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New Satellite Images Show Hundreds Of Objects Floating In Suspected Flight 370 Crash Site; Will Oscar Pistorius Take Stand?; Russian Amassing Troops Along Ukrainian Border; American Couple Sentenced In Qatar For Death Of Daughter

Aired March 27, 2014 - 16:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: Satellite spots more debris in the southern Indian Ocean, that could provide new clues in the hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner. Tonight, why search teams are having such a hard time tracking it down.

Also this hour, it may look quiet, but just over the border thousands of Russian troops effectively mobilizing. Our Karl Penhaul heads to northeastern Ukraine to investigate.

Plus, when politics meets religion, a former ambassador to the Holy See tells us what really goes on behind Vatican doors.

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

FOSTER: Crews hunting for any sign of a lost Malaysia airlines plane have new leads. Here are today's developments.

These Thai satellite images show pictures of pictures of what appear to be some 300 floating objects in the southern Indian Ocean. Malaysian officials also received Japanese satellite images today. Those pictures appear to show 10 floating objects. Crews are hoping to get another chance to look in the coming hours. Thursday search had to be called off due to bad weather in the area and almost zero visibility.

The very latest on the efforts to recover the wreckage of MH370. Let's cross to Perth, Austrlia now. CNN's Will Ripley joins us live with more on the search and those satellite images.

First of all, Will, talk about yesterday and why the search was suspended.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't an easy decision to suspend the search, but the crews really had no choice. There were eight planes up in the air over the search area. They had been flying for nearly four hours just to get there when all of a sudden weather conditions took a very dangerous turn. Ice began forming on the wings, visibility dropped to zero and the winds were really shaking the planes around. So just for their own safety, they had to turn around and head back to the base.

In the meantime, two planes never got to leave the ground, including the most sophisticated plane in this search operation, a P8 with an American crew. We spoke with those crew members explaining the reasons why they could never take off.


LT. CMDR. ADAM SCHANTZ, U.S. NAVY: We were informed the weather was zero visibility with severe turbulence and severe icing, fairly high- risk flying conditions, and with the visibility the way it is, a very low probability of seeing anything out there at all.


RIPLEY: Their faces visibly disappointed when they got the word that they couldn't take off, because they so desperately want to get out there, they want to get towards this area where they suspect there's a debris field so that they can try to bring back something tangible for these 239 families. But the weather is simply not cooperating even as we keep getting more satellite images that you've mentioned. Japan and Thailand the latest countries to provide data that appears to show possibly, at least our best lead as of yet, what could be jetliner debris in the southern Indian Ocean.

FOSTER: And to those different sets of images corroborate each other? Is it the same area so that will be the area they're searching in?

RIPLEY: Yes. Five countries so far have come forward with images showing debris. In four of those countries, all of the images are in this area about 2,500 kilometers southwest of Perth.

The Japanese images show about 10 objects. They're square. The largest one is rectangular, 26 feet by 13 feet. And then also the 300 objects that showed up in the Thai satellite images, some of them are very large, now we're talking 25 meters possibly.

But again it's not confirmed what exactly this is. And this is why it's so important that we get planes flying overhead to get a good visual. There are also five ships in that area right now searching. They haven't seen anything yet in part because the visibility has been so poor.

Local weather forecasts say we should have a good window of weather this morning for the planes and the ships to get out there and try to get a good look. They're just hoping they'll be able to maximize the daylight and maximize that good weather before it turns bad again.

FOSTER: OK, Will, it's early morning there. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Officials caution that these new debris sighting may be unrelated to the plane. It is possible the objects are simply garbage caught up in Ocean currents or even white caps that look like objects from far above.

But this aviation expert told CNN he feels it's a very strong lead.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: What I see there is a pattern of debris that's very similar and, you know, we've been talking a lot about garbage in the ocean, which is a problem, obviously and a separate issue we could discuss later, but I'm going to assume looking at that image that if it was, in fact, a bunch of garbage from various sources it would look a little dissimilar. And so what I see there is something that seems to be somewhat metallic and shiny. It looks like airplane wreckage to me.

I also see some surfaces that look like they're aerodynamic.


FOSTER: Well, let's take a closer look at where exactly this debris is located and how the weather conditions and currents in the area might be scattering it all about.

It's been awhile now, Jenny Harrison. You're at the weather center. Given the location of this debris, and all the currents in the area, do you -- where do you think it's come from?

JENNY HARRISON, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: It's very hard. Even experts will say, Max, it's very hard to say exactly where it has come from, because obviously we are going back now nearly three weeks. So if we just go back a little bit in time, last week we were looking at this particular area. This week we looked at these two search areas. And remember, of course, we had the debris from the French satellite and now, as we know, from the Thai satellite as well. So that's the latest debris field.

