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CONNECT THE WORLD
Moscow Says It Will Retaliate Over Expulsions; Train Leaves Beijing After Mysterious Visit; British Prime Minister Addressing Russia With Lawmakers. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired March 27, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ZAIN ASHER, CNN HOST: Dealing with double crises, a tragedy at home, a growing anti-Russian front abroad, and one president certainly
under a lot of pressure.
Our correspondents in Moscow and the U.S. and in Europe are tracking the fallout from the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats.
Also, ahead, a mystery train and a very significant stop. c
Plus, British MPs grill a Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower for several hours. But Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg refuses to appear. We are
outside Parliament this hour as well.
All right, hello, everyone. I'm Zain Asher. Crisis at home and abroad, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is under mounting pressure.
Internationally, the headlines have been fixed on the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats. In Russia though, there is this. Certainly, a
tragedy there, hundreds of people taking to the streets, anger and dismay growing over a deadly mall fire that killed 64 people. Out of that 64, by
the way, 41 were children. President Vladimir Putin visited victims in their Siberian city of Kemerovo. He blamed criminal negligence and
carelessness for those deaths. We're going to go live to Moscow for more of that soon.
But let's bring you developments in this diplomatic crisis that is spiraling out of control for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Here's our
Michelle Kosinski with more.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Zain. We haven't heard from Russian President Vladimir Putin yet on this
unprecedented move. But we know that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has already warned pretty starkly that the time is going to come that the
U.S. is going to realize, that this was, in his words, a grave mistake. In return, the Trump administration has warned right back that if Russia does
expel U.S. diplomats, which we fully expect them to do, then the U.S. could well take some additional action against Russia.
But look at the scope of this now. It's now up to 25 countries that have worked together to craft the biggest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats in
history. In the U.S., it's the largest number too, 60 of them. Twelve will be kicked out of the UN in New York, the rest are spread around the
U.S. The U.S. is closing down the Russian consulate in Seattle entirely, saying that it's too close to a U.S. submarine base there.
And in fact, the administration isn't even really calling these people diplomats at this point. It's flat-out calling them spies, saying that
they are aggressive collectors of intelligence and that the U.S. is going to be safer without them. Someone else we haven't heard from yet on this,
though, is President Trump, and it was only days ago that in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin he congratulated him on his election
victory against the wishes of Trump's own national security team. He didn't even bring up the poisonings in the U.K.
However, this is a significant step. It's a message that the U.S. is sending. And many are hoping that this is a sign that this administration
will continue to take moves to punish Russia for its behavior and to take a tougher stance in general, Zain.
ASHER: Michelle Kosinski reporting there.
And since then, Moldova's foreign ministry tells CNN that it is also expelling three Russian diplomats as well. Official saying the move was
taken to show its solidarity with the U.K. after the Skripal poisoning incident.
Well, we are covering this story from all angles this hour. Erin McLaughlin is in London with the reaction across Europe. We also have our
Phil Black as well. He's live for us in Moscow. So, Erin, let me begin with you because this is a huge win for Theresa May, the sort of mass
diplomat expulsions. Especially given she's had quite a tough year politically speaking at home. Just walk us through that because she
certainly comes off looking very strong and very resolute as well.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This is being seen, perceived here in the United Kingdom as a diplomat win for Theresa
[11:05:00] But the British Prime Minister herself also acknowledges that this isn't just about solidarity for the U.K. This is also about other
countries recognizing Russia as a threat. And just a short while ago NATO announcing its own expulsions. We heard from the NATO Secretary General,
Jens Stoltenberg, say that they're going to be reducing the size of the Russian mission to NATO from 30 to 20, saying that this is to send a clear
message to the Kremlin. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: I have, today, withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian mission to NATO. I will also
deny the pending accreditation request for three others. And the North Atlantic Council has reduced the maximum size of the Russian mission to
NATO by ten people in line with my decision. This will bring the maximum size down to 20.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Stoltenberg also said that this isn't just about Salisbury. He said this is about a pattern of, quote, dangerous and reckless behavior
by Russia. And he also said that Russia underestimated the allies of the United Kingdom's response to Salisbury. Now Theresa May shared a cabinet
meeting earlier today. During that cabinet meeting she said she's looking at a longer-term response as well. Now Downing Street is being very tight
lipped at the moment in terms of what specifically that should mean. But she is expected to appear in a Common Liaisons Committee very shortly and
then she will no doubt be pressed for the details of that long-term strategy -- Zain.
ASHER: And no doubt Theresa May is certainly prepared for more retaliation from Moscow. As you mentioned, they're looking at more strategies or
looking at a long-term strategy. So, Erin, where do U.K./Russia relations go from here, particularly in the short term? Where does all this end,
given that there's likely to be a tit for tat for quite some time?
MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, I think we're going to have to wait and see how the Kremlin responds to the U.K.'s allies and their decision to expel
diplomats. It's almost universally here in Western Europe expected a tit for tat measures, possibly the Kremlin, though, could go further than that.
So, everyone here -- at least in western Europe in terms of the diplomats that I've been speaking to -- say that they are very much in wait and see
mode in terms of where this could go next.
ASHER: All right, Erin, stand by. I want to bring in Phil Black, who's in Moscow for us. Phil, you heard Erin talk about tit for tat. No doubt we
are expecting a response from Moscow. Some kind of response from Moscow. What factors go into Vladimir Putin's calculation as to what the right
response should be?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's ultimately, it's only a question of how far he wants to take this, both in terms of potentially damaging
relationship with those various countries. But also, the message that he wants to send more broadly to the Russian people, the domestic messaging is
important and the decisions that he'll make there as well. But Erin's right in a sense. Because ultimately the decision that he announces in the
near future about precisely what Russia's retaliation will be will ultimately determine whether or not this crisis continues to escalate or
It's possible he could go tit for tat, one for one, pretty much equally, which would draw a line under this current phase of Russia's deteriorating
relationship with the West. But if he goes further and significantly further than that, could then invite yet more measures to be introduced by
the U.K. or the U.S., their friends and allies and so forth as well.
And it's difficult to say, looking at Russia's track record on this. Initially when dealing with Britain's decision to expel 23 diplomats from
the U.K. -- Russian diplomats in the immediate wake of the Salisbury incident -- Russia did the same, expelled 23. But also went a little bit
further in declaring that the St. Petersburg consulate would stay closed, kicked out the British consul, a cultural organization there as well. That
was still, I think, seen as roughly equivalent. If Russia goes further, as I say, both Britain, the U.S., other countries have reserved the right to
announce yet more measures still -- Zain.
ASHER: But Phil, the timing could not be worse for Vladimir Putin. All this comes as he's dealing with massive crisis at home, given that fire
that broke out at a mall just a couple of days ago. So, just in terms of the numbers of deaths, we know that at least 41 children were killed, about
60 or so in total. How is all of this playing out in the Russian media?
BLACK: Well, this is a horrible, horrible event, obviously. With so many children killed. There is a growing sense of grief and anger in this
country that it was allowed to happen. And Vladimir Putin visited Kemerovo today,
[11:10:00] To be seen to be leading the country in that grief, to be promising that action would be taken against those that it deemed to be
responsible for it. He talked about criminal negligence, as I think you've touched on there. So, there is this major national tragedy that Putin is
clearly prioritizing in terms of what he's seen to be dealing with today.
There has also been some criticism among Russian officials for those Western countries, largely deciding to announce these expulsions while
Russia is going through the process of grieving and investigating precisely what happened at that shopping mall. To be seen to be sending condolences
on one hand and at the same time taking what in Russia's view is essentially hostile action in the expulsion of diplomats. That is one view
that has been expressed here in Russia.
I think the Western view, and particularly that expressed by the U.K. is that many of the actions and the harsh words that countries are using
against Russia are designed to change the behavior of the Russian government. The quarrel is not with the Russian government specifically,
and indeed lots of those countries have spent condolences to the Russian people and the Russian government about that horrible fire that has killed
so many people. But whether or not that is cutting through Russian state media in particular, I'd probably have to say not quite so much there --
ASHER: All right, Phil Black live for us there. Erin McLaughlin live for us. Thank you both so much, appreciate that.
All right, and before we go, I want to bring you the reaction from Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson lashing out at the
exact timing of the expulsions. Something that Phil Black actually just touched upon there. I want to take a look at the message that was posted
on her official Facebook profile.
It reads, we have always shared the grief of American and European people when misfortune came to their door. Today, we heard words of condolences,
but we witnessed absolutely unjustified aggression. It's hard to believe and it will be hard to forget.
And if you want to read more about the anger in Russia over the diplomat expulsions, just head to our website, CNN.com. Our Moscow bureau chief,
Nathan Hodge, provides analysis of how this international crisis comes at a delicate time at home and we'll be talking to him later on this hour as
All right, now, from the poisoning of that ex-Russian spy to another mystery. This one actually in China. There it goes. This train is
pulling out of Beijing after a quick, very quick one-day visit, shrouded in a lot of secrecy and actually a lot of speculation as well. It's believed
this train is believed to have come there North Korea. We don't know exactly who was on board, but as I mentioned, there's a lot of speculation.
A lot of people think that it was none other than the North Korean leader himself, Kim Jong-un.
