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CONNECT THE WORLD

Special Edition: Ukraine in Crisis

Aired March 6, 2014 - 15:00   ET

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


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Well, a very good evening. I'm Becky Anderson with this special edition of Connect the World coming to you live from Brussels this evening where European leaders have been holding crisis talks on Ukraine.

Now they are demanding that Russia withdraw its forces from Crimea and enter into talks with Ukraine's new government threatening sanctions if the crisis continues. Those, though, would be down the road.

Dramatic new developments, though, in Crimea today pushing the stakes even higher. Lawmakers voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. They've scheduled what is a referendum on March 16 to let voters in Crimea, a majority Russian province, weigh in.

Well, Ukraine's interim prime minister criticized the move today after meeting with EU leaders here in Brussels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, INTERIM UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is illegitimate decision. And this so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all. That's the reason why we urge Russian government not to support those who claim separatism in Ukraine. Crimea was, is, and will be an integral part of Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, Ukrainian officials in Kiev are pushing back against that announcement. The interim president says parliament is taking steps to dissolve the Crimean assembly. This is a regional assembly.

Anna Coren is live in Crimea regional capital for you tonight with more.

And how is this announcement going down on the streets, Anna?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Becky here on the streets of Crimea people are very happy that this referendum is taking place. One woman told me this was people power at work, that finally they have a chance to return to their roots to the motherland. That is really the sentiment here from the majority of Crimeans. You have to remember that 60 percent of the people here are ethnic Russians.

So, the government here of Crimea, this autonomous region, if you like, it will be holding this referendum on the 15th of March to -- and will allow the citizens here to decide whether they want to stay with Ukraine or whether they want to become part of the Russian Federation.

And Becky I can assure you from the majority of people that we spoke to today outside parliament they feel that it is time to return to Russia. Of course, it was once part of the former Soviet Union. So the cultural and historical ties are very close.

In saying that, we also did meet some young people, some students who felt that Crimea was part of Ukraine and that was the end of the story. There is no need for a referendum, that it's peaceful here. They don't need that trouble.

But at the end of the day, you know, it comes down to who is more powerful. And we know that there are Russian forces on the ground here, Becky. We were at a military base earlier today. And we saw the Russian forces -- they may not have been wearing their insignia, but they certainly were Russian. And that was confirmed by the Ukrainian commander who came out and spoke to us.

He told the media that for now things were peaceful, but it has the potential to really blow up, to become dangerous because the situation is just so volatile, Becky.

ANDERSON: Anna, the Ukrainians have said today that this referendum would be illegal. They say it is unconstitutional. The only referendum that is in the constitutional -- the possibility of a referendum would be on a national basis. What's the sense from those you've spoken to about the way that this regional assembly has acted as it were independently of Ukraine?

COREN: Well, certainly here people in Crimea think that they're probably no longer part of Ukraine, that it's been lost. That's almost like a foregone conclusion. And they also don't hold much weight as to what the acting government of Ukraine says, because they believe that they're ultra nationalist, that they are fascists and extremists. And that, if anything, they came to power illegally in an illegal coup.

So, the feeling here as to what Ukraine is saying, you know, it's kind of water of a duck's back.

You know, at the end of the day, Becky, this is going to come to force. You know, Russian forces are here on the ground. Yes, they have a naval base in Sevastopol about an hour-and-a-half away, the Black Sea fleet, but there are Russian forces at military bases, installations around this region. And that it has surrounded them or they have occupied them.

At the end of the day, they are much more powerful than the Ukrainians. So that really is -- this is the status quo as we stand at the moment, Becky.

ANDERSON: Fast moving events. Anna, thank you for that on the ground there in the regional capital.

Let me get you now to Washington where just in the past few minutes the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly agreed to a financial aid package to the tune of a billion dollars to Ukraine to help it out going forward.

Do remember this is a country on the brink of bankruptcy looking for something like $15 billion just to pay its bills by the end of this year.

Any of these aid packages need to be big and they need to be long- term.

Well, the U.S. government certainly turning up the pressure on Russia today. A short time ago, President Barack Obama himself outlined in what was a pretty impromptu statement from him, a series of new steps from the White House. Have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people. According to my guidance, the State Department has also put in place restrictions on the travel of certain individuals and officials.

These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: And President Obama alluding to what happened here just hours ago, this meeting of 28 European leaders getting together to try and organize some sort of cohesive action and a message to Russia about de- escalating this violence.

