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Kerry, Lavrov Talks Yield No Common Ground; Crisis In Yarmouk; History Of Crimea; South African Police Confession In Oscar Pistorius Trial

Aired March 14, 2014 - 16:00   ET


ATIKA SHUBERT, HOST: This is the scene in Crimea less than two days ahead of a referendum to decide its future.

Just hours ago, CNN crews witnessed this armored convoy with long range artillery guns. The lead jeep displaying Russian plates.

Well, tonight we'll explore Crimea's turbulent history from the charge of the light brigade to the siege of Sevastopol during World War II. And we'll speak to the granddaughter of this man, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who literally made a gift of Crimea 60 years ago.

And we'll get the latest developments from our correspondents in Simferapol, London and Donetsk about the issues that lie ahead.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

SHUBERT: But first we have new developments in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Now the search area is expanding even further as yet another theory is taking shape. Investigators are now looking into weather lithium batteries in the cargo hold may have played a role in the plane's disappearance.

Now also today we have learned that China will begin scouring a much bigger area for signs of wreckage to the east and the west of the South China Sea. The search is now also pushing into the Indian Ocean to the west all the way to the Bay of Bengal. Our Reuters news agency report suggests the plane may have headed towards the Andaman Islands.

Now we have lots of developments to cover tonight. And we're joined by Andrew Stevens in Kuala Lumpur to give us the very latest and aviation expert David Gleave is here with us in the studio to provide some perspective.

I'm going to start with Andrew in Kuala Lumpur. What is the latest we are hearing from Malaysian airlines officials, specifically about where the plane was last believed to be, because we've heard a lot of conflicting information.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you speak to Malaysia Airlines, or if you speak to government officials here, Atika, you get very, very little information, hard information on the ground. They keep on saying that they cannot release anything until it has been checked and proven. So it's left to a lot of conjecture, there is a lot of stories floating around Kuala Lumpur, which are sourced, but it's unnamed sources -- you mentioned a couple there. The most -- getting the most publicity at the moment and looking as it could be a possibility is this plane heading towards the Andaman Islands -- 24 hour ago we learned that there had been pings received by commercial satellites from an unidentified plane from its system, onboard system, which put the plane heading roughly from where it was last seen across western -- across Malaysia into the western part of the Straits of Malaka heading towards the Andaman Islands.

Now since then we've learned that the plane apparently seemed to be following navigational routes sort of defined by waypoints, which would suggest that it was being flown by a qualified pilot.

Now the search has expanded and the Malaysian authorities are saying the search has expanded. But they're not saying it's in response to these latest developments, what they are saying is that we're ruling out other areas which we've combed and found no wreckage, so we are expanding the search.

So eight days into this, the search actually gets bigger and bigger. 48 chips now, 57 aircraft involved in this massive search heading out into the Andaman Sea into the Indian Ocean and still no clearer leads. But like I said, this Reuters story generating a lot of interest. The Malaysian authorities are not commenting on it. As far as the pings are concerned from the aircraft, the only thing the Malaysians will say is that we are aware of media reports.

I pushed them on this at a press conference, but they didn't confirm when they got them, what information they had about them. All they would say that there are media reports.

So it's very frustrating, particularly for the families of the passengers looking for hard information still eight days on.

SHUBERT: Yeah, this is particularly hard for the family.

I want to get a little bit more into how the plane communicates. And I believe we might actually have some more details on this.

Of course a lot of this centers around all the different information that's coming out of a plane. So how much do planes communicate? Well, planes of course have GPS systems, but they only use that to show pilots their position on a map. Most of the systems a plane uses to communicate its position are radar based and not satellite based.

First, there's secondary radar, radio signals sent to the plane and are then beamed back its transmitter responder, or transponder. Each plane transmits a unique code so you can know the identity, speed and location of the aircraft.

And then, of course, there is primary radar. It can only show the position of a plane, it cannot identify it.

And finally there is this, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS. It lets computers on a plane basically talk to computers on the ground via radio and satellite.

So let's talk a little bit about that last one, David, because that seems to be where now we're getting a lot more of these leads and this indication that it could have been headed towards the Andaman Islands.

DAVID GLEAVE, AVIATION EXPERT: I think we need to separate that into two separate cases. First of all, it's allegedly a primary radar return that is seen in the Malaka Straits and we would have expected military radars in that area to have tracked the aircraft all the way across Malaysia to there, but it's not being said whether it's one radar return, one spot on the radar and then it disappears. And it would disappear around that point from radar coverage, because it's flown that far away from the radar. But we don't know whether there's a whole trail of dots that it's left behind for the 45 minutes that it would have taken to get to this point.

Then, once that's the last suspected location of an unknown airplane.

