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Lakhdar Brahimi Urges Syrian Government, Opposition to Keep Conversations Private; Interview with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen; Interview with Ukrainian Singer Ruslana; Bridal Shop In Zaatari Refugee Camp

Aired January 27, 2014 - 15:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: And tonight, stalemate in Geneva. It's all talk and no action as mediators try to reach a peace deal for Syria. I ask the head of NATO whether he believes the solution is a military one.

Also ahead, the voice of a revolution? Well, amid unrest in Ukraine, we speak to a pop star who is lending her voice to the calls for change.

And as France's first couple call it quits, we take a closer look at the role of political partners around the world.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

ANDERSON: A very good evening from London.

We being with an update on the Syrian peace talks in Geneva. UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says unfortunately there isn't much progress to report. And yet it's considered no small feat that the warring sides are willing to continue talking.

Well, today's session focused on Syria's political future. The government presented a document that was a nonstarter for the opposition, because it didn't mention a transition of power.

Let's get the very latest now from senior international correspondent Nic Robertson live tonight for you in Geneva. And Nic, they continue to talk to talk, but any sign as of yet that the opposing sides are closer to walking the walk on what is this mess in Syria?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NO sign whatsoever, Becky. There's been a lot of posturing outside by both parties to this -- to the talks here. They've been trying to give the best spin they can to the media here. And indeed that called Lakhdar Brahimi to call on them this afternoon, spend one of those vital meetings where they're supposed to be discussing the future of Syria to tell them that they needed to essentially tone it down, deep the debate to the room and not to the media gathered around here.

We really get the sense that both sides want to put out the best spin so that they can be seen in the best light, that they're the ones who are trying hardest to achieve peace while putting the other side in a bad light.

We've seen all this before. But it's come to nothing. Over the weekend there was supposed to be confidence building measures -- aid deliveries, prisoner exchanges, none of that has happened.

And listening to Mr. Brahimi today, he makes it very clear he's happy that they're still here, but prospects seem to be so limited. This is what he said.


LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: I would like to make an observation about some of the people who are talking to the media. I think it's normal that the two parties talk to the media. In my opinion, it's too much. But I have told them this afternoon that there was need to be responsible and -- you know, respect, if possible, the confidentiality of the discussions.


ROBERTSON: So what we've heard really from Mr. Brahimi there is that he's going to continue to keep trying. Both sides keep pledging publicly that they won't give up that they'll keep talking, but that is it. I mean, the only substance here is that they really are still in a room talking -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right. Nic Robertson there in Geneva for you.

Well, shortly before this show, I spoke with the secretary general of NATO and Anders Fogh Rasmussen. And we talked first about those peace talks underway in Geneva. This is his sense of where things stand.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, SECRETARY-GENERAL NATO: I don't think we have seen a final outcome yet, but of course I do hope that the Geneva II talks will pave the way for a political solution, a long-term sustainable political solution to the conflict in Syria.

ANDERSON: That is very unlikely at this point, isn't it? With respect, sir.

RASMUSSEN: I think it's the best chance we have. Obviously there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. The only way forward is to reach an agreement based on the outcome of the first Geneva conference, which concluded that a transition towards a new Democratic system in Syria should be initiated.

ANDERSON: Sir, in mid-September, you and I spoke amid talk of the plan at that stage to eliminate chemical weapons. You said, and I quote, the option of carrying out a military strike or similar operation in Syria must be kept open as a way with dealing with the crisis.

Are you still of the mind that a military option should still be on the table?

RASMUSSEN: Actually I do believe that the credible threat of military action at that time helped to pave the way for diplomatic efforts to find a political solution. Also, as regards, the question about chemical weapons in Syria, and as we have seen, the Syrian government agreed to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria and furthermore Syria joined the international treaty against the use of chemical weapons.

So I have no doubt that the credible threat of military action helped to pave the way for a political and diplomatic solution.

ANDERSON: We haven't got to the point at which a political solution is credible. So, is a military option still on the table?

RASMUSSEN: Yeah, but I think you have to distinguish, clearly, between the use of chemical weapons and the long-term solution to the conflict in Syria.

As regards the use of chemical weapons last year, I was of the very clear opinion, and I'm still, that that needed a clear response from the international community. Eventually, the threat of military action led to a political and diplomatic solution. And now the chemical weapons in Syria will be eliminated, which I welcome.

You should distinguish between that and a long-term solution to the conflict in Syria.

