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Former Russian Prime Minister on Kremlin's Endgame; Rise of the Russian Orthodox Church; "The Accusation" Spreading Across the World

Aired March 30, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the Trump/Russia drama continues as the Senate Intelligence Committee kicks off its first public

hearing on Russian meddling in the U.S. election. I'll ask Vladimir Putin's former prime minister what is the Kremlin's end game?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have always said this publicly, and I think he believes. And this that all problems in Russia, demonstrations in 2012,

appeared as a result of United States worries.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, the man known as Egypt's Jon Stewart flees to America after speaking truth to power at home. What does satirist Bassem

Youssef make of his adopted home's tweeter-in-chief?

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

Congress is ramping up its multi-pronged investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. And now it is the Senate's

turn. At the center of their inquiry claims that Russia spread disinformation to sway the result and that it colluded with members of the

Trump campaign along the way.

Big names expected to testify some time, Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The democratic vice chairman of the intelligence committee is Mark Warner.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is not innuendo or false allegations. This is not fake news. This is

actually what happened to us. Russia continues these sorts of actions, as we speak.


AMANPOUR: Now as the hearings were about to get under way, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denied all these allegations.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Reagan once said to the American people, I think it was regarding taxes, "Read my lips.




AMANPOUR: Actually, it was President Bush, not Reagan, but we get his point. But what of Russia's own domestic political agenda? The FBI chief

told Congress that President Putin hated Hillary Clinton so much, blaming her for inciting protests against him in 2012.

Five years on, Putin is facing a new wave of discontent. Nationwide protests earlier this week sent shockwaves through Russia. Thousands

filled city streets from Moscow to Siberia. At the center of this movement, young people tapped into social media and fed up with the status

quo. They're turning away from the traditional pillars which helped support the Kremlin's power.

The Orthodox Church, for instance, which has seen its role in Russian politics grow under President Putin and is now facing new opposition from a

secular youth.

CNN's Ivan Watson looks at how tensions are starting to boil over.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russian Orthodox faithful staging a show of force. Clerics saying uniformed Cossacks

marching around St. Isaac's Cathedral. His church in St. Petersburg is at the center of a debate over the resurgent role of the Russian Orthodox

Church in modern day Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to the true, real values -- family, church, state.

WATSON: Firebrand lawmaker Vitaly Milonov wants the church to play a bigger role in Russian society.

VITALY MILONOV, RUSSIAN LAWMAKER: This disease of antichristian activity will pass and, of course, in every country like Russia and America will

face a new good renaissance, revival of true values against fake values.

WATSON: During the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church was a target of brutal persecution. Atheist communists demolished churches like

Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral. And though they left St. Isaac's standing, the Soviets pillage its treasures and executed its top priest.

A recent government proposal to hand the cathedral to the direct management of the Russian Orthodox Church sparked rare public protests. Secular

demonstrators formed a human chain around the building. They demand the church remain a museum.

VLADIMIR KUDRYAVTSEV, SECULAR PROTESTOR: I am fine with the church as long as they mind their own business. But when they overstep their boundaries,

like say on the question of abortions or middle school education, or taking buildings like this, well, I'm not OK with that.

[14:05:00] WATSON: In the quarter century since the end of the Soviet Union, once loyal members of the atheist communist party have publicly

embraced the Russian Orthodox Church. The Kremlin now works closely with the church's leader Moscow patriarch Kirill, who gives speeches in the

national parliament. But there are some rare critics within the clergy who warn that the church has gotten too cozy with the Kremlin.

"I'm against this political union," says Father Andrei Kuraev, an ex-speech writer for the former patriarch of Moscow.

The church is being perceived as a ministry of the government that can threaten and arrest people, he says. And this is very bad.

In 2000, Moscow rebuilt the demolished Christ the savior cathedral. That's where dozens of bishops from Russia and across the world gathered to

celebrate the anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill. In the front row of the congregation, volunteers from a new group of religious

activists that calls itself the 4040s movement.

