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Interview Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; Interview With Missing Children Europe President Anna Maria Corazza Bildt; Interview With Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 01, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.


HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In our religious and Islamic texts, human rights is one of the most

fundamental issues.


AMANPOUR: Iran and the west at a turning point. And I get an exclusive interview with the foreign minister on the global condemnation over Iran's

human rights and latest fears that the county could be even closer to nuclear breakout.

Then --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so, these children are essentially being held hostage?



AMANPOUR: We speak about Russia's scheme to forcibly kidnap and adopt thousands of minors from Ukraine with the president of Missing Children


And --


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The smugglers exacerbate the message. They're like used car dealers who say that the sale

is going to expire at the end of the week. You've got to go now. So, there is a bit of a feeding frenzy.


AMANPOUR: The crisis at America's southern border. Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, joins Michel Martin.

AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Worrying news from Iran where the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has found near bomb grade levels of uranium at a nuclear facility. CNN has seen a

restricted report which found uranium particles enriched to almost 84 percent, which is very close to the 90 percent needed to make a nuclear

bomb. And it comes amid alarming allegations of human rights violations by the regime against protesters. And shocking accounts of torture and sexual

assault at the hands, even of the revolutionary guards.

Meanwhile, Iran is also suspected of sending attack drones to Russia for Putin's vicious war in Ukraine. Foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

is in Geneva this week speaking at the U.N. Human Rights Council. And in a rare interview since the death of Mahsa Amini, rocked his country, I sat

down with him for a challenging conversation.


AMANPOUR: Foreign minister, welcome to the program.

HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, I'm ready to answer

your questions. I would like to convey my greetings to all those watching your program.

AMANPOUR: In that case, let me start by the fact that you are here. You gave a speech to the human rights council of the U.N. As you, know there

are many people who wondered why you would be giving a human rights speech, given what is going on in your country. You did actually say that no

country can claim to implement human rights perfectly.

So, I want to know whether you admit that Iran has really cracked down, has not just not implemented human rights but has killed people. There are

reports of prisoners and ordinary protesters having been assaulted sexually, having been tortured. We have seen pictures of police and other

security forces using live fire against peaceful protesters. Is that what you mean when you say, no country can claim to implement human rights


AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): You are of Iranian heritage like I am. In the Iranian civilization, and over thousands of years of Iranian

history, we have human rights inscriptions on stones originating from Iran. Iran is the first country that has had human rights inscriptions in its

museums and in museums around the world.

In our religious and Islamic texts, human rights is one of the most fundamental issues, and we have always been advised to observe that. The

constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran also emphasizes that. We observe human rights very well. But when I said in my speech that human

rights is not fully implemented by some countries, I mean those who advocate human rights, but in practice, they don't observe them.

AMANPOUR: I want to talk about your country. So, what I want to understand is, are you, therefor, saying that killing innocent protesters, sexually

abusing and raping women who have been arrested, as we, CNN, have spoken to at least one woman who says that, in a revolutionary guard detention

center, summary trials --


-- mass detentions of peaceful protesters, I'm talking about peaceful protesters now. Is that Iran's standard for implementing human rights?

That's what I want to know.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): In Iran we have an incident. An Iranian girl passed away, and we were all very sorry about that. But

foreign interference and the Persian language media that our base in the United States and Britain focused their activities on encouraging and

instigating the riots and acts of terror. And that's why peaceful protests ended up becoming violent because of the foreign intervention.

To the extent that even Daesh or ISIS exploited the situation to establish a presence in Iran. And I can tell you this, in full confidence, that

police and the security forces in Iran have not killed anyone with bullets or any other means in these riots. In fact, the police, they were not even

given permission to use firearms.

On the contrary, over 100 police officers were actually attacked by people who had all kinds of firearms and weapons they had procured from the unsafe

borders of neighboring countries. They were murdered. And the thousands of people were injured. And some foreign elements and the Persian language

media that are financially supported and led by them claim that there was a new revolution. And claim that a coup d'etat is being staged in Iran.

And who is going to lead this? The head of the terrorist mini group MEK. The hypocrites which has murdered 17,000 Iranians, women, and children. And

they have been on the U.S. and western terrorist blacklist for many years. And then there is the son of the former shah who has committed many crimes.

And I said to the authorities in Germany, would you allow a son of Hitler if he had any children to become chancellor Germany today?

AMANPOUR: Are you really seriously drawing that comparison?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Yes, of course. That's what I told the Germans.

AMANPOUR: All right. So, that is your position. You say that there are terrorists -- you did say that there are peaceful protests. I want to talk

about the peaceful protest because those are the people who have also been arrested, have also been killed. And essentially repression has worked. We

have seen summary executions of at least four people. And the protests are less than they were.

But I want to ask you to respond. I want to ask you to respond to the fact, when you say the Islamic Republic of Iran respects human rights, one female

protester says that she was detained inside the revolutionary guard facility for more than a month and raped by three different men. She went

to a cleric, a mullah, afterwards because she was having suicidal thoughts. She was so upset. CNN spoke with that cleric.

