Return to Transcripts main page

CNN'S AMANPOUR

Syria Ceasefire Holding, But Migrants Still Pouring into Greece; Russian Election Preview. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 16, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ANCHOR, "AMANPOUR," CNN: Tonight, from Aleppo to Athens, a tense ceasefire holds for now in Syria. But here in Greece, a

tide of humanity continues to arrive at the shores. I speak to the man charged with keeping the survivors of this desperate journey safe.

Plus, Russians go to the polls in parliamentary elections this weekend, while Putin dominates on the world stage. Leading dissident and former

oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky tells me why he's taking him on in his own backyard.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our special weekend program. We're here in Athens. Right behind me is the magnificent Acropolis. And I'm

Christiane Amanpour. It is here that Europe comes face to face with the human cost of the war in Syria, thousands of refugees arriving every week

after a perilous journey across the Mediterranean, a ceasefire brokered between Russia and the United States was extended by 48 hours. The State

Department reporting only a handful of violations.

For thousands fleeing this war and many other international conflicts, the refugee camps of Greece are the first step on European soil. An EU deal to

relocate 160,000 from throughout Europe has so far only place just over 4,000. Dimitris Avramopoulos is the EU commissioner responsible for

migration, and he joins me now right here. So, Mr. Avramopoulos, you've been here, there's this big forum on democracy, and one of the main issues

challenging democracy is the inability to deal with the refugee crisis. What have you been telling all the people watching, including lots of

government types?

DIMITRIS AVRAMOPOULOS, EU COMMISSIONER FOR MIGRATION, HOME AFFAIRS AND CITIZENSHIP: (Only) it's not the economic crisis that is putting the

European project at stake, but the refugee crisis.

AMANPOUR: Even more than the economic?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Even more than the economic. And I think that it is the moment all Europeans to decide to make a step forward and implement what we

all together had decided in the (finderber) location and resettlement. We insist on that. But let me tell you that the flows fortunately have

subsided during the last five months, thanks to the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal that (works).

AMANPOUR: So let's so into that because everybody is, you know, wants to know is it really working? Is it not working? Is Turkey playing the good

guy, holding up its end of the bargain? You say that it is slowed for five months. It is working.

AVRAMOPOULOS: Yes.

AMANPOUR: So what exactly does that look like? What is Turkey doing?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Comparing it to how we are living here in Greece one year ago where more than 10,000 were crossing the Aegean Sea, doing this

dangerous journey to come to Europe, now about 50 to 60 persons with (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Do you mean per day, were week?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Per day, at that time. Now about 50 people. So this (rich) is quite manageable. But still, there are 60,000 people in Greece. The

reception capacity is getting (proved), fortunately, thanks to the support of the European Union financially, politically, with (all the experts).

But the main (question).

AMANPOUR: How much are they having to give? The European Union? How much, you know, are they doing to improve the conditions?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Greece -- Greece, we have allocated for Greece approximately one billion Euros so far. But the main pressure now is on Italy. Because

the flows from Central Africa, once the (desperate duru) come on the shores of Africa, they cross the -- the sea, they arrive in Italy, and more than

120,000 people (jatan) in the last six months.

AMANPOUR: Wow.

AVRAMOPOULOS: But the most of them they are regular migrants from (easai) side, from Greece they are mainly refugees from Syria. So the question

that is the situation is better. But we are not there yet. We have some shortcomings and some shortfalls. And (as in) the beginning, all of the

states must realize, must understand it is the moment to deliver. Unfortunately, some governments do not show the spirit of solidarity and

responsibility as they should do. So we have extended strong messages they must do it as soon as possible. If they don't do it.

AMANPOUR: Call them out. Who -- who needs to be called out?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Well, (inaudible) (tours).

AMANPOUR: Yeah, yeah, they need to be publicly.

AVRAMOPOULOS: Say the name?

AMANPOUR: Say the name. Why not?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Because I make a distinction between governments and -- and the states. Because we all talk about member states, but there are

governments. Unfortunately, some of their leaders they follow the dangerous road for their democracies of populism and xenophobia.

AMANPOUR: Well, the Eastern European countries, for instance, the -- the - - the new arrivals, the latest arrivals to the EU have flatly said, we don't want these migrants.

