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Ukrainian Independence Day as Fighting Rages in East; Earthquake Struck Central Italy on Wednesday Morning; The Town Fractured by Nature

Aired August 24, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET



[14:00:10] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight Independence Day celebrations in Ukraine, but fighting still rages in the east. A report

from the frontline.

And in an exclusive interview, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tells me that Russia has crossed the red line and refuses to step back.


PETRO POROSHENKO, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The purpose of Putin is attempt to destabilize the situation in Ukraine. They don't need neither the Donetsk

and Luhansk. They need the whole Ukraine should be the part of Russian empire, and they will not destabilize the global security situation in the



AMANPOUR: Also ahead, a desperate race against time to rescue survivors as a deadly earthquake hit Central Italy, killing at least 120 people. We

will have the very latest from one of the worst affected towns.

Good evening everyone and welcome to the program.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Ukraine is celebrating 25 years of independence from the former Soviet Union with a show of military might. A parade in Kiev has marked the

anniversary. But away from those celebrations, fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-back separatist is intensifying.

The conflict has killed over 9,000 since 2014, and last years Minsk Peace Accords appeared dead in the water. In a moment, my exclusive interview

with the Ukrainian president Petrol Poroshenko. But first, Phil Black has this extraordinary report from the eastern frontline where it's a dangerous

daily battle for territory.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Through this gate is one front line of a war still ravaging a country and destroying

lives. A year and a half after all sides promised a ceasefire, where would Ukrainian soldiers near (INAUDIBLE) in the country's east as they try to

hold a position against pro-Russian forces.

(on camera): That thing coming for us, slamming into the walls of this shed. The people here say that this is what it's like every single day.

They're not just lobbing stuff at each other. They're trying to move forward and take each other's territory.

(voice-over): Captain Andrei Skorovsky (ph) tells us we must now run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE SOLDIER: Quickly! Quickly! Quickly!

BLACK: This short dash for cover draws fire. We shelter in the remains of another devastated building. The source of the incoming fire is very


(on camera): So your enemy's out that way?


BLACK: About 100 meters away?


BLACK (voice-over): The pause in the shooting allows us to move forward. We cross more open ground between old buildings. This industrial site is a

fiercely contested prize. The Ukrainian forces say they've lost ten men here in the last month and there are casualties every day.

Captain Skorovsky (ph) wants to show us one of the positions they are being attacked from. A tall tower-like building so close we could stroll there

in less than a minute.

At that moment, the fighting picks up. There is incoming fire from several directions.

(on camera): There is now fighting during the day every day. The soldiers here say. But more than that, it's in the evening, 4:00, like clockwork

this begins and it really kicks off.

Why is this position, this territory so important?

(voice-over): He says the enemy has already moved beyond the line of control set in the peace deal know as the Minsk agreement. He says that if

the pro-Russian forces move forward from here, they could keep going and take any city in Ukraine.

From relative safety, we listen to the remains of war. Until it gets too close. Mortars land just outside. They've punched through this building


(on-camera): Let's go now?


(on camera): You good? Chris, you good?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, let's go, let's go, let's go.

[14:05:26] (voice-over): Bullets whistle around our team during the final run to safety. This is what a ceasefire looks like in Eastern Ukraine.

It wasn't an isolated battle. Through the night at another Ukrainian position, we hear heavy weapons in the near distance fired continuously in

both directions. When dawn breaks, the soldiers speak of their relief.

For once they say, none of the shells landed near them and they got some sleep. These men say they are not fighting a civil war. A clue hangs

above the latrine, its name for the Kremlin, the Russian president's secret power.

(on-camera): So you believe this is a war against Russia?

LT. COL. CONSTANTINE SIKORSKI, UKRAINIAN ARMY: Yes, absolutely. It's 100 percent war against Russia.

BLACK: Constantine Sikorski says he quit the Ukrainian Army in 1991 because he received orders to stop his country declaring independence from

the Soviet Union. Decades later, a new threat to his country's existence inspired him to reenlist.

SIKORSKI: This war can be stop in two weeks if Russia stop help to this people.

