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Vladimir Putin Visits Cairo; Pro-Russia Separatists Fight To Expand Territory; Violence At Stadium In Cairo Leave 19 Dead; Transformations: South Asia's First Carbon Neutral Hotel; Looking for Solution in Ukraine; Shelling Devastates Town in Eastern Ukraine

Aired February 9, 2015 - 11:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: History repeats itself in Egypt as a football match serves as the backdrop for deadly clashes in Cairo.

This hour, we'll consider the role of security services in Sunday night's violence and the crackdown culture under President Abdel Fatah el-


Well, Egypt's strongman leader welcome Vladimir Putin to the capital this Monday. And no expense has been spared to make the Russian leader

feel welcome.

We'll also examine the relationship between Cairo and the Kremlin this hour.

Meanwhile, pro-Russia separatists fight to expand their territory in Ukraine. The unrest gaining momentum, but so is a diplomatic push to end


You're joining us in Amman, Jordan on a windy evening here for what is a special edition of Connect the World with me Becky Anderson.

First, to Egypt where grieving families are demanding answers after another deadly riot at a soccer match.

Violence at a stadium in Cairo on Sunday left at least 19 fans dead. There are conflicting reports over what started the clashes, the interior

ministry stays ticketless fans rioted. People at the game said they were tear gassed by police.

The country's Premiere League games have now been postponed indefinitely, a move that will further anger the game's fanatically loyal


Well, that violence happening as Egypt hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let's bring in CNN's Ian Lee in Cairo. And let's start with last night's deadly violence. What are the details as we know them, Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, like you said, Becky, we're unsure really what the trigger was that sparked the violence.

Thousands of fans gathering before the match trying to enter the stadium through a metal corridor, looked similar to a cage.

We then saw tear gas being fired by police. There was an ensuing stampede by people fleeing for their lives, fleeing the tear gas. We're

told by witnesses that the tear gas was just so thick that people didn't know which way to run. And that's what caused these 19 deaths.

The morning after, shoes scattered all over the ground where people were panicking and really underscores just the scene, the chaos that took


Family members and friends blaming the police for instigating the violence. The police are saying that these were unruly fans trying to get

into the stadium without purchasing tickets. But a lot of people are wondering still how did the -- why did the police crackdown so hard that

led to this violence and these deaths, Becky.

ANDERSON: I want just for you to pause for a moment while we get our viewers a closer look at what are certainly a cohort of Egypt's radical

football fans, Ian. They're known as Ultras. And two clubs in particular, Al Ahly and Zamalek, have very active ultras.

You and I have been discussing this, are highly organized and had a huge role in the Tahrir Square protests that helped force President Hosni

Mubarak to step down. And just to remind our viewers in 2012 authorities blamed ultras for a massive riot in Port Said that killed at least 72

people and injured hundreds of others.

Ian, what has the league said? And has there been any response from the president about this?

LEE: Well, the president said that there's going to be an investigation and that they're going to find who was responsible for this.

He also said he's going to make sure that there's security safety, security measures, so to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Well the league has ended the season.

This is the third time that the league has ended its season falling such sort of violence, instability, since the 2011 revolution. So, they're

wondering how they can make it and secure it so people won't fear for their lives. This match was the most recent time that fans have been able to

start going back to these stadiums to start attending these matches again, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ian, before you go, I just want to allude to a big visit in town, Vladimir Putin, at the same time that western powers continue to

debate how best to deal with Russia over Ukraine.

He is in town. How would you describe relations between the two countries and what are the consequences of any deeper ties to Sisi's

relations with other international partners or countries, the U.S. of course, being the most obvious question.

LEE: Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting a heroes welcome literally. In the state-run newspaper there's pictures of him

holding a gun, looking very strong. And the headline says "Putin, a hero of our times."

The president has just -- well, supposed to have arrived just about a half hour ago. He'll be meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-

Sisi. They're going to go to an opera concert.

This is a showing of warmer relations between the two countries. President el-Sisi definitely doesn't want to be as reliant on the United

States as Egypt has been in the past. We've seen some trade deals, talks of trade deals between the two countries.

But we talked to one analyst who said that Egypt will try to get anything they can that the United States isn't willing to offer as terms of

weapons, but he said that the relationship between Egypt and the United States is still very much strong.

ANDERSON: Fascinating. Ian Lee in Cairo for you.