"We're experiencing the second baptism of Russia," the group's leader tells me. "If there were no orthodox Christianity," he adds, "there would be no


Russia is still officially a secular country that's home to many religions. But as it enjoys it rebirth, the Russian Orthodox Church seems more and

more like an extension of the Russian state.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Moscow.


AMANPOUR: So how will all this play out? My next guest Mikhail Kasyanov served as Vladimir Putin's prime minister when he first became president in

the year 2000. Now he has his own political party and he says there is a new generation of Russians who reject Putin and his propaganda machine,

including the church and the state TV.

And they want, he says, an end to endemic Kremlin cronyism and corruption, but, he warns us not to count on a Russian spring just yet.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Kasyanov, welcome to the program.


Can I ask you, in light of these massive protests and unexpected protests that we saw last week, can President Putin still rely on organizations as

powerful and as loyal as the Orthodox Church?

I think for Mr. Putin, that's important to have many supporters. He has a team of so-called propagandists in the state television and other media,

and also orthodox church, I would point on the same road. He relies on them.

And in fact, that this a little bit paradoxical situation we have now, Mr. Putin and his team depends from the church more than ever before and not

visa versa as it was in Soviet Union period time.

And in fact on the fact, he's looking for their loyalty, for their support. And that's why Orthodox Church enjoys some kind of favorite status in their

property ownership.

AMANPOUR: The demonstrations, the protests that we saw last week, are the biggest since the ones your party organized back in 2011, 2012, before

President Putin's re-election.

Everybody, including Putin, must have been surprised by the size, by the demographics, and by the location. It's no longer just St. Petersburg as

the outlier protest city.

KASYANOV: That's correct. That's correct. And in fact, it's quite an encouraging new way for protest. An important feature of this wave of

protest is that young people, middle class children, appeared on the streets of Moscow, San Petersburg.

It's not I would say beginning of the democratic Russian spring. It is continuation of the same feeling what we had in 2012, and now just we have

children of those people appear on the street and demanding changes, at least on this stage it was against Putin's prime minister, Mr. Medvedev.

It is not against Mr. Putin. It is not against his system. I think we are expecting that in the future.

AMANPOUR: You were President Putin's first prime minister, his first term in 2000. You say these protests were not aimed at him. Do you think he

has anything to worry about then? Is he secure? Is he just going to carry on to re-election and eternal power?

KASYANOV: It is evident for everyone and for me in particular. Mr. Putin demonstrates he is strong and doesn't just stop the demonstrations, don't

disturb him at all. And he continue to pursue the tough policy and he announce today that he will press demonstrators who violates a law from

his perspective in a heavy manner, and he doesn't want some kind of (INAUDIBLE) to appear in Russia and he would undertake all necessary

efforts to prevent such development.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that's correct? Is he right?

KASYANOV: I think he is right to a certain extent, because we, again, we rely -- I mean my party and Ms. Navalny group -- we're all relying just on

the middle class, middle class, young people, on the middle class people. But not on the majority of Russians who are under head of propaganda of

television and Orthodox Church. And who believe that Russia is surrounded by enemies and the main enemy is the United States of America and NATO, and

we should as propaganda says should be prepared to fight.

And that's why 50 percent -- more than 50 percent of population continue to believe that Putin is the best choice for Russia in this period of time and

they don't want changes.

All the Internet that is the only source of communication for us with people, but it is only middle class in big cities. Those middle class

children appeared in the streets last week of those cities, but not majority of Russians.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me then move on, because he continues, as you said, to use the United States as the big boogie man, the big enemy.

As you know, in Washington, there are Senate and House probes into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Just remind me how much Mr. Putin hates Hillary Clinton because of the demonstrations that were arranged by your party. He seems to have blamed

her for all of that way back in 2012.

KASYANOV: I think that's absolutely the case. Mr. Putin always said publicly and I think he believes in this, that all problems in Russia,

demonstrations in 2012 are indeed as a result of United States policy, and especially of state department. That's why, of course, he hated President

Obama and Hillary Clinton, and of course he didn't want this policy to continue to take place so that new administration could pursue the same


And of course, they didn't expect that President Trump would win. But, the reality appeared to be the case, and they were a little bit -- a little bit


First they were amused a little bit, now just they don't know what to do because just the whole institution of United States working well, and now

just everyone see just how the policy is being formed and being translated.