So far, Pyongyang and Beijing are keeping quiet about the whole thing. But if it was Kim, this would actually be his first foreign visit since he
became leader seven years ago. Alexandra Field is watching from Seoul. This obviously comes at an interesting time, Alexandra, because as
Pyongyang makes overtures towards the West for possible meeting with the U.S. President, Donald Trump, one of its priorities, of course, would be to
keep Beijing very, very close indeed.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's one of the reasons the whole world is watching this train. It's one of the reasons that there is a lot
of speculation indeed that Kim Jong-un may have been on that train. Not just because of some of the more obvious seeming signs like the fact his
family has used this train in the past, his father, his grandfather road this train to visit leaders in China and in Russia. There was heavy
security seen in Beijing around the guest houses where North Korean dignitaries stay. There are also some impressive motorcades moving through
But Zain, the point that you get to, is the critical one, which is the timing of all this. It would seem like an opportune moment for Kim Jong-un
to make his first trip as leader out of North Korea since he came to power in 2011. It would also be fitting that his first stop would be the see the
Chinese president. That's what most North Korean watchers would expect. It was simply pretty stunning to see the diplomatic developments that have
come pretty fast and furious over the last few weeks and months.
There was a thawing of tensions when the North Korean delegation went to the Olympics that were being held in South Korea. After that, you had this
incredible announcement that there would be a summit between North Korea and South Korea to take place next month. And then really the jaw-dropping
announcement that the U.S. President, Donald Trump, had accepted an invitation to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. That meeting
expected to happen in May. So, a lot of people were left suspecting that the North Korean leader would want to meet with the Chinese president for
what would seem to be the first time before those meetings happened. This would be an opportunity to shore up the relationship there. This is, of
course, an important relationship for North Korea. The most important relationship when it comes to the economic relationship, also this is North
Korea's only military ally.
[11:15:00] But the two countries have come under some strain in the past year, maybe even more than that. North Korea accelerated its missile
testing. They went through with another nuclear test. These were moves that were, of course, condemned by Beijing. Beijing had to sign on to
international sanctions against North Korea. So, there has been strain against North Korea and Beijing, but certainly, this would be an
opportunity to shore up that relationship before these incredibly key meetings that we're expecting as soon as next month -- Zain.
ASHER: And if it is, obviously, Seoul is actually watching this very closely. If it is Kim Jong-un on board this train to Beijing, how will it
change the dynamics of the negotiating tactics between President Trump and Kim Jong-un when they meet and also the blue house as well?
FIELD: Look, I don't think that this is going to take anyone by surprise. International officials have not been able to confirm this. Officials in
the U.S. have not been able to say definitively that it was Kim Jong-un aboard that train. Neither have South Korean officials, though lawmakers
here have suspected and say they have good reason to suspect that it was in fact, Kim Jong-un.
But the Moon administration here in South Korea has said that this would be a positive development, a strengthening of the ties between North Korea and
Beijing. And also, after President Trump accepted this historic invitation from Kim Jong-un to sit down and have a talk with one another, he did speak
with President Xi Jinping and said that President Xi Jinping was being very helpful in the North Korea situation.
At the same time, these are diplomatic developments that have very much been orchestrated by South Korea. They have taken the lead here. They are
the ones who sent envoys over the DMZ into North Korea after the Olympics. Who sat down with Kim Jong-un. They're the ones who hashed out these plans
for a summit with South Korea and the U.S. And then they sent envoys on to places like Japan and China to make sure that others in the region were
really on board with a plan to, what they say, is keep maximum pressure on North Korea while trying to work toward a diplomatic solution. So, I think
it will be perceived as an expected kind of meeting if it is indeed confirmed to have been a meeting. And I think that publicly at least
you'll hear officials saying that this was a positive development or that it may well have been positive -- Zain.
ASHER: All right, Alexandra Field live for us there. Thank you so much.
OK, I want to turn now to a horrifying attack in Paris. An 85year-old woman was stabbed nearly a dozen times and her apartment was actually set
on fire as well. Two people have been arrested so far in her murder. Authorities believe this was an anti-Semitic attack. They did this because
she was Jewish. CNN's senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann, is in Paris following the story. So, Jim, this is horrifying,
heartbreaking. What more can you tell us?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, doubly horrifying, Zain, in the fact that this 85-year-old victim, Mireille Knoll,
was in fact a holocaust survivor. She was ten years old when she managed to escape Paris just ahead of one of the most famous incidents of World War
II. Famous instance during collaboration here in France when Jews were rounded up in the place called the Vel d'Hiv and shipped off to death camps
by the Nazis. She managed to escape with her mother just before that round-up took place. And now 76 years later she meets her death in what is
said to be by prosecutor, and anti-Semitic attack.
She was stabbed multiple times. There were multiple fire set in her apartment. Apparently, the suspect in the case was well known to her.