Now this is what came out of that meeting. This is a statement of the heads of state of governments on Ukraine. Brussels, 6 March, 2014. Let me tell you that it doesn't include the word sanctions. It has various other issues that the European leaders are prepared to insist upon and install at one stage going forward. And we can talk about those shortly. But it doesn't actually include the word sanctions.

The U.S. president, of course, has already got an executive order in place laying the groundwork for trade sanctions and asset freezes against Russians in the future.

Well, I spoke just after the meeting here broke up to the EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. It was before President Obama himself made the remarks. And I asked him whether Ukraine had actually ever asked those European leaders here specifically for sanctions against Russia. And I asked him about the prospect of any trade sanctions from the EU going forward.

This is my exclusive interview with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Prime Minister of Ukraine appears to us a very moderate, reasonable person. He said to us, yes, he wants to have a constructive relation with Russia. So we think as well we want to have constructive relation with Russia, but of course we cannot accept the kind of behavior that we have seen the last days.

So what we are focusing on is precisely how can we help a peaceful negotiated solution for Ukraine? Of course, between the government of Russia and the government of Ukraine. And how can we support all the efforts for stability and peace in Ukraine?

ANDERSON: And with respect, how can we still continue to conduct our business with Russia, as it were, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK on a regular basis. This is a very costly position for many European countries, isn't it?

BARROSO: You are absolutely right, let me tell you. I'm now for 10 years president of the commission. And I can tell you very openly and frankly that I saw today great convergence between all the governments of Europe. It's true that for historical and geographical reasons there are different alternatives.

ANDERSON: Are there deep divides?

BARROSO: No. No, but we are -- I'm sorry, but probably you felt that before the meeting. After the meeting, I can tell you -- and if you look at the conclusions, they show a great degree of convergence. And let's not forget one thing, the United States is one country. And we are very much welcome the position of the United States working very closely with us, but we have 28 countries so we have to have a position that fulfills all the sensibilities.

And I can tell you, it is a strong position, by the way, nothing will be business as usual with Russia. We have decided not to continue with the association -- with the new agreement with Russia not to support the G8 in Sochi where we are also members of the G8. We have decided for -- this is not to continue with the negotiations on visa that are very important.

So -- and we are ready even to go toward the matches, if there is not a constructive (inaudible) now.

ANDERSON: Let me put this to you. I wonder whether you feel that -- that the U.S. isn't out of lockstep with where the EU is at present? Already we see -- hold on, sir. Already we see visa bans on both Ukrainians and Russians who they believe have been complicit in this violence. The president signed an executive order allowing for the groundwork to be laid for trade sanctions and asset freezes. That is not what we are seeing here.

Have the Americans gone too quickly down one route here?

BARROSO: I think we are -- our actions are complementary. But of course the United States are more distant from Ukraine. We, for instance, we can offer Ukraine something the United States cannot do is this association agreement, but actually have with neighbor countries.

At the same time, if you look carefully to the conclusions, it is a step by step approach. So we say that these are some measures that we are thinking now. But if there is not constructive developments in the near future we are ready to go on for other matters.

ANDERSON: If the U.S. were to impose trade sanctions any time soon, would that hinder rather than help?

BARROSO: No. No. I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that the United States are taking very important positions and I think they are making their judgment, of course also considering their interests. And we are making our assessment as well. And I think the efforts are really complementary.

The issue is not a competition between the United States and Europe, the issue is how can we promote peace and stability in the Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: That was my interview with Jose Manuel Barroso just after that meeting here at that emergency summit of EU leaders broke up just an hour or so ago.

Well, we've got a lot more for you tonight. Faced with sanctions and other consequences from the west, certainly from the U.S., the question remains what will Russia do next? Well, to answer that you need to understand just how important Crimea is to Moscow. And if it's more important than key relations with the west.

There are many factors at play here. So we are devoting a special section of our website to give you that sort of perspective along with the latest news. Find that CNN.com/Ukraine. You can find that at CNN.com/Ukraine.

And we'll be tackling some of the bigger issues for you as we move through this next hour.

You are watching a special edition of Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson, in Brussels. Tonight, right after the break we're going to take a look at the economic power of any sanctions going forward and just how much Russia has to lose.

And then the standoff, these scenes on the ground in Crimea. And our Ben Wedeman is there.