AVRAMOPOULOS: Since you pushed me to tell something, these countries have lived the experience, have sufferance the experience of refugees just 50

years ago. So they should be the first one to tell us do more for all these desperate people who take the journey -- this dangerous journey -- to

come to Europe to find a safe haven. And on the other hand, we must understand that we not (give out) numbers any more. We talk about human

beings.

AMANPOUR: Yeah.

AVRAMOPOULOS: I mean it -- it -- it -- and the public opinion has understood it. But it is the moment for Europe -- and I don't talking

about regular (politicians), but member states -- to start delivering. And we are putting pressure on them, trying to tell them once again that

responsibility and solidarity, they are not moral values, they are legal values, explicitly stipulate the (truths).

AMANPOUR: So you are standing with this amazing parliament, the Greek parliament, in the background here.

AVRAMOPOULOS: I just spent 20 years of my life there before I (became).

AMANPOUR: OK, so you know the difficulties of pushing this through on a government level. This government is cash-strapped. How much pain and

suffering is it for the Greek government, the Greek state, to maintain even the 60,000?

AVRAMOPOULOS: In the beginning, Greece was caught by surprise. And it is true to say that for more than nine months they were not in a position to

manage the situation. Because they are not (confronted) with an enemy who was invading Europe. As I said before, these are human beings. And you

know that, according to the Geneva Convention, they had to respect what was decided at the time and provide them with support and help. But at that

time was a problem in Europe, how to better manage our borders.

Now we made a step forward on year after. As you know, we're about to fully operationalize the European borders and coast guard, which will be --

will have its main mission to better manage the borders. Since have improved since that, and the Greek government and the Greek state, and most

importantly, the Greek people have shown very high spirit of responsibility in terms of what (those) people

AMANPOUR: So you said people are getting better. People realize these refugees are not the enemy. But actually people -- isn't it people, as you

said, of these countries are the biggest threat to Europe? Those who don't like the refugees, those who are empowering the populist, you know, parties

that are -- that are pushing forward?

AVRAMOPOULOS: And not only that, they amalgamate terrorists with the refugees. And we don't have so far one case where a terrorist, or one of

the perpetrators in Europe, was a migrant or a refugee. They were home grown.

AMANPOUR: Well, we have that they're using the migrant route, that's for sure.

AVRAMOPOULOS: We must talk (maybe) this mistake because it is unfair. And inhuman, I would say. On the other hand, yes, we had to do more and to

provide our citizens with more security. That's why we have enhanced cooperation between member states, which was not the case before.

AMANPOUR: But, again, what are you going to do and how are you going to hold accountable.? Obviously it is improving. We see that perhaps they're

all in Turkey because they haven't come to Europe in the same numbers as they did last year or the year before. But, still, and we've talked about

this, governments are not fairly sharing the burden, are not fairly distributing as they promised they would do. So how do you hold them

accountable? How do you make them do that?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Well, we're not there yet, but I can tell that we have the means, we have the tools.

AMANPOUR: I mean it's been a long time.

AVRAMOPOULOS: .the legal weapons to convince them and impose. Let's hope that it will not be necessary. It's very important for all of them to

understand that it is their responsibility and their duty to do it. On the other hand, we soon forget -- I think we discussed before -- that one year

ago we all together decided to adopt this mechanism, this scheme of relocation resettlement. Now I understand there are internal problems and

pressures on behalf of populist forces that threaten their system from inside. But it is not an excuse for me.

AMANPOUR: But, you know, all of this is all well and good. But you've got big border fences. For instances the Balkan route has been shut down. Now

you've been talking about a Bulgaria route. How is that working? I know you're going to go there.

AVRAMOPOULOS: (That's right.)

AMANPOUR: But I mean what is that? What -- what does that -- what's that going to do?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Smugglers are very resourceful in ideas. So from the moment they found the Balkans route closed, they started (diaper) flows. And of

course Bulgaria needs our help. And today we made the decision to allocate of money, and also to send peoples, experts, there (frontex) agents, in

order to provide the Bulgarian authorities with the necessary support to manage the situation there.

But, you know, we must be surprised if we see flows arriving at other parts of Europe. For instance, just three months ago I was in Finland. Can you

imagine that? One thousand people (said) arrived in St. Petersburg. They crossed the borders, and the entered Finland and Lapland. I mean we must

be well-prepared. That's why we decided to adopt a common European asylum policy. And of course the European borders and coast guard that will be

fully operational from next month.

AMANPOUR: And do you expect the Syrian ceasefire to actually work and to stop the flow?