Is that acceptable? Is it acceptable for a woman, whatever she has done, to be arrested and raped? And there are many, many, many reports of sexual

abuse in this situation against women and men.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Firstly, in the peaceful demonstrations in the fall, no one was arrested.

AMANPOUR: So, you're just denying that?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): However, in those protests that had become violent, some individuals, some of whom who had entered Iran from

the outside of were using firearms and killing the police were arrested. You do know that the supreme leader actually issued an amnesty and all of

those who were imprisoned were released, with the exception of those who had killed someone or were being sued.

Regarding the Iranian woman who you mentioned, I cannot confirm it. There have been so many such baseless claims made on social media and in media.

AMANPOUR: OK. These are not baseless and they weren't on the internet. It's CNN spoke to a cleric, a religious person inside your country and got

this information.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): We have seen some of CNN's reports that are targeted and false.

AMANPOUR: That is not true. We report the facts and we report the truth, and that is why you are sitting with me Mr. Foreign Minister. Can we move


I want to ask you, you have a wife. You may have sisters. Do you have daughters? I want to know what you think about peaceful protests for change

in the way women are able to live their lives in Iran. The peaceful act of removing a scarf, what do they say to you, the women in your family? What

do they say to you?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): First of all, I would like to say that in Iran we have the strongest democracy, especially compared to many

other countries. There are standards and rules and regulations in every country. And the women have an important role in Iran, and they gained that

role after the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran.


Today, the outside networks, they are turning the issue of hijab and head scarf into a political crisis. Women in Iran, within the framework of rules

and regulations, enjoy extraordinary freedoms.

AMANPOUR: See, the thing is I kind of know about this. So, I also know that in the beginning of the revolution, there was no hijab mandate. Those

who wanted to wear a hijab and chador could, those who didn't want to didn't. Only several months or maybe a year after did the ayatollah say,

no. All you women have to go under the hijab.

So, again, I'm trying to find out what you and what the government is going to do. Because even, even Ayatollah Khamenei recently has said, women who

do not wear a hijab are not irreligious, they are not violating religion. Some other people have said that. We've heard from the former speaker of

parliament, Mr. Larijani, who, at the beginning said, do we really need to make all this chaos over a hijab?

So, I want to know whether you except it because it is also traditional women. Older women who've gone in the streets. It's men, it's young, it's

very different than previous protests. Do you accept that women can have peaceful demonstrations for change and for their own rights? Do they have

the rights? You say that it's the most developed democracy. Do women have the right, peacefully?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Unfortunately, in such issues there are approaches one of double standards. Let me ask you a question.

AMANPOUR: But I'm actually quoting your own leaders, Mr. Foreign Minister.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Just a moment, please. Just a moment.

AMANPOUR: I don't want get into discussion. I'm asking you a question about your own --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): I want to ask you a question before answering your question.

AMANPOUR: -- supreme leader.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Let's see where all this started. An Iranian girl called Mahsa Amini, she passed away.

AMANPOUR: Because she was manhandled --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Just a moment, please.

AMANPOUR: -- by the Morality Police.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Just a moment, please. Just a moment please.

Yes, a young girl, Mahsa Amini passed away. They turned her into a symbol in order to change the system in Iran. In the name of defending women's

freedom. My question is this, Ms. Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a colleague of your and is a journalist. She's a lady, she's a Christian, and in broad

daylight she was murdered by the Israeli regime. Who defended her?

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, the whole world, everybody defended her and everybody condemned her death.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): The result?

AMANPOUR: Everybody condemned it.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): What was the result of that?

AMANPOUR: I'm not getting into an international --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Why didn't they allow the issue to be raised in the Security Council?

AMANPOUR: Everybody condemned her death, Mr. Foreign Minister. I'm literally just asking you whether in Iran you believe women have the right

to peacefully protest. And, by the way, as you know better than I do, sometimes the Morality Police are out being aggressive and sometimes the

authorities say, just take it easy, right? And what do we see?

Since this presidency, we have seen a crackdown on women and their dress and their rights. Why? Why does any regime --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Women in Iran --

AMANPOUR: -- why does any regime need to prove itself on the back of women's rights, their own bodily space? Why? Why is that effect?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): My request to you -- look, you're supposed to interview me. But you're actually having a confrontation with


AMANPOUR: This is one last question then I would need to move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not an interview.

AMANPOUR: I'm trying to get an answer.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): And this is not the way to conduct an interview.

AMANPOUR: I just wanted an answer, that's all.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Women in Iran have all the necessary required freedoms within the framework of the law.

