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Is Putin in Control?; Battle for Libya; Imagine a World
Aired July 23, 2014 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, dignity at last: the first victims of downed Flight MH17 are memorialized in the
Netherlands. But away from a somber ceremony, pro-Russian separatists shoot down two more fighter jets on the border. I'll ask the U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine what is Putin's game?
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Tonight even as the victims of MH17 are
shown some proper respect in Holland, we ask, is Vladimir Putin losing control? Or is he going for broke? How is it that after one day, one day
after President Putin publicly promised the world that he would use his influence to stop the Ukrainian separatists' violence, they shoot down two
more Ukrainian military jets?
Ukraine's military officials claim they were hit by missiles fired from Russian soil and, alarmingly, NATO now reports that since MH17 was
brought down, Russian forces have been massing towards the border and their heavy equipment has been surging across into separatist strongholds.
Here, the U.S. State Department released images of what it says is a training site for separatists in Russia. This while at long last the first
bodies of crash victims from all over the world return to the Netherlands. The voice data recorders are now in the hands of British experts and
international monitors are launching their investigation into a badly compromised crash site.
So as economic and diplomatic pressure on Putin intensifies, he is sending dangerously mixed messages, raising fears across the world that the
298 victims of MH17 may not be the last.
Geoffrey Pyatt is the American ambassador to Ukraine and he says he's 100 percent certain that Russia is arming the separatists.
Ambassador, welcome to the program. And we speak as you and the whole world has been watching these coffins and these hearses bring back not even
a quarter of the total number of victims. But at least they have started to come to some dignity.
In the meantime, Ambassador, can you tell us what you think? What does the U.S. government believe President Putin is doing in the aftermath
of these two more Ukrainian fighter jets that have been shot out of the sky?
GEOFFREY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Christiane, the short answer is we just don't know. It's simply incredible but it's an
established fact that even after the tragic shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines flight, you still have heavy weapons, tanks, rocket systems moving
across the board from Russia, inflaming the conflict, escalating the military confrontation at a time when President Poroshenko has made very
clear his desire to find a political solution and when President Obama has emphasized that we're looking for a diplomatic off-ramp.
AMANPOUR: Is there any sense -- is anybody actually talking to President Putin, particularly since NATO, as I said, has reported that far
from deescalating, in fact, Russian forces and heavy equipment escalating into that zone?
PYATT: Well, world leaders have been talking to President Putin, including all of the leaders of the countries that has passengers on the
aircraft who are victims of this incredible tragedy last week. But at this point I think we have to focus not on what President Putin says, but what
Russia is doing. We know what Russia is doing. Russia has been engaged in a five-month campaign of aggression against Ukraine that began with the
invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russian military in February and reached a tragic culmination last week when 300 people died.
We're going to have to keep working on this. And we certainly, the United States, have made clear that if this direction does not change,
we're prepared to further raise the costs that Russia and the Kremlin pays for its aggression.
AMANPOUR: Well, that does bring us to the heart of the matter.
Are you, as the United States, are the European leaders prepared to suffer pain, take your own painful hit in order to inflict the kind of pain
you say needs to be inflicted in order to concentrate President Putin's mind on changing his position?
Because obviously there are a lot of questions about just how far sanctions will go.
PYATT: Well, it's a critical part of our toolkit; we've used it strongly in recent weeks as much as possible in concert with our European
partners. Europe is going through a serious debate now in Brussels. I saw reports today of further deliberations, strong words from Berlin from the
foreign minister and from his spokesperson. Chancellor Merkel has played a leadership role on these issues.
But the fact is, we have worked through every diplomatic channel available to us. We have exercised economic leverage. But so far and
sadly although there have been occasional positive statements from Moscow, the actions are going in the wrong direction at this point. The actions,
incredibly, are heading towards escalation of the crisis.
AMANPOUR: I'd like to play you a sound bite. I interviewed Ambassador Chizhov from -- who's the Kremlin's ambassador to the E.U.
yesterday, and I put it to him that now might be the moment of truth to redeem ,so to speak, Russia's position in the world.
And I was surprised by this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: I think we're pretty much OK on the international scene. And our efforts aimed at
promoting a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, if that's what you mean, had they been supported by the United States and other Western
countries, we would have succeeded much earlier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ambassador, first let me take -- let me ask you to take the part of where he said we feel fine on the international stage. Now that
might sound counterintuitive, given the piling of anger on Russia.
But is he not right? I mean, as we're speaking, Ambassador, the French are still planning to go ahead with military sales, helicopter
carriers, to the Russians.
