Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Krystsina Tsimanouskaya; Crisis in Afghanistan; Interview with Kristina Timanovskaya; Interview with Jaime Lowe and Jessica. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 13, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We are not going to allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist attacks on our homeland
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As the Taliban tighten the noose and set their sights on Kabul, what does America's withdrawal mean for security at home
and around the world?
KRYSTSINA TSIMANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OLYMPIAN: Everyone in Belarus is really afraid about their life, about their parents.
She made headlines by refusing to return home from Tokyo. My conversation with Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya about the dangers of the
Lukashenko regime and why she credits her grandmother for saving her life.
JESSICA, SERVED AS FIREFIGHTER: You feel like your feet are on fire. You're panicking at every moment because you feel like you can't breathe.
GOLODRYGA: Prisoners fight devastating fires for less than minimum wage. Hari Sreenivasan looks at the women putting their lives on the line.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
Well, the Taliban continues to seize large swathes of Afghan territory, capturing 17 regional capitals as of this moment, including Kandahar, the
country's second largest city and a major strategic target.
In April, when President Joe Biden announced a full withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Taliban controlled fewer than one-fifth of Afghanistan's
district, seen here in dark red, according to Long War Journal. Well, now they control more than half. U.S. intelligence estimates that Kabul could
fall within 90 days.
So the White House is sending 3,000 troops back to Afghanistan to evacuate Americans there.
Pashtana Durrani is executive director of LEARN Afghanistan. It's a digital literacy effort that has reached hundreds of Afghan students. She works as
an activist for women's empowerment and girls education.
Pashtana joins me now from inside Afghanistan.
Pashtana, welcome to the program.
Let me first begin by asking you, what is the situation like there on the ground? And are you safe?
PASHTANA DURRANI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LEARN AFGHANISTAN: First of all, thank you for having me.
The situation on ground is not very, what do we call it, hopeful right now. I am safe at the moment, but, apart from that, I just got news the minute I
got here for the interview that they have got inside the houses of the people who are working with the government or who have worked with the
government, who have worked with international NGOs.
They have seized their cars, their rifles, guns, whatever they could in Kandahar. So, bad situation on ground for you.
GOLODRYGA: How does that make you feel? And how concerned are you about what's to come?
DURRANI: Imagine your children are crying because there is ongoing fighting just because they are celebrating.
That's what I got from one of my staff members right there. They're like, our children are crying, they cannot sleep because Taliban kept on
fighting, celebrating fires the whole day.
Then imagine you have to leave your house in the morning and you have flee because that is only thing you can do. You have to leave everything that
belongs to your (INAUDIBLE) or to you. That's me today, right?
That's Afghans today. That's everyone that I'm talking about. That doesn't make me feel anything less than sad and hopeless and furious at everyone
who left us in this chaos and mess.
GOLODRYGA: Who do you blame for leaving you in this what you call chaos and blame?
DURRANI: My own government for falling back, not resisting, for not pushing the Taliban out, because they knew. They had intel. Why didn't
Because they were caught up. They were too busy politicizing whatever petty politics they were doing. (AUDIO GAP) I am also -- I'm sad at the West, who
claim to be all like human rights defenders and pro-human rights. everything. Like, you all -- they all sit together and pass all these human
rights declarations and universal rights in the U.N.
And what are they doing, actually? They're standing by when Afghanistan is burning. People are fleeing their houses. The children are dying of
starvation. Women are sitting under trees with no tent, no shelter. People are haven't -- are -- haven't drank water for hours or even days.
And then they claim to be like the world leaders. So, how did this happen? How did the Taliban do this? They had all sort of leverage. They could have
pressurized the Taliban, delegitimized at Doha, but they didn't. They stood by.
So that makes me sad about them, about their leadership.
GOLODRYGA: You asked me and our viewers to imagine certain situations, particularly how they are impacting the innocent people there, young
And to be honest with you, I can't imagine that. I can't imagine a life like that. And I'm juxtaposing that with one argument that is made here in
the United States, that nothing has happened after 20 years. The U.S. has been there. The U.S. has tried to help get Afghan people on their feet, and
that nothing has resulted from that.
I want you to counter that here by telling us about the work that your organization has been doing, particularly in Kandahar, and the impact you
have made on hundreds of children and girls.
DURRANI: See, first of all, I want to highlight that it is not the fact that the U.S. should be making any difference for Afghanistan, right?
Because my president is not Joe Biden. My president is Ashraf Ghani. And what did he do, right? So I wouldn't ask the U.S. to consider that. But,
then, at the same time, because it's your taxpayer money that went to us for aid money, again, the -- your leaders failed Afghanistan, in a sense
where they didn't have any checks and balances, where international organization and other companies, private companies, were involved in lot
They didn't bring all the money to Afghanistan. It didn't work that -- And even if they did, they made friends with the Afghan politicians that are
Afghan corrupt leaders and took the money out of Afghanistan.
If you really want the Afghans to work, you have to make sure that there are checks and balances. That is how the United States of America works,
right? And that is what they are known for.