And then there are media reports that the ACARS system, the one you've just explained, is actually talking via satellite delivering data from the engines through to Rolls Royce in United Kingdom.

So if that's the case, then it's purely confirming that the aircraft was still airborne for a considerable period of time.

But realistically, the search radius has to be roundabout 3,000 miles from the last known fixed location in the South China Sea.

SHUBERT: Which is just a tremendous area to cover. I mean, when you see these kinds of search operations, it's like finding a needle in a haystack. How can they narrow it down at this point?

GLEAVE: Well, one thing that they'll want to look at is the likely flight path of the aircraft if you had made a human error in entering the waypoints. So if the waypoints, which all have a name and a location, if that's been put in incorrectly into the computer -- so we have seen airplane coming across the North Atlantic entering 40 west and 30 west and 20 west. And instead of 10 west putting in 100 west and turning around and going back in the opposite direction.

So, is any combination of human error on the flight deck explicable as to why the aircraft would have gone in that direction? Otherwise, what purpose would it have gone in that direction for other than to lose the aircraft, or was it trying to get somewhere for some particular purpose? It's not diverted it into Indonesia, it's -- you know, where has it gone and why has it gone there? That's the question.

SHUBERT: Yeah, still so many questions.

Well, Andrew, I just want to quickly come to you with this latest possibility, this -- what they're looking at, this lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold. Can you explain to us a little bit about why they're looking at that now?

STEVENS: Well, this is coming from U.S. sources that this could be a reason which could have led to some catastrophic event on the plane, perhaps a fire caused by a lithium ion battery in the hold.

But many, many airlines actually ban these batteries from being carried in the hold, you actually have to carry -- for example, the CNN crew when they're on a plane they have to take the lithium ion batteries in their hand luggage with them.

This is a theory, which has been put forward.

You'll remember that the Dreamliner, the 787, had major, major issues with its on board lithium ion batteries, which actually led to the fleet's being grounded for several, several weeks, Atika.

So, all we know at this stage is that it is an investigation, a lead in an investigation. We've contacted the Malaysian authorities here. They at this stage -- and remember it's just 4:00 in the morning here. And they at this stage are saying they have no comment on this particular lead.

SHUBERT: Now, well, thank you very much for staying on that story. Now seven days into the search and still no answers. Thank you very much, David, for joining us in the studio.

Well, still to come tonight, Russia and the U.S. meet for talks, but fail to find common ground ahead of Crimea's controversial referendum.

Also, it's shocking and appalling that suffering like this can happen in modern times. We'll take a look at the brutal toll of an army siege in Syria three years into the civil war.

And it's the police who are under scrutiny in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. We'll have the latest coming up.


SHUBERT: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World. I'm Atika Shubert. Welcome back.

With Crimea's historic referendum looming, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov today. They took their talks on the referendum and Russia's actions towards Crimea outdoors. But despite the informal setting, it soon became clear that the two countries remain far apart on the issue.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The negotiations were useful. The Crimea was discussed as well. We reiterated that we're going to respect the will of the Ukrainian people at the referendum on the 16th of March.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe the referendum is contrary to the constitution of Ukraine, it's contrary to international law, is in violation of that law and we believe it is illegitimate. And as the president put it, illegal under the Ukrainian constitution.

Neither we, nor the international community, will recognize the results of this referendum.


SHUBERT: Now for more on this difficult day of diplomacy ahead of the Crimean referendum set for this weekend, I'm joined now by CNN World Affairs reporter Elise Labott. Elise, I mean, those pictures I think said it all, neither of them looked very happy. There was hope for some -- something to give, but it doesn't look like it happened at all.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can especially see Foreign Minister Lavrov with his hands behind his back really crouched, really looking like an angry man. He's certainly not happy.

There was six hours of talks, Atika. And these two men usually enjoy a pretty good and candid relationship. So there were intense talks and long walks, as you see, but really can't have this common ground. Russia will not stand down. It looks like it's a foregone conclusion that this referendum on Crimea will go ahead. And Foreign Minister Lavrov told Secretary Kerry, listen, we're not going to say anything. President Putin is not going to make any decisions on what to do on Crimea until after the referendum. So it's really now looking ahead to what happens the day after.

SHUBERT: Looking after what happens, but that means on Monday we're looking at the possibility, almost certainly, of sanctions, tougher sanctions -- the president of Estonia saying the world needs to take a tougher stand or Russia is going to possibly go even further than Crimea.

LABOTT: Well, Secretary Kerry said there would be some consequences, but he stopped himself when he started to say sanctions. He said I'll say consequences and those could be quote, unquote calibrated if the diplomacy continues.