Well, Russia a key player in the Middle East and has fairly good relations with Iran and Syria in particular. So we'll be coming back to

explore this more over the next hour.

We're going to look at how strongman Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fath el- Sisi compare in their approaches to the conflicts roiling the region. And we'll ask how Egypt's ties with Russia will impact relations, if at all,

with key Cairo (inaudible) to the Syrian government.

What's the message, then, from Putin's trip? And who is it aimed at? I'll be speaking to H.A. Hellyer about that and more in about 10 minutes


You're watching (inaudible) here in the Capital Amman. (inaudible)


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, alert, watching. Their enemy is close. A commander points out a factor complex

only a short distance away. He says ISIS is there. We hear small rounds fly overhead and Kurdish fighters respond. The exchange is no threat to this

fortified position. What the fighters do fear is the darkness of night, fog, mortar rounds and armored vehicles converted into massive suicide

bombs. They say ISIS makes use of them all.

We traveled north with Peshmerga, past the ruins of abandoned villages ISIS once controlled, and climb to the top of Mount Zartec (ph). ISIS also

held this position and its commanding view across a wind plain. The fighters point out the towns and villages, factories and roads all still

occupied by ISIS. And in the hazy distance, its greatest prize so far, the city of Mosul.

Overhead, that circling aircraft is a constant presence. We hear regular thundering explosions from the direction of Mosul.

(on camera): That's an air strike in the distance. They seem to be hitting every few minutes. Is that normal?

(voice-over): He says aircraft have been hitting the area around Mosul very hard for several days. Trenches and defenses stretch across the

countryside. Kurdish officials call it phase one of the campaign, containing ISIS, stopping its fighters advancing again. Phase two will be

very difficult, retaking Mosul.

(on camera): These Peshmerga fighters say they are willing to join any effort to free Mosul from ISIS. But the timeframe for that sort of

operation really isn't up to them. It comes down to the Iraqi government in Baghdad and its efforts to rebuild, retrain the Iraqi army, the same

military force that ran away and abandoned Mosul when ISIS first came charging through this region.

(voice-over): The Peshmerga don't want to take Mosul alone because it's an Arab city and because the Iraqi army has better weapons. As proof,

they show us this historic artillery piece. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: England. England.

It's from England?


BLACK: How old?


BLACK: It was made in 1941.


BLACK: That's very old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe made in 1941 in England.

BLACK (voice-over): Not surprisingly, ammunition for this relic is hard to source. They have just 20 precious rounds left. From this vantage

point, it's easy to see the progress these fighters have made in the battle against ISIS, but also the great challenges still looming on the horizon.

Phil Black, CNN, on Mt. Zartec in northern Iraq.



ROBYN CURNOW, HOST: Hello. You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Robyn Curnow. I'm standing in for my colleague Becky

Anderson. Welcome back.

Now, as the U.S. debates arming Ukraine, there's been a large blast in the east. A website for the city of Donetsk says a chemical goods plant

was hit. But a European diplomat said the facility was probably a weapons depot.

Well, officials in Donetsk say the Ukrainian military is to blame. The defense ministry in Kiev, however, would not say if the military

carried out an attack.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is at the White House likely trying to dissuade President Obama from giving any type of weapons

to Kiev to help fight the separatists.

She hoping a diplomatic solution can be reached at another meeting planned for Wednesday in Minsk with the leaders of France, Russia and


Well, Nick Paton Walsh joins us now from Donetsk.

Hi there, Nick. I mean, how likely is peace looking, particularly with what you're seeing and experiencing there on the ground?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and the real concern is in the sort of 40 hours ahead of these Minsk talks potentially

we could see greater activity here as both sides try and improve their positions ahead of any ceasefire that may be implemented out of Minsk or

boarder political deal.

But you can hear that thumping behind me. That is the continual shelling around Donetsk.

And you saw ourselves earlier on today how one town to the northeast of where I'm standing en route the separatists would have it towards

Debaltseve, a key town they want to occupy was literally leveled, massive destruction, a three-story building torn in two, a nine story bloc of flats

that used to be full of families punctured by holes from shelling, few people there, some escaping for the first time, others going back to

collect what little remains of their lives, the streets littered with destroyed armored personnel carriers and tanks, remarkable devastation,

frankly, and a sign of how violent this war has got and the level of heavy weaponry used.