When it comes to Afghanistan, apart from that, Afghan people have made every effort to sustain this country. I'm not just going to say that it is
me or LEARN Afghanistan or the people that volunteered with me or the teachers, the amazing teachers, the fierce principals, the amazing
It is every other person. We didn't have a school in our village. So we started with a digital school. We didn't have a clinic. We started with a
digital clinic. That's all because we know that there is a solution for every problem.
But if it is a mess and chaos that's legitimized by the U.S., you can't stop that, because U.S. is more powerful, right? And you just can't
question it. The U.S. just sidelined us. That makes me sad about them.
And the (AUDIO GAP) we do, it is like I'm not only person. There are more other amazing charities, amazing foundations that are working. There's
(INAUDIBLE). There is (INAUDIBLE) who is working for (INAUDIBLE). I'm not the only person who is working in Afghanistan. There are amazing women who
are doing amazing jobs. It is just the politics don't help us.
GOLODRYGA: The politics don't help you.
And yet you are working to help those around you. We just saw images of Afghan girls in the classroom learning the alphabet behind them, sitting
there with their teachers. Can you give us some stories, some examples of the progress that you have seen there from the work that you do? It is very
selfless of you to highlight other organizations.
But, here, we're talking about your work in particular. Can you give us some examples?
DURRANI: So, this year, when there were these two organizations (AUDIO GAP) from U.K. raised around 1,000 pounds.
And we started with this campaign for menstrual hygiene management, because the schools are infrastructually not very developed and we don't have
running waters -- water in schools. So, we used to go to every school and, like, talk about menstrual hygiene management and wash and how to, like,
get through the four days of (AUDIO GAP)
There are lot of girls would come to me and say that, ooh, this is happening to me. I cannot talk to my parents about it, but you helped me
with this. Thank you so much.
I remember Sraba (ph), who came to -- came to me and who told me, was like I feel confident that I know how to use a reusable pad and how (AUDIO GAP)
I know it's very irrelevant, but the fact that a girl feels confident talking about her period and somebody is working on it, that means that we
did make a lot of progress, right?
We don't have physics teacher in a few of our schools. I don't know if I should be taking their names, but, for their security, I won't. And we
didn't have physics teachers. So, what we did was create physics courses within the tablets, and then the girl used to learn from it, so it's (AUDIO
GAP) group of five girls. And then they learned from one tablet that's donated by this amazing NGO called (INAUDIBLE).
So, all these efforts went into making girls educated, confident, responsible citizens of Afghanistan. But now the politics failed them.
I, as an Afghan individual, as an Afghan girl, I know that running water is an issue. And access to no pads is an issue. And no teacher availability is
But I cannot make sure that the corrupt leaders or everything or all the warring parties let the girls go to school, because that is something
beyond my control. So, I did everything in my power. Or I did -- people like me did everything in their power.
But it's always the politics. It's always the world leaders failing the Afghan women again and again. I'm not going to say we are the victims here.
I'm just going say we try every time, and then how they come and block our progress, and then claim that, oh, we didn't do anything.
Well, it's clear to see but by all of the results that you have worked so hard for that you did a lot, and you have been doing and you will be
continuing to do a lot to fight for young women there and girls on the ground.
There's a perception that some optimists would like to think of this being a new Taliban, a different Taliban, a more moderate Taliban that maybe will
approach women and girls differently. Everything they seem to have promised thus far during these peace talks, they have broken many of these promises.
How do you feel about Afghans and they're now being encroached by the Taliban in these rural areas in particular and now the bigger cities and
their promises? Do you trust them?
DURRANI: Yes, we -- they are different.
I have always talked about it. I'm a young educated woman. So I'm going to talk about my ambitions and goals.
Rural women, they are not educated. Their men have already been murdered either one way or the other way. Either they were in the Taliban or the
army and they are dead, right? The rural women are illiterate. They haven't been skilled. And they have fled their homes.
They are (AUDIO GAP) humanitarian support that they can get right now. Then comes the second (AUDIO GAP) which is educated Afghan women. And then the
example is that an hour ago, I got that nine of the bank -- a private bank -- employees who were women. They were asked and escorted to go home and
asked to send in male guardian or whatever or relatives to work instead of them.
So, if they have changed, why are they stopping women from going to work? Why are they murdering artists like Khasha Zwan? Why are they murdering
people who are not in the army right now? Why are they not actually standing by their promises that they made?
So, I'm not going say I trust them. I didn't trust them at all. But now they shouldn't be trusting themselves, because, on one side that they claim
they we have changed. On the other, they don't even stand by their own word. What kind of person is that?
GOLODRYGA: Pashtana, as you know, many are fleeing the country in areas there for safety. And I'm curious, what is next for you? How much longer
are you going to be in Afghanistan?
DURRANI: Continue moving.
I -- I hate the fact that it should be expected to -- for me to leave, because (AUDIO GAP) Afghan, as a person who grew up, as a refugee, for
them, it is very hard to do that all again, relive that.