Plus, the global reverberations of all of this. It's not just Russia versus the west here, there is a lot more going on and a lot of countries in between. We'll have that and much more right there on Connect the World. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back to Brussels here where we are with a special edition of Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson for you.

Now the U.S. is paving the way for sanctions against people it believes are destabilizing Ukraine. The U.S. expanding a visa ban on Russian and Ukrainian individuals to a threat to Ukraine. And President Obama signed an order which would allow the U.S. to freeze assets and property.

To meanwhile, the EU still considering its course, it has to be said. Leaders addressing Ukraine in what was an emergency summit here earlier on, but stopping short of imposing immediate sanctions against Moscow.

Richard Quest, my colleague, is in New York for you tonight covering the economic angle of this.

And Richard, for the past few days now we've been saying that this was always going to be a very complicated meeting not least because it could be very costly for many European countries if they were to impose sanctions, trade sanctions, financial sanctions on a bilateral trading partner in Moscow.

And there's very little detail when it comes to the potential punitive actions going forward. What do you know at this point?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think if you're looking at the range that has come out and the nuanced sanctions -- I think it's a misnomer to call them sanctions, we might just call them actions, because when you talk about sanctions you tend to think of banning products, full throttle trade sanctions against Syria, against other countries. No.

This is much more nuanced. It's travel bans, visa restrictions, pulling out of trade talks. The EU is pulled out -- or has threatened to pull out of the EU-Russia regular summit.

Now I can hear the cynics say, oh that'll really scare the Russians that the EU won't sit down to talk to them. But with all these things, Becky, comes acceptability and integration into the global economy. And those experts I've been talking to say that actually President Putin will be concerned by some of these things because the people underneath him and the oligarchs who support him they will be the ones saying hang on, this is getting serious, this is affecting my business.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right, Richard, thank you for that.

And as Richard rightly points out from the EU side, at least, we are talking about the suspension of what was visa legislation going forward, the fact that you wouldn't need to have a visa between Europe and Russia, pulling out, for example, of the G8 talks in Sochi by those members of Europe who are members of G8.

And as Richard rightly points out, perhaps this may all sound a little sort of below the line, as it were, and not particularly aggressive, but a lot of this is about profile and about stature and about position in the world. And certainly G8 and Sochi should be something that Putin would be slightly embarrassed about if that were to fall apart.

All right, we're going to move on at this stage.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, he wasn't here today. He was in Rome to meet face-to-face with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. It was a prearranged meeting before this sort of escalation of this crisis happened. This was about other issues, but of course the Ukraine crisis coming up.

Mr. Kerry said Russia needs to deal with interests lawfully. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Crimea is part of Ukraine. Crimea is part of Ukraine. Crimea is Ukraine. And we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine needs to be involved in any kind of decision with respect to any part of Ukraine. Any referendum on Ukraine is going to have to be absolutely consistent with Ukrainian law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, and CNN's Elise Labott has been traveling with Mr. Kerry on his duties aboard. She joins us now.

Just how would you characterize the relations with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, at this point?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPNDENT: Well, Becky, I think it's the same that it's been all along. The two have a good rapport. They're able to talk about a lot of issues. Even when there's disagreement, they're able to kind of get down to business and see where they could find common ground.

But I think a lot of times Secretary Kerry tries to see the best in Foreign Minister Lavrov because they have this good rapport. And a lot of times Foreign Minister Lavrov misleads him. For instance, a few weeks ago the -- he told Secretary Kerry that Russian exercises along Ukraine had nothing to do with Ukraine, they were just preplanned exercises, but now we know it was a little bit of a pretext for this invasion of the Crimean peninsula.

So these are the kind of things that even though they have good relations can Secretary Kerry really trust Foreign Minister Lavrov, that's what I asked him. And he said, listen, we have a good relationship. There are times that we agree and there are times we can laugh. There are times that we don't agree and we have very tough conversations. And this is one of those times, Becky.

ANDERSON: So, the answer to the question can you trust each other was a little loose. Is that how you would describe it?

LABOTT: I would say that he said that he had a professional relationship. They were kind of doing -- he was kind of doing a little somersault. So that's diplomats for -- no, I don't trust him. But, you know, what choice does he have?

You know, obviously the U.S. and Russia are working together on a whole host of things -- Syria, Iran, now the U.S. wants to try and de- escalate the situation in Ukraine. So, you know, there's a lot of rhetoric going around on both sides. But Secretary Kerry is trying, at least, to find some common ground to see if there's any way that they can get this diplomatic path forward.