This was her next-door neighbor. A young man who she'd known for many, many years, and also well known to her because he served jail time for
having sexually and rape her home helper. So, the motives in the case are still unclear. But the prosecutor made it clear that they are classing
this as an anti-Semitic attack. And that was backed up by words from both the interior minister and the president of France who said all the
necessary means -- the interior minister -- all the necessary means will be mobilized to figure out the motivations of this barbaric act which remind
us of the darkest hours of our history. And the president said, it's a dreadful crime, I reaffirm my absolute determination to fight against anti-
Semitism -- Zain.
ASHER: And Jim, I know you mentioned some specific details about the suspects in the attack, especially being her next-door neighbor. But do we
know anything more about their leanings? Whether the suspect had anti- Semitic beliefs or leanings.
BITTERMANN: Not at this point, we don't. But in fact, the prosecutor made that decision to prosecute this under a special statute for anti-Semitic
crimes and because of that, it indicates he had some kind of indication of the -- what the suspect had in his mind when he was perpetrating this. He
also said that the other man arrested with this principal suspect, both of them were well aware of the fact that Madame Knoll was Jewish.
[11:20:00] ASHER: And what are Jewish groups saying about this? Jewish groups that are based in France. Have they been issuing statements and
BITTERMANN: Well, they're horrified, and they have been speaking out quite a bit. And they've organized tomorrow a march near where this took place
to Mrs. Knoll's home. That's going to be taking place just about this time a little bit later than this tomorrow and a number of leaders in
France, not only Jewish leaders but political leader, are expected to take part in that march -- Zain.
ASHER: And Jim, what has been the overall reaction? I mean, just give us some context as to how common, how frequent or how infrequent these sorts
of attacks are in France.
BITTERMANN: Well, there have been frequent in the past. Last year, in fact, the number of complaints about anti-Semitic attacks was down somewhat
from previous years. However, the violence was the same. There were a number of violent attacks that were the same last year. So, there has been
a history of anti-Semitic attacks here and after each one of these, a number of Jews in France have decided to leave the country and go to Israel
and this has happened time and time again as these attacks take place.
I think that there's a great deal of fear and each one of these attacks brings about a great deal of fear in the Jewish community. One of the
leading Jewish spokesmen today said, look, you know, there's some parts of this town where if you go out with a skull cap on your head, you're likely
to get insults or likely to get beaten up in some cases. So, it can be dangerous for some Jews in some parts of the town.
ASHER: My goodness that is terrifying. Jim Bittermann live for us there, thank you so much, appreciate that.
Still to come, gone but not forgotten as Russian diplomats depart the West. We will be live for you in Moscow with the very latest.
ASHER: Hello, everyone, you are watching CNN. And of course, this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Zain Asher. Welcome back to all of you.
[11:25:00] All right, our top story this hour is, of course, the fallout from a united anti-Russian front in the U.S. and Europe. So, is this the
new cold war or the dormant previous one heating up? Analysts are certainly divided. And while Russia, the U.S., and European powers have
had their crises before, Western retaliatory measures have never been quite as coordinated as this before.
Now, after the expulsion of more than 100 diplomats from Western countries and NATO's removal of accreditation for seven from the Russian mission,
Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is saying, Moscow will not accept such actions lying down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We will respond undoubtedly. Because nobody wants to tolerate such boorish
behavior and we will not either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ASHER: All right, for more on this, I want to bring in CNN Moscow's bureau chief, Nathan Hodge who joins us live now from Moscow. So, Nathan, just
walk us through what you anticipate to be Vladimir Putin's possible response on this. Obviously, he wants to send a strong message. He wants
to show that Russia is strong on this. But he doesn't want it to backfire more than it already has. Just walk us through his calculations.
NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Zain, Vladimir Putin is often referred to as a master tactician, but the question often remains what the
strategy is that's driving this. Russians, I believe, have been really surprised by this concerted diplomatic action on the part of the United
States, Canada, the European Union, and other countries in response to what they see as this highly likely Russian involvement where the finger that
points to the Salisbury case.
And in general, it's shown a level of frustration, I think, among diplomats and officials in the West with what they see as this concerted effort by
Russia to continuously spin, to simulate, to evade questions and to respond with propaganda. So really, it's going to be hard to say, although
Vladimir Putin, if past experience is any guide, is certainly going to respond as the Russians have said in a mirrored way. That means that if
there's expulsions on the Western side or the U.S. side, they're going to match one for one. And they may escalate as well as we've seen in the
past. They may ask the U.S. to close down additional facilities. So, it's expected that in the coming days we'll get some kind of forceful response
from Putin. And it would probably be on the diplomatic level but there's also concerns as well about what other kinds of tit for tat expulsions
ASHER: How much of a surprise would Putin have found Donald Trump's response? The fact that Trump appears to be siding with NATO. Given that
it wasn't at least a year ago or two years ago that Trump was talking about how NATO was obsolete and how it was too expensive and how it belonged to a
different era. And now Vladimir Putin is seeing Trump side with NATO on this issue. How much of a surprise would that have been to him?