When I used to go to school, oh, she's an Afghan, She's a martyr, right? And now I don't want that. I don't want that, right? And, for me, I just
have to understand or just get used to one way or the other. I don't have any plan in place, so now I'm just going to focus on the people that I can
get them tents, medicines or whatever I can. That's the--
DURRANI: I don't want to--
Well, Pashtana, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Thank you for all of the hard work that you have been doing over the past few
years. And, please, please stay safe.
Well, former U.K. member of Parliament Rory Stewart knows Afghanistan well and the Afghan people intimately. In 2002, he walked across the span of the
entire country, a journey that he describes in his book "The Places in Between." Rory Stewart is joining us now.
Welcome to the program, Rory.
RORY STEWART, FORMER U.K. SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Hello. Thank you for having me.
GOLODRYGA: I am -- I'm at a loss for words after that conversation with Pashtana. I know that you were able to listen to most of it. What is your
STEWART: Well, it's heartbreaking.
As you can see, this is not just a military catastrophe now. It's a humanitarian catastrophe. And we really need to focus on the suffering now
of tens of millions of Afghans, who have been plunged by a very reckless and unnecessary decision, I'm afraid, by President Biden into misery.
And we should not -- I think one of the things that's been very sad over the last few days is, in Europe in the United States, people putting blame
on the Afghans, somehow suggesting this is their fault. But there is literally no coincidence between the fact that we removed the airpower and
the command mechanisms behind the Afghan National Army a few weeks ago, and it's allowed the Taliban to capture most of the country in a matter of
GOLODRYGA: But yet you heard Pashtana there levy quite a bit of blame towards the Afghan government and the military itself.
And she talked about corruption. This is an argument and a response that we're hearing from many who support the president's decision to leave and,
quite frankly, those that don't even support it, that would like a bit of a presence to continue to remain on the ground, that there's blame to go
around as well, specifically to the Afghan government.
What is your response to that?
STEWART: It's extremely unfair.
Yes, there;s corruption in Afghanistan. Yes, Afghanistan is a very poor, fragile country, in many ways, like many wealthier countries like Nigeria
and Pakistan. It's got many similar problems. But what was different about Afghanistan is that we were able to contain the Taliban. For 20 years, we
were able to allow improvements in millions of lives, girls going to school, extraordinary transformations.
I run a nonprofit in Afghanistan, and we have seen incredible changes in people's lives. Kabul is unrecognizable from the city I saw 20 years ago.
It's 10 times the size. It's full of vigorous, educated Afghan people who want to connect with the world.
And we were doing it with a tiny presence. President Biden is somehow pretending this is another Vietnam. But the truth is that in the early part
of this year, cumulatively, there were only 2, 500 troops being kept in Afghanistan. There were no casualties being suffered by the U.S., the U.K.
We were in a situation where we were providing very light air support. We could have kept doing that indefinitely, the status we did in Germany in
Japan, instead of which we have recklessly pulled the rug out from under the Afghan National Army, and we have created this chaos, and we should
feel deeply ashamed.
GOLODRYGA: I was listening to an analyst who said that the fault lies with both sides, in the sense that the Taliban had been planning this for years
now, that this wasn't some overnight move on their part, that they decided to encroach on and planned to encroach on the rural areas years ago.
And that's exactly what they did, whereas the U.S. and the Afghan military focused on perhaps spreading their troops too thin, and focusing on the big
cities. Was that a mistake? If people saw the Taliban coming, why wasn't more done?
STEWART: The Taliban have been in the rural areas for 20 years. They never went away. They have been there from the beginning.
It's impossible to eliminate those kinds of insurgency groups, as you find in Nigeria and Pakistan and India and many other countries that are facing
But so long as there was U.S. air support and U.S. command and control, it was impossible for the Taliban to capture a town. They couldn't put
artillery outside of town. They couldn't roll armored vehicles up the streets because they would have been hit from the air.
So we were containing that situation. And by doing so, we were allowing millions of Afghans to live normal lives, to get health care, to get
education. Afghanistan was changing. And it was a very small investment from the United States. That's all that was asked for, 2, 500 soldiers,
very few casualties, low cost.
And we have thrown it all away for absolutely nothing.
GOLODRYGA: And yet President Biden continues to stand by his decisions, says he has no regrets, even though, just last month, he said that the
Taliban was highly unlikely to take over large swathes of this country.
And here they are. What do you make of the president's decision and his decision to stand by those words?
STEWART: Well, I'm horrified.
I worked with Ambassador Holbrooke and Secretary Clinton in 2008-2009, when President Biden, then vice president, was arguing for a light long-term
footprint in Afghanistan. And that was exactly what he inherited from President Trump, exactly the thing that he'd been advocating for, a few
U.S. soldiers at an air base at minimal cost and minimal risk.
He could have kept them there, instead of which, I'm afraid, driven by some fantasy about victory in the midterms, he decided to make a gesture which
makes almost no difference to the U.S. military, and has devastated millions of lives. And by doing so, he will have created a vacuum into
which Pakistan and Iran are going to flow. Millions of refugees are now going to be pushed out of that country.