And as regards to a long-term solution, I think nobody believes that there is any military solution. The only way forward is a political settlement.


ANDRESON: Mr. Rasmussen, the head of NATO there on Syria.

Well, while diplomats negotiate their future, the Syrian people of course are struggling to carry on with their daily lives. Millions of fled the country for safer grounds, some ending up in the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. CNN's Atika Shubert recently visited the camp and found what is a thriving business that just might surprise you.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can get anything you need on the Champs Elysees market street at the Zaatari refugee camp -- groceries, bicycles, even a wedding dress. The Alma Wedding Salon (ph) for women is open nearly every day from morning until night. Raweida Abu Zaid (ph) is the proud owner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: good luck dress, that one, because ever since I opened this shop it was my first.

SHUBERT: Really? How many weddings has this dress seen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot. (inaudible) for so many times.

SHUBERT: You lost track.


SHUBERT: I don't blame you. It's a beautiful dress.

Roweida (ph) has lived her for about a year-and-a-half. She fled the fighting in Daraa with her husband and two children. But she brought her skills as a hairdresser, borrowed some money and invested in several wedding dresses to open this salon.

She has four or five customers a day. No one wanted to be filmed, though, so we draped a scarf over the mirror to chat with Roweida (ph) as she worked.

How does it make women feel to be able to come into a place and have their makeup done just like they used to at home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course they feel like home. At first when they come here thinking about Syria things were much easier and much better. It's difficult.

SHUBERT: These are photos from one of Zaatari's most recent weddings. Roweida (ph) explains the sad reality behind these happy occasions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The problem is even if they were young their parents get them married, because they're afraid about the future as in Syria there are lot of rape incidents, there are a lot of sexually assaulted women that the parents have actually been worried about their children and wanted to get the girl married anyway, even if they were young.

SHUBERT: Many women in Zaatari politely declined to have their picture taken and refused to talk on camera. So I asked Roweida (ph) why is she so outspoken?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): After the revolution, I'm not afraid anymore, because all the people that have died for Syria. I don't them to die in vain.

SHUBERT: When Roweida (ph) is finished, she offers me a facial and some candid advice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You have gray hair. You should dye it.

SHUBERT: I do. I know. I know.

You know my bosses keep telling me the same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...respecting (inaudible)

SHUBERT: Got a facial in Zaatari.

Nothing can take away the pain of being a refugee. Roweida's (ph) wedding salon is one small way to reclaim a sense of normalcy and pride to the mothers and daughters that live here.

Atika Shubert, CNN, at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.


ANDERSON: Reporting on the people behind our top story this evening.

Still to come, they call themselves The Elders. And these former global leaders are pushing to end decades of animosity between Iran and the west. Our report from Tehran is up next.

And, we may remember her as the winner of the 2004 Eurovision contest, but Ukrainian singer Ruslana is now singing a very different tune. Find out what she has to say coming up.

Plus, another development in the saga of the French president's love life. The former first lady leaves town and appears in public for the first time in some weeks.

All that and much more after this.


ANDERSON: Right. You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World, 13 minutes past 8:00 out of London. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Now Egypt's army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is inching closer, it seems, to the country's top position. Military leaders have reportedly cleared his way for a presidential run.

Now al-Sisi lead the overthrow of Mohamed Morsy last year. And he is considered a shoe-in for president, promoted to field marshall early in the day.

Yesterday Egypt changed the election schedule in a move seen to be in his favor.

Well, our Reza Sayah told us what impact a presidential run could have on the country. Have a listen.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He sent a lot of signals that he will run for the presidency. And with this powerful endorsement by the army it's a near certainty that he will announce his candidacy. And if and when he does, analysts say, he will win the vote easily, because without question he has a lot of popular support in Egypt by people who see him as the key to establishing stability and security.


ANDERSON: Well, a former United Nations chief is leading a group of ex-world leaders on what is a diplomatic mission to Iran. Kofi Annan is in Tehran urging Iranian officials to build on what is an historic deal reached with global powers in November. He's there with Archbishop Desmond Tutu along with the former presidents of Finland and Mexico, a group dubbed The Elders.

Well, the European Union and the U.S. has already lifted some sanctions on Iran after it curbed some uranium enrichment in the past couple of weeks. Chief U.S. security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in the Iranian capital. He spoke to Iranians about what the lifting of those sanctions would mean to them.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to nuclear negotiations more than the political rhetoric going back and forth or the intricacies of the nuclear deal or even the dollar figure on the economic sanctions relief, what really matters to the Iranians we've met is how those economic sanctions affect them every day and how sanctions relief will improve their lives whether there are planes that they fly on can get spare parts, whether the cars they drive can get spare parts or even whether they can get medical supplies when they're sick.