AMANPOUR: I'm trying to figure out what --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Do you ask other countries --

AMANPOUR: -- are the confines of the law?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): -- do you ask the other countries who are in our region that are allies of the United States the same kinds

of questions that you're asking me --


AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): -- about the woman's hijab? The issue in Iran at the moment is not that of hijab. What does hijab got to do

with the MEK terrorist? Ask them. What is this hijab they are wearing? And they are based in Europe and in the United States. And this woman who

wanted to come and become president in Iran, why is it that she has established compulsory hijab in her terrorist organization? They are

friends of the United States. They are friends of the White House. Why should there be a double standard.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, I realize that we've probably reached the end of this little bit because you're not going to answer any more. But, as you know,

your government's reaction, violent reaction against women has changed foreign policy and your relationship with many countries in the world. More

sanctions have been leveled against you, the whole Iran nuclear deal is no longer willing to be negotiated, even if you were willing, they are not

willing anymore, the U.S. and Europe.

But first I want to ask you about another really important thing, and that is about Iranian weapons to Russia that are targeting Ukrainians during

this war.


Can you tell me why it is Iran's policy to send drones and other military support to President Putin that are used to kill civilians inside Ukraine?

Why are you sending drones to -- violating all sorts of sanctions, but still also causing huge amount of death?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): We oppose the war in Ukraine and we have not sent weapons to either side. And from the very beginning of the

war, we have tried to stop the war, so that both sides focus on a political dialogue. This is the same policy that we adopted in the case of Yemen,

Afghanistan, and various other countries in crisis.

Regarding accusations that have been made against Iran with regards to drones, they're untrue. We have had defense cooperation with Russia in the

past, and we continue that cooperation. But we have not provided Russia with any weapons to be used in the war in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, you've probably seen these pictures, right? So, that is a drone, an Iranian drone that was found inside and recovered from Ukraine.

This as well, with the president of Ukraine, standing next to it. This, they have compared --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Who says that?

AMANPOUR: -- to -- this is the Ukrainian --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Who says that?

AMANPOUR: -- this is the Ukrainians and this is from open sources from, like, Yemen and other --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): How can they prove this drone with just a photograph?

AMANPOUR: Are you denying it? OK.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: (Speaking in a foreign language).

AMANPOUR: OK. Are these to the same things? This --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Let me explain it to you.

I will explain to you.

AMANPOUR: OK, fine. But that is what the Ukrainians say, and those are the pictures of the same drone that you all display at military shows and fares

and that have been discovered --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: I will explain to you.

AMANPOUR: -- in Yemen and other places --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: I will explain to you.

AMANPOUR: -- where you are active.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: I will explain to you what happened.


AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): A few months ago, I telephoned the Ukrainian foreign minister and I said, what are these baseless accusations

you are making about Iran? And he said, we actually have documents that Iranian Shahed drones are being used by Russia in Ukraine. I said to him,

look, we are ready for your military team and the Iranian military team to sit down and look at these documents and then make judgments.

And we arranged to have such a meeting in Oman. And Ukrainian and Iranian military teams, they sat down and they were showing us some very blurry

obscure satellite pictures. And they were alleging that these are Iranian drones.

AMANPOUR: But what I showed you wasn't blurry --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Just a moment.

AMANPOUR: -- and obscured.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): Our experts examined these pictures, and the pictures had no connection with Iran whatsoever. And for

four months, we have been waiting for the second round of talks. And we expect them to come and present clearer documents, but the Ukrainian team

keeps saying, in two weeks soon, but nothing has happened.

AMANPOUR: So, the thing is, you did say -- the Iranian government did say that you have sent Russia Shahed drones, but you said, before the invasion.

But apparently, according to western diplomats, you've sent many after the invasion. Hundreds of Iranian drones have been launched and over 100 of

them, according to the Ukrainians, have struck their targets, they are civilian targets inside Ukraine.

That is why Russia is offering to trade MIG fighters, that's the latest news, for drones and more things. Another western diplomat says, yes. Yes,

you have said --

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Your questions too long.

AMANPOUR: I know it's too long, but I'm trying to say the facts.


AMANPOUR: Because you say, it's not happening, so I need to answer. That's why there are sanctions against you.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): We asked our Russian counterparts, and they said we have not used Iranian manufactured drones in Ukraine. And

we said to the Ukrainian counterparts, if you have any documented proof, show it to us. We will look into it. But the Ukrainian side did not show us

any strong proof to substantiate that claim, with the exception of some media accusations.

And I can tell you explicitly, as the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that we are against war. We are against war Ukraine,

against war in Afghanistan, against war in Yemen, against war in Palestine. And our president has made great efforts in order to stop the war in

Ukraine. A few months ago, Mr. Macron, asked the president of our country to come and mediate because he has good relations with Russia. And then the

president, Mr. Raisi, sent me to Moscow and I spoke with Russian officials, and we are continuing our efforts.

We think war is not a solution, neither in Ukraine, nor anywhere else in the world. Look, it's military experts who should be proving this. You are

a journalist, you're not an expert. I'm not an expert either. And now, as a CNN reporter, you are telling me that this is an Iranian drone. You know, I

think that incidentally this is a drone that was used by the Zionist regime. The way you were asking questions, the way you were making

allegations is wrong.