ANDERSON: And let's remember, as Elise points out, there is Syria to sort out, there is Libya to sort out. The Russians and the U.S. and the relationship that they have going forward not least on things like Iran are incredibly important. So the relationship there, one hopes at least, will be a civilized one going forward.

All right, Elise Labott is in Rome for you this evening.

Back here, Sweden's prime minister was one of the EU leaders who was at this emergency summit earlier on. He has received sharp criticism for saying that Russia's involvement in Crimea was, and I quote, "somewhat understandable."

Well, earlier I spoke to Fredrik Reinfeldt after, let me tell you, President Obama had spoken and insisted that the U.S. and the EU were in lockstep when it came to what sort of actions they should take next on Russia.

And I asked him whether he believed that the EU and Washington really were in sync on this crisis. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDRIK REINFELDT, SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: It's very important that U.S. and European Union go together on this and I was very glad, partly also surprised, to see how possible it was today to make a very clear statement. It's 28 European countries standing behind the text that it's very clear in pointing out this is an unacceptable aggression on the Russian side.

ANDERSON: How quickly and how effectively could Europe action -- trade sanctions and asset freezes going forward?

REINFELDT: Well, it's said now to be a second step. We've given opening for start of negotiations. We say that Ukrainian government should be part of that. It could be a broader contact group, should be an immediate start following days. Should have clear results very quickly, otherwise we stand open to these kind of targeted sanctions that you ask for.

ANDERSON: From your own personal point of view, are you satisfied with what was achieved today? Do you think this has gone far enough?

REINFELDT: I'm very satisfied that 28 countries are able to say this. This is, of course, a shift in how Russia is acting, which is potentially dangerous. To state that they do not have troops on Crimea, although we know that they have, to state that everyone who raises their hand and say I'm Russian and I feel threatened, not that we can find these people, enables them to send troops. That's a way of dealing in abuse of international law, which is a threat to other parts of Europe. Therefore we need to be firm in our reaction. And I think we were that today.

ANDERSON: So you're saying that Russia's actions today are a threat to the stability of Europe from today going forward?

REINFELDT: You could see that kind of handling of course also in other parts of Europe, that's the neighborhood of many of our member countries. So yes they are worried. And therefore we are very happy that we could stand together and have a very controlled way of dealing with this in steps to follow the next days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: The Swedish prime minister speaking to me just before we came to air with this show.

From Brussels tonight, this is a special edition of Connect the World. Coming up next, tensions building in Sevastopol as Russian and Ukrainian ships are stuck in a standoff. That part of the story after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back.

Well, so far tonight, we have brought you the latest diplomatic developments on the crisis in Ukraine and the threat of economic actions both on the part of the U.S. and to a lesser degree from Europe.

We want to take a closer look now at what's happening on the ground and at sea. In Ukraine's port city of Sevastopol, Russian and Ukrainian ships are in a standoff. CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of talk about the standoff on land between Ukrainian and Russian forces, but there's also a standoff at sea. Now we're going to take a tour of the Sevastopol Bay where there are both Russian and Ukrainian ships.

Sevastopol has been the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet for quite some time. In fact, Russia has had a naval presence in Sevastopol since the late 1700s when Catherine the Great ruled the Russian empire.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Russia had to wrangle over the division of naval forces here, and also the status of Russian forces in the Crimea. Now, in 2010, now-deposed president Viktor Yanukovych worked out an agreement with the Russians, giving them a 25-year lease on their facilities in Sevastopol, and part of that deal was discount prices on Russian gas.

Now, over here is the mouth of the Bay of Sevastopol, and as you can see, there's one Russian ship and a second Russian ship essentially blocking the entrance. In front of us is a tugboat of the Russian navy, one of several Russian vessels that are being used to block. On our left, here, in port, two Ukrainian ships.

Now, missing in all of this is the flagship of the Ukrainian navy, which was doing service as part of a NATO exercise in the Gulf of Aden, probably in an anti-piracy exercise. It has returned to the Ukraine and is now docked in Odessa.

As if things weren't bad enough for the Ukrainian navy, all cooped up in the Bay of Sevastopol, last Sunday, the newly-appointed head of the Ukrainian navy, Denis Berezovsky, suddenly announced that he was switching his allegiance to the regional autonomous government of Crimea.