So what the U.S. is really hoping now is President Putin will take that victory of Crimeans as expected, vote to rejoin Russia -- he doesn't have to take those legal moves, the DUMA (ph) doesn't have to act to what Secretary Kerry will call a back door annexation of Crimea. If he leaves it at that and then hopefully the U.S. and its European allies are hoping that they can negotiate some kind of formula that's already kind of approved by the Ukrainian interim government for more autonomy, really, than Crimeans have ever seen -- their own separate tax structure, their own separate education, health structure, these are the kind of things that the U.S. is hoping will satisfy Russian concerns.

But the problem is no one really knows what President Putin's end-game is here. Does he want to actually annex the territory? Does he have further ambitions than Ukraine and along eastern Russia? No one really knows whether these military moves, these forces that we've been talking about amassing on Ukraine's border are part of an intimidation tactic before Sunday's vote or something else.

SHUBERT: Exactly.

LABOTT: Really unsure.

SHUBERT: And more diplomatic pressure to come with the UN having that security resolution to call this referendum illegal. So a lot coming up. Thank you very much for joining us.

Now there's much more on the crisis in Ukraine. Still to come tonight on Connect the World, ahead of Sunday's referendum, we take a special look at the Crimean peninsula, its history, its deeply conflicted identity and its place in the Russian mind. That's coming up later this hour on Connect the World.

Well, this week marks three years of civil war in Syria. And the country's future is as uncertain as ever. According to one opposition group, more than 140,000 Syrians have died so far while millions of others have fled the country.

Some people, though, are trapped by the fighting. And their daily lives have turned into a living hell.

Becky Anderson shows us the effects of a month long army siege on a Palestinian camp near Damascus.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus has been a focal point in the Syrian crisis after being under brutal siege.

"We're starving," she says. "We have nothing. Get us out of here, for god's sake."

According to a recent report by Amnesty International, nearly 200 people have died here since July 2013, 128 of those due to starvation.

Pictures emerging from the camp show residents in desperate need of help.

Remi al-Said (ph) is an activist. He spoke to CNN from inside Yarmouk. The aid that has come into Yarmouk recently isn't enough for even 10 percent of the civilians. Now, humanitarian situation has gone from bad to worse. Everything has escaped from Yarmouk except for death, he says.

What's worse is the lack of electricity and water. Rania Marjey knows Yarmouk only too well, having lived there for many years. She now lives in the UK, but her family is still trapped there.

You are in regular contact with your family there. Just describe what they're telling you.

RANIA MARJEY, FORMER YARMOUK RESIDENT: There isn't much left, you know, continuous bombardment, mortar shells all the time. When I try to speak with my brother, you know, every time I speak with him you hear it all the time in the background, bombing and shells and...

ANDERSON: When the first aid got in, you'll be familiar as our viewers are with this picture.


ANDERSON: And your brothers, both brothers sadly (inaudible) since passed away. But your brothers are somewhere here.

MARJEY: He told me he would be right at the end of that queue, because on that day when they said humanitarian aid has got -- has at last got in, he didn't believe it.

ANDERSON: Mohammed, he was 25 and was killed in a mortar attack on Valentine's Day. You still talk about your brothers, as you should.

MARJEY: He's my brother. It's difficult, it's difficult, because especially about it happened supposedly during cease-fire. And that's when you hear a cease-fire, that's when you start relaxing and you start thinking things are looking better.

ANDERSON: Have you thought about how when hopefully this civil war is ended, how people will recover?

MARJEY: I think it will take years. My niece is five now. There is nothing she hasn't seen. She's seen dead bodies. She's seen destruction. She's seen shrapnel. The psychological damage that these kids are suffering, yeah, will take generations.

ANDERSON: Becky Anderson, CNN, London.


SHUBERT: Live from London, this is Connect the World.

Coming up, allegations of mishandled evidence complicate things at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. We'll have a report from Pretoria when we come back.


SHUBERT: In day 10 of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, it was the South African police who came under fire. Allegations of bungled evidence and theft from the crime scene have clouded proceedings. Robyn Curnow continues to follow the trial for us.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The second week of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial ending with a bombshell confession by former police district commander G.S. Van Rensburg.

GEN. GS VAN RENSBURG, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE OFFICER: When I heard that the firearm has been cocked, the ballistic expert was having the firearm in his hand without gloves.

CURNOW: But Rensburg who was present shortly after Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, revealing his investigation unit mishandled evidence. The Olympian's 9 millimeter handled without gloves by ballistics expert.

VAN RENSBURG: I ask him, what are you doing? And in return he said to me, and he was looking, and then he realized there was no hand gloves on him.

CURNOW: And a watch worth thousands of dollars went missing from this box, only after forensic experts and officers investigated the crime scene.