But there is this diplomatic process, a meeting in Washington where I'm sure Berlin and Washington will very publicly air their difference over

whether or not the Ukrainian army should be armed by the U.S. I'm sure that's adding to diplomatic pressure ahead of the Minsk meeting to perhaps

suggest to Moscow that if they don't go for a deal things could get more complicated for them both in terms of sanctions and in the kind of

equipment the Ukrainians have at their disposal.

But the broad issue is what kind of settlement can calm both sides? Kiev wants no change to its borders, it seems. But the separatists today,

to quote one of their leaders, will take no step back.

So, very polarized. Different sides here. That constant thudding behind me showing that there is no let up in the violence here at all

regardless of this potential for some sort of negotiated settlement. And a lot riding, frankly, for European security as to whether or not Minsk is

successful, Robyn.


And I mean, as we're looking at those pictures, as you're hearing -- what you're hearing there in the background, this discussion on whether to

give the Ukrainian military so-called defensive weapons. Even if there is agreement to do that, I mean, how soon would they be on the ground? And

then there are big questions about training. Just talk us through that question.

WALSH: Well, I think many have viewed the public way in which Washington has advertised these deliberations about arming the Ukrainian

military as more about the threat being rhetorical than practical.

Bear in mind what you have to do to get those kind of complex weapons systems in place on the ground here in Ukraine, would American soldiers

come in and run them, or teach the Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield? That's too much like Ukrainian troops -- sorry, U.S. troops actually being

on the ground here. That's probably unlikely.

Then you might have to train Ukrainian troops either here or elsewhere, perhaps in Europe, complicated lengthy task, too. And then

after that deliver the weapons systems to this area.

So potentially months until those are in play. Then you run the risk of upping the ante with Moscow perhaps finding its way to counter that.

You feed the Kremlin's narrative about how the Ukrainian army is, in the words of Vladimir Putin, quote, NATO's foreign legion, that they're not

really defending Ukrainian interests, but instead those of NATO and Washington.

And effectively then you're left asking months down the line whether arming the Ukrainian military ebbed the conflict here. They frankly need

to find something quicker and more effective to stem the violence here -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, so many questions. Thanks so much. Nick Paton Walsh, as always, in Donetsk.

Now we're going to take a closer look at a country that is rarely far from the headlines. Egypt is the Arab world's most populous state. And

what happens in Cairo carries a lot of weight and often causes a global reaction.

Whether it's domestic unrest like the football riots we heard about earlier, or the spread and increased confidence of ISIS inspired groups

within Egypt, or the ongoing crackdown against journalists and anti- government activists. And sometimes what happens in Cairo is a very clear message to regional powers and the west.

Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in the Egyptian capital this Monday. He'll be greeted by a city covered in his posters. Cairo

truly is rolling out the red carpet for the Russian leader.

It's Putin's first visit to Egypt in a decade. And there's more to this trip than just trade talks.

Well, to talk us through his take on the visit, I'm joined by H.A. Hellyer, a non-resident fellow with Brookings project on U.S. relations

with the Islamic World. Thanks for joining us.

Now, how does this alignment with Moscow affect coalition cohesion with regional relations?

H.A. HELLYER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I wouldn't really play that part up, to be honest. I think that the Egyptian government at present is very

clear about its desire to remain part of the western axis. These sorts of moves with Russia are certainly meant, in my opinion, to send a certain

political message to the west that, see, we have options. We don't necessarily need to get arms only from Washington. But the main thrust of

the relationship remains, and that's that Cairo will remain part of the western axis in terms of Europe and North America.

Building further relations with Russia has been very clearly not intended to disrupt that relationship, and as very clear privately as well

as publicly,.

CURNOW: Absolutely nothing for Putin, also. This is a clear message that he still has -- you know, he can pack some -- he can pack some power

when it comes to being a leader, or at least being a participant within regional affairs.

HELLYER: Certainly. But keeping in mind that the Egyptian military is indeed a western military -- I mean, the arms, the training, this -- to

change all of that and pivot into the Russian axis would require not simply funds, but would require a huge amount of time and investment, which I

don't think Mr. Putin really thinks they're actually going to do.

CURNOW: Just give us a sense of el-Sisi and Putin. I mean, how similar are they? And both, you know, in their leadership styles and in

terms of their personalities?