The sanctions have affected access to the best, for instance, chemotherapy drugs for cancer victims here. We went to a cancer clinic today where they have trouble getting them, because the best ones are made in Europe and the U.S., so they have to buy them on the black market at many times the price, sometimes expired.

We met one cancer patient Nila. She a mother of two, diagnosed with ovarian cancer, here's what she had to say.

NILA, IRANIAN MOTHER WITH OVARIAN CANCER: Due to the sanction on the country, there was a kind of, I don't know, participant for killing people.

SCUITTO: Now under the interim nuclear deal, one thing that will be allowed into the country now is medical supplies, humanitarian supplies such as chemotherapy drugs. And it'll take some time to filter through the system. But soon, it's hoped that patients like Nila will be able to get the treatment that they need. And it's that kind of thing that people here are truly paying attention to. And the question for them is will improving relations with the west improve their lives here at home?

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Tehran.


ANDERSON: Well, the U.S. military has conducted a drone strike targeting an al Qaeda-linked militant leader in Somalia. The Pentagon says the operation took place late on Sunday in the port city of Barawa (ph).

Now the target was described as a senior commander of the al Shabaab militant group. There is no word yet on whether or not the strike was successful.

Well, the managing director of India's Tata Motors has died after a fall at a hotel in Bangkok. Police say they are treating Karl Slym's death as a possible suicide after a note was found in his room on the 22nd floor. He'd been helping implement an ambitious turnaround at the company, the largest car maker in India, which also owns the likes of Jaguar and Land Rover brands.

Well, Western Australia has gone shark hunting as part of a controversial culling program. A commercial fisherman made the first kill over the weekend, catching and shooting a three meter shark. Conservationists are outraged by the program, which uses hooked lines attached to floating drums to catch the sea predators.

Now there were had been seven fatal shark attacks in western Australia in the last three years.

China's moon rover has apparently broken down. Chinese officials say there's something wrong with the Jade Rabbit's mechanical controls. They say it was caused by the, quote, "complicated lunar surface environment." Scientists are currently trying to fix the problem.

You're watching the show live from London. Coming up, four people have lost their lives, but the protests in Ukraine continue. We're going to get you a live update on the report from Kiev this evening.

Plus, the winners, the losers, the performances and the surprises. The lowdown on last nights Grammys.


ANDERSON: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is meeting with the country's three top opposition leaders once again as political unrest continues to spread across the country even to the east Mr. Yanukovych's main powerbase protesters storming government buildings in multiple cities overnight, even smashing their way into the country's justice ministry in Kiev.

Now this is the latest escalation in what is becoming an increasingly volatile situation as Diana Magnay reports.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Violence in the eastern city of (inaudible). The east, a traditional pro-government, pro- Russian stronghold, now even here anti-government protesters clash with police.

In Vasylkiv, in central Ukraine, protesters tried to hold the gates of a barracks to stop the police unit based here from traveling to Kiev where the powerbase of the opposition, which wants closer ties to Europe and new elections.

Every few hours, the press service of the protest movement tweets out a new map like this showing the unrest across the country. Mass protests marked in pink spreading across the east whilst they say the blue and yellow shows where protesters have seized municipal headquarters. The information seems to fit with what's coming in from local reports.

Masked men in Kiev stand guard outside the justice ministry temporarily taken over by demonstrators.

This unit came down here to show their solidarity for the action taken at the justice ministry last night. It was seized by the protesters who broke in through that window.

We asked them what they're going to do now that they're here. They're not entirely sure. But the justice minister says if they don't clear that building she'll ask for the national security council to call a state of emergency.

And clear out they did a few hours later, keeping guard outside, though, not wanting, they said, to escalate the situation.

"We have a de facto state of emergency anyway," this man says. "Because many activists have been killed and captured. They're in prisons right now for no reason."

Anatoliy Grytsenko is a former defense minister, now with the protesters. He believes if the army were brought in should a state of emergency be called, many soldiers would join the protest movement.

ANATOLIY GRYTSENKO, FRM UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: One-third of those spent weapons will be here on the (inaudible) side, because people in uniform, soldiers, officers, they are citizens and they have families and they do not tolerate all this stuff.

MAGNAY: The current defense minister maintains there's no plan to call in the troops.