VAN RENSBURG: I said I can't believe it. We were just there. How can this watch be gone?

CURNOW: The defense grilling Van Rensburg on the importance of telling the truth.

BARRY ROUX, DEFENSE LAWYER: Of course you know as the commanding officer -- when you make a statement, you tell the truth in a statement.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the past two days, the former commander recounted the moment he arrived at the crime scene in vivid detail. GEN. GS VAN RENSBURG, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE OFFICER: I ask him what happened, but he didn't answer me. He was in tears, and as I said, he was emotional.

CURNOW: More than 100 graphic photos were shown taken by the investigators. The Olympian photographed shortly from coveted (ph) blood in his garage soon after he shot Steenkamp dead. In court, Pistorius head in hands.

At stake here, the credibility of the investigation as the defense looks to chip away at the reliability of the evidence as well as the police's testimony of what happened that Valentine's Day.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Pretoria.


SHUBERT: Well, still ahead on Connect the World, Crimea in crisis as the peninsula at the center of the current unrest in Ukraine prepares for historic referendum. We take a look at the region's past and uncertain future. Special coverage is coming up next on Connect the World.


SHUBERT: It's a region that's been fought over for centuries, home to bloody battles that have inspired works of music, art and literature throughout time. And tonight, we're taking a closer look at Crimea as it prepares for a definitive moment in a mere 48 hours. That is when the peninsula's 2 million citizens will take part in a referendum on their future.

Voters will choose between two questions, the firsts asks do you support reuniting Crimea with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation? And the second, do you support the restoration of the 1992 constitution. Now that short-lived document essentially made Crimea made independent. What is not being considered, however, is remaining as part of Ukraine under Kiev's control.

There will not be any minimum participation requirement in Sunday's referendum. A simple majority wins.

Now the possibility of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula rejoining Russia is in many ways a return to the past. Russia's Soviet empire once spanned all the way from the Kuril Islands north of Japan to Ukraine and Crimea in the west. And that empire was quickly dismantled at the end of the Cold War, splitting into 15 independent states.

But the breadth and scope of such a massive landmass can be seen in these images. Rare color photographs provide a snapshot of life across the Russian empire more than 100 years ago. They show the diversity of religions, customs and ethnicities across the empire's massive geographic reach.

But while each region retained its own identity, it was also unified by Russian influence.

Now that common experience explains some of the split allegiances seen in Crimea today. It's a region that looms large in both eastern and western history. And we take a look back at the peninsula's role in historic conflicts and popular lore.


SHUBERT: The Crimean War has a special place in history. British school children today still learn about the Charge of the Light Brigade, the poem by Alfred Tennyson depicting doomed British troops fighting against the Russian army in Crimea in 1854. But any soldier would understand these lines.

"Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die."

Alistair Massie, the curator at London's National Army Museum walked me through some of that history. I asked him what he thought of the conflict unfolding once again in Crimea.

ALASTAIR MASSIE, CURATOR, NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM: If you understand how important Crimea is to the Russian psyche, how it's a symbol of Russian nationhood in terms of heroic defenses in the past, of this city against first the British and the French in the Crimean War of the 1850s, and then against the Germans in the second World War, you can understand why this kind of crisis has brewed up in the way it has.

SHUBERT: Ancient maps tell the story of the Crimean peninsula, described as the jewel of the Black Sea. Fought over by Greeks and Romans, Mongol invaders settled on its fertile lands, and their descendants, Crimea's Tatars, still live there today.

For centuries, the Ottoman Empire ruled the peninsula, securing the Bosphorus Straits and its strategic access to the Mediterranean, exactly why Russia's Catherine the Great celebrated when she finally gained control of Crimea in 1783.

MASSIE: It was a place that the Russians regarded as their gateway to the outside world. If you go north, all their ports are icebound. But this was a way into the warm waters, so this was, for the Russians, it was the belief that it was their way to the world.

Sevastopol was the home of the Black Sea Fleet, and this was the way they were going to overhaul the Turks. And the British and French decided to intervene in the Crimean War, so we had to go along, so it was believed, to Sevastopol to destroy that base, destroy the fleet, and wreck the docks, as we did.

SHUBERT: But Sevastopol held out for almost a year, a feat repeated nearly a century later. Soviet troops in Sevastopol resisted the forces of Nazi Germany for six crucial months. Russia today celebrates Sevastopol as a heroic city throughout history, even though Russia lost its battles there.

MASSIE: We always think we lost the war. In fact, we won it. Whereas the Russians, who lost the war, think that their glorious defense in battle think, we won it, really. So, there's a lot of mythologizing and history rewriting about the Crimean War.