HODGE: You know, the relationship between Trump and Putin, again, is a very complicated one. On the one hand, I think there's hope within the
Kremlin and among the Russian elite that despite all these differences between Russia, between the United States and what Russians see as a deep
state and establishment, a national security establishment, an intelligence community inside in Washington and in other western capitals, that seems
bent on encircling or confronting Russia.
They often still hold out some kind of hope that there can be a rapprochement or an improvement of relations between Russia and -- between
Putin personally and between Trump. And one of the sort of the carrots that's been dangled amid all of this intrigue and all the controversy over
Salisbury and always diplomatic fallout is still the possibility that Trump, and Putin could meet at some point. So again, there is sort of a
working relationship on a day-to-day basis. There's just been a steady drum beat of diplomatic response, tit for tat, on the side of both the
U.S., both and the European Union with the Russians promising a response. But again, the wild card in all of this is the relationship between Putin
ASHER: And the Russians have certainly been getting mixed messages from the United States. Nathan Hodge, I have to leave it there, CNN's Moscow
bureau chief. Appreciate you joining us, thank you so much.
Well, Russia of course stands accused of meddling in America's last presidential election. Now, Facebook's boss declines to turn up and face
questions that data harvested through his company could have been used to influence an election in a big way as well. That story next.
[11:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ASHER: All right, British Prime Minister Theresa May is speaking at the House of Commons liaison committee. Let's listen in.
(HOUSE OF COMMONS LIAISON COMMITTEE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: .to stop sanctions busting when it's done effectively by the Russian state.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, can I -- if I may, chairman, first of all, just to update on the number of countries who have now
expelled. Because I said 18 yesterday, the number is going up last night. It's now further 7 countries so we're now up to 25 countries that have
conducted expulsions. And also, earlier this afternoon, the NATO Secretary General confirmed Russia's mission to NATO has been reduced from 30 to 20.
So, that's a further action that has been taken. And obviously I welcome the international support that we have garnered in this. Although as I
said in the House yesterday, this isn't just a matter of the U.K.'s position and working with the U.K. It's, I think, in the national security
interests of the individual countries concerned.
Of course, as a government, on the issue of financial sanctions, we are fully committed to imposing sanctions where they support and protect our
foreign policy and national security interests, and financial sanctions as you will know have been imposed and continue to be maintained by the EU and
the U.K. in response to Russia's actions in the Ukraine. And if the regulations are broken, we will take actions to enforce them. Including
penalties and prosecutions where they're appropriate.
You've mentioned a specific incidence of how money is being used in relation to a particular bank and I recognize you raised this in the House
yesterday. I haven't had an opportunity to look at the details of that bank, but if it was helpful, I'd be happy to write to the committee further
on that specific point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be grateful if you would, but it's on a generic point, if you will. In order to raise foreign capital reserves, the
Russian state is helping by issuing the bond, which is then used by a sanctioned organization. I've just used one example. There are others,
and I would be grateful if you could look at this use of our capital markets, particularly clearinghouses, to see how we can close that
MAY: I think I'm bound to make the point that obviously the sanctions regime isn't a complete blanket ban on financial transactions.
[11:35:02] Obviously, it's about particular entities and obviously the sanctioned entity tries to raise fund by a flotation themselves that would
be a clear breach of those sanctions. But an unsanctioned party repaying a debt to a sanctioned party is not called by the sanctions. But if I may, I
understand the point that you're making on this and I will write in more detail perhaps to the committee on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be grateful if you would. And may I raise -- as you quite rightly put it -- that sanctioned parties obviously do not
have access to our capital market. And yet in December 2016, the sanctioned Russian oil company, Rosneft, sold an almost 20 percent stake to
a consortium of investors that included Glencore. It would be interesting to know how a British company -- admittedly registered in Switzerland, but
certainly with huge operations out of the United Kingdom -- was able to in that way enable the capital financing of a Russian oil company that had
been sanctioned by these decisions.
MAY: Well, again, I haven't got the details of the very specific case, so I will look into that. I suspect the answer may partly lie in the way
you've put your question in relation to where the particular company is registered and therefore where it is local is. But I will certainly look
at that issue because of course the EU sanctions we're talking about EU sanctions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, you're right, prime minister. The point I'm trying to build up to is that we are dealing here with a rogue regime that
you have set up very clearly its threats not just to us but to the international rules-based system and indeed to most of our allies and
partners. And surely addressing this regime through the financial interests of its kleptocratic presidency and those who are effectively
sucking off the teat of the Putin regime is exactly what we should be doing to make sure that we close down this threat.