Now that alone is 200 kilometers to the south, as you can see, from the satellite images that came from the French showing us that particular area of debris.

And of course this is what we're looking at. And that is what Miles O'Brien was just referring to as well.

So where does it all come from? Is it all parts of the same thing? Well, it does look as if it could well be coming from the same first or main areas.

So this was Sunday. If you then looked to Wednesday -- and this is of course when the Japanese put out their satellite images. And then a moment to the Monday just Monday just gone -- we've had this image from the Thai government.

But this is 200 kilometers away. But this area -- Sunday to Wednesday, this is probably giving us the best indication that it is part and parcel of the same debris field, or in fact it's the initial -- the original debris field, which has moved, because when you zoom in and look at these currents, you see these green arrows here indicating the direction of the current and actually moving it about 20 centimeters per second. So if you then work that out between Sunday and Wednesday, it would indeed have traveled about 50 kilometers.

So this is the sort of information they're looking at. This how they're working out where any debris could be.

And of course this is the entire area we're looking to be searched initially. And this the (inaudible) that we talk about, this is where the really, really fierce and strong currents are working all the way around this search area, which as we know is fairly close to the -- there's the strong current in the south, the ACC, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. So that's the very, very strong one, which would then pull any debris, of course, in that direction -- Max.

FOSTER: And is this an area known for garbage? Because that's the concern here, that this -- these items are nothing to do with this. We keep hearing that there's so much garbage in the sea there anyway.

HARRISON: Well, again, you know, if you got any debris that's been caught up or just is in the ocean -- and we know there is debris throughout all the oceans in the world. And they do get caught up in these little eddies, these little areas of current. But you can see certainly here, this blue area, any debris that gets caught up in that, or gets fed into that area is probably likely to stay there, because there really aren't any strong currents pulling it further towards the south or to the north where it can get caught up in these stronger currents.

But again in terms of is this that, or is this something likely to come from the plane. Again, the experts have been saying that this looks different, it looks shiny, it is bigger, and so that is why they're thinking this could be it and not just any debris that's just caught up and lying around naturally in the ocean, which is usually, Max, much, much smaller in size and usually sort of plastic, this sort of thing that over time, of course, does break down.

FOSTER: OK. Jenny, thank you very much indeed for that.

Let's turn our attention now to the pilots on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Given the mystery surrounding how and why the plane was lost, there's been no shortage of speculation around the captain Zaharie Shah.

But the founder of Malaysia Airlines, who knew Shah for decades, is standing behind the veteran pilot. Here's CNN's Jim Clancy.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a vacuum of evidence, media reports persistently point to the pilots as those likely responsible for the disappearance of Flight 370. They had the skill. They were the last ones in control. Government officials refuse to comment. But the former head and founder of Malaysia Airlines said he personally knew senior captain, Zaharia Shah, from the time he was a cadet 30 years ago.

(on camera): You knew Captain Shah. Some people point a finger at him.

DR. ABDULAZIZ BIN ABDUL RAHMAN, FORMER CEO, MALAYSIA AIRLINES: He's an excellent pilot. And, I think, also an excellent gentleman (ph). I think they're going the wrong way pointing finger at him.

CLANCY: You also knew the co-pilot. What can you say about him?

RAHMAN: His father learned the Quran by heart. So, he also learn the Quran by heart. He's a good Muslim. And I know the captain was a good Muslim.

CLANCY (voice-over): At times, accusations against Captain Shah have been colored with politics. He was a lifelong supporter of the opposition political party and its leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

JAMES CHIN, PROFESSOR, MONASH UNIVERSITY, MALAYSIA: Some people in the government saw this as an opportunity to link Anwar Ibrahim to the pilot and that's the reason it became a controversy.

CLANCY: It has been reported Captain Shah was in the courtroom hours before the flight when Ibrahim was sentenced to five years on sodomy charges. Charges the opposition insist are designed to eliminate Anwar Ibrahim from politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am quite clear about it. Zaharia wasn't there that Friday afternoon right after the point about the sentencing took place.

CLANCY: As a multinational search effort closes in on the suspected resting site of Flight 370, Dr. Aziz hopes the flight data recorder will be located and with it, the evidence to clear the pilots.

RAHMAN: Let us get the black box. Once we get the black box, then we can have the answers. If we can't find all those, then we will start pointing fingers and so on, dare we say all sorts of things and it's very difficult for us to defend.