SHUBERT: Crimea is a region that's long been caught in the push and pull between East and West. Those historic roots are, of course, playing into the unrest and emotion we now see on the ground today.

So for more, let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh. He's in Simferopol tonight. Also with US -- with us, excuse me -- CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance. He's joining us from Donetsk.

Let me start with you, Nick, because the referendum taking place there, tensions are ratcheting up, and yet at the same time, many people are saying they may simply not show up to vote. How is this going to affect things as they happen on Sunday? What are you expecting to see?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think anybody here is expecting anything other than a pretty resounding vote in favor of closer relations with Russia, probably joining the Russian federation. There isn't really any much other choice on that ballot paper. Either you can vote to be independent of Ukraine or to directly join the Russian Federation.

The de facto prime minister here today saying he's expecting about an 80 percent turnout. Those who are pro-Ukrainian remaining here, the minority, it's fair to say, but still there are a number of people here who don't want to join Russia.

Their voice pretty quiet here, repressed to some degree. Many of them saying they'll boycott, along with the Tatar minority here as well, and many of them saying they're simply not going to vote. So this will be a referendum that provides a much-needed, perhaps, in the eyes of the Kremlin rubber stamp for a decision that's clearly been made already to integrate with Russia.

And then the process starts in earnest of actually practically dragging this peninsula within the Russian framework, Russian infrastructure. The ruble, perhaps, Moscow's time zone, all those different time changes.

The de facto prime minister saying that could happen as quickly as a week. Very few people here expecting any other kind of result. Particularly now, the diplomacy in London between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov appears to have gone nowhere.

In fact, only really John Kerry extending the timeline before we might even see sanctions from the West by saying they'll wait for Vladimir Putin's decision as to whether he'll integrate Crimea into Russia before they play their hardest cards. Atika?

SHUBERT: Well, let me ask you, Matthew. You're in Donetsk, we've already seen tensions rising there. We saw quite a bit of violence just yesterday. How concerned are people there that this referendum may make things worse for neighboring parts of Ukraine?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's a certain amount of concern of that, but I think the overriding sense you get when you speak to the local population here is that they want the same thing as the Crimeans are getting.

It's a majority Russian-speaking population here in Eastern Ukraine in Donetsk. Not everybody wants to join with Russia, of course, but there's a significant proportion of those Russian speakers that do want that.

They see what's happening in Crimea, they've seen what's happened in Kiev. They regard the new interim authorities in Kiev as illegitimate, and they want to kind of have a closer union with Russia.

There are historical and cultural reasons for that, but there are also crucial economic ones here in Eastern Ukraine. This is the industrial heartland of the country. You have people here working coal mines, in steelworks, in factories producing heavy industrial goods.

And the vast majority of their business is done with Russia. And so they're deeply concerned that if Ukraine moves closer to Europe and further away from Moscow, that will have a direct impact on their livelihoods. And I think that's why there's so much passion here and so much tension on the streets, Atika.

SHUBERT: Well, Nick, if I could ask you, the UN is looking at a resolution that would declare the referendum illegal. There's the talk of sanctions, of course, if it goes ahead.

But at the same time, as you point out, this extended period, saying maybe they won't take such a hard line until they hear from Putin, are we looking at a situation where essentially this referendum goes ahead and it just becomes a stalemate internationally?

WALSH: It's entirely possible. Until Vladimir Putin actually makes a decision to make a decision, yes, potentially the West won't actually respond to Crimea. It's bizarre how the shift seems to have gone from punishing, to a degree, Russia for holding the referendum.

Now John Kerry saying, well, actually, we'll punish Vladimir Putin for respecting the results of the referendum. That does give the timing over to the Kremlin. He could never make a decision. We already have de facto Russian control militarily of this peninsula here. So arguably, yes, Moscow could just not say anything and allow that process to continue.

There is, though, I think, a degree of Russian pride in this. They want to show control here. They have openly said they'll respect the results of the referendum. It's going to be hard for them to dodge that part of the process. And also on March 21st, their parliament will be addressing the annexation of Crimea within its own legislation.

So, the clock's certainly ticking, but it is simply odd, now, that the shift has gone from trying to stop the referendum happening, that's pretty much going to happen regardless on Sunday, they're now trying to dampen tensions and certainly restrain Moscow when it comes to Eastern Ukraine, where they have 8,500 massing on that border there.

The international response desperately, it seems, trying not to make Moscow feel threatened so Moscow doesn't retaliate -- lash out, so to speak. But at the same time, not giving that firm response, that sense of strength that many say is exactly what Vladimir Putin needs to hear if he's going to calm Russian actions here. Atika?