Look, if Ukraine has any documents, why couldn't they show these documents to our senior experts when they sat together? Look, we went and sat with


AMANPOUR: So, no negotiations. Do you have any hope that there will be a JCPOA, a new nuclear deal, that's one part of the question. The other part

of the question is, how much are you enriching to, there is one press report that says, 84 percent. Can you tell us?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): With regards to JCPOA, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been and is the most committed of all the parties

involved in JCPOA negotiations. The party that left the JCPOA, was Trump and the United States. The United States should not adopt deceptive

behavior. And instead, should return to JCPOA and adopt a constructive approach. Under the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we have

decided to continue dialogue in order to return to JCPOA.

We have had very long discussions in Vienna. And the United States is accusing Iran. It is saying that the Iranians don't have the necessary

resolve. They said, we were at a stage of reaching an accord, but it is the Iranians who are too demanding. I will tell you explicitly that in the past

few years we saw that the U.S. officials were unable to make a decision because of their own internal problems and the pressures they are under.

They are still unable to make a courageous decision to return to JCPOA.

And, of course, the Iranian parliament in the past few weeks, especially since the riots and the U.S. interventions and interventions by three

European countries in the peaceful demonstrations in Iran have been putting a lot of pressure on our government.

I was in parliament last week, and they said, who do you want to make an agreement with? With the United States and three European countries that

have been trying to change the system during the riots in the fall? Why are you negotiating with them? How can you trust them? Nevertheless, we are

still on the path of dialogue. We have a roadmap with the IAEA.

And on two occasions, Mr. Aparo, Mr. Grossi's deputy, came to Iran in the past few weeks, and we had constructive in productive negotiations. And we

have also invited Mr. Grossi to come and visit Iran soon. Therefore, our relationship with the IAEA is on its correct natural path. And we have said

this to the U.S. side through mediators that we are on the path to reach an accord. But if the Iranian parliament adopts a new law, then we'll have to

abide by the parliamentary act.

So, the window for an accord is still open. But this window will not remain open forever. The U.S. party has been sending us positive messages through

diplomatic channels. But in its media remarks, they make very deceptive remarks that are totally different. And really, as an Iranian for foreign

minister, sometimes I have serious doubts. I received a message from the U.S. party, emphasizing their commitment to accord, but then in the media,

they say that we are not at a point of accord. And that JCPOA is not a priority on our agenda. Which version should we accept?

Nevertheless, we are still on the path of reaching an accord. We believe a couple of outstanding issues between us can be resolved and it can be

finalized. But that requires the U.S. side to say the same thing that they are telling us confidentially and through diplomatic channels. And even if

they don't want to tell the media everything, at least don't deny it in your media and then tell us that it is because you are under pressure by

the U.S. journalists and have to make such remarks because of your internal situation.

Look, if the U.S. side wants to come back to its commitments in the JCPOA, they need the courage of their convictions. We have the courage of our

convictions and we have shown it.

Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Appreciate it.



AMANPOUR: Now, Russia's war has impacted the lives of Ukrainians in unfathomable ways. And particularly disturbing is the case of thousands of

Ukrainian youngsters who seem to have vanished into thin air. A report by Missing Children Europe says, 353 of currently disappeared, and that 16,221

have been forcibly deported to Russia where they undergo Russification. What does this mean? How big a problem is it?

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt is the president of Missing Children Europe. And she is a former MEP, and she's just back from Kyiv. And she's joining me

now here in the studio.

Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, listen, what does it mean even? We can't see the criminals. We can see the victims. The big unknown is, what actually is happening?

Does anybody know the extent of this problem of missing children?


BILDT: Well, this is probably the biggest deportation of our times. It's very difficult to know the exact figures because we don't have access to

the temporary occupied area of Ukraine, and to the areas where there is hostilities now. But the estimate of the Ukrainian authority is that they

can really think it's possible is16,000.

AMANPOUR: That's a huge number of children.

BILDT: It's a huge -- but they also say, it could be up to 700,000.

AMANPOUR: No. Children?

BILDT: Children.

AMANPOUR: But surely they would know whether parents are missing that many kids.

BILDT: Exactly. So, our organization, Missing Children Europe, has a sister organization in Ukraine that is called Magnolia. They are part of

the heroes (ph) of our time. Marina (ph) --


BILDT: -- I met here in Kyiv last week. They are receiving reports and phone calls from parents who are looking for their children. And they are

doing everything they can in Ukraine to help the Ukrainian authorities to identify, you know, through neighbors, through other NGOs, through all

sorts of possible investigation and reports with the limits that they are, to put together the dots and see that the information goes to the central

authorities of Ukraine, to the general prosecutor, through the police. Whatever the Ukrainians will decide is the best way to coordinate the


Why is that difficult? Because we don't have access. Why is that important? Because this is illegal deportation. It's against the Geneva Convention's

on the treatment of civilians at war. It is against United Nations Convention on the rights of the child. It's been denounced by Amnesty

International as a war crime. But also, Christiane, Amnesty International said it should be investigated as crimes against humanity.