AMANPOUR: The next set of elections that we're all watching is in France. Do you think Mr. Putin would like to see Marine Le Pen elected in France?

KASYANOV: I'm sure. For Mr. Putin, one of the important goal for his activity is to destroy transatlantic unity. That's issue number one. And

issue number two, just to divide European countries so that European Union would not have the common foreign and security policy.

From that perspective, I'm sure Mr. Putin would like some kind of turmoil inside European Union. And victory of Marine Le Pen would be such a case.

And I think that he already stepped in in the presidential -- French presidential campaign by inviting Marine Le Pen to the Kremlin and to treat

her as head of state.

AMANPOUR: Vladimir Putin's former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, thank you very much for joining us from Moscow tonight.

KASYANOV: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And from challenging presidents with protests to a man known for tickling giants. Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef talks us through his new

book, "Revolution For Dummies." That's after this.


BASSEM YOUSSEF, EGYPTIAN COMEDIAN: Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visits Washington next week at the invitation of the U.S. President Donald

Trump. This meeting between the Middle Eastern authoritarian and his newly minted American counterpart shows how far the world has come since the

first heady days of Egypt's Democratic uprising in Tahrir Square.

Comedian Bassem Youssef lived through the whole dizzying experience. First, as Egypt's most popular political satirist, now as an expatriate in

Los Angeles where he was forced to flee after el-Sisi took power.

His new book is "Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring," and he joins me now from Los Angeles.


AMANPOUR: Bassem, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, really, laughing through the Arab spring. Tell me, what do you mean?

YOUSSEF: Well, when people speak about the Arab spring, they always speak about the different powers, the turmoil. But people miss a very important

part, which is the comedy of it all. The comedy of the media. The brainwashing that is absolutely ridiculous and comical. And this is what I

was doing in Egypt through political satire.

And in my book, I show the people how ridiculous the media can get and how people can believe the same media that they know that they are absolutely

ridiculous and lying to them. And my book kind of offers a light-hearted perspective of the Middle East. And also it's for dummies.

So for people, they can know how they got -- we got there and maybe it's a warning for them, maybe like someone like Mr. Trump, it could be used as a

manual. As you know, there is dummies in the title. So we never know.

AMANPOUR: No, Bassem, well, there's also fake news, you are talking about obviously, part of it, when you talk about the media and all these sort of

conspiracy theories.

I mean, how does that, in your mind, gain traction? I mean maybe under authoritarians in the Middle East, yes. But why do you think it's gained

so much traction in your adopted home, the United States? I mean, Hillary Clinton being part of some child pornography role in a pizza store? And

people believe it?

YOUSSEF: Yes. I mean -- and people believe the same thing about Obama being the founder of ISIS. We have had this kind of a rumor before America

had -- three years before America had it.

And the reason it spreads, it doesn't matter if it is an authoritarian regime or a democracy. The reasons are the same. It is anger. It is

fear. And if someone use populism to spread anger and fear, people are inclined to believe anything. They could believe that aliens are the

sponsors of Hillary Clinton campaign or that, me, as I write in my book, I was an operative of the CIA's who used John Stewart to recruit me. People

actually believe that.

AMANPOUR: You know, we have a sound bite actually of Jon Stewart and you on your show. And he was talking about, you know, the -- where the satire

gets you into trouble.

So let's just listen for a second.


YOUSSEF: This satire puts you like -- gets you into trouble. I mean, out of the love you get from the people.

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: I'll tell you this, it doesn't get me into the kind of trouble it gets you into.


A joke has never ridden a motorcycle into a crowd with a baton. A joke has never shot teargas to a group of people in a park. It's just talk.


AMANPOUR: Bassem, those were in the early heady days of your fame. And obviously things have taken a very, very different turn. You were forced

to flee. I mean how do you explain, for instance, this week, Hosni Mubarak was repossessed after six years in jail.

I mean he did pay his dues, but there wasn't a single protest in the streets.

