Return to Transcripts main page


Increased Violence Between Protestors And Police At Hong Kong Airport; China May Be Considering Involvement As It Moves Police Vehicles Into Nearby Shenzhen; Single Largest State Operation Of Immigrant Workplace Raids Expected To Be Repeated; Inside Vladimir Putin's Private Army; Russia Calls Off Evacuation Of Town Near Explosion Site; Epstein's Alleged Accomplice; Trump & Trudeau Become "Pen Pals". Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 13, 2019 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:22] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Bianca Nobilo, in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight, I want to get straight to our breaking news out of Hong Kong, where what started as peaceful protest descended into pandemonium. Here's

what it looked like just a few hours ago. Riot police, using pepper spray and hauling at least a few protestors into buses. There was fighting, and

officers used pepper spray, as you can see here.

Now, let's look at another scene that really illustrates the chaos. A police officer had his baton taken away, and the crowd began attacking him

with it. He then pulled his gun and the protestors fled.

The airport has become the latest and most violent flashpoint in months of demonstrations that began over an extradition bill. CNN's Paula Hancocks

has been in the middle of these chaotic scenes that you've been witnessing, and she joins us now from the airport.

Paula, these protests have now been going on in the vicinity of 11 weeks. I remember when the government HQ was stormed. They seem to be getting

increasingly dramatic. Is this a tipping point, do you think?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Bianca, what we heard from the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, is that she said that

they're on the brink of this being a tipping point. So certainly from an official point of view, there are serious concerns.

Now, what we'd seen over the past couple of days, here in the airport, is severe disruption to the actual airport itself. And departures being

cancelled, and planes not landing here. So, certainly, this was the second day that we saw that.

But there was a difference here. We did see more of a police presence. It was quite quick, but it was quite dramatic and we saw some remarkable

scenes that you have just described there.

But what we also saw from some of the demonstrators and the protestors, was that they found what they believed to be an undercover agent from mainland

China, they say. We have no way of confirming whether or not that is the case.

But what they did, this individual, they kept him for many hours and they wouldn't let him leave. And we understand that he was taken ill at one

point, potentially even falling unconscious, and they wouldn't let paramedics get to him. So this is why we understand it, that the police

came in at one point without arms, but they came in to try and extract that particular individual, who was then taken to a hospital.

But then what did happen after that was the riot police came in. We did see people coming back into the airport, having to wash their eyes out,

having been pepper sprayed. So certainly in that regard, there was more of an interaction, of a clash between protestors and police than we have seen

before here at the Hong Kong Airport.

NOBILO: And, Paula, if the Chinese government and the Hong Kong executive, Carrie Lam, are viewing this, what's happening now, as a tipping point.

And my question is, a tipping point to what? What is it that these changes are going to lead to? Is it a specific reaction from Beijing that we can

expect? I mean, what do you think this means for the future of this movement?

HANCOCKS: Well, it's very difficult to answer that, really. Because things have been very fluid throughout the whole 10, 11 weeks. We did hear

from a top official in Beijing that they believe that these protests we're looking at now do have elements of terrorism within them, and that's

certainly a different rhetoric than we are hearing from them.

We also saw Chinese media reporting, and showing videos of -- of Chinese military equipment and military vehicles, driving up and down a highway on

the other side of the Hong Kong border. Now, this was heavily edited, it was put to music. So clearly, there is a message that they want to send

with that kind of a video.

So it is very difficult to know exactly what would happen next. Obviously, tomorrow will be key, when we see on Wednesday, whether or not a lot of

people still come to the airport to try and demonstrate. Demonstrators I've spoken to before they had actually had those clashes with riot police,

had said that they thought this was working well, that this was getting global attention and they didn't believe that riot police would actually

come into Hong Kong International Airport and try and disperse them.

[14:05:04] It is worth pointing out that the riot police did stay just at the entrance of the airport, as, bear in mind, there are still passengers

within this airport, trying to get out and having their flights cancelled. So there are still people within this airport that have nothing to do with

what's going on.

NOBILO: Paula, obviously, it doesn't help the protestors' case, that recently, there have been reports from state media about the fact that

protestors have thrown petrol bombs, they injured a police officer I believe. Meanwhile, protestors are accusing the police of brutality. Who

is winning the battle for hearts and minds there in Hong Kong? And how is that battle being fought? What are the platforms that this is being fought

(ph) over?

HANCOCKS: Well, certainly, the reason we've seen such a presence here of protestors over the past couple of days, we understand, is the fact that

they see what happened on Sunday as police brutality. They see the police having reacted too violently towards protestors.

