they go next, and what they try to do next, and do they try to establish a caliphate elsewhere, or do they go and try to take over small

parts like we see in Libya? But the important thing is, you also see a government in Libya that's asked for help from the coalition to come in and

strike ISIS and remove it. So every time we can take away a safe haven from ISIS anywhere in the world, that's good for the world and bad for


HOLMES: Colonel, you're military, but this might be a little political for you. A disturbing fact is that Iraq ranks 161 out of, I think, it's 168 on

Transparency International's corruption list. That is not a good thing.

[23:20:01] And by mentioning that, I'm saying that the conditions that allowed ISIS to flourish in the beginning, top-down incompetence,

corruption, patronage and so on, if those things continue, then the oxygen for ISIS and its own sort of appeal, if you like, is still there. What

sort of changes are you seeing in how the government is addressing such things?

GARVER: Well, as in any country, they've got their political challenges here, and certainly they are -- we've seen them be significant in the past,

but we also see folks who are trying to make Iraq a better place. And no one wants Daesh to come back. Everyone is concerned that once you've

defeated Daesh here that you don't get Daesh -- as we call ISIS Daesh -- ISIS 2.0. You don't want to see that here in the country. It's something

that they're going to have to work on, and it is their problem to struggle with, yes.

HOLMES: You got a busy few months ahead of you, colonel, wish you well. Colonel Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. Thank

you, sir.

GARVER: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, ISIS -- we mentioned Libya there and ISIS reportedly on the back foot in its Libyan stronghold, which is Surt, and that's according to

American-backed forces there. The terror group took over the city last year, but the fight to dislodge it has been hindered by Libya's continuing

deep divisions and infighting over influence and oil. Jonathan Mann with that story.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. war planes are once more in the skies over Libya, five years after rebels there overthrew Muammar Gaddafi

with NATO's help. This time, it's ISIS in the U.S. crosshairs at the request of the fragile new unity government in Tripoli.

Washington's not the only western power to be drawn back into the Libyan quagmire. Last month, three French intelligence officers died when the

helicopter they were traveling in was shot down. And there have been calls for the British government to explain its role after reports of U.K.

special forces on the ground.

Libyan fighters battling in Sirte are loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, but there is a rival government in the

east of the country, led by a powerful General Khalifa Haftar, that's still not on board. A tense tug of war over lucrative oil and gas installations

has already sparked a reaction from Washington and its European allies, urging all sides to work together.

After lurching between rival governments and state institutions for years, and drained by a poisonous mix of militia vying for oil, influence, and

territory, working together may prove a tall order for now. Jonathan Mann, CNN.


HOLMES: And when we come back on the program, we imagine refugee women stitching together a story of survival. In Jordan, the art of Palestinian

cross stitching is getting new life and bringing in business for people struggling to survive after fleeing conflict. That's coming up next.


[23:25:08] And finally, tonight, imagine a world where being a refugee becomes an opportunity. In the gerash (ph) camp in Jordan, that is a

reality through the art of Palestinian cross stitching. Refugee women are becoming empowered, becoming financially independent, and sharing their

heritage around the world. The social enterprise project or SEP started in 2013 with 20 people. Now, it employs more than 800 women. Its products

are on sale in high-end shops around the world, including London. Their motto? Every stitch tells a story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): No one chooses where they end up. I was born in the camp. With SEP, I have a job, I have a stable income. SEP

has helped me build my house.

ROBERTA VENTURA, SEP FOUNDER: What they really love about this is not only the financial independence, but the fact that when they work at these

embroideries, they put all their emotions, all their feelings through the thread and the fabric

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): I'm proud to be sharing my embroidery, our heritage and our tradition. For our Palestinian heritage,

we show the world what a strong and resilient people we are.

VENTURA: We're trying to bring the world customer to the camp. We're trying to bring the camp to the world customer by proposing a (inaudible)

Palestinian traditional art of cross stitching, revisited in a modern, contemporary way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love that bag there, and that's one of my favorites, because it's just something you can carry about every day, and

it reminds you -- reminds you of other women in other parts of the world, and we've done a little piece of something good by actually being able to

buy things that have meaning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via translator): SEP has become an important part of my life and the lives of all the ladies with us. It is very important, and

I believe we have become one.


HOLMES: And beautiful work, too. That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, you can see us online at, follow us on Facebook, or me on Twitter, @holmescnn. Thanks for watching and good bye for now from London.