Is he not right that actually Russia has nothing to fear?
PYATT: I have a different sense of it, Christiane. Russia is more isolated today than at any moment since the end of the Cold War. Russia
was excluded from the G8 summit, which was moved from Sochi, became the G7 summit. Russian markets have paid a heavy price. I've seen IMF estimates
that the Russian capital flight may rise up to $100 billion, $100 billion this year.
Russian economic growth is almost zero this year, down from initial IMF estimate of over 2 percent. So Russia is paying a heavy price, despite
the brave rhetorical face that's been put on here. And I think the important point is that Russia has an opportunity to reengage with the
But through its actions, through the Kremlin's actions, through this aggressive campaign of destabilization against Ukraine, against the
Ukrainian people, Russia is isolating itself and, frankly, standing here in Kiev, the most impressive thing is how many friends Russia has lost among
the Ukrainian people .
This is a country that should have a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with Russia. And today there's deep, deep anger; there's deep
sympathy towards the people of the Netherlands. A few hundred yards from here is the Dutch embassy and the same sea of flowers that I saw in the CNN
coverage from the Netherlands is in front of that embassy. You can barely drive in front of it today, because the Ukrainian people feel solidarity
with the people of Holland.
AMANPOUR: And as we continue our conversation, we want to put up some of the live pictures that are still coming out of Holland, where people are
filing out of a memorial service and they continue to lay flowers and really it is extraordinary. There's a picture of a floral formation of an
aircraft and everybody is going up, putting more white and red roses there.
This as the bodies that have come back and the remains that have come back are now in that military base in Hilversum, where they will be tested
or their DNA will be tested and they will be hopefully identified and repatriated and reunified with their family.
As that is happening, as we show those pictures, may I ask you, Ambassador, to pick up on the second part of Ambassador Chizhov's statement
to me, whereby he said, you know, we want a political solution and you know, had that been supported, and he said by the United States and other
Western countries, we would have succeeded much earlier.
What's wrong with that statement?
PYATT: Well, to begin with, it's the actions that Russia is taking which are contrary to that statement. And I would emphasize, Christiane,
the so-called Donetsk Republic, the people who've been involved in these negotiations, most of the leaders of the Donetsk Republic today are Russian
citizens. They're Russian passport holders.
Several of them are Russian intelligence operatives. Russia's pumping weapons into this picture. What's been impressive to me in the parts of
Donetsk that have been removed from the control of this organization, people are happy to be part of Ukraine. This is a country where there is a
strong sense of national unity.
I think the Russians have misunderstood that. They've misunderstood that fundamentally since the beginning of this crisis. Russia says it
wants a diplomatic solution. A diplomatic solution needs to start at the Ukrainian border. It needs to start with the end of subversion of weapons,
of fighters, of mercenaries coming across the border from Russia and causing chaos in Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: Well, what does -- ?
PYATT: Then there can be a diplomatic negotiation about the -- sorry, go ahead.
AMANPOUR: No, no, carry on there. You say there can be a diplomatic negotiation. And obviously everybody has tried to bring that to bear,
including President Poroshenko, who I interviewed just a couple of days ago, and a few weeks ago when he was in the midst of a cease-fire and
hoping for a political settlement with President Putin.
And then, of course, the cease-fire expired and the Ukrainians pressed their military advantage to try to take back some territory.
So the Russians are saying, hanging on. So they're the aggressors now.
Well, what are you talking to President Poroshenko about and is his peace plan still on the table?
And do you think it has any life left in it?
PYATT: Well, Christiane, I hear the same thing from President Poroshenko and his administration as you heard, that he is committed to a
political solution, that he's committed to reaching out to Eastern Ukraine, that he's committed to providing additional constitutional authorities for
these regions, providing guarantees regarding the use of the Russian language.
He does not want to have his presidency consumed by this violence in Eastern Ukraine. He wants to be the president who took Ukraine to Europe,
who locked in Ukraine's association agreement and moved Ukraine towards membership in the European Union.
Russia is trying to veto that choice, which has now been made by the Ukrainian people. And that's a fundamental principle for American policy.
The Ukrainian people should get to choose their political future.
PYATT: -- so at the polling places on the 25th of May.
AMANPOUR: In terms of trying to get inside President Putin's head, you know, we have been watching and monitoring Russian state television,
Russian media, a lot of the social media and we can see -- and it's been reportedly endlessly -- that there is a total parallel reality being
reflected and peddled over there.
So my question is, does President Putin have an understanding and awareness of the level of seriousness of this?
