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Putin Won't Expel U.S. Diplomats Over Sanctions; Trump Praises Putin As "Very Smart" On Twitter; Russia Criticizes Obama For Diplomat Expulsions; Nationwide Ceasefire Appears To Be Holding; Russia And Turkey Brokered Truce; Cities Tighten Security For Celebrations; Paris To Deploy 10,000 Officers For New Year's Eve; Man Claims He Was Part of Duterte Hit Team; Voter Registration Soars in France; Charity Gives Trafficking Survivors New Start; Remembering the Stars Lost in 2016. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:14] HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. We're live at CNN London on this Friday. Thanks for being with us. This


Russian President Vladimir Putin is staking the future of U.S. and Russian relations on Donald Trump. He says he won't expel American diplomats in

response to new U.S. sanctions over Russian hacking allegations.

And Trump seems to think that's a great idea. Tweeting in the last few moments, quote, "Great move on delay by V. Putin, I always knew he was very


Mr. Putin seems to be counting on the incoming president to extend an olive branch once he takes office. The Russian leader's move diverges from the

usual tit for tat behavior and it essentially dismisses President Barack Obama's remaining time in office.

More evidence that the political transition could get rockier with just three weeks to go until inauguration day. Let's discuss the story with our

panel. I want to bring in CNN contributing and former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty, as she joins us via Skype from Seattle.

And also former U.S. State Department spokesperson, PJ Crowley, is with us from Washington. Retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling joins me via

Skype from Orlando, Florida. We've got the U.S covered coast to coast. He is a CNN military analyst.

I'm going to start with you, Jill Dougherty, what do you make of Putin's move?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GLOBAL FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I think he's got a list of everything that he wanted to accomplish. Number one, shock, which

he of course really did. Number two, dis Obama, treat him as if it is not even worthy to get into a fight with him. Reach out a hand to Donald

Trump, a hand which is offered if Trump essentially does what Putin wants.

And then also leave ends of possibility in the future any type of sanctions. I mean, President Putin can take sanctions. His Foreign

Ministry suggested that, recommended that.

So at any moment he can turn this around. But right now he is, you know, shocking the world and probably scoring a number of points.

GORANI: And PJ Crowley, do you agree with that? I mean, what do you make of Vladimir Putin's sort of reversing something that was announced by his

foreign minister saying, essentially, I don't care enough about Barack Obama right now to even respond?

PJ CROWLEY, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, I agree with everything that Jill just said and just to add that this is undoubtedly

going to play well within Russia. I think that is something that we have to recognize through the various crises that we have experienced and

looking ahead to the Trump administration.

You know, politics plays a very significant role in this and the fact that Putin has set himself up as a significant anti-American antagonist. He's

made Russia more relevant in terms of its role in the world with the intervention in Syria and in Ukraine.

And so I think this has strengthened his political standing at home and that sets up the challenge for the United States whether it's within the

Trump administration the short term or some other administration in the long term, how to make Vladimir Putin less comfortable, as a way of

impacting, you know, long-term relations between the United States and Russia.

GORANI: How do you explain, PJ, one more question for you, Donald Trump's apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin. His supporters admire him more in

recent polling than they do Barack Obama, their own president. Why is that?

CROWLEY: I think there is a naivety. I keep on finding myself quoting you know, Donald Ramsfeld (ph) in terms of you know, known unknowns. The

reality in terms of the geopolitics of this is the areas of common interest between the United States and Russia are shrinking.

Now I think that Donald Trump has the opportunity to have a transactional relationship with Russia, could do some cooperation on Syria. Ukraine is

much more complex. But I think if you look back, George W. Bush had high hopes for the relationship.

[15:05:08]It was disillusioned eight years later. Barack Obama attempted a reset, disillusioned eight years later. There is no reason to think that

while Trump may hope to have a more productive relationship with Putin, he will become disillusioned in the long run as well.

GORANI: All right, well, he's been paying him many compliments in the led up anyway to January 20th. Mark Hertling, let me ask you about sort of the

Russia -- how Russia has played the last year and a half. Of course, there was the annexation of Crimea. There was the bombing campaigns in helping

the Assad regime in Syria. At the end of it all, Vladimir Putin has come out of it, in your opinion, seemingly stronger on the world stage?

LT. GENERAL MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, he is certainly achieved multiple strategic objectives and he is still going after those,

Hala. I think we have to be very focused on what he is trying to do. He has certainly been able to gain a foothold in Eastern Ukraine and take over

all of Crimea while he is forcing some really dissension within the NATO ranks.

That was a strategic objective on Mr. Putin's behalf. He wanted to break apart the coalition. He has stated that overtly. He has also stepped in

and protected his rights to the Mediterranean by making sure he's maintained his bases in Latiquia (ph) and other places within Syria while

coming out a hero in that particular area.