And that's what we're hearing from protestors here, the fact that there have been many thousands here and they did, effectively, bring the airport

to a standstill for two days in a row.

But on the other side, you do -- we heard from the police as well, saying that they have had many injuries, that there have been many attacks against

them. They're doing what they have to do, they say, within Hong Kong law, to try and keep the peace.

So it's difficult to know at this point, who is winning the war of public opinion. I mean, clearly, there are people within this airport who are

not happy that, for two days, they haven't been able to leave the country or they haven't been able to get on their planes. So it is an interesting

question, as to whether or not, if this continues in this vein in the airport, will they lose even more public opinion from those who are just

trying to go about their daily life?

NOBILO: Paula Hancocks in Hong Kong, thank you very much.

Now, mainland China is keeping a close eye on the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong. So far, the response in Beijing has been largely subdued.

But Ben Wedeman tells us that patience may be wearing thin.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten weeks of protests, hundreds arrested, a key international airport, overrun

and paralyzed. Watching all this unfold, Beijing is not amused. A spokesman for China's Hong Kong and Macau Office warned the protests have,

in his words, "begun to show signs of terrorism."

The nationalist Chinese tabloid, the "Global Times," published video of the People's Armed Police, China's federal police, deploying in Shenzhen, right

on the border with Hong Kong.

Two weeks before, the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison posted a video online showing troops training to deal with rioters, and put out a

statement stressing its determination and ability to protect Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

Hong Kong's charmed status -- a part of China but apart from China -- at the end of the day, is at China's pleasure.

WEDEMAN: Under the territory's Garrison Law, the Hong Kong government can request the intervention of the Chinese army in the event of natural

disaster or civil disorder.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): And civil disorder is in the air, with some anger focused on symbols of the Chinese state.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has a blunt warning.

CARRIE LAM, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF HONG KONG (through translator): Hong Kong's society is not safe or stable. The rioters have pushed Hong Kong to the

brink of no return.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Yet armed intervention by Beijing would shatter Hong Kong's international business-friendly image, and strike the death knell to

the One Country, Two Systems arrangement. Pro-Beijing legislator Holden Chow insists that doomsday scenario is, at the moment, unlikely.

HOLDEN CHOW, PRO-BEIJING LAWMAKER: I don't think the PLA will come in to deal with the situation because I trust the Hong Kong police and the Hong

Kong SAR government has the ability to deal with the situation here.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Perhaps. But as protests carry on or intensify and their impact is felt well beyond this tiny crowded territory, that could

change. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Hong Kong.


[14:10:05] NOBILO: The situation is attracting attention around the world. President Trump has weighed in on the scenes of chaos happening right now

in Hong Kong. A little earlier, he spoke to reporters in New Jersey.

We're going to speak to our Will Ripley, who joins us now. I think we've got Will with us.

Will, have we got you there in New York, there -- there we go.


NOBILO: Hi, Will. So you spent a lot of time in the region. So I'm keen to get your thoughts on how China is going to respond to this. And also

the fact that these protests have been called "a leaderless movement," how calculated is it on the part of the protestors, to design what they're

doing with one eye on how Beijing is going to respond?

RIPLEY: I remember covering the pro-democracy protests, Bianca, five years ago. And at that time, it was shocking when Hong Kong police used tear gas

for the first time on protestors. That had never happened before.

And what we've seen now, over the last three or so months, the situation devolving, week after week. Not only regular use of tear gas and rubber

bullets by the police, but petrol bombs and bricks by the protestors.

It has turned into something much darker than the large, peaceful demonstrations that we saw at the beginning of the summer, that inspired

many people in Hong Kong to come out and show support and show solidarity for these young people, who feel very passionately that they are fighting

for their future, the future of Hong Kong.

But, now that the situation has become more violent, even if it is a smaller group, the amount of disruption that they've been able to cause

puts Beijing in a very tricky spot.

Beijing did not intervene, back in 2014, but since the Umbrella Movement protests, they have completed a massive bridge that connects the mainland

with Hong Kong, a bridge that could be used, theoretically, by those armed military police vehicles that have assembled in Shenzhen, just on the other

side of the bridge in the mainland.

You do have the People's Liberation Army stationed in a garrison inside Hong Kong, just blocks from where the protests have been going on. So up

until now, Beijing has shown considerable restraint.

But I think the question on a lot of people's minds: For how long? Can Hong Kong really handle this if the disruption continues, if the violence

continues to escalate?

NOBILO: Will Ripley in New York, thank you.

As we mentioned, President Trump has weighed in on some of those scenes of chaos that you saw at the beginning of the show. A little earlier, he

spoke to reporters in New Jersey. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Hong Kong thing is very tough situation, very tough. We'll see what happens, but I'm sure it'll

work out. I hope it works out for everybody including China, by the way. I hope it works out for everybody.