AMANPOUR: Now, in many -- most wars that follow at least the laws and regulations of war, ICRC, the International Red Cross generally has access

to prisoners and they do their own observations. They don't make it public, but they are a trusted neutral third party. Have they had access to these

camps of kids?

BILDT: I talked -- last week in Kyiv, I talked to a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross and I was told that they do not

have access. They do not have information. I was also having a really good meeting with the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishyna, and

she is very much committed to that as the entire Ukrainian government considered this an absolutely important priority. And she said that no

international organization, not the United Nation, not the Red Cross, has access to those children which is illegal or has any official information.

AMANPOUR: So, when you all asked Russia, which I assume you do, what do they say?

BILDT: They say that they are rescuing children. That they are saving children. And they say that, you know, they are helping children to be re-

integrate into --

AMANPOUR: Integrated where?

BILDT: Integrate into Russian society because there is war in Ukraine. So, the thing is this is a humanitarian catastrophe but it's also a political

shame because they are manipulating in using children for political purposes. They are using children as an instrument of war, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: How -- describe how that is happening? I said Russification.


AMANPOUR: Like turning them into, you know, Russian, you know, kids. But do you know how and why they're doing that?

BILDT: So, I have a good report from Yale University, Public School of Health, that is saying that there are more or less 43 documented re-

education camps, they call them re-education camps, where basically --

AMANPOUR: Inside Russia?

BILDT: Inside Russia. From Siberia to, you know, thousands of thousands of kilometers spread into Russia and in temporary occupied Crimea where

basically the children are not allowed to speak Ukrainian. They have to speak Russians. They are even taught, of course, history and everything,

but also the national song of Russia. And they even get the military education. So, it's a forced --

AMANPOUR: Military education?

BILDT: Military education, some of them, the report says.

AMANPOUR: To do what?

BILDT: Well, it's a way of stripping them from their families but also from the Ukrainian identity. They have --

AMANPOUR: So, are they being sent back into war? Prepared to send into war?

BILDT: That we don't know, but they are giving also military education. They are, basically -- they have taken a law that can speed up adoption,

that can speed up giving them a new passport, which is also illegal. Some of these children have been adopted. And even the ombuds person of Russia

has called on the Russian people to adopt them, which means, has called the Russian people to commit a crime.

AMANPOUR: So, is this -- this person -- the ombudswoman, is it Maria Lvova-Belova?

BILDT: Exactly.


AMANPOUR: Yes. Who --

BILDT: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: -- is the presidential commissioner of children's rights in Russia.


AMANPOUR: And as you say, she has adopted Ukrainians from Mariupol.

BILDT: She herself -- exactly.

AMANPOUR: So, can I --

BILDT: A 17-year-old.

AMANPOUR: Have you been able to contact her?

BILDT: No. We should do that. We should do that. We should do that. I think it is very important to understand that she is the face, but behind

it, it's a very centralized system where this policy, if I may say, it comes from the top where federal, regional, local authorities are involved.

And --

AMANPOUR: Russian?

BILDT: Russians. So, we should really also talk about accountability and impunity. So, she is, of course part, of it but others are also at the

highest-level giving instruction. This is a policy that has been going on for a year, and even before. And it is mainly, you know, children that were

orphans, that were in Ukraine as institutions. So, the most vulnerable disabled children. I was --

AMANPOUR: So, who maybe don't have parents to vouch for them?

BILDT: Some of them.

AMANPOUR: This is from the Yale Lab that you said, the humanitarian research. There is systematic re-education efforts that expose children

from the Ukraine to Russia-academic, cultural, patriotic, and/or military education. So, you were saying that.

BILDT: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: And now, you are saying, as well, that some of them may be disabled, some of them may have been institutionalized.

BILDT: Because it is somehow easier.


BILDT: If I may use that terrible term.

AMANPOUR: But also, do -- can I just play devil's advocate? Some of these adoptions -- sorry forcible deportations and adoptions, it appears have

been made from the areas that Russia has been occupying since 2014, right? Where they say there's Russian speaking, it is Russian leaning, it is

Russian everything. And that they are just doing what the people in that part of Ukraine would want them to do, protect those Russian leaning kids.

BILDT: Well, you know, if Putin had not supported invade -- supported the occupation of Donbas and Luhansk in 2014, because that's when the war

started. You know, I was there. I saw the refugees were there from 2014. Let's not forget about it. Then you have the full-scale invasion a year

ago. If that had not happened, these children would be happily living being pro-Russian -- not pro-Russian speaking, Russian not speaking Russians. You

know, they would be children of Ukraine, that probably in Ukraine before people had nothing against Russia before being invaded, you know.