He has caused a great deal of distrust of Mr. Obama while reaching out to the president-elect by stroking his ego. So all of these things are an

attempt to get rid of the sanctions, which have crippled Russia across the board.

And he is doing everything he possibly can to keep his eye on the prize, which is to make Russia strong again, to eliminate the sanctions that are

not only coming from the United States, but from Western Europe, and also to gain more territory.

GORANI: Because the economy is suffering in Russia. By the way, Jill Dougherty, I want to show our viewers an invitation that the president has

extended to American children of U.S. diplomats. He is essentially saying, I write all children of the United States, I invite all children of the

United States, diplomats, accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children's show at the kremlin.

So he is not just responding to Barack Obama, he is extending an invitation to U.S. children to come to the kremlin party. What kind of -- how does

this fit into the Vladimir Putin that you know, the kind of tactician, the politician, the strategist that he is to do something like this?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, I think it is classic President Putin. I mean, what he is doing and you can see this actually in the Ukraine scenario with the, you

know, polite men who were the actual Russian soldiers who went into Eastern Ukraine and into Crimea.

You can see it in Syria where he is depicting himself as kind of the adult, the person who can solve problems, and you can read into that President

Obama can't. So I think it is all part of Putin presenting himself to the world as a guy that does want peace, who is willing to work, and not even

engage in some back and forth.

You know, so it is all to me, a lot of it is PR and it's being played out astoundingly on Twitter. I can tell you, Hala, that the tweet from the

Russian media, and it is exactly like what Donald Trump does.

GORANI: It is the new digital world order, PJ, Mark and also Jill. You're talking about Twitter, Jill. Well, Dmitri Medvedev (ph) actually tweeted,

"It is regrettable that the Obama administration was started out by restoring our ties and ending its term in an anti-Russia agony. RIP." Is

this the way diplomatic relations, PJ, are going to be conducted in the future via Twitter? It seems like it's going in that direction.

CROWLEY: Well, it's certainly is a dimension of it, but I think that, you know, we can't give Putin too much credit. I think he's brilliant

tactician. He is a gambler. He is not a grand strategist. He's an opportunist. Certainly you see that in what he did in terms of grabbing

back Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

He has played a very weak hand very well, but it is still a weak hand. I think the United States and Europe have to take a long view here. As Mark

Hertling said, sanctions are very, very important, an important part of the equation of this.

But I think we have to look to try to manage or contain Putin in the short term while trying to influence what comes after him in the long term.

[15:10:09]Because the reality for a Trump administration whether it's a four-year term or an eight-year term is that Putin is going to be in office

more than likely until 2024.

I think the United States does look beyond Putin to see what come after Putin, is it more of the same? Is it better? And I think you have to

guard against trying to avoid having it be worse.

GORANI: All right, thanks to all three of you. We have to leave it there. I hope we can continue this conversation very soon. Jill Dougherty, Lt.

General Mark Hertling, PJ Crowley, thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll have a lot more on this story later.

But for now let's talk about Syria because it is the first full day of a nationwide ceasefire there. Overall, it appears to be holding despite some

sporadic violence.

The truce was brokered by Russia and Turkey. It doesn't include ISIS and other opposition fighters considered terrorist. An activist group reports

clashes today in several areas and says Syria government war planes has bombed rebel targets as well.

Let's get the very latest from Muhammad Lila. He is following developments tonight from Istanbul. Can we say that this truce is largely holding

despite these reports of sporadic violence?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Hala, I think we can. We are almost coming up to the 24-hour mark and none of the major parties involved

including Turkey, Russia, Syria, Iran, and some of the major groups on the ground, none of them have said that these sporadic clashes that we've been

getting reports of what constitute a violation of the ceasefire.

Now this is important because, you know, the first 24 hours in any ceasefire are critical to seeing if the parties on the ground are willing

to hold true to what they've signed up to and so far the indications are that everybody is holding on to it.

Of course, it's going to takes several more days to see how deeply set in the ceasefire can be. But today, certainly it does seem to be holding


GORANI: All right, Muhammad Lila, thanks very much. We'll stay in touch with you. The United States was not part of the talks that lead to the

ceasefire, but it welcomes the truce as a positive development.

Though it says if you want more details on the agreement, well, you need to call Russia and Turkey because we didn't have anything to do with it.

We're joined now by Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, who has been critical of the Obama administration's approach to the conflict in

that country. Thanks for being with us.

First, let me ask you a little bit about this truce agreement. Do you -- are you hopeful? I mean, obviously it has the potential to collapse as any

truce agreement does, but what is your initial take after 24 hours?