SHUBERT: Well, Matthew, hearing that, are we now going to expect that in Donetsk and other areas, they're going to say, well, we want to have a referendum, too. Because as you say, there are concerns there, and there is quite a big movement to see more ties with Russia. What's going to happen there?

CHANCE: Well, we're already seeing people calling for a referendum along the same lines as they're having in Crimea. We're also seeing sort of quite worrying signs of other developments that are taking place that are similar to the ones in Crimea, such as individuals who are trying to sign people up for self-defense organizations, like the ones that we've seen patrolling the streets in Crimea.

I think the overriding concern, though, internationally and amongst those people that don't want to see closer integration with Russia here in the east, is the buildup of those military forces across the border inside Russia.

There are military exercises taking place, thousands of troops, 8,500 according to the Russian Defense Ministry, that are on "exercise" in what is, of course, Western Russia across the border from Eastern Ukraine. That could easily be diverted to a sort of serious military operation to take control, to occupy areas of Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

Now, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, within the course of the past few hours after a meeting with John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has said that there are no plans in Moscow for an invasion of Southern and Eastern Ukraine.

But at the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern about the security situation on the streets here in Donetsk. It called -- it condemned the violence, which left one protester dead, and said that it retains the right -- reserves the right to bring its compatriots and its countrymen under their control if they see the situation deteriorate further, so that's very worrying.

SHUBERT: Very worrying. Incredible to see this all unfolding. Thank you very much for joining us, senior international correspondents Matthew Chance in Donetsk and Nick Paton Walsh in Crimea in Simferopol there.

Now, live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still ahead, he's the man who gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's granddaughter joins us next to discuss that historic decision and share her thoughts today on the crisis unfolding in Crimea.


SHUBERT: The histories of Russia and Ukraine have been intimately linked for centuries, nowhere more so than on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, where many ethnic Russians live today. But how do average Russians view the region, and how does Crimea fit into President Vladimir Putin's broader ambitions? Well, we sat down with two Russian experts to learn more.


UILLEAM BLACKER, PROFESSOR IN RUSSIAN LITERATURE: Crimea is, although most people speak Russian, it's something that is probably over 90 percent of people speak Russian, but the proportion how people identify is a lot more diverse than that.

So, something like 60 percent identify as Russian, and then the rest is -- the other 40 percent is Tatars and Ukrainians.

SHUBERT: So, it's a lot more complex.

BLACKER: It is very complex. And even with the Russian population, there's no evidence that suggest that there's actually overwhelming support for joining Russia.

MASHA KARP, FREELANCE RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: And also, there's been a petition going on of Russians living in Crimea, signing the petition, "I'm ethnic Russia, but I want to live in Ukraine."

SUBERT: Some people have suggested that in a way, this is a resurgent -- this is a resurgent Russia, this is Putin's vision of sort of restoring the Russian Empire, as it were. What do you think?

BLACKER: We know that he's working on this customs union project, he's also very keen on this -- the idea of the Eurasian union, which would kind of grow out of that. But he's kind of gathering up the former Soviet and former imperial territories.

And I think he sees that as his kind of legacy, possibly, that he's working towards. And Ukraine is an absolutely key part of that. Without Ukraine, the project will never be completed.

KARP: I think this is part of his very powerful rhetoric. Russia is getting up its knees. Part of his propaganda is we are trying to become, again, a world power. What was about this world power, apart from the arms that everybody was afraid of?

SHUBERT: What is the relationship, then, that you see happening between these two neighbors in the future?

BLACKER: I think ideally we would like to see a close relationship between Russia and Ukraine, of course, why not? On an everyday level, Russians and Ukrainians get on very well together. It's the kind of level of the state, when the Russian state gets involved, that's what Ukrainians resent. I think Ukrainians would be very open to having relationship of equals with Russia.

KARP: I think Russians and Ukrainians would not consider fighting between each other ever had it not been by this state propaganda on the Russian side. All this was distorted for the sake of propaganda. So, what has Putin's invasion achieved is that he helped to increase the element of Ukrainian nationalism.


SHUBERT: Now, former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine back in 1954. For more on that historic decision and today's unrest in the region, let's speak to Nina Khrushcheva. She's the granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev. She's also an associate professor of international affairs at the New School in New York.

Thank you very much for joining us, Nina. Why don't we first start with this decision by your grandfather to give Crimea to Ukraine. You've written a book about your grandfather and his special history in Ukraine. Tell us a little bit about why he decided to give Crimea to Ukraine.

NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, GRANDDAUGHTER OF NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV: Well, in no specific order, let's start with economics. Economically, it was -- Crimea was closer to Ukraine than it was to Russia because Ukrainian earth -- Ukrainian land is much richer, the soil is much richer than the Russian. And so, agriculture was part of that decision.