YOUSSEF: Yes. Well, just -- the only explanation that the state -- the people who were in power since the 1950s, since the military coup in the

1950s, are the same.

They -- Mubarak, when he stepped down, he was just a face of a much bigger and deeper state. He was taken care of by his buddies and his subordinates

in the army. And this was just for show. His trial was just for show. And it proves that the Middle East is the best place for dictators to


[14:20:00] AMANPOUR: Well, let's take it he's just one step further because you say it was just for show, but he did step down. He was held

accountable. He did face a trial. He did go to prison. And there was a democratic election in your country which was then overturned. I mean, you

know, look at Syria. Nobody is being held accountable there.

YOUSSEF: Yes, he was never held accountable. There were -- he was indicted in so many cases but he's spend all of his years in a nice

hospital suite that is actually own by the army and when the time was right, he was released.

There are many accusations that any one of them could put him in jail for a very long time, but he never answered for it. People are just -- they got

upset. They are tired. They are frustrated. And the big message is that demonstration won't change anything. And --


AMANPOUR: Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt. What do you think will be the result of the new president, President Sisi, meeting with Donald Trump?

YOUSSEF: Oh, I think the Egyptian regime is having his best days now when President Trump is in power. They brag about Trump having his first call

with Sisi. I think Trump being elected has empowered many of the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. It's a message that you can do

whatever you want, as long as you keep the stability and the peace. And we will not -- we will kind of look to the -- other way and you can do

whatever you want with the actors in your country.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Bassem Youssef, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

YOUSSEF: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Bassem.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we continue our theme of dissent from the Koreas. Imagine the stories smuggled from north to south across the most

heavily defended border in the world. Once a captive itself, a book of dissent from North Korea is now spreading across the world and we'll read

in next.


AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a firefly penetrating a wall of darkness and deception. As North Korea continues to sell fiction as truth,

a book smuggled out of the hermit kingdom is actually weaving truth through fiction.

"The Accusation" was penned in secret and under the pseudonym Bandi, which means firefly. And a reading has just been held in the 20 languages that

it is being published in on Freedom Bridge in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

And our Paula Hancocks went along to the special ceremony.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coming together at the last bastion of the cold war to celebrate a man they've

never met, meeting at the border between North and South Korea for a very unusual book reading.

[14:25:00] "The Accusation" is a work of fiction written by a dissident writer still inside North Korea about regular citizens trying to function

in a dysfunctional reality.

He also calls himself, Bandi, Korean for firefly as he sheds light on the dark. The South Korean activist who helped smuggled this book out of North

Korea says it is unique.

"It doesn't deal with political prison camps," says Doe He-yun (ph) or public executions, human rights issues. It shows normal life of North

Korean citizens and it is very frightening. This book shows they live like slaves.

"To think that the faint glimmer of hope I'd been clinging to was in fact the dark shadow of wickedness."

The book is being translated into 19 languages.

Publishers and human rights activists have come from around the world to read the one book that links them. "The Accusation" was published in the

UK last week and is already on the best seller's list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A set of short stories so it is fiction but it does, like all other fiction give a very powerful account of the experience of

living in a place that we couldn't otherwise know about.

NEWTON: Doe (ph) says there was really no other choice when he was thinking about the venue for this reading. Bandi's story is all about love

and family, and this is where separated families come to, to leave these messages on ribbons, messages of support, prayers that they will see their

loved ones in the north once again. Families who have been torn apart by the Korean war and who remain apart because of the division of the


Doe (ph) first heard of the manuscript when he helped a North Korean defector arrested by Chinese border guards. She told him Bandi, a

relative, had asked him to smuggle it out. She was too scared of being caught when she was safe to organize for someone to go into North Korea and

smuggle it out.

We honed away of getting the script for Chinese tourist, he says. North Korea liked exporting propaganda materials such as books analyzing the

leaders, hid the manuscript in that.

Doe (ph) says Bandi is safe for now but fears the regime may one day find him. He says Bandi valued this book more than his life hoping it was a

voice that would be heard by the world.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, near the border between North and South Korea.


AMANPOUR: Amazing really. The truth will always eventually get out. And that is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our

podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.