Meanwhile, Kiev is quiet, for now. The protests are spreading and clamors for resistance is getting louder.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Kiev.


ANDERSON: The popular Ukrainian singer turned political activists Ruslana has become a symbol of the protest movement. She represented the country in the 2004 Eurovision song contest and won bringing the competition to Kiev the follow year. She's become a vocal critic of Mr. Yanukovych's policies, drawing crowds to the square night after night despite the escalating violence.

Well, she joins me live now from Kiev's maiden square. And Ruslana, thank you for joining us. I know you've been out on the stage night after night as I suggest working with the opposition.

The president has offered some concessions, even offering key posts to the opposition. If that isn't good enough, what is? What is it that you are looking for?

RUSLANA, 2004 EUROVISION WINNER: Now we have very difficult situation in (inaudible), people -- a lot of people like ALS, very difficult to be here. It's, you know, winter. It's very, very difficult about weather, about it's snow, it's cold, it's people -- even we have very dangerous situation a lot of bandits on the street -- it's criminal together with the police together with the -- it's unbelievable what's going on in my country.

This is Ukraine. I represent my country for many, many years. I'm singer. I'm a musician. I'm just -- I want peace. And I of course I want a lot of changes in my country, but now that -- it's a lot of aggressive from government. It's a lot of aggression from Yanukovych. It's unbelievable.

ANDERSON: OK, Ruslana, let me ask you this question -- you are making a very good point about just how difficult things are. And these protests have been going on now for weeks. How long do you think people can continue?

RUSLANA: We are still together. We know that we are power. And we want to ask Yanukovych please stop. You are a dictator. We have a lot of aggressive from this government. Please stop. Please stop.

And people are still together. In Maidan (ph), in different cities in Ukraine, even in the world, all Ukrainian community, we are together.

ANDERSON: OK. Let me ask you this one question then, you are -- correct me if I'm wrong -- asking for the president to step down? You want new elections. You want a new president.

But there are so many opposition leaders. If there were an election tomorrow, who would you back? Is there one opposition leader?

RUSLANA: I think so. And people -- we will see who the best one who the most power who is the leader exactly for us.

It's different way -- Klitschko, but not Yanukovych. Please, stop dictator in Ukraine. It's a lot of blood. It's a lot of aggressive. It's the criminals. It's a Soviet Union. Please, stop Yanukovych.

That's it.

ANDERSON: All right. Well, we appreciate your time tonight. I know conditions are very, very bad, but we appreciate your time. And we will continue to report on this story. Ruslana for you out of Kiev this evening.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead.

Plus, as athletes begin for arrive for the 2014 Olympics, international eyes turning to Sochi. CNN's Ivan Watson reports.

And as the relationship of France's first couple takes a tumble, we're going to take a closer look at political partnerships across the globe.

You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson in London for you back after this.


ANDERSON: The headlines this hour. And Egyptian state media say military leaders have cleared the way for a presidential run by the army chief, Abdel Fattah Sisi. He led the overthrow of Mohamed Morsy late last year. He's considered a shoe-in for president, should he decide to run. Sisi is expected to announce a decision soon.

UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says he is still hopeful that Syrian peace talks underway in Geneva can achieve a cease-fire. Right now, though, negotiations are deadlocked. The Syrian government and opposition can't agree on a political transition.

At least 45 people have been killed and two dozen more injured during an attack on a market in northeastern Nigeria. Witnesses say the gunmen drove into the village in four-wheel truck vehicles -- four-wheel drive vehicles pretending to be traders. Police suspect militant group Boko Haram is behind the attack.

Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is meeting with opposition leaders once again as unrest spreads across the country, even to his main power base in the east. He has scheduled a special session of parliament for Tuesday, and Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, has announced that she will also fly to Kiev tomorrow, 48 hours earlier than planned, to help diffuse the situation.

Government officials here in the UK are warning that a large-scale terrorist attack in the run-up to the Winter Games in Sochi is very likely. It's the latest warning ahead of the Olympic Games that are due to start next Friday.

Russia's ambassador to the United States has told CNN he is certain the event will be safe. It comes as the Olympic torch passed through a very restive region of the country. Let's kick off our coverage tonight with our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson, who has this report from Sochi.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under heavy security Monday morning, the Olympic torch made its way through the city of Dagestan.


WATSON: A region plagued by Islamist insurgents. This amid a new warning from terrorists in that region over the weekend promising more attacks, like this recent bombing in Russia, though not specifically mentioning the Sochi Games.