CLANCY (on camera): Captain Shah's family has gone into seclusion after voluntarily talking with investigators. But his son, Seth Zaharia, talked with local media telling them, whatever I have read has not changed my heart. I have ignored these speculations. I know who my father is. We understood each other.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Kuala Lumpur.


FOSTER: The search is just beginning again off the Australian coast. And we will bring you any updates on any new information or so -- any new information out of Kuala Lumpur for you.

Still to come tonight, Russian troops gather at the Ukrainian border. Could an invasion be imminent? We'll be live for you in the border city of Senkivka.

Sentenced in Qatar, an American couple are ordered to spend three years behind bars in the Gulf country after the death of their young daughter. We'll tell you what they vehemently deny.

He's South Africa's most famous athlete on trial for murdering his girlfriend. Will he take the stand tomorrow? That and much more when Connect the World continues.


FOSTER: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me Max Foster. Welcome back to you.

Now we're getting a new set of pictures of a demonstration outside Ukraine's Parliament in Kiev. Right-wing nationalists are demanding the resignation of interior minister Arsen Avakov. They accuse him of ordering the killing of ultra nationalist leader Olekzandre Muzychko earlier this week.

His Right Sector party played a big role in the protest that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych.

Now meanwhile, concern is growing about Russian troops massing along Ukraine's eastern border. According to the U.S. intelligence services, Russian forces are currently positioned in and around the cities of Rostov, Kursk and Belgorod.

It is believed they could move towards three Ukrainian cities, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk in order to establish land access into Crimea.

It's estimated that Russia has as many as 40,000 combat troops in the region, including a battalion of highly trained paratroopers, more than 200 tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery have also been seen positioned near the border.

And Russian forces are conducting aerial exercises in the region using attack helicopters and other military aircraft.

CNN"s Karl Penhaul is monitoring the troop buildup from the Ukrainian border town of Senkivka. He joins me now live.

Karl, what have you seen?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, we just got here and obviously as you can see it's dark by now so we're seeing very little. but what we're basing this trip on is reports from Ukraine's national defense and security council and their estimate of the Russian troop buildup just on the other side of the border, which is just a few kilometers over there is that there are now 88,000 Russian troops massing on the other side of the border. They say that they have attack helicopters. They say that they have tanks. And they say importantly that that Russian force is growing by the day.

In fact, according to Ukrainian defense sources, they say that in just the last two days a little ways north of here near the Russian town of Klimovo (ph) that the Russians brought in two trains hauling around 60 carriages. And on those carriages loaded military hardware and also troops.

So this really is creating a worrying picture for the Ukrainian government. They fear that there could be a Russian incursion any time soon into eastern Ukraine, particularly the cities there that you mention.

The U.S. intelligence sources also agree that there is a very large Russian force across there, the numbers between the two governments don't exactly coincide. But what also the Americans and the Ukrainians do agree on is that the Russian forces are growing by the day. There have been significant buildups just in the last few days.

What the Americans, the Pentagon sources that we have been hearing from are very clear also to point out is that this force is well equipped, it is well prepared, and it is so close to the border that there is little likelihood of getting any advanced warning should they decide to roll across.

But that is where the big if comes, because what Pentagon sources are saying is that they do not clearly know what the Russian intent is. They say that in the past, the Russians have called the snap military exercises as a kind of provocation to western governments. But sometimes they have used those snap military exercises to mask a bigger buildup. And this is what they fear could be the forebear to some kind of armed incursion into eastern Ukraine, Max.

FOSTER: OK. Karl, thank you very much indeed. We'll of course be monitoring whether or not there is an incursion, which would be very different from an incursion into Crimea.

An American couple has called on President Obama to step in after being sentenced to prison in Qatar. The pair were convicted after their daughter died apparently from starvation. Leone Lakhani has been following the case for us from Abu Dhabi and has more.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: A judge in Qatar sentenced a California couple to three years in prison in connection with the death of their 8-year-old daughter.

Matthew and Grace Huang moved to the Gulf state in 2012 with their three adopted children. But in January of last year, their daughter Gloria suddenly died. The Huangs had rushed her to hospital unconscious.

Now Qatari prosecutors argue that the coupe intentionally starved Gloria to death, alleging the child was locked in her room and deprived of food.

The couple has denied the charges, saying Gloria suffered from an eating disorder that stemmed from her early childhood in Ghana before they adopted her.

The defense has consistently argued that there isn't sufficient evidence to support the prosecution's claims.

Now distraught after the verdict, Matthew Huang made an impassioned speech outside the courthouse in which he said, quote, "we have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by Qatar's judicial system. The verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more than an effort to save face."

Now the judge did not specify the exact charge for which the Huangs were convicted. They were also fined just over $4,000 each. And the judge's order also calls for deportation.