ROBERT FORD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: There is a lot of fighting around Damascus, still, and so this truce's success is not yet guaranteed.

This is at least the fourth time we had a truce announcement, dating all of the way back to 2012. They all broke down, usually within 24 hours to a

week. So it is still early in the process. I think we need to be hopeful because we need less bloodshed, but it is way too early to be optimistic.

GORANI: I'm having trouble understanding how this can succeed, if there are rebel groups especially those al Qaeda-linked ones, the Nusra Front

that rebranded itself recently. If they are still considered legitimate targets, they are so intertwined with other rebel groups and other armed


But if you target them whether it's from the air or any other way, I mean, essentially that is going to make keeping peace in large portions of the

Syrian territory almost impossible.

FORD: I think that is exactly right although there are not many opposition groups intertwined with Islamic States, but by contrast the al Qaeda

affiliate, Nusra Front, now called (inaudible), those are intermingled in a number of places, including outside of Damascus to the northwest of

Damascus, a place called (inaudible), where there's been intense fighting today.

To the east of Damascus, there really isn't any al-Qaeda affiliate or Islamic State mainly a group called the Army of Islam and they did sign the

truce. Their signatures on the document along with the Russian and Turkish and Iranian signatures, though, there was a lot of shelling and bombing

around the Army of Islam today. So as I said, we all should be hopeful, but it is too early to be optimistic.

GORANI: And one of the things you were quoted as saying in the last 24 hours was the Russians understand the relationship between military means

and diplomacy infinitely more than Obama does. What did you mean by that?

FORD: You know, the Obama administration dating back to 2011 has said it wants to have a negotiation to get a political transition.

[15:15:08]And yet the Obama administration did nothing to put pressure on the sides to get to a negotiation. The Russians, by contrast, I have to

say, have moved a huge distance in a short amount of time. They have gone from this ceasefire, which may or may not work, we don't know yet.

But the armed opposition groups have also signed an agreement to go to Kazakhstan in three weeks to begin political talks with the Syrian

government, and the Russians organize that because they put heavy pressure on the Syrian armed opposition. That's what Aleppo was about.

The Americans never tried to put heavy pressure on Bashar al-Assad, and what a surprise, Bashar al-Assad thumbed his nose at calling for a

diplomatic deal?

GORANI: Do you think now the U.S.' influenced in the Middle East having not really been part of this agreement, not put pressure as you said on

Assad, not perhaps some say help, you know, some of the rebels in the initial days of the armed conflict to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. That the

U.S. should have done more militarily in the last several years? And if so what should it do now?

FORD: Well, at this point, there is not much the Americans can do. I think the Russians have really leveraged both the Turks and the Syrian

armed opposition. You know, what's really funny, the Americans have hundreds of special operation forces operating in and around Syria against

the Islamic State.

The Americans are conducting almost daily air combat operations over Eastern Syria, and yet the Americans have no leverage. I have to say that

is not a good way to use military force, to get yourself in a situation where you're not even involved in the political process.

GORANI: You're saying America didn't play its cards right here over the last several years.

FORD: Absolutely. The Americans focused on the Islamic State, which is a very conscious decision by the Obama administration, robbed it of any

leverage to get involved in the broader peace process, even though that broader peace process will affect the success, or not, of the American

combat operations. So we're literally at the mercy of other countries.

GORANI: Robert Ford, a former ambassador to Syria, always a pleasure having you on the program. Thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: My pleasure.

GORANI: Still to come this evening, New Year's Eve is just around the corner and following a year of terrorist attacks, cities across the globe

are not taking any chances. We'll have the very latest. Stay with us.


GORANI: Well, millions of people around the world, many of you, are gearing up to ring in 2017, just about a day or so left. It has been a

tough year.

[15:20:07]Terror attacks on soft targets in Nice and Berlin as well. We were just covering this less than two weeks ago. So authorities are saying

we're trying to secure these areas as much as possible. Taking no chances. There'll be more than 10,000 officers on the streets of Paris, 5,000 in

Berlin as well. Brynn Gingras has more.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City is on high alert in anticipation of one of the biggest New Year's Eve celebrations in

the world. Securing it takes an army, 7,000 NYPD officers are just one part of the enhanced measures being taken to protect the city.

JAMES O'NEIL, NYPD COMMISSIONER: Everyone has to be on their toes. I know complacency can set in at times, but certainly not in an event like this.

GINGRAS: In the wake of the ISIS-inspired attacks in Berlin and Nice, 65 sand trucks and 100 blockers will be stationed around the city. Most being

used as a protective barrier around the perimeter of Times Square to ward off a truck-style attack.