BLACK: Andrey Sikasarenko shows us where his friend was killed in a recent motor attack. How long will you fight for? What is your goal?

ANDREY SIKASARENKO, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: My goal is victory, but victory --

BLACK: What does victory mean?

SIKASARENKO: Victory mean when the Russian -- Russian troops, Russian vehicles -- we'll beat the Russians.

BLACK: Both independent Ukraine and (INAUDIBLE) turning 25 this year. He tells me Ukraine will get through this, but it must fight to show it is

strong and will never submit to anyone.

These soldiers are clearly determined but also pragmatic. Their job, they say, is to hold this line while politics, diplomacy and international

pressure are used to keep Ukraine peaceful and whole. The problem is it's not working.

Phil Black, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), Eastern Ukraine.


AMANPOUR: An important report and conflict enough, but President Petrol Poroshenko is now warning that a full scale Russian invasion is possible.

When I spoke with him moments ago, he told me that President Putin has one goal, 25 years since independence, to mock, to make Ukraine once again

Moscow's clients.


AMANPOUR: President Poroshenko, welcome to the program.

On a day of 25 years of independence, it's no mean feat in a neighborhood as tough as yours.

POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, indeed, for the congratulations. This is the real important anniversary of our independence, because this is our

fighting -- fighting for freedom, fighting for democracy, fighting for our sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And during the last two years, this is the fighting against Russian aggression, the destruction, illegal occupation of the Crimea annexation.

And with that, we -- I'm proud that Ukraine achieved the association agreement with the European Union, deep and comprehensive free trade

agreement with the European Union. We are about to receive the visa-free regime with the European Union.

At the same time, we create a new army. We create a new political system. And I'm proud to be Ukrainian today.

AMANPOUR: And yet, as we've seen with our Phil Black there in eastern Ukraine, a massive uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine.

What do you think President Putin is up to? Why is this suddenly intensifying again?

POROSHENKO: First of all, this is a direct responsibility of the Russian Federation. This is the aggression on the east of my country, and illegal

annexation and occupation of the Crimean Ukrainian peninsula.

And you're absolutely right. During the last two weeks, we have significantly increased the number of Russian shelling. We during the last

two weeks, I lost 13 of my soldiers; 91 soldiers were wounded; and the total number of the shelling was 1,400.

And I want to confirm that during the last independent report of the OSCE, more than 80 percent of the shelling was done by Russia and Russian-

controlled terrorist. Ukrainian forces just opened the fire in response and the number was less than 20 percent.

And the purpose of Putin is attempt to destabilize the situation in Ukraine. They don't need neither the Donetsk and Luhansk. They need the

whole Ukraine should be the part of Russian empire, and they will not destabilize the global security situation in the world.

[14:10:21] It is absolutely the same situation like Russian bombardment in Aleppo. They have only one purpose -- world should be less stable, less


I want to insist that the Russian aggression in east of my country and in Crimea completely destroyed the post-war global security system based on

the U.N. Security Council.

One of the countries who is a permanent member is an aggressor. The world should be consolidated to find out a right answer to these aggressive


AMANPOUR: Well, those are very harsh words of yours, Mr. President.

Do you believe that there is a mechanism to get, for instance, the Minsk agreement, the so-called cease-fire agreement, back on track?

We hear that the French and the Germans are going to be speaking to Russia at the G-20 in a week or so in China.

Is there a way to get this back on track?

POROSHENKO: We do not have confirmation about the possible meeting in China until now. And we have -- we insist and we hope that the work of the

Normandy format would be restored in the normal format. And without that, we cannot expect that we will have any progress because of Russia in the

implementation of Minsk agreement.

AMANPOUR: We've talked about the Europeans trying to get this back on track.

Is, in your view, the American administration doing enough to help you?

POROSHENKO: I can confirm you that the U.S. administration and I, we're in constant coordination both with German, French and Ukrainian. And we all

speak in one voice. We don't have any discrepancies inside this dialogue.

And the -- what we insists, that we should be -- approved, the road map where we have exact date and exact steps which Russia should do to stop the

fire and to withdraw the troops.