It's a very tricky situation. I think it'll work out and I hope it works out for liberty, I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I

hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt, I hope nobody gets killed.


NOBILO: And he just tweeted this moments ago. Quote, "Our intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border

with Hong Kong. Everyone should be calm and safe!"

So are we reaching a tipping point here? With me now is James Miles, China editor for "The Economist."

So we just heard from the president. And he was saying that he hopes this all works out for liberty and for China. Now, if you were one of those

protestors in Hong Kong, you might say that that simply isn't possible. So how influential can world leaders actually be here, when it comes to this

situation in Hong Kong?

JAMES MILES, CHINA EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST: I think at this stage, China really doesn't care what America and other countries are saying about Hong

Kong. It cares, really, only insofar as it seems to confirm, in China's mind, that there is an international conspiracy behind this.

It's talking about black hands being involved in the unrest in Hong Kong. And the principle black hand, in China's mind, is America. And that's

confirmed by all this attention now being paid to the situation there.

What China is really considering is, how much of a threat is this to the Communist Party itself. And we've seen, over the past few days, a buildup

of language being used by Chinese officials, which suggests that they are forming the view that this is a direct threat to the Communist Party

itself. They're talking about a color revolution in Hong Kong.

Now, the Chinese ambassador in Washington has spoken of America trying to foment unrest in Hong Kong that would spread into mainland China itself.

And when it starts thinking in this sort of way, it becomes very dangerous indeed.

NOBILO: So what in Beijing's mind do you think would be a proportionate response to that assessment?

MILES: Well, it has really, a couple of choices now. One is to trust the Hong Kong government to try to quell this unrest. And the other, is to

move in with its -- with its forces, and try to do the job itself.

[14:15:10] Now, you have to bear in mind a key date coming up. And that is October the first. That's the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China.

It's a hugely important political event in the country.

For months now, the country's been gearing up towards this. There will be a massive military parade in Beijing, all sorts of festivities. And the

emphasis politically in China for the past few months has been on maintaining stability. And here is Hong Kong, which is clearly threatening

that picture.

So the Communist Party does not want trouble in the build-up to this. And I think what it's most fearful of is huge demonstrations breaking out on

October the first itself in Hong Kong. So it will want to deal with this quickly.

And so I think, given that the Hong Kong government has not been able to deal with this so far, that it must now be thinking about doing it -- doing

the job itself.

NOBILO: And do you think that they would expect an international reaction to that if they did?

MILES: Well, I think certainly that they would be. And they would be hugely worried about the possibility of economic fallout. Clearly, Hong

Kong is already very jittery about this. The stock market is at its lowest level since early January. They would fear a rush to the exit, should

troops appear on the streets. It would have a dramatic effect, I think, on the psychology of Hong Kong, and on business sentiment there. Surely they

would worry about that.

So much of China's business with the rest of the world is conducted through Hong Kong, it's enormously important to the rest of China. But the party's

authority, Xi Jinping's authority in Beijing, perhaps Trumps that. And I think it's right that the business community is worried about this possible

next step.

NOBILO: You mentioned the fear that Beijing would have about mass protest, particularly around that anniversary on the first of October. How

widespread is the support for these protests within the population of Hong Kong? And how can we tell? Because it's not the easiest mission.

MILES: Well, it is very difficult to tell. But the way the protests have persisted so far, suggests that there is still strong support in Hong Kong.

And each time the police use violence, it appears that that further increases support for these protestors, even though they are, quite often

these days, resorting to radical, sometimes violent action.

A key test of this will come this weekend, in fact, when a large-scale -- what organizers hope will be a peaceful rally will be held in Hong Kong.

And that -- turnout for that, I think, will give us some indication of how much support there is among the general public.

NOBILO: We'll be watching. James Miles from "The Economist," thank you very much.

MILES: Thank you.

NOBILO: Still to come on the program tonight, the U.S. president pulls back from his trade war with China. And he says Santa Claus is the reason

why. We'll explain and update you on what he's saying, live this hour in Pennsylvania.

Plus, after targeting illegal immigrants, the Trump administration is taking on legal immigration. We'll have more about a new rule that's

making many people nervous.


[14:20:35] NOBILO: It seems the U.S. trade war with China may be cooling a little bit, and we'll have Christmas to thank for it. U.S. President

Donald Trump says he's decided to delay a new round of tariffs on China because it will help a lot of people.

The tariffs were due to go in place in September, but were delayed until mid-December, when it will be too late to impact Christmas. And right now,

he's speaking in Pennsylvania about energy and the economy, after touring a petrochemical plant.