O'NEIL: We live in a changing world now and again, as I said before, it can't just be about what happens in New York.

GINGRAS: The NYPD is in constant communication with foreign departments gaining intelligence and sharing police strategy with cities abroad. In

London, there was added security at the changing of the guards. Heavily armed police were unavoidable in Berlin as they stood post behind concrete

barriers at a Christmas concert.

Czech holiday markets were heavily patrolled, and in France, the government announced a boost of 10,000 soldiers, adding to the officers working around

the clock.

LUC POIGNANT, PARIS POLICE UNION REPRESENTATIVE (through translator): We're really giving of ourselves, our time, and at a cost to us and our


GINGRAS: Nearly two million people are expected in Times Square, the extra police presence a noticeable addition to keep New York City safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're coming to Times Square, rest assured that it will be a safe venue.

GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


GORANI: Here in London, hundreds of thousands are expected to celebrate along the River Cannes. Authorities says 3,000 police will be on duty to

ensure safety. We went on the streets to see if people are feeling secured just about 24 hours before ringing in the New Year, take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not say overly prepared because you can't prepare for every eventuality, but I do feel confident that we're pretty

well looked after.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially what is happening around the world, especially what happened to Germany lately, but there is a lot of police

visibility anyway. So we feel secured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the U.K. is somehow more secured than Germany?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we have more. In my opinion, I think we've got more strict border security than other European countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if it's better prepared, but I feel safe. People are nice. Everybody is looking good. Just normal like at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought about it before I left Australia, and I thought I would not want to be in the middle of London in big crowds, but

you have to live life.


GORANI: We sure do. Let's get more on this with Dal Babu, a former senior officer with the Metropolitan Police in London. So should people be

worried? I mean, obviously Berlin just happened, right. So legitimately you could say that people are a little nervous.

DAL BABU, FORMER SENIOR OFFICER, METROPOLITAN POLICE: It is understandable, but quite frankly we have the best police force in Britain

here. We have an additional 3,000 officers on duty. It's a well-planned routine and we should not allow the terrorists to win.

GORANI: Yes, but I mean, what do you do against the possibility of several tons of steel plowing into a crowd? There's really not much you can do to

protect yourself.

BABU: Well, what you have is you have intelligence and the place who got CCTV, and people who along the (inaudible) watching the fire work display

will be very, very well protected.

GORANI: The nice attack was during that fireworks display so that's why people might be nervous as well.

BABU: And people have learned more recently. In fact a couple weeks ago, the place changed their policy for how they deal with the changing of the

guards. So the police are responsive. They're aware of the concerns and then just going to make sure that people stay safe.

GORANI: Is this a new normal now that we have to just sort of put, you know, concrete blocks and barriers around every sort of group, large

groupings of people at events and --

BABU: If you look at what was happening in Britain in the 1970s. We have the IRA and the IRA were bombing indiscriminately and people became quite

concerned about what was happening and actually it does become the normal.

Because people do think well these people are not going to just be afraid, we're going to enjoy ourselves. The likelihood of it happening is unlikely

because we have such a good police service. If people have concerns, they need to dial 999 and tell the authorities if they got any concerns about

individuals or any items.

[15:25:05]GORANI: And you mentioned CCTV cameras, interestingly countries like Germany have fewer CCTV cameras. I wonder if that is a deterrent or

if it forces people who have bad intentions to figure out some other ways. How does CCTV acts in crime prevention?

BABU: CCTV is a phenomenal tool for crime prevention because individuals will know as they're coming into an area where they might want to carry out

an attack that they will be covered by CCTV. It is a phenomenal crime prevention tool.

GORANI: Yes, I was o going to say in the end it is about intelligence, right? It's catching the person before they carry out any plan. But you,

I'm sure, followed the Berlin terrorist attack and that man was, you know, he had a million red flags around him. He's actually a known risk.

He was stopped. He was let go even though he had, you know, false paper work, and forged paper work and things like that. I think this is what

worried most of the people I spoke with.

If the police, I'm not saying here in Britain, but generally speaking in Europe can't protect us against these people who are known, who can they

protect us against?

BABU: Well, mainland Europe is slightly different from Britain because we are not publishing an agreement. The suspect was found in a separate

country after the market attack. In Britain, you can't do that. You have to show your passport to travel from one country to the other.

We're also an island and the intelligence service are very good and we have by and large, we a good relationship with the community. So the place in

London, the assistant commissioner, they have --

GORANI: You had Paris attacks, I mean, you had 7-7 and the murder of Lee Rigby, I mean, it does happen.

BABU: Yes, the 7-7 was horrific and the murder of Lee Rigby was horrific, but thankfully they don't happen on the same kind of regularity as they do

in Europe. So it's surely actually being confident and having the confidence in our police service.