The Huangs are out on bail now. They say they will appeal the verdict.

Leone Lakhani, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


FOSTER: Turkey has banned access to YouTube after the release of an audio file on the site reported to be of a top secret security meeting. This comes a day after Turkish court issued an injunction ordering the government to halt its ban on Twitter.

Last week, Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to eradicate Twitter, which he blamed for fueling anti-government rhetoric.

The world's longest serving death row inmate has been freed today after a court in Japan found that the investigators in the charge of -- in charge of the case had probably fabricated the evidence.

Iwoa Hakamada, now 78-years-old, has been freed and granted a retrial for a quadruple murder dating back to 1966. He was convicted of murdering his boss and the boss's family in a grizzly killing in a fire.

Passengers are experiencing long delays at German airports today. Lufthansa has canceled 600 flights due to a public sector strike. Frankfurt and Munich airports are likely to be the most affected. Trade Union Verde urged ground staff, baggage handlers and maintenance staff to walk off the job ahead of talks as part of a wider action involving a range of other public sector workers.

Live from London, this is Connect the World. Coming up, the prosecution has rested its case. Now will Oscar Pistorius take the stand tomorrow? We'll have the latest for you from Pretoria.

And Obama meets the pope, but how significant was this meeting? We'll talk to the former ambassador of the United States to the Vatican.


FOSTER: You're watching Connect the World live from London. Welcome back. I'm Max Foster.

The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius is about to enter a new phase. The athlete's defense team will bring its first witness to the stand on Friday. Many expect this to be Pistorius himself. He's likely to be ask to recount the vents of the night he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He's pleading not guilty to murder. The prosecution finished making its case against him on Tuesday.

Robyn Curnow has been following the trial for us.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At times stoic, at times physically ill. Oscar Pistorius in court for more than three weeks as the state made its case for premeditated murder. The prosecutor waiting until this week to reveal what legal analysts say is his strongest evidence.

CAPT. FRANCOIS MOLLER, CELL PHONE EXPERT: I'm scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me.

CURNOW: A police expert reading texts between the Olympian and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, including this one sent just days before he shot and killed her.

MOLLER: I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you. The one person I deserve protection from.

CURNOW: Pistorius claims the shooting was a tragic mistake. That he thought Steenkamp was a burglar. In cross-examination, his defense tried to put those messages from Steenkamp into context. The experts admitting that 90 percent were loving. But was it enough?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: His state's case has been heavily circumstantial so far. Those texts are the first piece of compelling evidence we have to establish some sort of motive from which his intention can be inferred.

CURNOW: The defense plans to put Pistorius on the stands to tell his story. One challenge by expert witness after expert witness. Most damning for him, the ballistics expert. Placing Reeva Steenkamp in a defensive position when the Olympian shot and killed her. Some of the most chilling testimony, neighbors who heard Reeva Steenkamp's screams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intensity and the fear in her voice escalated, and it was clear this person's life was in danger.

CURNOW: Only one person knows what happened that Valentine's morning. and when Oscar Pistorius takes to the stand, it'll be not just about sticking to his story, say legal experts, but about his emotional state as well, particularly under cross examination.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


FOSTER: CNN will of course have live coverage of that trial tomorrow morning for you. Ahead of that, we're looking at the ways that Pistorius's defense team may strike back. And how it's likely to rely on three types of experts to support his story. Go to, follow the links and get all the details there.

The latest world news headlines are just ahead. Plus the death toll is expected to rise as the search for survivors continues in Washington. We'll speak to CNN's George Howell for more on that.

There's a long history of political leaders meeting spiritual leaders and how did Pope Francis and President Obama get on? We'll tell you.

But first we'll discuss the very much ongoing crisis in Ukraine with reports that as many as 40,000 Russian troops have piled up at the border. Do stay with us.


FOSTER: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour.

New satellite images show what appear to be some 300 objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean, the latest lead in the international hunt for any sign of a missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Search teams have yet to recover any wreckage.

UN general assembly delivered a diplomatic slap to Russia today over its annexation of Crimea. It approved a resolution that declares the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine invalid. The resolution isn't binding and can't be legally enforced.

President Barack Obama met Pope Francis for the very first time today. The pair exchanged gifts and spoke privately for nearly an hour. They talked about the need to tackle income inequality around the world and discuss conflicts, including Syria.

And while 24 are confirmed dead after Saturday's landslide in Washington's Cascade Mountains, many are still missing and searchers are losing hope quickly. Ivan Cabrera has more. We'll have more from Ivan when we can get ahold of him.

Ukraine is getting support on several fronts today as concerns grow about...