TRUMP: How are we doing in the state, David? We looking good?

NOBILO: The president was talking trade as he took a short break from his August vacation. CNN White House Reporter, Jeremy Diamond joins us now

with more.

So, Jeremy, the president has emerged from his vacation. What are the top lines from what he's been saying?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, so far, we have the president here. He's been talking on stage for about 15 minutes, 20

minutes or so, to this crowd of several thousand workers, here at this construction site, which is going to eventually be Pennsylvania's

petrochemicals complex. It's one of those places that's going to be turning natural gas into some of the precursors for plastics.

And the president is here, touting, of course, his policies on the economy. And in particular, the policies that he's implemented to help the energy

industry in the United States. He referenced some of the environmental regulations that his administration has rolled back, allowing some of these

industries to thrive.

But make no mistake, a lot of what the president is talking about here, it may be an official White House event, but the president is focused on

politics. He referenced the margin by which he won this county, Beaver County in Western Pennsylvania, back in 2016.

And of course, the president's 2020 re-election strategy is also very much going to focus here in Pennsylvania, on Western Pennsylvania, the rural

parts here and the parts in the industrial Midwest, where he has focused so much on manufacturing policies.

And so expect the president to continue to make reference to that throughout this, as he heads for re-election in 2020 and tries, once again,

to motivate many of these blue-collar workers to turn out for him in November 2020.

NOBILO: Jeremy Diamond, thank you for joining us from Pennsylvania, where the president is.

Now, a new rule to cut down legal immigration in the U.S. has touched off a firestorm. The move, announced Monday, means many green card or visa

applicants could be turned down if they have low income or a small amount of education, or if they've used government assistance like food stamps or

subsidized housing.

Critics say it targets low-income immigrants and people of color. The Trump administration defends the move.


KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP & IMMIGRATION SERVICES: Last year, we swore in more American citizens than the four years before

it. And this year, I expect to see similar numbers again.

So we've not, at all, laid off of -- in the Trump administration, processing properly legal immigration.


NOBILO: President Trump has long made immigration the centerpiece of his agenda, starting with his campaign. Still, courts and Congress have slowed

or stalled some of his administration's ambitions.

Among some of the actions the administration has or has tried to do, we have: Banned nationals of eight mostly majority Muslim countries from

entering the United States; Reduce the cap for refugee admissions to the lowest level since the resettlement program was created back in 1980; and

cancelled DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, that affects nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants brought into the U.S. as

children. That move has been blocked, though, through legal channels, and will be decided by the Supreme Court.

So that's a broad look at the state of U.S. immigration under the Trump administration. But now, we want to focus on Mississippi and the crackdown

on undocumented immigrants there. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us live from Jackson, Mississippi.

And, Dianne, you've been spending time with one particular family. What have they been telling you?


And those of you watching, probably at some point, when seeing about those historic raids that happened here on workplaces in Mississippi, saw a

little girl crying and asking the government to have a heart.

Her name is Magdalena and her video has been viewed millions of times around the world. I spent time with her family. And, Bianca, just a

couple moments ago, we learned where her father is being held. They had been waiting for six days now, his wife and their four children, to find

out where he is. He's about an hour and 40 minutes from here.

[14:25:06] Now, online -- to give you an idea of how complex this is for individuals and their families who went through these raids and through

immigration proceedings in general, he was listed as being held in a center a state away in Louisiana, and they had no details on the specific

location, what city.

So his wife has been attempting to locate him at any point for nearly a week now. We've now been able to do that. But now comes the hard part

that many others have to fight (ph), whether or not they can bond him out.

There were nearly 700 workers, Bianca, that were apprehended during this workplace raid of seven different meat processing plants in six different

cities around Jackson, where I am right now. And about half of those people, a little less than half of them, have since been released. But the

rest remain in detention in different states around the country. And their future is far more uncertain.

The United States has quite an immigration backlog when it comes to actually getting before a judge, getting a hearing, potentially being --

finding out whether or not you will be deported from this country or not. And so you have so many families, here in this particular area, Bianca,

that are just waiting. They don't have any other recourse right now.

One thing we should point out is that all of those individuals who were apprehended and detained, the people who own those plants, the people who

manage them and the U.S.-born citizens in power who would have hired these individuals, none of them have been charged at this point. There are no

criminal charges against them. The U.S. government says it's still an open criminal investigation. But that hasn't gone unnoticed here in


NOBILO: And, Dianne, do you think that we're likely to see more of those crackdowns in Mississippi? And given those raids and given the new rules

announced on immigration, what do you think is the political and ideological message here, if any, that the Trump administration is trying

to underscore?