GORANI: Dal Babu, thanks very much for joining us here in the studio, and I hope you have a good new year.

BABU: And happy New Year to you.

GORANI: All right, this is THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. Coming up, another diplomatic twist in U.S.-Russian relations so where does it go next? I'll

speak to a former British ambassador to Moscow. Stay with us.


GORANI: Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is counting on the incoming Trump administration to rebuild ties between Washington and

Moscow. The president says he will not expel American diplomats in response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. over the hacking scandal.

[15:30:00] Trump is now praising the move on Twitter, saying, "Great move on the delay by Vladimir Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

Russia's U.N. Ambassador plans to propose a Security Council resolution endorsing the fragile ceasefire in Syria. Russia and Turkey brokered the

deal between the Syrian government and rebel groups. The ceasefire began Friday. Activist groups say the truce is mostly holding.

The British Prime Minister is criticizing John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, over his recent comments on Israel. The spokesperson

for Theresa May says it's inappropriate to attack an ally for the makeup of a selected government. In a major speech this week, Kerry said Israel's

government is the most right wing in its history.

Returning to our top story, Russian President Vladimir Putin holding his fire for now saying he will not retaliate over U.S. sanctions. Let's cross

to our Matthew Chance in Moscow for more details.

Do we know more about why Vladimir Putin has decided not to retaliate?

MATTHEW CHANCE, SNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he clearly wanted to sort of put to one side the Obama administration in his last few

weeks of office and reach across that administration and appeal directly to Donald Trump. He's saying that the future of U.S.-Russian relations will

be very much dependent on the policies of Donald Trump.

And of course, the U.S. President-elect made it clear that he appreciates that because he tweeted within the past hour or so that it was, you know, a

great move, he said, on the delay by Vladimir Putin, "I always knew he was very smart." And so, you know, this has been reciprocated and appreciated

by Donald Trump from his residence in Florida.

Look, I mean, the Russians need very much for there to be a good relationship between Moscow and Washington. There a lot of issues that

have divided the two countries over the course of the past couple of years, particularly the conflict in Syria. They want to bring the United States

into that process of resolving that conflict.

There's already peace talks planned for next month involving all the parties that have signed up to it, at least, in Kazakhstan. They want the

United States to join that as well. That would be something that President Trump, once he is inaugurated, would have to sign up to. And, of course,

all the other issues that stand between the two countries as well. The sanctions, they want those lifted. And so there's a lot of interest in

Russia and a lot of expectation that this relationship with Trump is going to be very beneficial indeed.

GORANI: Matthew Chance in Moscow. Thanks very much. Let's bring in Sir Tony Brenton. He served as the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Russia

between 2004 and 2008. He's in Cambridge right now.

So when you heard the news, first, Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, he said, all right, we're expelling 35 Americans, there you go, tit for tat,

you asked for it. And then just a few hours later, Vladimir Putin says, actually, I'm going to be gracious about this. I'm not going to expel

anybody, and what's more, I'm going to invite the kids of American diplomats to the Kremlin to celebrate the New Year. What did you make of


SIR TONY BRENTON, FORMER UNITED KINGDOM AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, I mean, first of all, don't be unfair to Lavrov. He said he was recommending

to pitch it, the expulsions. And this was obviously choreographed. This is obviously all preplanned. I've been involved in various expulsion

stories over the years and normally, what happens is the Russians say X number out.

On this occasion, Lavrov says we're recommending it. Instantly, you know that something is being arranged to allow Putin to look magnanimous with

regards to America. And unsurprisingly, he takes it. He says, no, we're not going to expel anyone. And the point of this is obviously to

ingratiate himself with the incoming Trump administration.

He must also, I suspect, taking a certain quiet pleasure in putting President Obama down. Obama and he get on extraordinarily badly. Obama

has treated him with some contempt in recent years, and Putin has been able to claim, look, there's Obama is playing the normal detract and discredit

game and here I am doing the generous thing.

GORANI: Yes. Well, this is all theater, obviously. I mean, it's playing a chess game basically.

BRENTON: Well, I don't know. I think, yes, there is a ritual element to it.


BRENTON: But it has serious consequences, first of all, for the people involved. It's a major disruption in your life if you're expelled and if

you're family has to be vested in your exit. But secondly, to make a rather obvious point, what both Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump are talking about

is enhanced U.S.-Russian cooperation in dealing with Islamic State. Now, if that is to be achieved, that depends crucially on enhanced intelligence.

Now, the consequences of the sanctions announced recently is that that's impossible work. It would be harder to achieve.