And it's going to be a place like Syria in which terrorists will thrive. He's done all of that for no reason at all.
GOLODRYGA: And, obviously, the U.S. and its allies, NATO allies, are following suit and leaving the country as well, though reluctantly,
And I'd like to play for you sound from the U.K. defense minister earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WALLACE, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: Al Qaeda will probably come back, certainly would like that type of breeding ground. That is what we see.
Failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I mean, that sounds like a doomsday, almost, scenario. The U.S. is sending 3,000 troops to evacuate U.S. members and citizens there,
especially with those within the embassy.
I know the U.K. is sending, I believe, a few hundred troops as well. What happens now? What is the mood there within the U.K. and those that you
still continue to speak with?
STEWART: Well, it's a terrible humiliation, because, of course, you're right. This is not just a U.S. failure. This is a failure from the U.K.,
from France, from Germany, from NATO.
The only nation that's staying at the moment is Turkey. It would have been perfectly possible to have a sensible conversation if President Biden
wanted to remove his boots from the ground of another form of NATO solution.
So, the Afghans have also been let down very badly by the Europeans here. It's a very shameful moment for the West in general. And it's one that our
enemies will benefit from in many ways. And, of course, Europeans will feel the impact of millions of refugees.
I suppose now all we can do is move on from the military, to the humanitarian. And the U.S. and the U.K. and others are now going to have to
produce billions of dollars worth of aid to deal with refugees, to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and to try to do what we can
to keep basic health care and education going, to continue to support nonprofits like that very courageous lady that you were interviewing before
I came on, and many other very good organizations, many of them with American and European stuff, who are trying desperately to deliver things
to Afghans and keep them alive.
But it is an extraordinary thing to do. I mean, if you think about the human relationships we have developed over 20 years, at any one time, there
were well over 100,000 civilians, not just soldiers, there from the U.S. and Europe, developing relationships with Afghans, working with them,
building things together.
And, somehow, we have decided to smash the whole thing and pretend that we achieved nothing, and hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban, and it's beyond
GOLODRYGA: And it's not as though there isn't precedent from the 20th century, even, in terms of U.S. light footprint on the ground, whether
that's Germany, South Korea, Japan.
I'd like for you to respond to what one policy expert said. He said: "This is a tragedy, but not our tragedy."
This is a U.S. policy expert. Can you respond to that?
STEWART: Well, it feels to me astonishingly heartless.
I can't understand how anyone can say that who has any imagination or compassion or empathy for what's happening now. There are millions of
Afghans now trapped in Kabul in an island in a sea of Taliban. Women who have taken 20 years to try to build their lives, go to school, go to
university, set up small businesses, young men who were beginning, like young people in India and elsewhere, to connect to the outside world and
develop their hopes, who trusted us, who believed in all our talk about democracy and growth and human rights and all the things that we tried to
To say this is not our tragedy, this is their tragedy, is the most brutal thing. And I'm very sorry to hear a senior American say that. I was deeply
impressed by the American soldiers and diplomats and aid workers I served with in Afghanistan. I -- even though I disagreed with them, I had huge
admiration for Generals McChrystal, Petraeus. They were serious about Afghanistan. They cared about it.
And it's astonishing that the United States can in a moment go from such deep thought and seriousness to trying to pretend this is somehow not our
problem. This is very much our problem.
GOLODRYGA: I think it's telling to point out, as we end this conversation, Rory, what an analyst, Karim Sadjadpour, had tweeted.
And he said: "If there's one thing that supporters of an abrupt U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan had in common, it's that they were almost
And I think, as we heard from Pashtana, there's a lot of work, a lot of brave young women and girls there who have fought hard to get where they
are. We will continue to follow their stories.
Rory, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Well, we turn now to another human rights crisis in Belarus, where dictator Alexander Lukashenko is tightening his iron grip.
Until recently, the Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was not widely known outside of her native country. Well, now she's captured global
headlines after her high-profile defection to Poland.
It all started when she criticized her coaches on Instagram. Before she knew it, Tsimanouskaya was being forced to travel back home. But a panicked
call with her family persuaded her to seek asylum outside of Belarus, a painful decision that has drawn international attention to the dire state
of affairs in her country.
When I spoke with Krystsina in English and occasionally in Russian, she shared the inside story of her escape.
GOLODRYGA: Krystsina, thank you so much for joining us.
My first question is, how are you doing now that you are in Poland for a week?
TSIMANOUSKAYA: So, yes, I think, yes, I am OK. I'm here in Poland with my husband.
We live in some house with -- which one is really safety for us. And we have some security, some border guard, I think. And we feel like really
safe here in Poland.
GOLODRYGA: Can you tell us what happened in Tokyo after you posted that video on Instagram?
First, what happened, that I saw in TV or in Belarusian Russian TV that they are talking about me. They show my video from Instagram and talking
that I have some mental problems and I'm a really bad sportsman.
And then two coaches from our teams, they come to me, to my room and says that I should -- should to be able to come back to home, and no running for
me more at the Olympic Games.