In 1953, Joseph Stalin died, and one of the decisions that Khrushchev and others in the Soviet Politburo were trying to do is to decentralize the system. So instead of having everything in the Kremlin, they thought that it would be appropriate to -- for Crimea to be part of Ukraine as to show that the equal parts of the Soviet Union.

Khrushchev also was very fond of Ukraine, it was his favorite country. He was not Ukrainian, he was Russian by birth, contrary to many reports. But he spent his -- most of his life in Ukraine. He worked there as a coal miner, he was the first secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

And I think he felt a connection to Ukraine and felt that Ukraine, after being really very abused by Stalin and Holodomor, the Great Famine of the 30s, and then after the war, it had to feed the Soviet Union after 1945. So, he felt that Ukraine deserved a bit of break, so it deserved this wonderful vacation land.

SHUBERT: Let me ask you, then. He obviously would have had no idea of the repercussions of that decision so many years later, but as you watch the crisis unfolding now in Crimea, how do you think Putin is -- how do you think your grandfather would have advised Putin in this situation?

KHRUSHCHEVA: I keep thinking about this. I don't know. My grandfather was a Soviet, he believed that the Soviet Union should be the central power, even if he tried to decentralize it a little bit.

So, he may have said to Vladimir Putin, you know what? Ukraine was -- Crimea was ours and I gave it away without knowing the Soviet Union would have a collapse. And now when it did collapse, maybe we should take it back.

On the other hand, he would -- he perhaps would have cheered Ukrainian independence, that it finally came into its own and would have said, well, you know, Ukraine doesn't want to go the direction Russia goes, it doesn't want to side with Russia, it wants to sign an association agreement with Europe.

And good for Ukraine, because I never thought of them as a minor brother. I always thought of them as an equally important country or nation as Russia is. So, he could have gone both ways, and I don't think that we will ever know, because --


SHUBERT: A relationship of --

KHRUSHCHEVA: -- in the Khrushchev --

SHUBERT: -- power possibly? But let me ask you this. For you personally to see this happening, where you have so much at stake as well, how did you feel when you first saw this crisis unfolding the way it did?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, I was actually not surprised, I have to say, because I knew that Crimea was always this contested issue, and especially after 91, it was even more contested because all the former republics became independent countries, and Ukraine wanted to keep Crimea, and Russia wanted to get Crimea back.

So, I was -- I have to say, unfortunately, was not surprised when Vladimir Putin decided to use the problem -- the protests in Kiev and change of government in Kiev to take this opportunity --


SHUBERT: Let me --

KHRUSHCHEVA: -- and reclaim --

SHUBERT: Let me just quickly ask --

KHRUSHCHEVA: -- Crimea back.

SHUBERT: -- you a quick a quick question. Do you think he did the right thing or the wrong thing in this situation?

KHRUSHCHEVA: I think he did an absolutely wrong thing, because he may have won Crimea, we'll see that, but he lost Ukraine for the Russians.

SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much for joining us. Some really interesting thoughts there from you and on your grandfather's decision all those years ago. Thank you very much, Nina Khrushcheva.

Well, coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, we've heard from the experts, but how do ordinary Russians feel about Crimea. We visit this Moscow market to find out.


SHUBERT: Crimea has a long history of conflict and of conflict journalism. The war there in the 19th century was the first time journalists reported directly from the front lines. Photographer Roger Fenton sent these pictures back from the battlefield. They're often grainy and sometimes staged, but the photos contradicted the glorified portraits of war people were used to then.

Now, Crimea once again finds itself at the center of an international crisis with an ongoing battle between different viewpoints and versions of events. Exploring two very different perspectives, we have CNN's Phil Black in Moscow and Michael Holmes in Kiev. Both have been out on the streets talking to local people about Crimea. Here's what people in Moscow told Phil.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Moscow's Danilovsky Market, you'll find quality food, middle-class shoppers, and workers who aren't quite so well off. This microcosm of the Russian capital is a long way from the Crimean peninsula, but almost everyone here says they feel a connection to it.

"Crimea was always Russian, and it should stay Russian," Anatoly says. Not surprisingly, Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis is popular, which explains approval ratings up around 68 percent.

"Absolutely I support it. That's not even up for discussion," Irina says. "Well done, Putin. I'm extremely grateful we have such a leader."

Most of these people admit they're informed by Russian media, much of which is controlled by the state.