Your journalists were in (INAUDIBLE) and the touch line and the front line, they see how difficult it is.

And with that situation, I think that the only way how we can be effective is just to continue to roll over the economic sanctions which both European

Union, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, all the world.

It would -- using just the motivation to keep Russia at the table of negotiation and to fulfill all their obligations. Putin can take from

Russia and take the responsibilities.

And I want to remind you one more thing, in the year 1994, Ukraine signed the Budapest Agreement -- Budapest Memorandum where we voluntarily give up

the third biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, receiving in return from the P5 nations including the U.S., U.K., France -- the guarantee --

security guarantee of our independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

This is not the problem of just Ukraine; this is the problem of the whole world.

And U.S. as the leader of the world should be and is shoulder to shoulder with us in this fighting for the global stability and global security.

AMANPOUR: Well, that leads me to my next question, because obviously, the Obama administration is -- you know the policies of Hillary Clinton should

she win the election, but do you believe a President Trump would be standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine?

Donald Trump has already said that if he were to be elected, he would look into the legality and the possibility of Russia keeping Crimea.

POROSHENKO: Look, point number one. All the time, Ukraine enjoyed the bipartisan support of the United States in the question of our territorial

integrity, sovereignty, and independence; in our fighting for the freedom and for the democracy.

Believe me, this is a -- one of the brightest impression in my life, my speech in Congress, where we have a bipartisan reaction of the congressmen

of the United States on the situation in Ukraine. And I have no doubt that United States is our reliable partner, and the obligation we have on

Budapest memorandum.

[14:15:15] And the support the United States people demonstrate to Ukraine is powerful factor. And I have no doubt that we will have a bipartisan

support after the presidential election.

And I count on the responsible choice of the American people no matter it would be Republican or Democrat.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you, because if it is Republican, it is Donald Trump.

Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, used to work for your predecessor, the Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovych.

It is recently revealed that Paul Manafort's name appeared on secret party ledgers as being the recipient of millions of dollars in undisclosed cash


You know, he denies it. And it is your government's anti-corruption force that first sort of, you know, revealed that.

What more can you tell us about that?

POROSHENKO: Look, that was -- my legislative proposal to create absolutely independent anti-corruption structure, who would be absolutely independent

in investigation of any person. We have completely changed anti-corruption atmosphere. We have launched a case against members of parliament,

minister of the government, regional governor and prosecutor, police officer.

And if it would be any charges against anybody for the corruption involved on the Ukrainian territory, Ukrainian official, Ukrainian money, would be

open and effective in this investigation no matter who would be under suspicious.

And if it would be any charges to any person, including Mr. Manafort, it will -- I will guarantee that it would be transparent and independent


AMANPOUR: President Poroshenko, thank you very much for joining me at this time of Ukrainian independence, quarter century of independence.

POROSHENKO: Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you. Bye.


AMANPOUR: And we will have more of that interview, including more on the Ukrainian fight against corruption and its commitment to real democratic


So the commitment to democracy was also on Vice President Joe Biden's mind when he touched down in Ankara, Turkey today. He's the most senior U.S.

official to visit since the attempted coup in July.

We will take a closer look at that and also Turkey's new offensive in Syria tomorrow when I speak to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim


But next, we turn to Amatrice in Italy. A city that's been torn apart by a massive earthquake today.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

And as night falls now in Central Italy, the countries Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says that 120 people are now known to have died in that

powerful earthquake.


MATTEO RENZI, ITALY'S PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It's a time when we are in shock, but it's a moment for action. And with my heart and

my hands, I would like to say to Italians during difficult moments, Italy knows how to react and what to do. During the time when things are not

working out, Italy is together and showing its beautiful side.


AMANPOUR: So the frantic search for survivors is continuing and many people are still believe trapped beneath the rubble.