Or do you believe that he believes what's been peddled inside Russia right now?
PYATT: I just don't know, Christiane. One of the most striking characteristics of this crisis to me has been how the Kremlin has
weaponized information, how the Kremlin has used this information warfare to sow fear. It's not a convenient -- coincidence that the first thing
that some of these Russian troops and Russian forces have done, Russian supportive forces have done in cities like Sloviansk, when they moved in,
is to take over the television, to turn off the Ukrainian TV. Massive kidnappings and intimidations of journalists -- I'm very alarmed about the
fact that a fixer for CNN was abducted from his hotel last night by these separatists in Donetsk. It's obviously alarming that you continue to have
Ukrainian journalists held hostage because the Kremlin is trying to use information and fear as part of its strategy to sow chaos in Ukraine.
That's a strategy that leads to a dead end for Russia; it leads to further isolation and it misses the opportunity that President Poroshenko
is holding out to establish a new basis for relations between these two large countries.
AMANPOUR: And finally, finally, ambassador, I want to ask you to respond to your own counterpart, the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow,
Michael McFaul, whose tweets today you have no doubt been reading.
Number one, "The West has to stop trying to change Putin's mind and focus more on helping Ukraine succeed, including on the battlefield."
Then he goes on to say, "If Putin can arm rebels, why can't we arm Ukraine?"
PYATT: Well, first of all, I think it's great that Mike continues to focus on this set of issues. Our view at this point is that there is no
real military solution to this crisis. It has to be solved through political means.
Ukraine cannot change its geography. It needs to find a modus vivendi with Russia. We're going to continue to provide military support to
Ukraine with a view to helping this country to defend itself. But it can't defeat Russia.
And frankly, it won't be able to achieve a political solution that President Poroshenko seeks as long as the Russian military is maintaining
training camps in Rostov and sending tanks and rocket launchers across the board every night.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Pyatt, thank you so much for joining us on this -- on this really incredible day. Appreciate you being with us from Kiev.
AMANPOUR: And as we have seen so many of these live pictures now throughout this day of the coffins coming back to the Netherlands of the
cortege of so many hearses, of people putting flowers and paying respects and lining the route to give the victims the dignity and the respect that
they were denied at the crash site, local coal miners remember combed the fields there for the bodies of the victims. Whether they knew it or not,
they were a link to the French man for whom the Ukrainian town of Torrez was named.
Maurice Torrez worked the coal mines of France at the age of 12 but rose to become the leader of the French Communist Party and a member of the
Chamber of Deputies in the 1930s and '40s until he fled to the USSR during the Nazi occupation of France. He would return to Paris after the war and
remained a fixture in French politics until his death in 1964, where unlike the lonely journey of that train in Ukraine, half a million people lined
the route of his funeral cortege.
After a break, another part of the world, where militia have run amok, the dysfunctional and dangerous state of Libya today. That's when we come
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Libya is being gripped by the worst violence since the fall of Col. Gadhafi in 2011. Rival militia
groups there are taking over large swaths of the country, fighting for power, for territory and oil wealth. Successive weak governments have been
unable to disarm them. In Tripoli two different militia groups are firing rockets and mortars at each other as they try to take control of the city's
Civilians are also being caught up in the fighting with hospitals now warning they are running out of drugs. Last week, the country's foreign
minister went to the United Nations to plea for international help.
Chris Stephen is a journalist for "The Guardian" newspaper and he joined me from the capital, Tripoli, a short while ago.
AMANPOUR: Chris Stephen, welcome from Tripoli. Thanks for joining me.
CHRIS STEPHEN, "THE GUARDIAN": A pleasure. Pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Can you tell me the state of play right now? How bad is this flare-up of violence?
STEPHEN: Well, the violence, it's actually the worst we've seen. We have two militias, one from Misrata and one from Zintan, who are battling
for different areas of Western Tripoli. And we have a bombardment that's been going on since early morning and so fires ranging in several parts of
AMANPOUR: How is it worse than what we've seen before? And what is it about these two militias that have propelled it to this level?
STEPHEN: Well, I think it's worse because it's getting bigger. It's -- the last 12 days in Misrata have been trying to capture the airport,
which is held by the Zintanis and bombarding it. And that's now sort of blown out shambles. But now the fighting's spread really right across the
And I think as each group tries to solidify its own position, and it's causing havoc for residents and hospitals and whatnot.
AMANPOUR: Tell me about residents and how it is affecting civilians. We read about them hunkering down, cowering in their homes.