AMANPOUR: Has anything like this -- I'm talking about the specific removal of children and the indoctrination, has it happened in history or in modern


BILDT: Well, not after World War that I can think about. This is -- you know --

AMANPOUR: When the laws and the rules were in place after World War II?

BILDT: Yes. Which, of course, was also -- because we had the conventions after World War II. It was a crime in World War II as well. But now, this

is 2023. We have children from 17-year-old to four-year-old that are stripped of their identity, they are stripped from their family. Let's say

there has been a lot of families that under duress, under threat, under worse circumstances, had been forced to sign a paper saying, I consent to

you, Christiane, to give you my child for a while, bring them here in a camp, a summer camp. In a couple weeks and three months, he or she will

give him back to me.

These children never returned. And now, they are saying that these children are kept there indefinitely. These parents have been asking also to our

Magnolia, our people in Ukraine from Missing Children Europe network information that haven't gotten any information. So, they are lost from

their parents.

AMANPOUR: I was reminded that, you know, Argentina during the Junta and they disappeared.

BILDT: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: There were some similar situations which were catastrophic.

BILDT: Yes. That's true.

AMANPOUR: But what I want to know then, is there a lesson from Argentina or not that might help you figure out how to recover these children and

bring them back to their families? Is there any roadmap for that?

BILDT: We have to denounce. We have to condemn. We have to say that it is illegal. We have to say that it is a war crime. We have to mobilize the

leaders of the world.

AMANPOUR: In other words, we are pretty powerless.

BILDT: Well, to put pressure on Russia, to tell Russia, give access at least to international independent investigation. Let's have a commission

where Russia would agree who -- you know, from the United Nations, from an independent organization, that gives access to those camps that tell us

that the children are in good faith and everything is fine. That gives information.

You know, you -- the International Committee of the Red Cross has the possibility to give lectures, even very delayed, from prisoners. While you

have children that cannot give information to their parents and vice versa.

AMANPOUR: It's just -- it is in according situation.


BILDT: So, why don't we do that, access to the children, information about the children. Say that this is illegal. Say that impunity is not an issue.

Accountability is an issue. We want to have the names, and we are checking. We are checking -- helping the Ukrainian authorities, helping Olga (ph),

helping the foreign minister, the prosecutor, the police, to find out who is involved. This is not something that, you know, just a novice (ph)

person does. It is a huge organized coordinated deportation, assimilation, Russification of Ukrainian children.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it really beggars' belief. But I just want to ask you, you started your wartime career and advocacy in Bosnia, is where we first

met. And you have seen a number of Ukrainian children who have been traumatized. The number who have had their, you know, education disrupted.

What did you learn in Bosnia that might play out on an even bigger level for these children in the future after the war?

BILDT: Never ever consider children a separate, a small or a side issue. They are a central part of the war from the humanitarian point of view

because the -- if you have an entire generation that is traumatized, affected, they are the most vulnerable. And the other thing is, don't allow

them to be politically exploited. We cannot afford a lost generation.

AMANPOUR: That's it.

BILDT: What is the future of Ukraine without these children?

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. Exactly. Well, we're going to --

BILDT: Who is going to rebuild the country?

AMANPOUR: Thank you for being. Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, thank very much indeed. President of Missing Children Europe.

BILDT: Thank you, Christian.

AMANPOUR: And next to the immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border. The Biden administration is planning to roll out a set of new asylum

restriction that some critics claims are so strict they echo Trump's. The new policy would deny some migrants asylum if they cross the border

illegally or failed to first apply for safe harbor in another country.

Jeh Johnson was secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama. And he joins Michel Martin to discuss how the issue today is even more

challenging than ever.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Mr. Secretary, Jeh Johnson. Thanks so much for talking to us once again.


MARTIN: So, you served as President Obama's the secretary of Homeland Security for four years, from 2013 to 2014. Back then, you said, the

situation at the border was a crisis. Now, apprehensions at the border are at an all-time -- well, they are at levels that we haven't really seen in

some two decades. Just before we sort of dig into the details, why do you think that is?

JOHNSON: Well, first. Michel, there were times when we saw spikes while I was in office. May 2014 comes to mind. We had, that month, 68,000

apprehensions on our southern border, which back then, nine years ago, did feel like a crisis. Now, of course, the numbers are multiples of that.

The problem is bigger. It is also true that the level of resources that border security personnel in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico have, are much

bigger as well. But the problem is definitely bigger now. And it is a crisis in multiple respects. A, numbers of 250,000 a month -- 150,000 a

month even overwhelm the border patrol's ability and ICE's ability to keep track of all of these people, to process all these people, to place in the

immigration courts, all these people.

And frankly, it overwhelms the communities in the southwest or along our southern border, in Texas and Arizona, to try to absorb these numbers into

their local charities, their volunteer organizations. So, numbers like this are a crisis, and we should not become -- you know, we should not look at

this in any sort of normalized way.

MARTIN: Why do you think it is happening now, the common wisdom here is that the sort of informal networks, or however -- people who are trying to

make the decision to cross are making it, are anticipating the end of Title 42, which was the Trump sort of era mechanism to rapidly deport people

citing a public health emergency?