HELLYER: Well, that's an interesting question. Because we obviously know more about Putin's leadership style and his personality, because he's

been in office for a lot longer. Mr. el-Sisi is obviously somebody who has come onto the scene quite vividly over the last year-and-a-half, two years.

But barring very few interviews and engagements, public engagements, we know very little.

So making the comparisons between them is really difficult. They obviously both come from deep within the state in both of their countries.

They both command in a certain fashion, but I'm not sure that we know enough yet in order to make those comparisons.

CURNOW: Russia and Egypt have had a long history of good ties. I mean, the heyday of their warm relations was in the 1950s, the 1960s,

that's when thousands of Soviet engineers and other experts were sent to Egypt were help modernize projects like the Aswan Dam (ph).

I mean, Cairo's swift and -- shift towards the U.S. in the 70s kid of chilled those ties. Give us some sense of that.

HELLYER: Well, I don't think it just chilled them, I think that they really pivoted away and they threw a huge amount of investment and

resources into training, into building relations with the west, particularly with Washington, D.C. And that's why these moves at present

with regards to Putin and the visit and Moscow and Russia more generally, I think that they have to be seen against that backdrop.

The relationship between the United States' military and the Egyptian military is incredibly strong. And these sorts of moves shouldn't be

interpreted as the thing that that's actually going to change. And they're going to back to the 50s and the 60s. I don't think anybody really

believes that in Cairo or in Moscow.

CURNOW: And just -- you know, in terms of what happened over the weekend, a number of deaths before a football game. And you know, our

correspondent on the ground very clearly saying this isn't about football hooliganism, I mean this is about the use, it's issues, about deep rooted

divisions within Egypt and it plays out sometimes within the framework of football.

Just give us some understanding of the police reaction to those fans and how you think this might play out even more, particularly with regard

to the younger generation.

HELLYER: Well, it was more than 30 people so far that are confirmed to have died as a result of last night's violence. Unfortunately, it's

nothing new. We've seen this sort of violence over the past four years repeatedly where the police are then accused of not exercising appropriate

restraint and using methods that are inappropriate and then as a result people die.

After each incident such as this, such as this one last night, you see calls from different political forces and human rights groups and civil

rights organizations about the need to security sector reform, about the need for accountability for actually what took -- for actually what took

place and consistently over the past four years whether under Mubarak, whether under Tantawi, whether under Morsy, or any government that has come

since indeed very little has happened.

You haven't seen that widespread security sector reform take place. And unfortunately, we expect that more incidents like this will happen in

the future until that sort of reform takes place.

There are, indeed, certain rifts on the ground level between different portions of society, certain types of dissent. And you certainly see that

the government is quite concerned about how the youth actually relate to the authorities at present and how involved they view themselves as being

part of the state, and as yet that doesn't seem to be the case.

But really key to all of this is the lack of security sector reform. Without that, I'm afraid we're likely to see these sorts of incidents take

place again and again.

CURNOW: As always, thanks so much for your analysis. H.A. Hellyer from the Brookings institute, thank you so much.

And you can find the latest news from Egypt and the rift of the region on CNN's regional site. That's if you're fortunate to speak

and read the language. And of course for the rest of us it's for all our English language articles, videos and interviews.

Well, live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World. Coming up, while Vladimir Putin holds talks in Cairo, many of the world's leading

politicians are talking about how to deal with the Russian President.

More on the pressure he's facing to help end the conflict in Ukraine just ahead.

And find out how clever environmental design and article recycling have transformed this boutique hotel in Sri Lanka from a series of derelict

buildings into South Asia's first carbon neutral property. That's in Transformations coming up.



CURNOW: Surrounded by bustling streets and traffic-clogged roads, this is Colombo's court yard, a boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Sri

Lanka's largest city, but it didn't always look like this.

Unlike most of the rapid development in the country, the site was completely salvaged from its original state, a series of abandoned


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were looking at various different concept, really different areas and keeping in view the environment mind, we thought

let's do something which is very different and unique.

CURNOW: Arun Sapar (ph) set out to transform the five interconnected structures into a luxury hotel, but with a space that was rundown and over

50 years old, preserving it was a challenge.

Now it would have been far more economic for you to have just demolished the site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure, definitely. It would have been much more economical. We could have made it commercially much more viable

building here with modern facilities. But we didn't want to take that route. We thought it's better to go environment friendly.