As Olympic athletes begin to arrive, the US State Department issued another warning last week, urging American athletes not to wear their uniforms outside the Games' ring of steel.

CHUCK HAGEL, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: If we need to extract our citizens, we will have appropriate arrangements with the Russians to do this.

WATSON: In the event of an attack, US officials say they have contingency plans at the ready. Helicopters on standby on two warships in the Black Sea, and C17 transport aircraft in Germany could be on the scene in two hours.

But Russian officials hope these emergency plans won't be needed, assuring their security forces will be vigilant.

SERGEY KISLYAK, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE US: I'm absolutely certain, because we are doing everything that is needed in order to make sure, it's going to be safe, and it will be as safe as any other Olympics that can be held currently in the world.

WATSON: But others, like US congressman Peter King, said on ABC's "This Week," he can't give that same promise.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I cannot give them 100 percent guarantee. The fact is that these are going to be very much threatened Olympics, probably more than any we've had in our past.

WATSON: The US continues to offer counter-terrorism expertise to Russia, with IED detection software, jamming equipment, and warships at the ready. All Russia needs is to give the green light.

HAGEL: Whatever we can do, we want to do to help, but right now, there has been no request from the Russian government.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Sochi, Russia.


ANDERSON: Well, our senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh has been following the Olympic torch relay. He was in Dagestan earlier when it arrived there.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The festive atmosphere here inside this stadium, that's not reflected by what we've seen in the town itself. The torch came here in a maximum security convoy from the airport, nobody there to film it as it came in. And inside the stadium is where the parade's happened.

Outside, checkpoints, the police locking down the city, for one simple reason: this is a hotbed of the Islamist insurgency in southern Russia, and where the threats against the Games have been made by militants.

Today, we've seen an estimated 13,000 crowd gather inside here, but they were all bused in on coaches as well from around the area, tightly organized, tightly controlled, high security. That gives you an idea of how seriously the threat is taken by the Russian government itself, and ordinary people in the town around, not involved.

Not the normal parade you expect from the Olympic torch, people lining the streets and waving it through. Everything inside here, everything under tight security. That's what people are worried about in Sochi, the threat that emanates from here, even though we're far to the east of southern Russia, well away from where the Games will actually be held.


ANDERSON: All right, Nick joins us now from Dagestan. We keep talking about threats. There is a heightened terror alert, of course. You know this region well, so let's step back for a moment. What sort of threat is there, if any, credible threat at this point, Nick?

WALSH: Well, the issue really is quite how sealed is the ring of steel around the Olympic Games. There are two issues: one, the Russian police, despite being there in huge numbers, have a history of corruption, of ineptitude, frankly, and that's enabled a lot of anarchy to slip into southern Russia. That's something they're going to have to be very clear to avoid in order to keep people safe in that ring of steel.

But frankly, the level of preparation and the sheer volume and the fact that Sochi itself doesn't really have a militant history, means that job is going to be easier for them. But the broader question is the threat across southern Russia.

I'm in the far east of southern Russia in Dagestan, near the Caspian Sea, and frankly, that's the hotbed of the insurgency. There and Chechnya, Ingushetia, all these republics with a long history of volatility and violence.

The mere fact that Russia doesn't have enough police to completely lock down that whole area means something is likely to happen during the Olympics. The question is, will it actually affect those attending the Games? That's less likely.

But the question, of course, is what kind of militants are Russia facing here as well? In the past, it was separatists who had a hierarchy, who had groups, armies almost, particularly in Chechnya. Now, we're talking about small cells, very nihilistic radical militants who simply want to die in the battle against the Russian state so they can get to heaven quicker.

That's the kind of jihad they're facing. It's hard to fight because these people aren't afraid to die. And frankly, also, many say the brutality of Russian security services in prosecuting that role has, in fact, encouraged radicalism and made this region much more dangerous rather than safer, Becky.

ANDERSON: And who are the characters behind these threats? It's been some 18 months, I think July 2013 since at least Russian if not other Western intelligence agencies were aware of chatter about a terror threat in or around the Sochi Games. Who are we talking about?

WALSH: Well, in the branding of this is something called the Caucasus Emirate, Emirate Caucasus, and that's headed by a man called Doku Umarov, a Chechen, who sent Shamil Basayev, the kind of more well-known militant behind the Nord-Ost theater siege in Moscow and the Beslan hostage crisis, too, those ghastly themselves. Since he died, Umarov took over.