And that was not their decision. That was decision from some someone from Minsk. And they just showed to do it, and that is all.
GOLODRYGA: And this happened after they came to you and surprised you by telling you that you were going to run in and compete in the four-by-four
relay. That is not your area.
And one can understand why you were upset after that. Why did you decide to record that conversation? You were crying. You were very upset. Why was it
important for you to record it?
TSIMANOUSKAYA: So I saw in my profile that I have 100, 200 and relays. And no one don't ask me if I want to run relays or not.
So, I never run 400 meters in my sport career, never. And I don't -- I don't know how to run this distance. For me, it's too much. And I was
surprised, because never -- never, no one don't talk with me or with my coach.
And when I try to ask them, I sent a message to them if it's true or not, they don't ask me a few hours. And then I decide to speak about this
situation in my Instagram. But I was surprised what happened next in the few days. It was shock for me.
GOLODRYGA: We heard your conversation with your coaches. (SPEAKING RUSSIAN) You recorded it. And you were crying.
You were very upset. You're (SPEAKING RUSSIAN)
And why did you record it?
TSIMANOUSKAYA: Ah, yes.
Because when he come to my room and he started to talk that my sport career can be finished when I come back to Belarus, and someone tell that I should
come back to home. And I started to crying about this, because I was really upset. I want to -- I come to the Olympic Games for running, because I
wanted to run my next distance, and I can't do it.
So, this moment, I decide to take my phone and make some audio about our talking with our -- with my coach.
GOLODRYGA: And because you did that, you likely helped the IOC with the evidence that your coaches are now suspended and have been removed. They
were removed from the Olympics.
And that was because of what you did in the quick thinking to record the phone call.
Your grandmother convinced you, called you and told you not to come home. What did she say and why?
TSIMANOUSKAYA: She just say me that just don't come back to the Belarus, because here is dangerous for you. And that was -- that all.
But two days later, when I talking with her and I asked why you say this to me, and she says that someone in Belarus call to my grandmother and they
say what can happen with me if I come back to home. It can be just jail or psychology clinic, because already now our TV, they say that I have some
But it's not -- of course, it's not true.
GOLODRYGA: (SPEAKING RUSSIAN) right? Thanks to grandmother for the quick thinking.
GOODWIN: And you said, which was so important, you were not afraid of what would happen to your career or your future in athletics in Belarus. You
were afraid for your freedom, that you were going to be imprisoned.
There's a big difference.
TSIMANOUSKAYA: Yes, of course.
GOLODRYGA: Can you explain that to our viewers of what life is like under Lukashenko now?
TSIMANOUSKAY: So, just the most important thing that people in Belarus, they are really afraid to say something about government or about some
things, which ones they don't like or -- I don't know how to explain. But everyone in Belarus really afraid about their life, about their parents,
GOLODRYGA: Before your Instagram post, were you afraid living in Belarus?
TSIMANOUSKAY: No. I'm not afraid before Olympic Games because I did my sport career in Belarus.
GOLODRYGA: So, were you afraid when you posted your reaction to the news that you would be running the four by four? Were you afraid of what would
happen after that?
TSIMANOUSKAY: You know, at this moment, I don't think about what can happen. I just -- I don't know. I did it. And I don't think about this. I
just talking in my Instagram because usually I'm talking about all my life in my Instagram. So, it was -- and I can't imagine that it can be like
GOLODRYGA: You were emotional. It was an emotional moment. And you expressed how you felt. Let me tell our viewers how Lukashenko responded to
what happened with you and his address to the country. He spoke for eight hours this week. And he talked about you. He said that you were manipulated
by Polish friends, that it was not your idea to leave Belarus for Poland, that you were convinced and pushed by others to leave the country. What do
you respond to that with?
TSIMANOUSKAY: So, it is not true. Because when I decide to not come back to Belarus, I texted to the phone of Sports Solidarity and asked them what
I can do. Because I can't -- I don't want to come back to home because for me it is really dangerous. And they answer to me that they will try to help
me with this situation. And with my traveling to the Europe. But not before.
GOLODRYGA: There have been many sanctions now put on Lukashenko and his regime after the incident with Roman Protasevich. Sanctions from the
European Union, from the United States. Should there be more sanctions? Should Belarus be banned from future Olympic Games under Lukashenko?
TSIMANOUSKAY (through translator): I don't believe that the athletes should be denied participation in Olympics games, because the athletes
didn't do anything wrong. They train their whole life in order to compete. If possible, the sanctions should be directed at those who govern sports
withing Belarus, but not the athletes.
GOLODRYGA: Do you consider yourself a dissident now?
TSIMANOUSKAY: No. No, I don't think.
GOLODRYGA: Do you want to go back to Belarus one day?
TSIMANOUSKAY: Yes. Yes, we think about this. So, this is our country. This is place where we're born. And of course, we want to come back to Belarus
but only when Belarus will be free. And will be safety for us.
GOLODRYGA: What is next for you? I know Poland offered you an opportunity to participate with their sports program. Are you going to work with them?