We go straight now to one of the worst affected places, it's the popular tourist town of Amatrice. And that's where we find Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, there's still earthquakes, I understand -- rather aftershocks, right?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there certainly are. In fact, there was an aftershock that we felt only about, I would

say, about half an hour ago. It wasn't a very strong one, but there have been some very strong ones over the past course of I would say about 17


The strongest of which was 5.5 on the Richter scale. It was also when a 4.5. So certainly, the people here still very much afraid of these

aftershocks and these aftershocks are still causing a lot of damage.

The same time here, of course, the crews are working frantically to see if they can find any survivors here. In fact, the building that you see right

behind me, the authorities just a couple of minutes ago, told all of us to be really quite because they felt they might have heard something. And so

they were listening very closely to see whether or not someone might still be trapped there. At this point in time, it's not clear, but we have also

seen them pull some bodies from the rubble as well.

AMANPOUR: So the prime minister says now 120 are known dead. That toll may rise. And they've ask you to be quite. They're still searching.


AMANPOUR: Do they realistically expect more people to be found alive? I mean, do they have sort of a number of how many people were in the village

and how many people they have accounted for?

PLEITGEN: Yes, it's a very good question because the number is a real problem. Because at this point in time, at this time of year, this area

here, north of Rome, is when it's very popular with tourists.

A lot of people from Rome are trying to escape the heat here and so they go up into the mountains. So it really isn't clear how many people were

actually in a lot of these villages when this earthquake struck.

Nevertheless, the authorities here do believe there could very well still be people trapped underneath the rubble. They're working with teams,

mostly with dogs actually, because the nose of the dogs are so good, they can sniff out people even if they're deep buried under the rubble.

Something that even a lot of technical devices won't be able to do.

But they certainly do believe that in the first 72 hours, if a building collapsed and by chance someone was in that building and got buried beneath

the rubble and there's in some sort of pocket and may have survived, that there is a chance to rescue that person.

But of course, Christiane, they also know that they're working against the clock. And you can feel that sense of urgency, also by the amount of

assets that the Italians are putting in here.

We see the streets just full of heavy equipment. The army is on hand. Of course, the fire department is on hand as well trying to move as much as

possible into these small villages.

AMANPOUR: And, Fred, obviously, Italy sadly has had a pretty sad record with quite heavy earthquakes.

What about, I don't know, people who live there, who want to -- where are they staying for the night? What's happening to the survivors? Is there

enough of the town that's still standing?

PLEITGEN: Yes. This town here that I'm in right here, Amatrice, which is by all accounts the worst hit in this earthquake, no one is going to be

spending the night here.

The town has been completely empty. People are still allowed to come back for maybe an hour or two, but then they have to leave again. This is fully

under the control of the local authorities.

There's other town (INAUDIBLE), no one there is going to stay in their house. They all say they're going to stay outside. Many of them very much

afraid of aftershocks. And one of the reasons is because they know this region.

You're absolutely right. This region here is on the fault line. These people know that their area is earthquake prone, and that's why they're so

afraid especially in the days and the hours after one of these large earthquakes been because they know that the aftershocks can be even worse.

AMANPOUR: Fred, thank you so much. That's the latest from there tonight. And, of course, this network will continue to follow that breaking story.

And when we come back, we're going to imagine the stolen moments and the poignant imagery that's been left behind after that earthquake in that

little village.


[14:26:35] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, we imagine a truly fractured world. The Italian town of Amatrice as we've heard has become the latest

testament to natures devastating power. And as we just heard from our Fred Pleitgen, it's a poplar tourist destination where Italians also trying to

escape the devastating city heat up there in the mountains and once this small mountain community was famed mostly for its pasta. It's the birth

place indeed of Spaghetti Amatriciana. And that, as you know, is a poplar dish on menus both in Italy and outside of Italy.

And the 50th festival celebrating that dish was supposed to take place in just a few days. Instead rescue teams have flooded the area. They are

task with digging the town out from under the rubble.

These images show the scale of the destruction. The towns clock tower has become a solitary figure standing tall and bearing witness to the shattered

homes and lives around it, in a haunting reminder of the catastrophe that's just hit the region. Its face is now frozen at 3:36 a.m. locked in that

moment that the earth began to tremble there.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast. You can see us online anytime and follow me on

Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.