GORANI: We're having a bit of a hard time hearing you. So enhanced cooperation in the fight against ISIS, but Russia is the one calling the

shots in Syria. Russia is the one who's ally, the Assad government, is still in power when it was basically tittering on the brink just a few

years ago. Russia is the one that annexed Crimea without many consequences, just a few sanctions. You know, it's been hurt by the

decline in the oil price, but, you know, obviously, it wasn't punished as much as maybe some would have hoped for.

[15:35:24] Is Russia not the one controlling, really, in terms of at least this parts of the world, the events on the ground?

BRENTON: I don't think they see it that way. They know that they're vastly inferior to the United States and the West in terms of military

power, in terms of economic might.


BRENTON: They've had some local successes in Syria in particular. I don't think, I mean, Crimea is, in their eyes, a success but a success which they

paid a large price. Putin really wants to get into a relationship with the United States where they work together, his view, in sort of managing the

world where Russia is respected in a way that he fully believes the West has not done over the last few years.

And his success in Syria, the fact that Trump is coming in and talking about closer cooperation is a significant step towards that. But he knows

very well, we all know very well, that Mr. Trump is deeply a unpredictable figure at this stage, and so he is doing everything he can -- this will be

his number one objective as we move into the year -- that which will establish a relationship with Trump where they can work satisfactorily


GORANI: All right. Well, it looks like at least so far it's worked. Donald Trump has tweeted -- I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the tweet in

front of me -- he's a very smart man, great move on the delay in retaliation. So it looks like as far as Donald Trump is concerned, thumbs

up over the latest developments.

Thanks very much, Sir Tony Brenton. He's the former U.K. Ambassador to Russia. We appreciate your time on the program this evening.

And don't forget, you can get all the latest news and analysis. Check out our Facebook page,

Turning to the Philippines and the chilling confessions of a self-described hit man. Edgar Matobato claims the Philippine President ran a secret death

squad back when he was mayor of Davao City. He spoke exclusively to our Will Ripley.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Edgar Matobato says he and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have something in common.

They both have blood on their hands.

"I want him to pay for what he did, for the many killings he ordered," he says.

EDGAR MATOBATO, FORMER MEMBER OF THE DAVAO DEATH SQUAD (through translator): If we bring back the death penalty, I hope Duterte is the

first to hang, and then I will follow.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Decades before the President took his bloody war on drugs nationwide, Matobato says he was part of a group known in the

Philippines as a Davao Death Squad. A 2008 U.N. investigation found the shadowy band of assassins was committing hundreds of murders in Davao,

targeting street children and criminals, all during Duterte's decades-long run as the southern city's gun-toting, crime-fighting Mayor beginning in


"I personally killed around 50 people," Matobato says. He shows us a journal with names and dates of some of his victims, written by his wife

because he can't read or write. Matobato also showed his Davao city I.D. He says he was a ghost employee, earning just $100 a month to murder on


RIPLEY (on camera): Who was ordering the death squad to kill all these people?

"We got the orders from Mayor Duterte," he says. CNN cannot verify his story, but Matobato's graphic testimony in September before a Senate

hearing at vigilante killings shocked the Philippines. The country's Human Rights Commission is investigating. The President's office says he changed

some details in his story.

MARTIN ANDANAR, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT'S PRESS SECRETARY: Very inconsistent. So if you go through the transcript in the Senate, you will see for

yourself that Matobato is lying through his teeth.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The President's communication secretary, Martin Andanar, says if the testimony was credible, police would have built a


ANDANAR: The Davao Death Squad that people are talking about, this is all legend. It's all legend. There's no death squad.

RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: I did kill. I was only three months mayor.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Duterte told me he personally gunned down three people while Mayor of Davao to set an example for his officers, but in

media interviews, he said he doesn't remember Matobato and denies ordering vigilante killings. For several years, Matobato was in official witness

protection. Now that Duterte is President, he's just in hiding.

We meet at a safe house several hours from Manila. He's moved at least 10 times in the last year and is currently facing charges of kidnapping and

illegal firearms possession.

[15:40:05] "I was told to cut the body parts into pieces," he says. Matobato claims they dumped bodies in crocodile farms, in the streets, and

in even mass graves but those graves have never been found.

RIPLEY (on camera): Why are you the only one who has come forward?

RIPLEY (voice-over): He says, "Many of them are scared. If we try to change, we're killed."

RIPLEY (on camera): So you think if they find you, they'll kill you?

RIPLEY (voice-over): "They will kill me," he says, "because now their secrets have been revealed."

Matobato says he's eager to confess his sins to shine a light on the dark reality behind the President's deadly drug war.

Will Ripley, CNN, Manila.