Will you be a Polish athlete?
TSIMANOUSKAY: Now, we discuss about this, in ministry of sport in Poland. But this is difficult because if we change some national team, that we
should have some -- if we change some countries, then we have some sport current team, it is around three years. And at first, I think we should
decide the situation with the World Athletics.
GOLODRYGA: Do you feel safe even in Poland? Lukashenko has called the Europe's last dictator. 35,000 people have been imprisoned in Belarus. One
opposition leader, as you know, was believed to be killed in Kiev, in Ukraine. Do you feel safe in Poland?
TSIMANOUSKAY: Yes, I think that here in Poland I feel like really safe. And hopefully, it will be like that.
GOLODRYGA: How is your family back home? How is your grandmother?
TSIMANOUSKAY: They are still now in Belarus and they wanted to be in Belarus. They don't want to leave country, you know, because they are old
people and maybe for us it is not so hard to change country because we are young. We can change our life, we can change our job. But for my parents
and for parents of many I husband, it is really hard.
Also, because my father, he have some problems with health and parents of my husband have the same situation. But we hope that we can meet each other
somewhere here in Poland and maybe in the future, I don't know. But hopefully, that they will be safe in Belarus. Because they don't do nothing
against government and it just -- situation it just happened with me and this is just my problem, not problem of my parents.
GOLODRYGA: What do you want to tell the world about your life in Belarus and the life of other athletes and average citizens under Lukashenko today.
TSIMANOUSKAY: So, I just -- I want to say for people from my country that -- I would like for the Belarusian people to stop being afraid, and begin
to openly voice their opinions. Thought I do understand it is difficult because they are afraid. But we need to show the whole world what is
happening within our country. At the same time, we need to show the whole world that we want our country to become free and safe because at this
time, unfortunately, Belarus is a dangerous country not only for the Belarusian people, but for other people in other countries.
GOLODRYGA: Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, good luck to you. Thank you so much for taking the time.
TSIMANOUSKAY: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Some powerful last words and we, of course, will continue to follow Krystsina's story.
Well, we turn next to California and those devastating wild fires scorching the state. Our next guest knows what it is like to tackle those blazes.
Jessica who is only using her first name for privacy, served as a firefighter in a prison program. Her heartbreaking experience witnessing
the death of a fellow inmate firefighter is included in the new book "Breathing Fire" by journalist, Jaime Lowe. Here they both are speaking to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, thanks. Jaime Lowe and Jessica, thanks you so much for joining us.
Jaime, give us the scale of how widespread this practice is. Right now, we are watching stories of fires ravaging through California. How many inmates
are on these lines, male and female, and what sort of work are they doing when we see what we see on TV?
JAIME LOWE, AUTHOR, "BREATHING FIRE": So, the program is significantly smaller this year because of the pandemic and it was last year also.
Usually, it is about 30 percent of the wildland firefighter crews. Right now, I think there is about a thousand, you know, within live flames and
about two thousand at camps of incarcerated firefighter crews.
I saw a picture of a crew that was clearing areas around a house that was immersed in a Dixie fire. You know, that's complicated because really
homeowners should be responsible for clearing the areas around their houses if they live in high fire risk zones. And it's not -- you know, it
shouldn't necessarily fall to incarcerated crews to be protecting shelters. But they are.
SREENIVASAN: Jessica, when you see all these fires on TV right now that are happening so regularly in California, I think most of us see it from a
distance and have never stood on a fire line. So, just tell us a little bit about what goes through your mind when you see this. What is it like to
fight a wild fire?
JESSICA, FIREFIGHTER IN PRISON PROGRAM: It is really, really hard. And the -- what I can up is like you feel like your feet are on fire. You are
panicking at every moment because you feel like you can't breathe even though, you know, you can breathe.
But it feels like you are inhaling this thick smoke. Your captain is constantly like, hurry up, hurry up. They're expecting you to just be
almost like a slave, you know. I know slavery is way worse, but they have you like, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, like on your toes. And for
everything, they want to threaten you with a direct order. You are not listening. I'm going to add time.
And if anyone gets injured, I feel bad. I feel bad because sometimes the girls are tired. And you are on the fire and you see these free world staff
and they are sitting down. And we're asking why can't we sit down. And they are like, no, we have to keep working. We have to keep working. Or if we're
standing still on the mountain, you have to stand up. You cannot sit because even though you have all this weight on you, you have all the
(INAUDIBLE) lay backpacks on you.
And then, when we eat, we can only eat one time and really fast. And, you know, it is just crazy. I feel so bad for them. And my heart is with them
and I pray for them all the time when I see them on the news because I know that it is so hard to be out there.
SREENIVASAN: So, Jessica, just so our audience is probably not familiar. When you say free world, you mean nonincarcerated firefighters. So, you are
also clearing all the brush in the first place, you are digging trenches and you are pulling out the roots to try to create fire lines?
JESSICA: Yes. So, what we're doing is we're creating bare mineral soil. We're chopping down all of the trees. We're taking down all of the stuff.