What we've seen on land as well as at sea is that even though technically we're in Ukraine, it does appear that effectively, the Russians here are in control.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Sevastopol Bay, Crimea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back to a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. After an emergency meeting of EU leaders here, tackling the Ukraine crisis, we are live in Brussels. We'll have more on the crisis in a moment. First, let's get you a look at the other news headlines today. Hala Gorani standing by with those.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Becky, we're following other news stories here, of course, on CNN, including what is going on in South Africa. It's been an emotional day in court for Oscar Pistorius. The South African runner on trial for murder broke down in tears during the testimony today.

The court heard from a doctor who lives near Pistorius. He described what he saw in detail at the athlete's house the night his girlfriend was fatally shot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHAN STIPP, DOCTOR, PISTORIUS NEIGHBOR: Showed no pulse in the neck. Showed no peripheral pulse. She had no breathing movements that she made. She was clenching down on Oscar's fingers as he was trying to open her airway.

I tried to do a jaw lift maneuver to open the airway. It was really difficult with her clenching down. And all during that time, there wasn't any signs of life that I could see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GORANI: Well, authorities in Afghanistan say that five Afghan soldiers have been accidentally killed by NATO. Eight people were also wounded in an airstrike that took place in Logar province. Now, NATO has confirmed it was an accident, which is now being investigated.

Well, also among the other stories, the other important stories of the day, the Libyan government says it now has custody of Saadi Gadhafi. Libya had been seeking his extradition from Niger since he fled there after the 2011 uprising, which ousted his father Moammar Gadhafi, who was eventually killed.

Saadi Gadhafi was a businessman and, unlike his brother Saif al-Islam, is not wanted for war crimes by the ICC. But Libya says Niger handed him over after authorities provided evidence that he took steps to destabilize Libya.

Also this: Panama's government says it rejects what it calls "unacceptable insults" from Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. On Wednesday, Mr. Maduro said he was cutting diplomatic and political ties with Panama.

He accuses the country of bowing to the United States in what he calls a plot against his government. The announcement was made during a ceremony in Caracas honoring the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

And this programming note: CNN's Christiane Amanpour sits down with the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas. She gets his reaction to protests against his government, the state of Venezuela's economy, and also whether or not better relations with the US are possible under Maduro. "Amanpour" airs at 7:00 PM in London, 8:00 PM in Berlin.

And that's a look at the other stories we're following here on CNN International. A lot more on CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, tonight, we are focusing on the Ukraine crisis. I'm live here in Brussels, where the 28 leaders of the European Union have been meeting in emergency summit.

Not here today, but also meeting were the secretary of state of the US, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. And the message from the US is a very simple one to Russia, along with EU -- the EU, the want to see a de-escalation of this conflict on the part of Russia.

Well, with two major world powers at loggerheads, it seems this is a crisis that is likely to have global repercussions. With some global perspective for you, this evening, a regular guest on this show, Fawaz Gerges, is in London. He's a professor of international relations and the Middle East at the London School of Economics.

And welcoming tonight David Gordon in Washington, the director of the Eurasia Group and a former director of policy planning at the US State Department. And given that former role, sir, just walk us through where you think the States is at this point.

Take us behind closed doors. Things are tough. Just what could the consequences be at this stage of a deteriorating relationship between the US and Russia.

DAVID GORDON, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL MACRO ANALYSIS, EURASIA GROUP: So, I think that the United States is sending a very strong message to Russia that should you continue to escalate this situation, that there's going to be a severe financial cost to you.

And I think that, combined with the pretty strong statement issued by the EU today, particularly having to do with moving ahead on the accession agreement for Ukraine, that these are both very strong statements that the US and the EU are expecting Russia to begin to de-escalate this crisis.

ANDERSON: All right. Fawaz, let me just take our viewers through a little bit of history. Ukraine's crisis has somewhat inevitably, of course, brought talk of a new Cold War between the US and Russia. It ends what is a five-year struggle to improve cooperation.

This was President Obama in 2009 when he proposed a reset with the then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. The former secretary of state Hillary Clinton took the concept even further, presenting Russia's foreign minister with a reset button.

Relations weren't cozy, but there was movement, of course. In 2010, the two signed a New Start treaty, as it was known, reducing their fleets of nuclear weapons. Obama also got the Russians to approve new tough UN sanctions on Iran. And in 2012, Russia joined the World Trade Organization with public US support.