Ina knows Western reporting tells a different story. She wants Crimea to stay with Ukraine. It's a minority view. Most believe Crimea is like the delicacies available here at the market: a vital part of Russia's history and culture.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Independence Square in Kiev, where the protest movement began and so many people lost their lives. The story has, of course, moved hundreds of miles away to Crimea. But here in the capital, many young Ukrainians can't quite believe they could lose part of their country to Russia after the referendum this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This definitely would be a disaster because we consider Crimea as a part of Ukraine, and those people who live there, despite the fact that they speak Russian, they are Ukrainian.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crimea built itself with Ukraine, but with Russia, I think that there is no future for Crimea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we want is that Ukraine will be all together again, so Crimea will be again Ukrainian. That's what all we need.

HOLMES (on camera): You think a mistake is about to happen?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that everyone has the right to choose where they want to live, but it should be in a peaceful way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you have free and -- referendum under the barrel of Russian guns? It's a joke.

HOLMES (voice-over): Already some in Crimea are leaving, many heading to Kiev to be with family and friends, not wanting to wake up next week in another country.

Michael Holmes, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.


SHUBERT: Clearly different views from the streets of Moscow and Kiev, but what about Russians and Ukrainians overseas? I caught up with a group of students living in London to hear what they think of the crisis in Crimea.


YULIA RUNIS, UKRAINAIN STUDENT: According to Ukrainian current constitution, this referendum, it's illegal.

SHUBERT: How would you feel if the vote happens and the vote is actually for reuniting with Russia?

RUNIS: Ukrainian government asked people not to come to the referendum. Also, Tatar minority leader, he said that the referendum was illegal, don't go there. And I wouldn't be even surprised if the referendum, which is illegal, and then they say that the majority wanted to be part of Russia.

ANYA ALISOVA, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN STUDENT: I don't think people supporting Putin's decisions are completely aware of the consequences. I think they -- like we talked about the media, they're fooled by the image of Russians living in Ukraine, or Ukrainians supporting pro-Russian track of development being in danger. Because that's what the media is telling us.

SHUBERT: A lot of people have sort of created this image of Putin saying he's a master tactician. That this is sort of a really strategic move that he's made in Crimea --


SHUBERT: But you don't see it that way at all?

GUSAKOV: No, because it's -- if it would be a strategic move, then it means that it would be good for Russian and for Putin.

SHUBERT: But you don't think it is.

GUSAKOV: I don't think it is, because with such a conflict and people always in conflict, now we have our two countries, which are neighbors and which are friends, now people are feeling bad about it, all this --

SHUBERT: Sure, go ahead, Yulia.

RUNIS: There's -- I really want to comment on that, that what is good for Russian people is not necessarily what is good for Putin. That's the problem. I think -- I can see a conflict of interest there, because what is this threat of Putin? It's when Russians see that Ukrainians living standards are growing, they have freedom and rights are improving, they will want change.

SHUBERT: What is the best way out of this crisis that you can see?

GUSAKOV: I don't see any good way out of this crisis, because it's gone too far already. So, in any scenario, I think the consequences will be quite sad for all the sides.


RUNIS: Well, I'm more optimistic. I think so far, our world community and world leaders were doing quite well. They were all united. Even China shared the opinion of United States and European Union.

RUSLAN GUSEYNOV, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN STUDENT: If Russia starts treating Ukraine as an equal partner rather than a sidekick, and if it will allow the freedom, the trust, for Ukraine to reach out to Europe and become an equal partner with them as well.

ALISOVA: I completely agree with Ruslan. I think it's not too late to change anything, and if Putin holds back and stops the intervention, I think if we allow Ukraine to sort of figure things out on their own first, to see if they can have their -- hold their own elections right now and select the new government properly, legitimately.

And later on negotiate over Crimea and see what Crimeans think about it, what Ukrainians think about it, everyone's opinions need to be heard in that situation. But for that to happen, Putin needs to hold back.


SHUBERT: I have talked a lot about the geopolitical fallout from Crimea and the standoff between nations, but it's sometimes easy to forget that behind this great diplomatic dance, it's these people, the residents of Crimea, whose future is hanging in the balance.

Whether or not Sunday's referendum is deemed legal or not, and whether or not its result is accepted by the West, it is surely going to be a defining moment in Crimea's history.

Well, stay with us at CNN for all the latest news and analysis on this unfolding situation. But before we go, we have some more details on that other story that we've been following, of course, the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

This has just come in, that a classified analysis of electronic and satellite data conducted by both US agencies and the Malaysian government now shows possibly that the flight may have taken one of either two possible flight paths, including possibly crashing into the Indian Ocean.

Now, both flight paths are being calculated from the point at which it looks like it turned back from its original flight along the Malaysian peninsula. This is information that is still coming into us. We will have more details on that. "Quest Means Business" is coming up next. He'll have all the latest on that story. Thank you very much for joining us. That's it for CONNECT THE WORLD.