Now, he's been the one who threatened to engulf the Games in flames, but frankly, many people don't think he actually spends his days controlling militants. He's sort of more an ideology people sign up to.

And across Dagestan, there's something called the Vilayat Dagestan itself, that is the sort of sub-group, the alternative state here the Islamists want to set up. No chance of that really happening, obviously, given the volume of Russian security forces here.

But that's divided into small groups, small cells. We heard that perhaps the Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had tried to ingratiate himself with them, encouraging -- suggesting that foreigners try and come here and get experience of militancy like that.

But most of the groups I've been hearing about are sort of 4 to 5, possibly 10 in number, very tight, don't speak on the phone too often. Some analysts say have an extraordinarily short lifespan because they simply join the militant cause so they can seek martyrdom, go to heaven and live a better life, very hard problem to fight, and it's really fueled by the poverty and corruption they live in here. Becky?

ANDERSON: Nick Paton Walsh in Dagestan for you tonight. And we've got a interactive map that shows you just how restive the region is in Sochi. Only Olympic-marked cars, emergency vehicles, or accredited intelligence service cars are going to be allowed into the wider area.

To the east lies Chechnya. Following two separatist wars, extremist groups there have turned to guerrilla warfare in the mountains and the terror attacks. Next to that, Dagestan, where Nick is. Security analysts saying that Islamist militants fighting Moscow's rule continue to have a strong presence there.

And then there's neighboring Georgia, two disputed regions there, both claimed by Georgia, factors in its five-day war with Russia in 2008. Anyway, you can see for yourself,

Well, with the opening with the Games set for next Friday, so far the buildup to Sochi, of course, has been dominated by security, not sports. Well, as the athletes begin to arrive, and of course, there'll be 6,000 of those, organizers will be hoping that the attention will now begin to shift away from the controversies to the competition.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Deadly terror attacks.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Russian authorities are on high alert after another deadly blast hits the southern Russian city of Volgograd.

ANDERSON: Violence against two women kissing in public. And claims of heavy-handedness.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Greenpeace butting heads, if you'd like to put it that way, with the Russian Coast Guard, and it got a little ugly.

ANDERSON: These are the kinds of reports coming out of Russia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics, an event designed to promote sport, solidarity, and peace.

MICHAEL PAYNE, FORMER MARKETING DIRECTOR, IOC: The IOC sits there waiting, praying for the Games to actually start and the focus to turn onto the athletes.

ANDERSON: But rather, the focus is these so-called Black Widows, women authorities fear are preparing attacks on the Games.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The already tense run-up to the Winter Olympics in Russia just got downright terrifying.


ANDERSON: Russian police have stepped up their crackdown on Islamic militants, but broadcasters are voicing people's concerns.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBX NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit of a leap of faith. You hope that the security is there. I hope that they share information more than they have with the US.

ANDERSON: The Russian government has promised the safest Games ever, but those who speak out against Russia's anti-gay laws could be on thin ice.

BILLIE JEAN KING, US OLYMPIC DELEGATE: I must say, there is a part of me that would be very alert, very alert, because you just never know.

ANDERSON (on camera): London hosted the most recent Games, and many say those were the most successful ever. But in the run-up to 2012, controversy such as ticketing, transport, and security dominated the headlines. It was only when the athletes got here, to the Olympic Park, that the legacy was created, records smashed, and new ground broken.

Now the question is whether or not that Olympian motto of faster, higher, stronger, will be enough for the sportsmen and women to feel the spotlight in Sochi.

PAYNE: When it actually happens and they see the Opening Ceremony, they see that there are not protests in the street, I think people will say, whoa, what was all the noise about and get on with enjoying the sport.


ANDERSON: Let's hope so. Live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, France's president has ended his relationship and lost his first lady in the process. Where is she? Well, we're going to find out after this break.

And imagine getting married with Queen Latifah officiating, Madonna as your maid of honor, and live music from Macklemore. At the Grammys, 33 couples did just that. More after this.


ANDERSON: Well, just two days after she lost her title as France's first lady, Valerie Trierweiler is again in the media spotlight. She was earlier making her first public appearance since President Francois Hollande announced their separation. Erin McLaughlin has more.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After more than two weeks of wondering, are they on or are they off, now we know. President Francois Hollande has broken off his nearly seven-year relationship with Valerie Trierweiler, meaning her days as France's first lady are over.

Hollande's salacious love triangle made global headlines, his alleged infidelity to Trierweiler with a new paramour, actress Julie Gayet.