GALLAGHER: To be honest, Bianca, the Trump administration has very forcefully relayed that there will be more raids like this. Not

necessarily in Mississippi, but across the country. And in fact, sources have told CNN that they have asked the particular regions to ramp up their

investigations into these unauthorized workers in the United States, and those workplaces that are employing them.

And so based on the message that the administration is relaying, we will likely see additional raids like this. Bianca, 680 people were detained.

That was the single largest state operation in history. And the administration appears to be attempting to sort of, if anything, puff up

their chest with this and show, "Hey, we mean business."

But it is reverberating around these communities with fear. I attended a job fair yesterday for one of those plants that lost so many of its

workers, and there were not nearly enough people who showed up to that, to fill those spots that were left empty by those undocumented immigrants who

work in those jobs.

And many of the American citizens who were applying for the job were very open and frank to us about the fact that, "I'll work this until I can find

something better, and then I'll quit." It's hard work, they are long hours, it smells bad. It's not -- it's not a job that many of the people

who live here want, and they will tell you that openly.

And the administration is continuing to go with its theme of the fact that these undocumented people are stealing your jobs, they're taking your

money, they're living off of your wages, things like that.

And at least on the ground, Bianca, that doesn't necessarily seem to be true. And most of the people, even those who identify as Republicans and

Trump supporters here in Mississippi, haven't felt the same sort of malice toward those undocumented workers, acknowledging instead that a lot of

these small towns that are dependent upon manufacturing and processing plants, would shut down if these migrants weren't here. They're calling

them a ghost town for the past week because of this raid.

NOBILO: Really appreciate your reporting, Dianne.

Dianne Gallagher, there for us in Jackson, Mississippi.

Thank you.

Of course, immigration issues are not exclusive to the United States. The U.N. Human Rights Agency is calling on European governments to allow two

aid ships carrying refugees to dock at their ports. But so far, no takers.

The ships are stranded in the Mediterranean with more than 500 migrants on board, including children. They were recently rescued at sea after

attempting dangerous voyages from North Africa to reach European shores. The U.N. calls it a race against time, saying that storms are coming and

conditions will only get worse.

[14:29:53] Still to come tonight, CNN is exposing a private, secretive army doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin. We'll get Clarissa

Ward's exclusive report, coming up next.


NOBILO: Welcome back. I want to go back to Hong Kong now. A city on edge and bracing for another tense day. Protests at the airport spiraled into

violence Tuesday. The demonstrators fought with police and point scuffles with angry passengers.

After more than two months of demonstrations, the territory's chief executive is warning that Hong Kong is near the point of no return.

So let's go back to CNN's Paula Hancocks who's been in the middle of those chaotic scenes.

Paula, what's the mood like where you are right now? And can we expect that to be resumption of these protests tomorrow and the clashes with the


HANCOCKS: Well, Bianca, at this point -- it's 2:30 in the morning. The protesters have left. So it's certainly a much calmer, much quieter scene

that we have seen throughout the day.

Now, some protesters said they would come back tomorrow. But, of course, that was before we saw those clashes with riot police. What will be very

interesting to see, whether or not, they are going to decide to come back to the airport once again on Wednesday.

Now, we also see that flights are starting to be rescheduled. We can see on the board. Many of them are severely delayed. But the Hong Kong

authorities obviously trying to make sure that they can get as many flights out in the morning as possible. Just in case there is a third day where

these protestors managed to bring this airport to a standstill.

But the scene is just a few hours ago where really quite remarkable and chaotic, especially when you consider where we are. This is a major

international transport hub. It is the eight busiest airport in the world. And yet, you had riot police at the entrance of this airport. You had the

protestors trying to barricade and keep them out. You had clashes between the two.

We understand there was pepper spray used. You can certainly see that from many of the protests coming back in before the riot police then retreated.

The one thing we have seen that's slightly different is protesters have been taking individuals who they believe to be undercover peace man or

agents from Mainland China, they've been saying. We have no idea or no way of confirming exactly if that is the case.

But one particular case, they did keep this individual for many hours. We understand that he was unconscious at one point and paramedics would able

to get through to him.

So that's the sort of the thing that could turn public opinion against some of these protesters. That's an ugly scene that other protestors on the side

were asking not to go ahead. But certainly, we have seen these kinds of -- this uptick in tension and uptick in some aggressions from some protestors.

[14:35:16] NOBILO: Thank you, Paula. Paula Hancocks for us in Hong Kong where it's 2:30 in the morning. I know that my colleagues will be checking

in with you as the day rolls on. Thank you.