JONES: From owning this problem for the 37 months that I did, there are certain basic lessons that I believe remain true. One, the push factors are

the predominant driving force behind people showing up on our southern border. The problem is bigger now in 2022, 2023, because you have Cuba,

Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti contributing to this problem.


When I dealt with it in 2014, it was principally Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and people from El Salvador. Now, you have these additional

countries with whom we have almost no diplomatic relationship to engage in the process of repatriating them. That is number one.

Number two, the smugglers exacerbate the message. They are like used car dealers who say that, the sale is going to expire at the end of the week.

You've got to go now. So, there is a bit of a feeding frenzy, a snowball effect to this. And so, you see numbers increasing like they are because

people see other people leaving -- heading north and decide it is time for them to come to.

And the other corollary to this problem, the hard lesson I learned, is that we can do certain things to enhance enforcement on our southern border,

which will have an almost immediate impact on the numbers. Because illegal immigration is a very information sensitive phenomenon, it reacts sharply

to information about perceived changes one way or another. But so long as the underlying conditions exist in these sourced countries that are driving

families to make this basic decision to leave, this problem is going to continue to persist. And the numbers are always going to laps back to their

longer-term trend lines. No matter what you do in the short-term.

MARTIN: But in the near-term, as you certainly know, the Biden administration has announced this new policy or -- it is a proposed policy.

It's open for public comment now. And the details are that it would basically create a presumption of illegality if you don't meet certain

conditions, right, which would make it easier to deport people. It says that, you know, most -- if you cross the southern border illegally, if you

don't notify the authorities that you are coming through this app, or if you don't apply for asylum in a country that you have passed through, which

is, you know, most likely in Southern Mexico.

And obviously, the, you know, advocates say that this is as inhumane as anything that the Trump administration, you know, envisioned. So, just,

what is your top-line reaction to this?

JOHNSON: Well, first, nothing this administration has done approaches the level of inhumanity in the policies of the Trump administration. That was

deterrence on steroids. Separating children from their parents, separating infants from their mother is inhumane and it violates just basic laws of


OK. Now, my view is that what this administration is doing is built off the success they had with Venezuela last fall. They basically created a policy

for those coming from Venezuela to say, there's a right way and a wrong way to come here. Let's create this legal pathway for you to come here and

apply for asylum. Follow that. Don't just show up on our southern border.

That program saw some success because the numbers of Venezuelans, after that program was announced, declined significantly. The basic point here is

you can't padlock a burning building. You have to give people away to leave legally and safely. And so, the administration is building on that to say

that we are creating these lawful, safe mechanisms for you to seek asylum in the United States. Here is the way you do that. You know, use this app

or apply in country or apply in Mexico and your asylum claim will be considered. And so, they are trying the Venezuela experiment but on the

much larger scale.

I have no doubt that once this policy goes into effect there will be legal challenges to it. People have a basic right, if they qualify for asylum in

this country, to receive asylum. Under the law, even though you might qualify legally on -- for asylum, because you have a well-founded fear of

persecution in your home country, there are certain things that can make you ineligible for asylum. For example, if you are a convicted felon

someplace. And so, the administration is trying to broaden those bases for in eligibility to encompass, not following the pathways that are


I am sure there will be legal challenges to that. And we will see how the courts consider it.

MARTIN: Well, how -- what do you consider though? I mean, I'm interested in your opinion.

JOHNSON: Our immigration courts are hopelessly backlogged. And it takes years to adjudicate in asylum claim. And migrants know that. Two, three,

four or five years.


The other point about the way we adjudicate these asylum cases, many cases, on the front end of the process, the migrant has to establish a case of

credible fear. I have a credible fear that if I'm returned to my home country I will be persecuted. That bar is relatively low. The ultimate bar

to asylum is much higher. And so, you have a certain high percentage of people qualifying on the front end for credible fear. And on the backend,

for ultimate adjudication of fear, that number -- that percentage is much lower.

Migrants know that, people know that and many, because they are so desperate to leave where they are coming from and stay in the United States

or willing to stay here, even for a couple of years while their asylum claim is pending, they get to send money home to families and they are

making a basic choice that they are better off doing that and staying in Venezuela or Guatemala or Haiti or Cuba.

MARTIN: What I'm getting from you is you don't really think this policy is going to hold up. You think this is a way to slow the flow right now, is to

send a signal that it's just not going to be easy and to kind of take the pressure of? Is that really what this is?

JOHNSON: There are -- Michel, there are push factors and then there are aspects of our broken immigration system that operate as magnets. The sheer

length of time it takes to adjudicate an asylum claim is a magnet. The two differing bars between credible fear and the ultimate case for asylum is a


The push factors are the biggest factors. They overwhelm the system. But our broken system does have these features that operate as magnets. And

what this administration is trying to do, at least in the short-term, it is to address those facets of our broken immigration system that are serving

as magnets.