STEPHEN: Yes. There's a couple of teenage girls who are tweeting that they can't leave their house because of all this shelling going on
around it and they want to get out, but they can't. And they won't tell their -- they don't want to tell their parents, because they're frightened
that the parents might come and risk their lives trying to save their daughters.
So like so many people, they're just sort of hunkered down. And people you speak to across the city, across the western districts, they're
terrified. They don't know whether to risk getting out on the street or staying in and hoping it passes.
AMANPOUR: Chris, we, not so long ago, spoke on this program to a retired Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar, who was all full of his new
attempts to beat back the militants, beat back the Islamists.
What has become of that?
STEPHEN: Well, that battle's still going on. That's 400 miles away in Benghazi. He spent the last two months, as you say, with support of a
lot of the army and Air Force, bombing the Islamist militants. And they've been fighting back. And that -- but that war hasn't really -- most people
are sort of staying out of the way. So you have the army -- this is the army and it's strong on one side and the Islamists on the other, fighting
it out. And indeed, there were a couple of suicide bombs yesterday.
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask you about the suicide bombs. It's rare to hear about that in Libya.
Is there a new element introduced into this fight?
STEPHEN: The suicide bombs are a new element. As you say, it's not something that Libyans are used to. And this is particularly nasty,
because a truck loaded with explosives blew up outside an army base. And then in the confusion, a second car drove through. And then that
decimated. And that has sent a shock because suicide bombs are not part of the thing people are used to here among all the other violence.
So again, it may be a sort of escalate.
AMANPOUR: Chris, it was obviously the international community, the bombardment from the air that led to the departure of the Gadhafi regime.
And now people are saying that they actually think they need international help of some sort to stabilize the situation.
Is that likely? I know the foreign minister was at the U.N. and there's a lot of hoping and pleading for some kind of intervention.
STEPHEN: Yes, the foreign minister has begged the U.N. to send in military advisers, at least to try to secure sort of humanitarian areas and
ports and so on.
But the international community's not biting. And the feed that you get from diplomats is that there are so many sides. It's like a sort of
mosaic. Three years ago, with the rebels against Gadhafi, so it was for NATO, it was easy to know who to bomb. And now the common complaint is,
well, who do we bomb? We have so many militias all fighting each other.
And I think that's the thing that's perplexing the international community.
AMANPOUR: And meantime, obviously Libya is a very important oil producer, oil exporter. But that, too, has all ground to a halt as part of
this big fight. There were those separatist rebels in the oil producing area and near the terminals.
What has become of that crisis, that stalemate? And what is the state of the oil economy right now?
STEPHEN: Yes, indeed. The rebels have said about a month ago they were going to lift the blockade. But it remains in force. And it remains
basically conditional on them getting out a deal that they're happy with. And as they control the oil exports, which are almost any sort of revenue,
that deal may be very high.
Now what they're waiting for is the new parliament, which convenes next month. And they'll hope that then they can solidify a very good deal.
But again, you know, it means that Libya has no -- has no oil exports and it's running out of money.
AMANPOUR: And when you talk to, I don't know, the most neutral observer you can find, what would be the if not perfect solution to all of
this some kind of decent way out of this stability?
What do people want to happen?
STEPHEN: I think what people want to happen is for the militias to exit and for government forces to take over. But how that happens is
something that even Libyans will tell you we don't know. There may be in what the militias fear is a new parliament will come in and will just cut
their salaries, because at the moment they're all paid by the government.
So it may be that this new parliament next month will pursue that. Now whether the militias agree and go away or whether there's more trouble,
that's the big question.
AMANPOUR: Chris Stephen, thank you very much for that update. It really does sound shambolic and we will continue to pay close attention.
Thank you for joining me today.
STEPHEN: Thanks. Pleasure.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we'll have more coverage on the very poignant event in the Netherlands, where the Dutch people are paying their
respects to people from all over the world who lost their lives on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, it was a very somber and poignant day in the Netherlands, after the desecration that people all over the world
watched in horror at the crash site ever since MH17 came down a week ago. And we want to show you what respect and dignity look like in Holland
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) music, a military honor guard and people lining the street for what are fallen heroes. They are victims of a
war that has nothing to do with them and (INAUDIBLE) over a territory with people firing at each other. This cavalcade of hearses represents less
than a quarter of the victims that have been brought back to the Netherlands. And over the next several days and weeks, more of the 298 who
died, people from all over the world will come to this military base to be tested, their DNA to be identified and eventually to be repatriated,
reunited and finally laid to rest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.