Now, for an exclusive report. CNN is exposing a secretive private army that does the bidding of Russian president, Vladimir Putin. We've learned

that this private army is expanding, apparently led by a close Putin ally, who's linked to U.S. election interference.

Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, takes us inside Mr. Putin's private army. Take a look.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Oleg. For years, he says he worked as a hired gun in Syria, for a shadowy

Russian mercenary group called, Wagner, that has become a valuable tool for the Kremlin.

OLEG, FORMER WAGNER FIGHTER (through translator): Wagner is Putin's instrument for resolving issues by force, when action has to be taken

immediately, urgently, and in the most concealed way possible. I cannot say it's an army in the proper sense of that word. It's just a fighting unit

that will do anything that Putin says.

WARD: This is the first time a former Wagner employee has agreed to speak on camera, and Oleg asked us to disguise his identity.

Private military contractors are illegal in Russia. Officially, Wagner doesn't exist, but CNN has discovered that the group now has hundreds of

fighters operating on three different continents, and this is the man believed to be behind that expansion. Dubbed Putin's chef because of

lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin is also sanctioned by the U.S. for funding the Internet Research Agency accused of

meddling in the 2016 election.

OLEG (through translator): I'm a mercenary, and 90 percent of participants of the company were like me, and they were motivated by money.

WARD (on-camera): What sort of training was it? Where did it take place?

OLEG (through translator): You know, I didn't have any training, as such, not then anyway. I spent six days in the training camp in Molkino. I went

to a firing range twice and shot a machine gun once. That was it.

WARD (voice-over): CNN travelled to the remote Russian village of Molkino to try to get to Wagner's training camp and found that the group has a

surprisingly close relationship with the Russian military.

WARD (on-camera): The only way to get into the Wagner barracks is to get through that checkpoint, which is manned by the Russian military. Because

this actually belongs to a Russian special forces unit.

WARD (voice-over): Not far from Molkino, there's a monument to fallen Wagner fighters. Visitors are not welcome, so we approached with a hidden


WARD (on-camera): It looks less like a memorial than a fortress.

WARD (voice-over): A guard soon comes up to us. "Is the church only for Wagner?" I ask. "I don't know for whom," he says.

"For the people who were in Syria?" I press him.

"I don't know, I'm telling you," he says. "I'm just guarding here." He begins to get suspicious of our questions, and we decide to leave.

WARD (on-camera): Yes, he's going to call. Let's go.

They didn't let us inside, which is not surprising, because in that compound is the only tangible, visible proof that Wagner is real.

WARD (voice-over): No surprise, perhaps, that the monument is funded by a Prigozhin-owned company.

It was five years ago in Crimea that mysterious, unidentified fighters, dubbed "little green men," helped Moscow wrest the province from Ukraine,

even as the Kremlin feigned ignorance. It was a success, and Moscow's use of mercenary forces has since grown. Analysts say none of this could

happen without Putin's approval.

WARD (on-camera): Do you think that part of the mission of Wagner is to help Russia restore its role to become a major global superpower again?

OLEG (through translator): Yes, 100 percent. This is the top priority for Wagner.

WARD: And so it's trying to be a rival to America?

OLEG (through translator): Russia is trying to suppress the U.S. in every way possible, using legal and illegal means. It's trying to smash it, get

the better of it somehow. What will come of it as a result? Nothing good, I think.

WARD (voice-over): But for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wagner is still a worthwhile gamble, an expendable fighting force with no



[14:40:01] WARD: CNN has tried to reach out to Yevgeny Prigozhin, but we did not received any response from his lawyers. We also, of course, wanted

to reach out to Wagner. But because the group doesn't officially exist, there is no website or phone number or address.

And finally, Bianca, we also tried to reach out the Russian ministry of defense. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, no response from them.

NOBILO: Clarissa's team is also investigating Russia's advances into the African continent, particularly in the Central African Republic. Her team

visited a camp run by Russian mercenaries, arming and training the national army, and travel to a Russian controlled mine where the mission appeared

less transparent.


WARD (voice-over): We are on our way to one of seven sites where a Russian company has been given exploration rights.

One of the challenges of trying to nail down exactly what the Russians are doing here is that once you get outside the capital, this is still a very

dangerous and chaotic country. And just last year, three Russian journalists were actually ambushed and killed while working on a story

about Russian mercenaries.


NOBILO: Watch Clarissa's full report on Russia's activities inside the Central African Republican. Airing later tonight at 7:00 P.M. in New York

and midnight in London, only on CNN.

Staying with Russia now. There are growing concerns over radiation levels after an explosion that's being clouded with mystery. Explosion and secret

military test sites last week, killed, at least, five top nuclear scientists. Local authorities say radiation levels in the region briefly

spiked after the blast.