Measures like this will cause a downturn in the numbers of apprehensions on our southern border. We saw a downturn in the month of January 2023, for

example. But so long as the underlying push factors persist, the numbers are always going to revert back to their norms, to their longer-term trend


MARTIN: So, I get what you are saying about the push factors. I mean, the push factor is something that, I think, people have talked more openly

about. I mean, certainly, it is something that Democrats talk a lot about.


MARTIN: They talk about the effects of climate change. They talk about the effects of gang violence. They talk about the effects of kind of political

instability in, you know, certainly, in, you know, Haiti right now. But are those -- is there really a will to address those factors? And does the

United States really even have the capacity to address those factors?

JOHNSON: One question is, do we have the will to do this? The second question is, can we do this? So, let me start with the can we do this?

Through a sustained effort, I believe we can. For example, in 2016, my last year in office, we got Congress to appropriate $750 million to three

countries, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador for this very purpose.

For example, enabling a coffee grower in Guatemala to get better at delivering his product to the market gives people in that country hope. It

enables them to encourage workers to stay in Guatemala because they have a future. Funding for anti-corruption efforts can work.

Now, getting to the will we, you know, do we have the will? I fear that we do not. People want quick fixes to this problem on the southern border. And

it is not a problem amenable to quick fixes. Just like there's no quick fix to climate change. This is not something that can go away just because you

issue an executive order or you, you know, somehow close the southern border. So, we have to come to the recognition that this is a problem that

requires years to solve and address.

And I have talked to both Democrats and Republicans over the years who recognize that. Politically, is it attractive? Not very. But the reality

is, if we're going to address this, and this one of the hard lessons I've learned when I own this problem, you have to address it at the source.

MARTIN: Why is this so hard? I mean, this is a situation where, you know, really going back years, Democrats and Republicans all agree that this is a



JOHNSON: This is so hard because it has become over politicized. Over the last, I will say, 10 years, this has become a lightning rod, red meat over

politicized issue. Frankly, many in our politics today stoke racism around this issue, the so-called Great Replacement Theory, which is embraced by

high percentages of Americans. People are somehow afraid of the browning of America from our southern border. So, it's become an over politicized

issue. And politicians -- politicians on the right, frankly, stoke this and it has become very difficult to reach compromise on this.

As recently as 2013, Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed the U.S. Senate with 68 votes. That is a whole lot of Republicans as well as

Democrats. At some point along the way, this became a talking point and it has become more attractive on the right and the left to politicize this

issue, scream at the other side, call them evil and not do the hard work to come together and try to reach compromises, which too many people view as

politically costly.

MARTIN: OK. Well, you've identified some the -- sort of the push factors on the right, as it were in terms of, you know, not getting to solutions.

Where have the Democrats failed? How have they contributed to failing to solve this problem?

JOHNSON: There are certain things that no matter what you do people on the right and the left are going to yell at you. On the left, they get upset if

we arrest people, if we detain, if we deport people. The logical extension of that is open borders.

On the right, we should arrest everybody, detain everybody and deport everybody. Somewhere in between is an equilibrium that we have to try to

achieve, which is exceedingly difficult to achieve as long as the politicians among us are simply in their extreme opposite corner screaming

at each other.

MARTIN: The last time Congress passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform was in 1986. There was a Republican president and Democratic-controlled



MARTIN: Just based on your experience in this area, do you have a sense of what would it take to get back to some sort of bipartisan consensus?

JOHNSON: When the Republican Party decides for itself that it is in its political self-interest to embrace immigration reform, for a long time,

that was not their view 1986, 1980s during George W. Bush's presidency, he was all about immigration reform, and as recently as 2013. The Republican

Party has walked away from that and doesn't want anything to do with this issue except to scream and complain about the numbers crossing the southern


Again, it all tracks back, Michel, to where do the political incentives lie? Or at least, where do politicians perceive that their political

incentives lie? In my opinion, Americans should judge -- voters should judge their representatives based upon stuff they get done not simply what

they scream about and what they say they stand for.

If we had a report card for members of Congress for the number of bills they sponsored and got passed versus simply, where do you stand on all

these overheated issues, we'd see a lot more getting done in Washington, including immigration reform.

MARTIN: Jeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security, thanks so much for talking to us once again.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Michel.


AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, a glimpse of the beauty in our world through some of the best pictures of this past year. This week, Sony have

announced the finalist for its World Photography Awards. Picked from over 415,000 images from over 200 countries. And here are some that caught our

eye. This one shows a girls' soccer team in Afghanistan using that burqa to hide their identities now that the Taliban have taken power. Still playing.

In this image, the changing landscape of Mozambique is literally projected upon the people and buildings which are there today. While this photo

capturing the light of visiting fireflies was produced by stacking layers of images taken over several minutes in this park. The winners will be

announced in April.

And that is it for now. Remember, you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks for watching, and our podcast. Goodbye from