MAY: And of course, we have taken action in recent years to enhance our ability here to act here on illicit finances, or criminal finances, or
money laundering from whatever source that is that is coming. When I was home secretary, I set up the -- it was called JMLIT, which is the joint
money laundering task force, bringing together the central bank, financial conduct authority, the financial services sector more generally and
obviously law enforcement in the home office across all their sections. And work is still ongoing and improving that regime, particularly the
reporting regime in relation to money laundering. Of course, the criminal finance act that's introduced further powers, including the unexplained
wealth orders that have been introduced. So, we have taken a number of steps already. As I've also committed to -- we will in the sanctions bill
introduce further steps in relation to what's known as Magnitsky legislation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I welcome that very greatly. May I very quickly, as a final point, mentioned that in 2016 after the Rosneft incident, it was
announced the office of financial sanctions implementation would conduct an investigation to Glencove's purchase. That investigation has not been made
public. I would be very grateful if you could urge them to make it public so that we can see how sanctions are being busted and how we can address
MAY: I will certainly look into that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. (INAUDIBLE) commission. And likely to think to support the work that you've done, and coordination done on
diplomats with other countries.
But can I continue to press you on the issues around the finance and in particular the link with the tier 1 visa. Obviously, we had that period
between 2008 and 2015 where there weren't full checks taking place, either by the home office or banks. During which around 3,000 tier 1 visas were
granted and all those around 700 were for Russia. Are you now doing a retrospective examination of all of those 700 cases to ensure that we know
the source of the money?
MAY: Well, of course, over that period of time between 2008 and 2015, there were some changes to the visa regimes that took place, including into
the investor visas. And the -- but the home secretary is undertaking a review of the tier 1 investor visas at the moment. This isn't just a
question of the issue, that specific issue that you've raised. I think it's right that we look generally to see whether this is a part of our visa
regime, which is being used properly or whether it is in some way -- there are loopholes in it for people to be able to use it as an access to the
U.K. who otherwise we wouldn't be granting access to.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But in addition to what happens for the future, those 700 cases, during that period, 2008 to 2015, are they being examined by the
MAY: Well, I'm not aware whether the home office is actually looking into those cases. There has -- my recollection and I say it with caution, is
that some work had already been done to look at the system to see whether it was delivering in the way that it was intended to deliver.
[11:40:00] Now, that is slightly different from looking at specific individual cases to see whether action can be taken against those
individuals. But I think it's the purpose --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that I'm interested in whether those individuals are being looked at. Given some of the questions being raised
are about particular individuals and also how much, both in terms of illegal money and also the broader relationship with the Kremlin as well.
I'm just concerned that if those 700 cases have not been looked at, given that some of those will now be entitled to indefinite leave to remain as
well, if there are questions about whether or not that money was illegal, if it's never been checked, surely that's the problem for us.
MAY: Well, I think it -- as I say, one of the reasons for looking at the tier one investor visa is the question of how people are using that
particular part of our visa regime. And it's not just -- I mean, the question you've raised is specifically about whether illegal finance is
being used. I think there have been other questions about how people might have been able to claim finance to back a visa application when in fact
that wasn't -- that finance strictly wasn't available, not just about illegal finance but about other ways in which people might have been
finding way around that regime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you look into whether or not those individual cases are being assessed and maybe provide us with some further
information, ask the home office. To provide us with the further information --
MAY: I can ask the home office to provide further information.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And part of the reason for asking this is that obviously, there are allegations you've had to deal with, questions about
funding political party donations. Other people have to deal with other kinds of questions about whether illegal money is being used. I don't see
how those questions can be answered if we haven't made sure that the proper checks have been done on those individuals.
MAY: Well, in relation to political party donations, there are very clear rules as to who is able to make a political party donation. Of course,
foreign donations are not possible. There are rules around companies and individuals and the requirements that they have to meet in order to make a
donation to a political party. And I'm sure all political parties ensure that they follow those particular rules.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if you don't know whether people have come in on a tier one visa, for example, and we don't know whether their money has
been checked. How can we be confident that donations are legitimate or that money used for the purposes is legitimate?
MAY: Well, you're raising a wider question about the issue of the source of finance, a source of funding that is made to individual political
parties or indeed into businesses or in other ways. Which is a slightly separate. There are a set of rules for the donations to political parties,
which identify those people who can, and people have to meet those rules in order for a donation to be accepted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I reserve one question until later on.
We come to Dr. Julian Lewis and defense committee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime minister, the very success of the expulsions and the inevitable retaliation means that the West will have less
representation in Russia than in the past. Doesn't this put an added premium on the services of the BBC monitoring service and will you now
consider reinstating the ring fence 25 million pound a year grant, a small sum of money, that will enable this organization to avoid the cuts and
absorption by the mainstream BBC, which currently threatened.
MAY: I'm aware that this was also, again, a question that we raised in the House yesterday. And the answer is we are looking as I indicated as to the
extent to which we can ensure that the sound journalism of the BBC can be available to Russian speakers and to be more generally in that area. And
my understanding is that there is a -- there are discussions taking place between the BBC and the foreign office about certain aspects of funding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would certainly apply to the Russian service broadcasting into Russia but the monitoring service for a very long period
of time has done a brilliant job scooping up open source information from Russia and I would urge you to look at that situation as well.