GORANI: Here in Europe, France seems to be poised for a major political shift next year. After all, the incumbent president isn't even running, so

for sure we will have a new president in France. And so, therefore, citizens want their voices to be heard, they say, especially with

everything that's going on abroad. Registration to participate in the upcoming presidential election is soaring. Our Melissa Bell has the story.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Registering to vote in next spring's presidential election. Saturday will be the last day and in the

town hall of Paris' 18th district, there's been a rush to sign up, including by many first time voters. Pascale Lempereur who's in charge of

voter registration here says she's never seen anything like it.

PASCALE LEMPEREUR, TOWN HALL HEAD OF VOTER REGISTRATION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I saw this morning a man who was born in 1941 who said it was

his first time.

BELL: Why is that?

LEMPEREUR (through translator): Why? Probably because of the general context, both national and international, that is motivating them. They've

seen things in other countries that they don't want to see repeated here. Given the candidates' star standing, they see some things they like, others

they don't.

BELL (voice-over): One thing's for sure, France is in for a change. Earlier this month, Francois Hollande became the first President in nearly

six decades to announce that he would not be seeking re-election, an announcement that paved the way for his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, to

seek the Socialist nomination in the forthcoming primary. Whoever wins, the Socialists know that the struggle will be uphill.

Francois Fillon, the Republican Party's candidate leads the polls, followed closely by Marine Le Pen. The far right leader believes she's the

candidate best poised to benefit from what the French press calls the Trump effect.

And back in the 18th district, many voters do seem to have America on their mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that there has been a sense of panic, given what happened in the American elections and more and more people are now


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's because there is a lot at stake in these elections. We know that the national front is rising in the polls, and we

know that there are many people who do not want to let that happen. And that's why everyone wants to have their voice now heard in a context where

we feel that we are at a political crossroads where many things are going to change.

BELL (voice-over): Certainly, the figures suggest a strong surge in interest. Vincent de Vathaire show us the numbers so far for this town


VINCENT DE VATHAIRE , TOWN HALL SUPERVISOR (through translator): With this line, you see 2016. You see that, already, we are well above where we were

five years ago. And where 511 registered on the Wednesday then; this year, we're at 710.

BELL (voice-over): The trend appears to go beyond the 18th district. Across Paris, nearly twice as many people registered to vote this November

as had in the November that preceded the last presidential election. Strong interest that could mean a strong turnout in France when voters go

to the polls on April 23rd.


GORANI: All right. And that was Melissa Bell reporting. Still ahead, turning what was a painful past into a somewhat brighter future, we'll tell

you how sex trafficking survivors are turning their lives around. We'll be right back.


[15:46:18] GORANI: Many women who have escaped slavery in the sex trade find it hard to rebuild their lives afterward, but one program is trying to

give survivors a brighter future. Shasta Darlington has our story.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-one-year-old Madison is going to work. She has an unusual job selling gently used bras

in the markets of El Salvador. She makes good money and dreams of one day owning her own business, a dream she never could have imagined just a few

years ago.

MADISON, SEX TRAFFICKING SURVIVOR: I didn't know what human trafficking was until I got to the safe house.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Madison is a survivor of child sex trafficking, and the bras she sells are part of a unique reintegration program by a

nonprofit called "Free the Girls."

KIMBA LANGAS, FOUNDER, FREE THE GIRLS: When we started, we had this idea and the idea was that this bra could change a woman's life, and we really

did not have any idea how much those women would change their own lives.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): We first met Kimba Langas and Dave Terpstra shortly after they started Free the Girls in 2011. The plan was for Kimba

to collect donations of new and gently used bras in the U.S. and send them to Dave in Mozambique, Africa where sex trafficking survivors could sell

them in the used clothing markets there, providing them with a steady income that would prevent them from becoming vulnerable to traffickers


DAVE TERPSTRA, FOUNDER, FREE THE GIRLS: The whole goal was just to be a very simple project, very garage sort of project, where Kimba would collect

just a few bags worth of bras and send them over in suitcases and things like that.

LANGAS: We thought we would work with one partner in Mozambique, have a handful of women maybe bring some bras over a few times a year, and that

would be it. And so we never could have imagined how it exploded.

TERPSTRA: And now we've collected over half a million bras, sent them to three different locations around the world, helped dozens and dozens of


DARLINGTON (voice-over): Terpstra says Free the Girls expanded to El Salvador because of Danielle and Jon Snyder. They run Mission to El

Salvador, a nonprofit that works with sex trafficking survivors.

DANIELLE SNYDER, FOUNDER, MISSION TO EL SALVADOR: I remember, early on when I started working with Free the Girls, Kimba, one of the co-founders,

said a woman wears a bra close to her heart. And I love that a woman in the United States can donate her bra and then it's going to come here and

help the girls in our program.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Girls like Madison, who at just 14 years old, was lured into a sex trafficking ring.