CURNOW: But to be truly green, they would need to plan their construction and design carefully.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, when Arun Sapar (ph), the owner, came to me and he showed me this property, which was actually a series of four

houses and an office building, my reaction was oh my gosh. How do I unify this...

CURNOW: Oh my god.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it was so different. Every building was different. They were in some were in terrible shape (inaudible).

CURNOW: Instead of starting from a blank canvas, they recycled what was in front of them. Bricks form the original buildings were remodeled

into the new floors, bicycle parts were used as part of the land and industrial cement mixer turned into art.

But it doesn't stop there, as one of the first carbon neutral hotels in Southeast Asia, solar panels are used for most of their electricity and

water heating needs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the environment is my first love. And this is a way of giving back something. I mean, you can't avoid

construction in this world, so let's try and minimize it. So I tried to focus on that and try to create spaces which also return something to the

natural environment as much as possible.

CURNOW: Since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, there's been a huge push in development and infrastructure across the country. But

there are now serious concerns of planning, vision and preserving the environment is being overlooked for rapid growth, which is why projects

like these are so important.

And their success is a significant step towards redefining development with a sustainable conscience.

Anna Coren, CNN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



CURNOW: This is CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Robyn Curnow. The top stories of this hour.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with US president Barack Obama this hour in Washington on the crisis in Ukraine. She's expected to

try to sway the US from sending arms to Ukraine out of concern it could escalate the violence. The White House is said to be considering the idea.

Egypt is investigating violence at a football stadium in Cairo that led to at least 19 fans dead. There are conflicting reports over what

actually started the clashes. The Interior Ministry says ticketless fans rioted while people at the game said they were teargassed by police. The

country's Premier League games have now been postponed indefinitely.

Gunshots were fired at police in a suburb of the French city of Marseilles. Police returned fire, there were no reports of casualties.

France has been under a heightened state of alert since last month's terror attacks. The French prime minister is scheduled to be in the city today.

Beleaguered Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has survived a vote of no confidence. Mr. Abbott, who was only elected 17 months ago, won the

vote among his own party members by 61 to 39. Critics have challenged some of his policy decisions and a budget that has stalled in the country's

upper house.

Western leaders may be united on the push to end the crisis in Ukraine, but how to find an end to that crisis is a different matter. The

issue is being discussed right now between German chancellor Angela Merkel and US president Barack Obama in Washington.

Mrs. Merkel is trying to persuade the US not to send weapons to Ukraine, fearing it could give Russia cause to escalate the conflict.

Instead, she wants a purely diplomatic solution.

The EU is also holding onto hopes of a peaceful resolution. EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels voted in favor of new sanctions

against Russia, but they decided to hold off on implementing them until next week after Wednesday's peace summit in Minsk, Belarus.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is slated to attend those talks with the leaders of Ukraine, Germany, and France, but he warned Monday that he

will not accept any ultimatums. Officials from all four countries are now meeting in Berlin to help kick-start Wednesday's talks.

Meanwhile, conditions on the ground and the east of the country are getting desperate. Let's hear from our Nick Paton Walsh again. He's been

speaking to a resident caught in the crossfire.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see the unbelievable damage done to that building. That might be where the

Ukrainians had dug themselves in, and it just shows you the kind of devastation wrought upon this town, Uglegorsk. It is, for the most part,


But strangely, there are people emerging for the first time, some say, from the basements where they'd been taking shelter.


WALSH: He says for now, they're not shooting at us.


WALSH: You were in the basement during this?


WALSH: So, Anatoly saying he was in the basement, but fate will basically be deciding for him what happens to him. But you can see now,

still, some of the vehicles coming through here, bringing civilians back to collect possessions, taking some out again.

This is close to the front line, a key town the separatists needed to take to be able to try and encircle a vital strategic town known as

Debaltseve, where the Ukrainians are trying to put up resistance.

But you can just see what the fighting does to ordinary civilian areas. We don't know how many people died here, how many were able to

flee. But in the background, you can still here shells being fired. They will be landing somewhere else here in eastern Ukraine, and potentially

taking more civilian lives.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Uglegorsk, eastern Ukraine.


CURNOW: Live from CNN Center, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, US president Barack Obama is hosting German chancellor Angela Merkel in

Washington. The two leaders are expected to hold a news conference on the situation in Ukraine any moment now. We'll bring you that live, so do stay