Are you satisfied that given that we say that defense is the first duty of government, that we spend six times as much on welfare as we do on defense.
That we're operating at the bare NATO minimum of 2 percent of GDP and should we not be aspiring to a target of 3 percent GDP, which is what we
used to spend as late as the mid-1990s even after the end of the Cold War and after we had taken the peace dividend.
MAY: Well, you refer to the NATO commitment that we meet as being a bare commitment. But of course, just to put it into context, we are the second
biggest defense spender in NATO.
[11:45:00] We're only one of six NATO countries that does meet that 2 percent of GDP commitment, and that's a 36-billion-pound defense budget at
the moment. That's going to be rising to 40 billion because we are committed to at least 0.5 percent above inflation increase in every year
until the end of the Parliament. So, I think it is right that we are meeting that NATO commitment. That we remain committed to meeting that
commitment. That we encourage others to meet it where they don't. As I say, it's only six countries in the -- in NATO that do spend 2 percent of
their GDP on defense.
But of course, what we're also doing as we have had the national security capability review, looking widely at national security matters, what has
come out of that is modernizing defense program. This is about looking across the board of our national security and saying what are the
capabilities that we need, what are the threats we're facing, what are the capabilities we need to meet those threats and how can we provide for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But will you not take on board the fact that the defense select committee, the national audit office and even the joint
committee on the national security strategy have all produced reports which say that defense spending is inadequate. Of course, we spend a lot in
absolute terms, but isn't it a fact that it was revealed in January that major further cuts in conventional forces were being considered in order to
fund the answer to new threats. And don't you agree that funding measures against new and nontraditional threats mustn't be at the expense of our
capability to meet the more conventional dangers which have not gone away.
MAY: Well, I think the reports that you refer to -- were those that appeared in the newspapers. And of course, what we're doing is having the
national security capability review and we've launched the modernizing defense program precisely to ensure that our armed forces do have what they
need against the background of the varied threats that we face. And of course, as you'll be aware, those threats have diversified over time but
that we also need to make sure that defense is sustainable and affordable. And that's why the MOD has alongside the work that it is doing in looking
to the future but it's also being able to make sure that taxpayers are getting good value for money by ensuring that they're saving where that is
possible to do so. We of course want them to have the capabilities that they need, but I think what's important is that we make sure that we're
looking at the capabilities across the wide range of providers of those capabilities across government. When we're looking at national security
and defense in the round.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly true that the reports of the cuts were in the newspapers, but the reports produced by the committees and the
national audit office in particular showed that there is a gaping black hole in the defense equipment budget for the next ten years at the very
least of the order of 4.9 billion pounds and possibly up to 4 times that amount. And given that, we were having to look at making major cuts in
existing capabilities that we deemed to be necessary only two years ago, the time of the last review. Surely, it's the case that if there are new
and intensified threats, we need extra funding for defense because otherwise we can only fund these new and intensified threats, can we not,
at the expense of capabilities that only two years ago were deemed to be essential.
MAY: Well, I think, as I said, I would turn to the point about looking at national security and defense in the round. I'm aware, obviously, of the
reports that you've referred to, but the important thing, it seems to me, is when we look at the threat picture that we're facing, and we look at the
capabilities that we need in order to meet those threats, we recognize that those capabilities may -- some may come from what people may regard as sort
of more traditional defense. Some may come from other capabilities. What is important is that across the range, we are doing what is necessary to
ensure that we can meet the threats that we are facing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And finally, from me, given the reemergence of Russia as a strategic danger, have you considered increasing the number of British
troops deployed in the NATO area in Europe?
MAY: That is -- we do, obviously, regularly look at our deployments. As you will know, we currently are leading the battle group in -- we've
enhanced our presence in Estonia. We also are making a contribution to the presence in Poland.
[11:50:00] And obviously on a regular basis, we look at what is necessary. But of course, it's not just us providing those troops. As regards
Estonia, I was pleased when President Macron came for the Anglo-French Summit in January. That he committed to continuing a French troop presence
in Estonia as well, so we look to work with our allies to ensure that the numbers there are appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. And now moving onto culture, major in sport and Daniel Collins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime minister, I just wanted to ask about Russian involvement in disinformation directed towards other countries,
particularly around their elections. First, I want to agree regarding to the indictments in the United States whether you would agree with Robert
Mueller and other press reports and the internet research agency in St. Petersburg is funded by the Russian government through private channels.
MAY: Well, you've referred to a particular reference by Robert Mueller and this of course we're waiting for Robert Mueller to compete the work that he
is doing in the United States on this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was referring to the indictment, actually, of individuals who work in Internet research agency. That's what he said in
those publishes indictments.