AVRAMOPOULOS: Hopefully, because now -- now you ask the more difficult question. As long as this part of the world is on fire, unfortunately, we

are going to be confronted with new flows in -- in the future because these desperate people will decide to leave persecution and all these problems

there. And we must do our best. The international community, the European Union, (dater) nations, in order to find a solution. Not only there, but

also (Bolivia).

AMANPOUR: All right. Commissioner Avramopoulos, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

AVRAMOPOULOS: (Thank you for reminding me.)

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much. And coming up, you just heard that there's a need to stop the war in Syria at the very least. But France has become

the first U.S. ally to question the U.S.-Russia deal, saying that the United States needs to provide more details to know whether this deal, the

ceasefire deal for Syria, is actually going to work. And, when we come back, Russia -- Russia from Syria, to talking about hosting Israel-

Palestinian talks. It seems to want to have its hand on everything. But why? Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian dissident, believes that Putin's

popularity at home is the key. We'll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Russians go to the polls in local elections on Sunday, with Vladimir Putin an increasingly confident figures

at home and on the world's stage. But he still has economic troubles at home, and that perhaps requires an image of leadership and dominance

abroad.

Putin's party has a lock on the polls, but his nemesis, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been allowed to field an array of opposition candidates.

Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest oligart before Putin stripped him of his assets and sent him to prison for 10 years. He's now living in London

and, as he told me this week, he is once again being a thorn in Putin's side.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, welcome back to the program. You know that Vladimir Putin is really making a play as a global leader, whether in Syria -- he's

just announced he wants to host new Israel-Palestinian talks -- and of course he has a lot to say about Brexit here, about Europe, and about the

United States. Tell me what that means for him and his election?

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, EXILED RUSSIAN BUSINESSMAN (through translator): Putin wants to play an irreplaceable leader. He needs to show that in the

world he is perceived as a strong man. This is important for his electorate. And although it seems that his electorate is not interested in

the West, in fact it is. And Putin is just playing this role, trying to show himself as strong man. The most difficult thing for him is that he --

is when he's not noticed or when he is poked fun at.

AMANPOUR: How do you assess what Donald Trump said about Vladimir Putin? Let me play to you what Trump said about Putin just a few days ago.

DONALD TRUMP, 2016 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The has very strong control over a country. Now it's a very different system, and I don't

happen to like the system. But certainly in that system, he's been a leader far more than our President has been a leader.

AMANPOUR: So Trump's saying that Putin has been a leader more than Obama has been a leader. What do you think?

KHODORKOVSKY: I -- I -- I -- I -- I don't think, I mean only Obama, but to also Trump would not rule America as Putin rules Russia. And when

somebody, a hooligan, is driving a car in the motorway, we are not saying this is a strong one; we're saying this is dangerous driving.

AMANPOUR: All right. So now you say he's a dangerous driver, and you've got elections coming up next week. And these are important elections.

Obviously, Putin's party is going to win.

KHODORKOVSKY: I would not be one to use the word elections. I would call this quasi-elections. This is -- you -- we can't really use the word

elections when you know the result in advance. This result is achieved by all the efforts of the state apparatus. It's both television, it's special

services. Still, we think it's important to take part in this quasi- election because it's a political performance, I would call that. Because it shows the people that there is alternative. That there are different

people.

AMANPOUR: The Russian government is allowing your opposition candidates, the people who you back, to run. Are you surprised?

KHODORKOVSKY: Yes, it was a bit of a surprise for me, although not a very big kind of surprise. I thought that we could register about half of our

candidates, and we managed to get 19 out of 25 registered, 25 that we had originally. Why this happened, I think because Putin had learned the

lesson of the previous election. He's very much afraid of the city protesting.

AMANPOUR: It's said that the Russian people are really, really hurting from the economy. That millions have dropped back below the poverty level,

that the economy is stagnant, that wages, many of them, have not been paid, both in public sector and in the private sector, and pensions are not

keeping up with the inflation, etcetera. How much are people hurting? What is top of their agenda when they go to the elections? And will they

make the government pay for that, as they do in most elections?

KHODORKOVSKY: The important thing for people of course is -- the most important thing -- is their economy, is the economy. But unfortunately, in

their heads they do not have the connection with -- with their own pocket, their own (fridge), and what the state power does. Putin still is beyond

the fear of the public criticism. A lot has been done for this by the state media controlled by him. But also by the law enforcement orders.