And then, of course, there is Syria. They have taken opposite sides, but did agree to destroy Syria's chemical weapons to avert military action. Fawaz, going forward, the repercussions, not just for Ukraine, for relations with Russia, but further afield -- and let's take Syria as an example -- could be quite complicated, couldn't the?

FAWAZ GERGES, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST CENTRE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Right. First of all, as you said, we are seeing reassertion of Russian global power, not just in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iran, in Egypt. In fact, I would argue that Russia -- the Russian leadership has important cards to play in the Middle East, a good hand to play, in particular in Syria, Becky.

Syria exercises -- Russia exercises considerable influence in Syria, as we know, and the United States needs Russia's help in order to basically bring about de-escalation, if not a political settlement. We know that Geneva II, now, has been suspended, and I doubt it very much if it could be revived.

In fact, if the Ukraine crisis escalates, I would say this would be the final nail in the coffin of Geneva II, and Russia has very, very important cards to play in Syria, and the United States knows this as well.

ANDERSON: And lest we forget, the three-year anniversary of that Syrian civil war is next Saturday. David Gordon, do you agree?

GORDON: Well, I do think that the US -- that the Russian's hold a lot of cards in Syria, but I don't think that we were on any real trajectory towards an agreement in Syria. I think the much-tougher issue here is that do we get a loss of any kind of momentum here in the negotiations with Iran?

And Russia has been, actually, quite cooperative on these negotiations. That isn't inherently the case. I think that Russia has a stake in seeing these negotiations succeed, but knowing President Putin, that he may put his own personal ego above that.

So, I'm much more concerned here about the potential negative impact of this conflict over Ukraine on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, in which the Russian role really is very, very critical.

ANDERSON: As is, of course, the Chinese. And China has called for a political solution, today, to this Ukraine crisis. Here is what its Foreign Ministry had to say. Fawaz, just have a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QIN GANG, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We understand the historical background of the Ukraine issue and the complexity of the current reality. As I have said yesterday, to get to this point today, things happen for a reason.

We hope that all parties can, through dialogue and consultation, find a political solution, prevent further escalation, and work together to find a safeguard peace and stability in the region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Does it surprise you, what the Chinese said today, Fawaz?

GERGES: Absolutely. The Chinese position is very clear: de- escalation, a political settlement. This is vintage Chinese global politics, which is in contrast to the Russian position. One particular point about Russia, Becky: I think what I see is really quite a blanket portrayal of the Russian position.

Let's remember, Ukraine is part of the national security interests of Russia. Let's also remember, Becky, that the Russians are using the threat of military force in order to extract concessions from the new Ukrainian leadership.

We're not at war yet, but in fact, what the point I'm trying to say is that the implications, the reverberations of the Ukrainian crisis could easily be heard on the Middle Eastern streets, not just in Syria and Iran, but also in Egypt.

Remember, there is a widespread perception among the elite in the Middle East is that there's a new Cold War between the United States and Russia, and the new military government in Egypt has already built links and connections and reportedly signed a $3 billion arms deal with Russia.

This tells you about a new international system emerging, even though the United States remains the decisive military and economic power, it no longer is the hegemonic, unilateral power that it used to do what it did after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

ANDERSON: And David, I just want to put to you, finally, you started this discussion by suggesting that there had been a very strong statement made by both the US and by Europe on this de-escalation of this crisis by Russia.

I think some would beg to differ with you on that. Some might say that the European position is very much watered down from that which the US holds at this point. Were you at all disappointed by what you heard from here today?

GORDON: No. I actually thought that the European position was strong than I expected. That it was very clear that the Europeans weren't going to be willing to move ahead with the kind of economic and financial pressures that the United States is considering. That we all knew.

I was surprised that the Europeans were willing to put in their document their intention to move ahead on the political dialogue leading to the potential accession agreement, whereby Ukraine joins the EU. I think that's a --

(AUDIO GAP)

GORDON: -- Kiev. And it --

(AUDIO GAP)

GORDON: -- saying to the Russians that we are not going to accept your --

ANDERSON: All right.

GORDON: -- to reassert hegemony over Ukraine.

ANDERSON: David and Fawaz, always a pleasure. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

You are watching a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN with me, Becky Anderson. We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: It is a very good evening to you from Brussels, where it is just before 10:00 in the evening. The fast-moving dynamics of the crisis in Ukraine have evolved to here and far beyond, certainly Ukraine's origins.