MAY: Well, then, I have every respect that in putting that there, he did that because he had evidence on which to base that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. There have been reports by a lot of the press and also by the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee
looking at Russian interference in elections, and they have cited some examples of Russian interference on Twitter in elections in the U.K. and
particularly during the Brexit referendum period. The University of Edinburg identified 400 Russian Twitter accounts active during that period
of time. Berkeley, the University in California identified 150,000 Twitter accounts active during the Brexit referendum period. Is the government
through its agencies looking to investigate activity on social media that could be linked to Russian agencies during our recent elections and
MAY: Obviously, the suggestion that Russia interferes in democratic elections in any country is a matter of concern and obviously we know we've
seen that they have, indeed, attempted to interfere and get involved in certain elections in other countries. I have to say that we have not to
date seen evidence of successful interference in U.K. democratic processes. Should there be evidence that this has happened in the U.K., of course we
would take robust action. But to date, we've not seen evidence of successful interference in the U.K. democratic processes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By successful, do you mean not that it's not happening but that it's not happening at a sufficient scale that would suggest that
it could be decisive.
MAY: No, I think that we have -- we've -- were not complacent about this. As I say, we haven't seen evidence. I've been -- not seen evidence of
Russian interference in U.K. democratic processes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the frustrations we have on my committee and I discussed this with members of the United States Senate and they have the
same frustration, that getting information out of the tech companies that's important to investigations looking at serious matters like this is very
difficult. And we're largely reliant on them complying with our requests, without understanding whether they are giving us full answers or not. The
information commissioner has raised with -- raised with my committee her belief that the data protection bill currently going through Parliament
should be further amended to strengthen the powers that she has. And in particular to give her the legal power to go in and seize data that's
important to her investigations when that information notice hasn't been complied with. This effect would create almost a criminal power to do that
and would avoid the situation we saw last week where it took five days for her to get a warrant to go into Cambridge Analytica's offices and I
appreciate this is a live matter as the business is still going through the House of Commons, but I wondered if you had a view on this.
MAY: First of all, certainly, I think it is important that the information commissioner is able to investigate, and it obviously matters exactly what
is happening in the case of Cambridge Analytica. The case of Cambridge Analytica obviously raises very deep concerns in terms of what has been
suggested has been happening there. We have been looking at the question of whether to enhance the powers of the information commissioner, and this
is an issue that we will continue to look at. I think it is important, first of all, I'm pleased that we're able to put the data protection bill
through with obviously bringing in the EU data and the protection into here, but I think we do -- we have looked at this question of the
But obviously there have been recent instances which as you cite she has herself raised. We want to make sure that it is possible, the information
commissioner to access the information that is necessary to be able to investigate.
[11:55:00] ASHER: All right, Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at the House of Commons liaison committee. Wide range of topics discussed. What
you're listening to there, though, is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and how to handle that. But broadly, they talked about how to deal with
Russia in the wake of the poisoning of this ex-Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia.
Obviously, the PM certainly welcomed international support after the expulsion of several diplomats. But also, one of the lawmakers really
pressed her on further financial sanctions, especially given that Russian companies have circumvented existing sanctions. And other issues that
dominated were this idea of Russians donating to U.K. political parties. And also looking at Russian tier one investor visas as well. I want to
bring in our Nic Robertson whose joining us live now. So, Nic, just sum up broadly how Theresa May, what her options are in terms of dealing with
Russia in the wake of this poisoning scandal of Sergei Skripal.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Well, she has said that she is considering what further actions can be taken. And what
we are seeing is a growing and coalescing call for an examination of finances, of Russia finances in the U.K. There was some quite colorful
language there used by one of the members of the committee, asking Theresa May, you know, we need to address the financial interests of a kleptocratic
presidency and those sucking off the teat of the Putin regime. That's very strong and colorful language there.
But it does leave a very clear impression that that there is very real concern about the amount of money that oligarchs, Russian oligarchs close
to President Putin have been able to bring into the U.K. and what they've done with that money, have they used it. The question was very clearly
there. There have some of them used it to sort of gain political influence by contributing indirectly to some of the political parties, her political
party in particular. And this very key question of tier one investor visas, 2008, 2015, 700 have gone to Russian investors.
Essentially, you were able to get a visa to come to the U.K. if you were an investor, and you -- and you contribute several millions of pounds to the
U.K. exchequer. That is now being looked at with close scrutiny. Who were these people? And Theresa May said, well, couldn't say clearly whether the
people and their money have been fully investigated. So, I think we can expect to see more on that as well -- Zain.
ASHER: All right, Nic Robertson, we are out of time, sadly. Thank you so much, appreciate that.
Everyone, I'm Zain Asher that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Appreciate you watching have a great week.