Today, Moscow, canceled an evacuation order for a nearby village.

Our Moscow Bureau Chief, Nathan Hodge, has the details and he joins me now.

Nathan, what happened here? Because there was an evacuation that was ordered, which coincided with the aftermath of the spike in radiation, but

that was never the reason that was stated for ordering the evacuation in the first place.

NATHAN HODGE, CNN BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Bianca, you're exactly right. Earlier today, we had found doubt that out there was an evacuation order

for a small village on the White Sea called Nyonoksa, which is not very far from the port city of Severodvinsk.

And this is all in the area where this explosion, this mysterious explosion, happened last week that claimed of five Russian nuclear

specialists. An explosion that was accompanied by this mysterious spike in radiation.

At the time, the Russian military said last Thursday that radiation levels were normal. But then it was later confirmed that radiation levels were

between four and 16 levels -- 16 times higher than the normal background level of radiation there. So when news emerged that the residents of the

small village were going to be evacuated, it set off alarm bells.

Now, of course, that order was rescinded. The local authorities told us that, actually, the military had been planning some exercises in the

region. They were already planning to evacuate those villagers.

Just as a security measure, in other words, it had nothing to do with this very mysterious accident that had happened last week, which outside

observers, observers outside of Russia, believed may have involved the test and the test failure of the nuclear powered cruise missile, a new piece of

weaponry that Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had boasted about last year, quite publicly, Bianca.

NOBILO: And, Nathan, you mentioned the mystery and the fact that there has been speculation by U.S. officials that there was a nuclear powered missile

involved in this. But there's been a huge amount of confusion that Kremlins very being shy when it comes to stating any of the facts of what

happened, which is only served to amplify that confusion further.

So, can we expect to hear anything else from the Kremlin? Is this the usual kind of response that we would get from them?

HODGE: Well, Bianca, at this stage, you know, a lot of us have already seen, for instance, the HBO series, "Chernobyl." And for some people when

we see this, sort of, mysterious evacuation order, it's very, at least, that first blush, it seemed reminiscent of the evacuation at the town of

Pripyat. This was the town that was closest to the Chernobyl reactor.

Initially, Soviet authorities at the time in 1986, did not evacuate the town despite this horrific nuclear disaster that happened at a reactor. It

was only after radiation was detected over Northern Europe that the Soviets owned up to the fact that there had been this huge nuclear accident and

they also evacuated the town of Pripyat, which today is a ghost town.

We're not talking about something on the scale of Chernobyl here, but certainly everyone who's observing both inside of Russia and outside is,

there's, I think, a fair amount of alarm and concern looking from the outside about the kind of information that the Kremlin, the Russian

military, the Russian authorities are making public in the situation, especially when we see something like this surprising move to evacuate the

population of the small village near this test site and then to rescind that order.

[14:45:24] So lots of questions remain, lots of answers that we still haven't received on the official site of Russia. Bianca?

NOBILO: Nathan Hodge, our Moscow bureau chief, thank you.

Still to come on the program. For years, she's faced accusations of sex trafficking girls for Jeffrey Epstein. But Ghislaine Maxwell has never

been charged for the crime. We'll take a closer look at the British socialite, just ahead.


NOBILO: Welcome back. Britain's prime minister says the most important trade deal that the U.K. needs to secure is first with the European Union

and talks with the U.S. will come later. This comes a day after the U.S. National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said the U.K. has the full support

of the Trump administration to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson met with Bolton for talks in London. Now, Bolton is back on his way to Washington.

Now, two staffers at the jail that was holding Jeffery Epstein have been placed on leave after his apparent suicide. And a warden has been

reassigned. We're still waiting to see the autopsy results of the American multi-millionaire who was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. He

knew an awful lot of rich and powerful people and a few of them have been named by Epstein's alleged victims as men they were forced to have sex


Now, authorities are turning their focus to who may have helped Epstein carry out these crime. As Max Foster reports, one name, Ghislaine Maxwell

comes up over and over again.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is the figure that keeps reappearing in images associated with the Epstein

scandal. A Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago party in 2000. On the front row, at Chelsea Clinton's wedding. And here, right behind Prince Andrew, and the

then-17-year-old, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims in court documents that Epstein kept her as a teenage sex slave, and that he was assisted in

his efforts by British woman, Ghislaine Maxwell.

In the court filings, Giuffre alleges she was forced to have sex with the royal under Epstein's instructions, including in Maxwell's London

apartment, and that she acted as a madam. All the allegations against Andrew have been denied and a suggestion of impropriety with underage

minors was dismissed by Buckingham Palace as categorically untrue.