The crisis was initially sparked, of course, by former President Yanukovych's decision to back out of what was an EU trade deal -- this was back in November -- and was met with uproar by Ukrainians who wanted closer ties to the European Union. Thousands of Ukrainians protesting and dozens were killed in clashes with security forces.

Well, since then, Ukraine has formed a new interim government, and Russia has moved into the spotlight in this crisis, Russia's movement of troops into Crimea sparking international condemnation and straining its relationship with the EU and with the US.

Has the Ukrainian revolution, which as we know, began in that square in the Maidan, Independence Square, has it been hijacked? Well, let's get the perspective, shall we, of two people who took part in the anti- government protests.

Yulia Marushevska appeared in what was a viral "I am Ukrainian" video, an appeal for support for the protests. Let's just remind ourselves of what she posted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YLIA MARUSHEVSKA, UKRAINIAN PROTESTER: We held this freedom inside our hearts. We held this freedom in our minds. And now, I ask you to build this freedom in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: And Yulia joins us now from Kiev with Olga Bogomolets, a Ukrainian singer who also took part in the protests. Olga, go you: are you satisfied that things are going the way you wanted them to?

OLGA BOGOMOLETS, UKRAINIAN SINGER AND PROTESTER: Can you please repeat your question?

ANDERSON: Are you happy with the way that things stand in Ukraine at present and your interim government?

BOGOMOLETS: No, not yet. Because Maidan and the people who are staying on Maidan who didn't achieve -- we didn't receive the goal, because we were staying on Maidan to build a country with no corruption, with no criminals.

And right now, this goal is not achieved. And right now, Ukraine started to be a target where, actually, not Russian people, not Russia, but Russian government is trying to show its strength to Europe. So, now we are trying to keep and to make all our best to try to unite Ukraine with values, not with politicians.

ANDERSON: And Yulia, are you also disappointed?

MARUSHEVSKA: Yes, I completely agree with Olga. She's right, of course. Our fight is in progress now, and maybe this period is even more dangerous than the previous one, because now our enemy is even bigger than just Yanukovych or just the president.

Now, it's the big machine of informational propaganda. It's a big machine -- military machine, and it's really a big danger for our independence, not only the danger of corruption, but the danger of existence for us a country.

ANDERSON: What are your friends saying, Olga? Do they agree with you?

BOGOMOLETS: Can you please repeat your question once more? It's a bad connection.

ANDERSON: I know that you have many friends who have also been in Independence Square since the beginning. Do they agree with your dissatisfaction?

BOGOMOLETS: You mean politicians? As I told you before, we --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Do you think your views reflect those --

BOGOMOLETS: -- don't agree with what's happening --

ANDERSON: Go on.

BOGOMOLETS: We don't agree with what is happening in Ukraine right now. As we told you, as I told you, that Ukraine right now just became a target where Russian government is showing its power to Europe and waiting who will be more stronger.

And this Russian power, power of Russian government, not Russian people, because Russian people are really supporting Ukraine a lot. Every day, we're getting dozens of calls from Russia, where people told us -- feel that we are with you.

ANDERSON: Yes, let's just take -- Yulia, I want to speak to you, but before I do, let's just take a look at another video that has gone viral online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all speak different languages and we are of different origins, but we still agree on one solid nation. We should do support and respect each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have friends all over Ukraine. I have actually relatives in Russian, and all the Ukrainians are bilingual since childhood. Though you see that we have strong connections with Russia, but we deserve to be independent. Independence is our war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Yulia, is it realistic that Ukraine can be owned by Ukrainians independently going forward?

MARUSHEVSKA: If I understand you in the right way, you are asking if Ukrainians -- if Ukraine can really go forward as an independent state, am I right? Because the connection is bad, I am not sure about the question. Yes?

ANDERSON: Sure, correct.

MARUSHEVSKA: For sure, for Ukraine, it's the only way. The only way to build its own independence. We are not talking now about -- we do not need to be one state with Russia or to be right now, not to be the part of European Union. Now, we have to build our own --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: On the side of Europe, sure.

MARUSHEVSKA: -- strong economy.

ANDERSON: OK.

MARUSHEVSKA: Our own strong position --

ANDERSON: And with that --

MARUSHEVSKA: -- our -- sorry? And only after that you --

ANDERSON: Yes. And with that, I'm going to have to take a very short break, I'm afraid. We're going to have to finish the show, but thank you so much. The line was a little bit iffy, but thank you both so much for joining us. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for joining us.

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