MADISON: We had to have sex with them and do whatever they asked us to.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Madison was held captive for an entire year, forced to have sex with multiple men every day until she escaped. Today,

she speaks triumphantly about her recovery and her future.

MADISON: It is my dream to have my own business and keep selling bras and other things, like cloths, but as my own business.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): When she's not selling bras, Madison volunteers at Mission to El Salvador, working with the homeless. She says she wants

to help others as a way to thank God for her recovery.

I asked her where she would be without the help she received here.

MADISON: Well, I wouldn't be telling you this story. I'd be dead or, I don't know, in a worse situation I was before. I wouldn't be here and I

wouldn't have recovered.

SNIDER: It's hard, it's very difficult to hear those stories. There's nothing easy about it, and it's hard not to carry that. It's hard not to

carry that. For me, to be able to have the opportunity to help them is worth it, to be part of the process of helping them to find healing.

[15:50:13] DARLLINGTON (voice-over): Today, Madison's freedom comes with the money she earns by selling second-hand bras donated by strangers, yet

they are connected.

LANGAS: It's very personal and there's something very poetic about the fact that something that you wore so close to your heart can make the

difference in the life of a woman halfway across the world and really, truly help change the trajectory of her life for generations to come. And

that's beautiful.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Shasta Darlington, CNN, San Salvador, El Salvador.


GORANI: Coming up on THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, 2016 took some of our favorite movie, music, and sports legends away from us. We will look back at their

lives and careers.


GORANI: The end of the year is always a time for reflection on the past and the future and the people who are no longer with us, and it feels like

we lost a lot of legends in 2016 from music, movies, and sports. Nick Glass remembers some of these stars and how they impacted our lives.


NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Debbie Reynolds in her first starring role, luminous and so young, just like her daughter, Carrie

Fisher, in her first screen role. Cassius Clay as he then was, was a teen when he won Olympic Gold. George Michael, 19 when Wham! took off, the same

age as Debbie Reynolds when she stepped out in "Singin' in the Rain."

DEBBIE REYNOLDS, ACTRESS: Good morning. Good morning. It's great to stay up late. Good morning. Good morning to you.

GLASS (voice-over): We lost so many stars in 2016, enough for a crowded tribute in the style of Sergeant Pepper. We lost Ziggy Stardust and David

Bowie's many other persona, the original Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder, and the last of the "Magnificent Seven," Robert Vaughn.

ROBERT VAUGHN, ACTOR: One. There was a time when I would have called along three.

GLASS (voice-over): We were left with so many indelible movie memories. Carrie Fisher as a feisty Princess Leia in "Star Wars."

CARRIE FISHER, ACTRESS: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected you holding Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on


GLASS (voice-over): Alan Rickman as pantomime villain, the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Prince of Thieves."

ALAN RICKMAN, ACTOR: You, my room, 10:30 tonight. You, 10:45. And bring a friend.

GLASS (voice-over): And from the "Pink Panther" film, the character actor Burk Kwouk, forever testing Inspector Clouseau's martial arts.

DAVID BOWIE, SINGER: Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.

GLASS (voice-over): David Bowie's death in January at 69 was the first shock, a profound, almost personal loss for his many fans who'd grown up

with his music in the 1980s. Bowie himself was evidently well aware of his own mortality.

BOWIE: On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile.

[15:55:12] GLASS (voice-over): But things only got worse for the MTV generation. Prince gone at 57 in April. We remember him in his purple

pomp, the minidisc guitar genius, prolific singer-songwriter. And on Christmas Day, we lost George Michael, peacefully in bed at home at just


Was 2016, asked middle-aged newspaper pundits, the year the music died?

MUHAMMAD ALI, BOXER AND ACTIVIST: I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I'm so mean, I make medicine sick.

GLASS (voice-over): Once, Muhammad Ali was probably the most recognizable face on the planet. Dogged by Parkinson's disease for over 30 years, he

had long fallen silent. His death in June at 74 had been expected for years, but still somehow marked an end of an era.

In November, the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen faded away at home in Los Angeles. He was 82. Creative to the end, he gave a last interview to "The

New Yorker" and released a final album.

LEONARD COHEN, SINGER: Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

GLASS (voice-over): These were just some of the stars we lost during the year. In the hours after Bowie's death, the song most played by fans was

"Heroes." It helped lift collective spirits.

BOWIE: We can be heroes. We can be heroes.


GORANI: All right. There you have it, a lot of legends passed away in 2016. All right. I'm going to leave it here for the program. I'm going

to wish all of you a happy new year. I'll see you next Monday. Hoping 2017 is a great one for you. See you very soon and stay with CNN. "QUEST