They're scrapping even the bare dirt to make sure there's absolutely no type of fuel on the line so that we can try to prevent the fire from
SREENIVASAN: And how physically hard is that work when it might be dark, it might be more likely than not uphill, downhill?
JESSICA: It is very hard. And more so when you are tired to the point you are falling asleep working. And that has happened to us couple of
occasions. Your -- like your body is just so tired. You are trying to go, go. And you are trying to train for the endurance to keep going, but there
is a point when your body is just shaky and you feel like, I can't go no mor but no one can do anything.
What are you going to do, tell captain that you are tired? That you're just going to go? And tell you to keep going or try to add a time. Everyone is
in fear walking on egg shells because we don't want more time. We don't want to get kicked of camps. We don't these problems even though we're
humans, we're tired.
SREENIVASAN: So, Jaime, the program for having inmates work on all of these projects saves the state a ton of money. I mean, these people -- give
us an idea of what they earn while they are doing this job clearing brush or fighting fires versus what we would be paying firefighters to do?
LOWE: So, when I started reporting, they were earning $256 a day in camp and about $1 to sometimes $2 in the hour on the line. It since been
increased to $5 a day in camp, but the hourly wage has not increased. And the CDCR, you know, had on their website the program saves the state $100
million a year. I think, right now, they have 8,000 people. And that includes incarcerated firefighters and (INAUDIBLE) involved and municipal
careers are involved.
But generally -- and this is a problem too, but federal firefighters will make about $38,000 a year, which is so low that it is really hard to
recruit for those positions.
SREENIVASAN: This entire book came from you reading a relatively small article in the "Los Angeles Times" about a horrible tragedy at the Malibu
LOWE: Yes. I was actually home at my mom's house and I think it was February of 2016 when Shawna Lynn passed away. And there was like a 500-
word story in the B section. And I was struck immediately by two things. One, I didn't even know incarcerated fire camps existed. And I know the
mountain, hills, I know those trails, I know the roads, and I had no idea that they were cleared, maintained and preserved by crews.
And the other thing that struck me was that Shawna was presented in sort of a two-sentence summary. And it was all related to her crime. And I really
just -- I wanted to know a little bit more about her. I wanted to know who she was before she was incarcerated. I wanted to know about her family. I
wanted to know what it was like for her in camp.
SREENIVASAN: Jessica, you were on the fire line next to Shawna Lynn when the accident happened. If you could just describe what it was. I mean, this
is in the middle of the night. You've been trekking up and down, over hills, clearing brush. What happened?
JESSICA: So, when we finished our assignment that we were assigned when we first got off the buggy, we're told that we're almost done. We might go
back to camp where they're going to -- might find some work for us to do.
So, the girl before me in line comes up and then Shawna comes up and then she just looks at me said like, wow, this is what I get for wishing for an
out of county, right? Because the out of county were like (INAUDIBLE) fires. And I'm like, yes, it's crazy, huh? So, we're like just talking
about the fire.
And as we're talking about a hundred feet high these like pebbles maybe the size of a dime and quarter falling, and we have about three sets of
clothing on, including our (INAUDIBLE) and our fire gear. And we can feel the rocks. I'm holding my chainsaw like this.
So, I can feel the rocks hitting me here, here, here. Hitting me. And they hurt. They are coming from a hundred feet high. So, then we're right there
talking and as we're like discussing about moving or not, the rock -- there is a big giant like bolder that comes and just hits Shawna next to me.
And immediately, I just started hearing the girls scream. And I turned around and I don't know. I just -- I thought it was like -- not a jolt, but
I was just like, what is she doing? You know, why is she laying -- like I don't know what why my mind thought that and I just turned around, I'm
like, Shawna? And then I see that she's unresponsive.
So, I get closer and like Shawna? Like -- and I'm like, get up. And I could see her. And then, that's when I like start to start to notice that, you
know, like blood starts coming out of her ears and her nose, and her lips are getting blue. And the girls are screaming. You know, the girls are
like, she's dead. She got hit. And they are like running to the cliff that we were at where we almost fell, you know.
And so, I'm like, hey girls, you know there is a cliff side. Start trying to run that way to help them because the bosses on the top. So, the last
two girls that help out with the crew, they're also trying to give Shawna CPR. When I turned around to like -- to see where Shawna was laying down,
like she would always wear her chin strap and her helmet was like to the side and her head was split open and lot of blood was coming out.
And then the girls were trying to give her CPR but none of the free world staff wanted to touch her because she was an inmate. And the inmates were
the one that were trying to give her CPR and Bailey (ph) was trying to tell them how to do it and he called for the helicopter to come down and the
helicopter came down and they took Shawna.
SREENIVASAN: I'm so saddened to hear that you had to live through that. And she was almost done with her time. I mean, it adds layers of tragedy to
what happened on that slope.
So, Jaime, you had a detail in there that even after this tragedy when Shawna is air lifted to a hospital that she was still handcuffed to her
gurney. Is that just standard procedure?
LOWE: I believe it is. If you are incarcerated and something happens to you, you are always in a person of the state, who the state is sort of
regards you as a prisoner. I became very close with Diana, Shawna's mom, through the course of reporting.