AMANPOUR: What do you make about Russia and the U.S. election? There are many, many, many suggestions, and some in the U.S. government say evidence,

that it was Russia that hacked into the Democratic Party e-mails, that Russia Putin would prefer Trump over Hillary for many reasons, including

Trump seems to say that he would not defend NATO necessarily against any Russian aggression, that he would give Russia the so-called backyard sphere

of influence that it wants. Do you believe that Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win?

KHODORKOVSKY: This is a very funny situation I think. There is a conviction in the Russian political elite that the Trump's victory would be

a victory for Putin. That Clinton's victory would be Putin's defeat.

AMANPOUR: But there are many, many concerns about the hacking and the interfering with the election, with the electoral mechanisms, and the --

and the systems in various states. Do you believe that the state of Russia, even though Putin denied it, is trying to manipulate the outcome of

the election? Particularly in certain states like Illinois, for instance?

KHODORKOVSKY: I don't have information that I could use as evidence. But in my own political work in Russia I can see how actively people, the

government, is manipulating the Internet. How the government secret services are hacking other people's accounts, hostile and just general

(miss hives) such as general communication, they are interfering. So I would not be surprised if I learned that these -- these mechanisms are used

in the West as well by Russia.

AMANPOUR: You have said that you yourself are not popular enough in Russia to run. So you're not going to run for president in the presidential

elections, and you're obviously not running in the parliamentary elections. But are you afraid for your life? You know, 10 years in prison, you've

seen how political opponents have ended up dead, either by poisoning here in London, they've ended up dead in hotel rooms in the United States, and -

- and elsewhere, and even in Russia on the street. How do you sleep at night? Do you have nightmares?

KHODORKOVSKY: For 10 years in prison I knew I could be killed at any point. If Putin decides that this is a necessary step, I won't be there.

Today it will be much more difficult. They will have to use much more effort.

AMANPOUR: So you're not looking over your shoulder all the time?

KHODORKOVSKY: Well, no. I just think that I should live as Putin once about Anna Politkovskaya. He said about Anna Politkovskaya, as a dead

person she -- she's more dangerous to us than the -- than when she was alive. I think that's what I have in mind.

AMANPOUR: Wow. OK. Well, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, thank you very much. And of course Anna Politkovskaya was that famous brave crusading journalist who

was assassinated several years ago in Moscow. Thank you very much for joining us.

KHODORKOVSKY: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And coming up, we meet someone else making a new start. Laxmi was only 16 when a 32-year-old man threw acid on her face after she refused

to marry him. Now she's a model, a role model and definitely she is not afraid. We have that story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: And finally tonight we imagine a world where beauty is and isn't skin deep, depending on how you look at it. As New York Fashion Week winds

down, this 19-year-old Indian acid attack survivor, Reshma Quereshi, rocked the runway, bravely modeling as a call to ban the acid that's been used to

maim thousands of women and girls like her. Well, bravery is in vogue. The trend continues in London, where two deeply scarred survivors showed

off their faces, their bodies, and we got a front row seat as they courageously redefined what it means to be beautiful.

LAXMI SAA: When I was 16 a 32-year-old man wanted to marry me, and I said no. So he came along with his younger brother and wife and threw acid on

me. It's important to change mentality from feeling like you're a victim to actually feeling like you can overcome it and become a fighter. People

should take courage from what I've been through and think I'm not going to act like a victim, I'm just going to be normal. And this is normal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As I said, beauty's from within, so I'm saying, you know, it doesn't matter how they look facially or any, you know, at the end

of the day it's all about what you feel inside and what the message (is).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're using this fashion show and the lead up to London Fashion Week to highlight the issue of vulnerable women. So two of the

models tonight are victims of -- of acid attacks themselves. And by using fashion as a way of highlighting what women can do when they -- they

overcome vulnerability and they become more empowered, it's a great opportunity to -- to hightlight how women can become a real inspiration to

-- to other young girls.

SAA? People hurt others with acid because society believes that your beauty if your face. So they hurt you with acid so you will suffer

forever. Because you'll never think of yourself as beautiful. But what people should really think is that your personality, and the work that you

do, and everything that comes from within is actually as beautiful, if not more than outer beauty.

AMANPOUR: A powerful message indeed. And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online on

Amanpour.com, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching, and goodbye this week from Athens.

END