VIVIENNE WALT, "TIME" MAGAZINE REPORTER: He believes president or no president, that each person has the right to a private life.

MCLAUGHLIN: Trierweiler is now on the move, arriving in India on a private humanitarian trip after a wild week that included a trip to the hospital for exhaustion. She gave a press conference in Mumbai saying she's doing well and for people not to worry.

And this weekend, she said good-bye to her staff at the Elysee Palace, tweeting "All of my gratitude goes to the extraordinary people at the Elysee. I will never forget the devotion or emotion at the time of leaving."

Hours before, announcing the breakup, Hollande gave an exclusive interview to "Time" magazine reporter Vivienne Walt.

WALT: And so there we were on a Saturday morning, there was no one around except for this one rather small, physically, president rattling around in his huge, empty palace.

MCLAUGHLIN: As for Gayet, well, she's keeping quiet, but suing the tabloid "Closer" for invasion of privacy after it made public the details of her relationship with Hollande.

Meanwhile, questions surrounding the alleged affair have clouded his trips to the Netherlands and the Vatican. This week, he travels to Turkey and his first visit to the White House is just days away.

WALT: If you're going to arrive in Washington, you kind of have to have your personal life sorted out, or you will run the risk of getting eaten alive by the American media.


ANDERSON: That report from Erin McLaughlin. Well, Ms. Trierweiler is not the only first spouse who's been, of course, in the media spotlight. Hilary Clinton, arguably one of the most high-profile first ladies of all time, becoming one of the few who entered politics, even, of course, running at one point for president. On the other end -- or at least in the race for the Democratic candidate.

On the other end, one of the -- of the spectrum is Syria's Asma al- Assad, once praised for her modernity, now criticized for supporting her husband. Nearly two years ago, wives of UN diplomats called on her to stop being a bystander.

Well, another first lady who's also made headlines for reasons that are out of this world is Miyuki, the wife of the former Japanese prime minister. She became famous in various circles after claiming she rode a UFO and went to Venus.

And finally, we have Germany's first husband, who has also been nicknamed Phantom of the Opera. In all the years that Angela Merkel has been in power, her husband, Joachim Sauer, has stayed away from the media, so much so that he even missed her inauguration in 2005.

To discuss this further, I'm joined by Betty Boyd Caroli, who is author of a number of books, including "First Ladies: Martha Washington to Michelle Obama." Live now from New York. Betty, thank you for joining us. I'm not going to cross-examine you about whether or why you think Joachim Sauer doesn't make much of an appearance.

Let's start with the story of the day. The French, it seems to me, are struggling with the very notion of a first lady, many suggesting a person who has not been elected lacks legitimacy in France and elsewhere. That is almost a 180 to the way that things are in the US, isn't it? Why do you think that is?

BETTY BOYD CAROLI, AUTHOR: Well, the charge has been raised against first ladies who step out of line here. I'm thinking particularly of Rosalyn Carter, who in the 1970s made a much-publicized trip to Latin America, and then came back and gave a report to Congress on it, and somebody said, she's not elected, she's not appointed, why is she speaking out?

So, it's a very narrow line that the spouses walk. On the one hand, we expect them to be very involved, we expect to know everything about them, how much they pay for their sneakers and what they feed their kids for breakfast, and we expect to know everything about them.

And yet, we really don't think they are the official voice of the president or, in the case, the prime minister.

ANDERSON: And how difficult do you think, for example, that role is for the likes of Michelle Obama? I was noticing today that I was sent a list of people that she had invited to sit with her at the State of the Union address tomorrow, and it sort of crossed my mind, I wonder, really, whether she's satisfied that that is all I'm supposed to hear about her these days, who she puts on a guest list every so often.


CAROLI: Or who she invited to her birthday party --

ANDERSON: Exactly.

CAROLI: -- on Saturday night. I think it must be very difficult for a high-profile professional, like Michelle Obama, to quit a job that she evidently loved and be, basically, out of sight for most of the time. She's been extremely low-profile.

Even the projects that she's championed, and I think she's done quite a lot, from military families and her nutrition program against juvenile obesity, she hasn't really gone after the spotlight for those, so she's not given much credit.

So, it must be very difficult. I think we'll find when she gets out, I think she'll write a book and tell us --


CAROLI: -- just how difficult it was.