And one of the nurses who was at the hospital told Diana that this was how Shawna was brought to the airport. And I think that, you know, it is enough
trauma to lose a daughter. But then to know that that's how she was transferred, how she was treated and how she was regarded when she was
saving the state, she was saving a neighborhood from a fire.
SREENIVASAN: So, is there a reason for these types of programs to continue? I know Governor Gavin Newsom said it's going to -- I think last
year, was looking at ways to try to kind of create a pipeline for work from these women and men who were working as firefighters.
LOWE: So, Governor Newsom's been pretty unclear actually about what exactly that means. He has closed eight camps since in the past year. And
that is largely because of the pandemic, because there just aren't enough numbers of people who are going. He also passed a bill called, which is
supposed to expedite expungement for formally incarcerated firefighters.
The bill is a step in the right direction but it's just not nearly enough. It doesn't guarantee a job. It doesn't track data to see who is actually
benefitting. It doesn't actually -- you know, the agencies who are still looking to hire can see criminal records. And so, there still can be
discriminatory practices. And we're talking about, you know, Cal fire and municipal agencies that have a long history of discrimination.
SREENIVASAN: Jessica, what had fighting these fires or working on these slopes, what did it teach you? Was there anything good that came out of it?
Considering that you were feet away from this tragedy that happened to your friend?
JESSICA: Yes, I feel like a lot of good things happened. And, for me, they really brought out my work ethic. They showed me that, you know, after
being second (INAUDIBLE), I transitioned to first. So, also, I was lead of the line. And I felt like that was a big responsibility. Because I couldn't
let my crew down. They showed me to have leadership in life. It also showed me how that I could physically push myself, it's an ability that I never
thought that I'd be able to do.
And, you know, I feel like it just teaches you how to build good relationships with people that you might not get along with. And also, how
to just respect people around you and how to be part of a crew and work.
SREENIVASAN: So, Jaime, that would almost seem like an ad for the program, of the benefits that you can get. So, what kinds of reforms should the
California prison system, other prison system make where you can maybe still get some of those benefits that Jessica is talking about without the
structure that it has today, where there are such a long list of problems that you detail in the book?
LOWE: Sure. It is one of the reasons why I really wanted to write about the program because it is so nuanced. And everyone I spoke to really did
speak to many, many of the benefits, as Jessica mentioned. And there was almost this, like, longing for having been there, not for being imprisoned
but that there was a time that was really beneficial and transformative.
The thing that is problematic is that they are not paid enough. They should be paid at least minimum wage. There should be a direct link to jobs and a
guarantee if somebody wants to pursue it. And there should be more support with it.
And they shouldn't be prisoners while fighting fires. It should be an option that if they are low-level criminals, which is how CDCR couches, you
know, the term of the people who can qualify for the program, they should have the option to then go to fire camp, get paid, be part of something
like California Conservation Corps or AmeriCorps, but do time in that way.
Because I think being a firefighter is one of the hardest, most taxing mentally and physically jobs that is out there right now. And to do that
while you are also a prisoner and being, you know, monitored by correctional officers, by being potentially having time added, by having to
deal with all of the trauma of being imprisoned, it is just too much. It doesn't make any sense.
SREENIVASAN: The book is "Breathing Fire." Author Jaime Lowe and one of the firefighters that was on the line in the Mulholland Fire, Jessica,
thanks so much for joining us.
LOWE: Thank you so much.
JESSICA: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Very emotional testimony there. But also, an opportunity for reform.
And finally, former governor -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a blunt message for anyone refusing a vaccine. Here's what he told me
earlier this week during a conservation I moderated between him and former national security council staffer, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER GOVERNOR (R-CA): Screw your freedom. Because with freedom comes obligations and responsibilities. We cannot just say, I
have the right to do X, Y and Z when you affect other people. That is when it gets serious.
It's like no different than a traffic light. We put a traffic light at the intersection so someone doesn't kill someone else by accident. So, this is
why have traffic light. You cannot say, no one is going to tell me that I'm going to stop here, that I have to stop at this traffic light here, I'm
going to go right through it.
Then you kill someone else and then it is your doing. So, this is the same thing with the virus. You cannot go and not put a mask on because when you
breathe, you can infect someone else and you can infect someone that then get sick and may die. So, this is why, I think, we all have to work
together on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And what do Arnold's biceps and Dr. Fauci have in common? Well, I'll let Arnold explain that one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: Look, I'm an expert on how to build a biceps. And so, therefore, I know exactly what I'm talking about. I've studied this issue.
I know exactly how to create this peak and other stuff. There is no one that knows more about a bicep than I do because I studied this issue for 50
years. And same is also with the virus. People out there, the experts that studied this year after year after year and experience like Dr. Fauci that
has been, you know, probably for his entire life. I mean, why would you not believe someone like that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Some sage advice from the terminator himself. Please people, listen to the experts and get vaccinated.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching. Christiane will be back on Monday. Have a great weekend.