Known as his right and left hands, Epstein described Maxwell in 2003 as his best friend, in this profile of Vanity Fair. Not a colleague or an


[14:50:04] The revered daughter of the media baron, Robert Maxwell, she grew up in this vast country estate in the idyllic Oxfordshire countryside.

After her father's mysterious death at sea in 1991, falling from his luxury yacht named in her honor, Maxwell reportedly moved to New York to start a

new life.

So, how did she go from a highly-educated and connected figure in British high society to an accused figure in the background o an investigation into

underage sex trafficking?


FOSTER: Footage of her is as elusive as she is. Here, she's speaking on ocean sustainability at the United Nations in 2014, under her role as

founder of the Terramar Project, a non-profit.

MAXWELL: Makes a pledge. There's no taxes, by the way, it's all free. I know you're signing is you love the ocean, that you will spread your love

of the ocean because we're a digital platform.

FOSTER: Out to public view though, Epstein's accusers claimed Maxwell was sourcing teenage girls for him and directing them to have sex with Epstein

and his friends.

Newly unsealed documents from a 2015 defamation case, referred to her as one of the main women, primary coconspirator, acting as a madam for

Epstein. Assisted in internationally trafficking Jeffrey and numerous other young girls for sexual purposes.

Jeffrey says Maxwell recruited her when she was 15 years old. In her court deposition, Maxwell says Jeffery's claims are untrue. "I know that

Virginia is a liar and I know that once she testified is a lie. So I could only testify for I know to be a falsehood. I can categorically deny

everything she has said. I have no knowledge of anything else.

Maxwell hasn't made a public statement since Epstein was charged in July but has previously denied the allegations. She's not been charged herself,

and her attorney hasn't responded to numerous request for comments.

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern the investigation is ongoing, so more indictments are possible. Investigators are currently

looking for any alleged coconspirators, along with her flattened London records show an addressed registered to Maxwell in Salisbury and Wilshire

(ph) is, no doubt, investigators would like to talk to her.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


More to come tonight. Including diplomacy between the U.S. and Canada. When a handshake just isn't enough.


NOBILO: Welcome back. Well, it's something a little passive aggressive about the way U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister,

Justin Trudeau have become pen pals. Our Jeanne Moss explains.


JEANNE MOSS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know how President Trump always describes the letters he gets from North Korea's


TRUMP: A really beautiful letter. It's a very beautiful letter from Kim Jong-un.

MOOS: Well, apparently, he's been sending some beaus of his own to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Beautiful, at least, if you love

Sharpies. Axios reports that Trump took a May 2017 magazine cover, which called Trudeau the anti-Trump and scrolled something like, "Looking good,

hope it's not true" in silver Sharpie. Someone on Twitter created this markup.

MOOS (on-camera): The president and his Sharpies inspired some sharp criticism online.

[14:55:06] MOOS (voice-over): Maybe he's inhaling too many Sharpie fumes. What, no crayons? Critics suggested President Trump is jealous of Trudeau,

even jealous of the way Ivanka once look at the Canadian prime minister.

When the Sharpie annotated cover arrived at Canada's Washington embassy, a Canadian ambassador thought it was a prank, according to Axios. The

embassy called the White House. The White House said it was real.

Trump has a habit of writing with Sharpies say folks who have gotten mail from him.

HOWARD STERN, RADIO HOST: He writes mostly a magic marker, like with big, block letters.

MOOS: Trudeau sent Trump a letter of his own, it was after the president described disagreeing with Trudeau.

TRUMP: I said, no, no, you have a trade surplus. I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, we do not."

MOOS: Trudeau's letter included a web page from the U.S. trade representative's office with the U.S. goods and services trade surplus.

Surplus not deficit for that year circled, next to it Trudeau drew a smiley face, Trump has his Sharpies.

TRUMP: I said to myself, well, wait, this writes much better.

MOOS: But Trudeau takes the edge off of Trump's Sharpie with a smiley.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


NOBILO: I think I need to upgrade my HB for Sharpie. Finally, tonight a creative look at our top story. Hong Kong artists are dipping their paint

brushes into politics, emerging activism with art. Take a look at this.

Graphic artwork inspired by the current protest. Unity is the key theme with artists and also drawing on previous demonstrations such as the 2014

Hong Kong umbrella movement with the words "be water" seen in the print.

If you want to see more on these, head to

And, of course, CNN will monitor the situation at Hong Kong airport. Things have calmed down now. But we saw dramatic and violent scenes there

just a few hours ago.

But that's it for us for now. Thank you for watching us tonight, stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.