ANDERSON: Oh, I hope so. Listen, I think actually in 2014, the US is peculiarly unique, to a certain extent. Elsewhere, I think, first ladies are -- there's a sense of sort of it being slightly passe. The French president doesn't have one, Berlusconi rarely had one, Putin these days doesn't have one. David Cameron is rarely seen traveling with his wife out of the UK.

Can you see a time when they become a rather sort of passe role, when they're allowed sort of out of the gilded cage, as it were, in the US?

CAROLI: Well, I wish -- I wish I could see a time, but I really don't. It's very difficult to let go of that curiosity that most Americans feel about the president's family, and many have tried to escape it, and they haven't made much headway.

So although I think we all think a spouse has a certain right to her or his own privacy, perhaps even to have his or her own job, I don't really see it happening in the US.

ANDERSON: Now, it is strange, isn't? Because I know that I've spoken to a number of Americans who've said they couldn't imagine the US public sort of stomaching the kind of shenanigans, as it were, that have been ongoing at the Elysee Palace, to a certain extent suggesting that if you're going to president, you've got to have a kind of traditional family life and traditional behavior.

Which makes me consider the possibility of, for example, your first female president going forward, Hilary Clinton, who, I don't know, should we expect Bill to walk with her if she wins?

CAROLI: Well, I thought that this would happen much before now. I predicted that well before now we would have a female president, and then we'd get to see. Almost certainly she will be married, I think. It's hard to imagine a single woman being elected president, as it is to imagine a single man being elected president.

And then I thought we'd get to see what a first man would do. I think he'll play pretty much the part that the first lady has played in the sense that it'll be complementary to the presidency. He probably won't do as much of the social stuff. He'll leave the table invitations to state dinners and so forth to a social secretary.

But I think he'll be out there with some project. If it is Bill Clinton or somebody else, he'll have a very full schedule with a very big staff and make a big complement to the presidency.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating stuff. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on. Come again. Let's talk about that next president when and if we know who it is. Thank you very much, indeed, Betty, joining us tonight.

Coming up after this short break, who won, who performed, and, well, who got married? All the action from the Grammys after this.


ANDEROSN: This year's Grammy Awards were a slightly different affair. Electronic duo Daft Punk got lucky in that their hands full with awards by the end of the evening, but not before 33 couples tied the knot in Los Angeles. Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner with more.


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 56th Grammy Awards kicked off with music's power couple, Beyonce and Jay-Z, and ended with the marriage of 33 couples, including same sex couples, in a star-studded wedding seen around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a moment. It's a moment.

QUEEN LATIFAH, SINGER: We are gathered here --

TURNER: Officiated by Queen Latifah and Madonna acting as maid of honor. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who took home four Grammy Awards, provided their hit song "Same Love" as a backdrop for the ceremony.


MACKLEMORE, HIP-HOP ARTIST: I think that this is a very unique opportunity to sing our song about tolerance and acceptance and equal rights to the masses.


TURNER: The Best New Artist winners had some competition. Newcomer 17-year-old Lorde stepped into the spotlight with a performance of "Royals," then took home Best Song for the tune.


TURNER: Pink soared above the crowd in a high-flying act, showing off her flexibility and powerful vocals in what was once again an over-the-top performance.

Imagine Dragon's electrifying act with Kendrick Lamar had Taylor Swift out of her chair, and the Twitterverse buzzing.

IMAGINE DRAGONS, ALTERNATIVE ROCK BAND: Actually, the Grammys approached us and they said that Kendrick had asked to perform with us, and so we were already -- we were blown away.

TURNER: It wasn't all about new artists. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr rocked the night with their anticipated reunion. But it was truly a lucky night for Daft Punk, who gave an all-star performance of their winning hit "Get Lucky" alongside Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder.

The electronic duo took home five Grammys, including the biggest trophy of the night, Album of the Year.

Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.


ANDERSON: A few of you have already been on the website with some comments on this. "Best thing about the Grammys, no Miley twerking, no Bieber, no Kardashians. Thank you, Grammys." That from someone called Enough.

But Jazznola disagrees. "Just more proof that popular music continues to get worse and worse every year."

And somebody else called Joe Foolish took it one step further. "Remember that one time when that guy came out and played his guitar with his band to a song he actually wrote himself and actually sang it live? No, me neither."

In tonight's Parting Shots, it was a case of angry birds for Pope Francis on Sunday. A crow and a seagull attacked two white doves released by children standing next to the pope. The birds of prey swooped down just as the birds flew out of the apostolic palace, their fates yet unknown.

I'm Becky Anderson. Your Parting Shots for you. That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thanks for watching.