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Interview With The Republican Accountability Project Founder Sarah Longwell; Interview With FRONTLINE's "Inside The Iranian Uprising" Producer Sasha Joelle Achilli; Interview With The New York Times Reporter Farnaz Fassihi, Interview With Russian Ambassador To The U.K. Andrei Kelin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 04, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
Donald Trump back on the campaign trail after his court appearance. How voters are reacting to this most serious indictment with political
strategist, Sarah Longwell.
Then, as the anniversary of a gruesome death approaches in Iran, we look at a new documentary on Mahsa Amini and Iran's protest movement with producer,
Sasha Joelle Achilli, and "The New York Times" journalist, Farnaz Fassihi.
And what the Russian state trial says about dissident Alexei Navalny.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREI KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: We do not target deliberately, as I have said, civilian infrastructure. Damage --
AMANPOUR: Do you still believe that?
KELIN: Damage --
AMANPOUR: Do you still believe that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: My conversation with Russia's ambassador to the U.K., as the Ukrainian counteroffensive makes gains on the front lines and drones strike
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Fresh from the courtroom and back on the campaign trail. Donald Trump, whose campaign is being drained by his legal fees attends a fundraising
dinner in Alabama tonight and visits South Carolina on Saturday. All of this after unprecedented allegations against a U.S. president, a day after
pleading not guilty to four federal counts contained in a 45-page indictment. The most serious against him yet. Essentially, he is accused of
a conspiracy to defraud the United States with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
CNN reports the president to be in a sour, dark mood since that indictment. And there's more to come, reportedly, in the State of Georgia, where he
demanded election officials "find him thousands more votes." And yet, he is still, by a long shot, way ahead of the entire field in the Republican
My first guest has her finger on the pulse of the grand old party. Sarah Longwell is a former Republican strategist. And now, she is the founder of
the Republican Accountability Project. Sarah Longwell, welcome to the program.
SARAH LONGWELL, FOUNDER, THE REPUBLICAN ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, here we have, I mean, literally scores of felony charges against the president, including this most serious of the major indictments
against him. You basically poll and examine Republican voters. Are they able to separate the -- you know, the wheat from the chaff? Are they able
to make sense of this?
LONGWELL: They are not. Yes. So, I talked two-time Trump voters almost every week, and I just talked to them this week, just before the indictment
came out, but we knew it was coming. And so, we asked, you know, will this one makes a difference? This one, where Trump, you know, incited an
insurrection, where he didn't engage in a peaceful transfer of power? And people expressed a kind of, you know, A, they said, we just don't care.
Lots of people said they just don't care, they just see it as another attempt to get Trump, the indictments, they can't really tell them apart.
A lot of these two-time Trump voters have made up their mind a long time ago about the insurrection and Trump's culpability, which is that they
don't think it was his fault. They sort of range somewhere between saying, you know, that is the fault of the people who went in that day, to, well,
that was bad, but what about, you know, the Black Lives Matter protests? All the way down to, that was a false flag operation meant to make
Republicans look bad.
And so, unfortunately -- and this is the reason Trump is still so dominant in the polls, is that so much of his base just thinks that every indictment
is more evidence that the establishment and the deep state are scared of Trump because he is the most effective person and they want to take him
AMANPOUR: So, did they actually read these indictments? I mean, or does it not matter? I mean, the language and the accusations and the -- you know,
all the information that's being brought to bear in these indictments, including from certain Republican corridors, certain, you know, people who
used to be pro-Trump, you know, discussing all of this kind of evidence against him, do they not read it?
LONGWELL: They certainly do not read it. I mean, one of the things that I have realized talking to Trump voters for so long is how much they live in
an entirely different information ecosystem. There is a right-wing sort of infotainment media ecosystem that is there to tell them that Donald Trump
did nothing wrong, that this is just people out to get him. And the fact is, you know, you can see why these voters believe them, because it's not
just Steve Bannon, it's also Tim Scott, it's also the people running against Donald Trump and the Republican primary, his opposition.
When people who are running against him are saying things like, you know, we've got to get rid of this two-tiered justice system, this is the
weaponization of government against a political rival, and it comes from, you are right that there's people like Bill Barr who are out there saying
that this indictment is a good indictment, but there's a lot of other "sort of normal Republicans" who toe the line that this is an attack on Donald
Trump and a weaponization of the justice system. And so, that's what voters believe. And it's kind of a loop of information, where they're all sort of
reinforcing that idea to each other.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you think is going to happen then if there's this -- and I'll get back to the legal issue, but you are, you know, a political
strategist and obviously a former Republican, and you have, for a long time, tried to figure out where the Republican Party is, and you are
clearly not a Trump supporter. So, what can and will any one of the competitors seek to tell a different story at some point to sort of peel
away from the Trump narrative?
LONGWELL: Yes. So, here's what's really interesting. After 2022, the elections, where Donald Trump sort of flamed out spectacularly in terms of
the people that he had put forward, there was a real -- in the focus groups, you know, people were really ready to move on from Trump. There was
a kind of sense that he had too much baggage, he was kind of --
LONGWELL: He had, you know, lost a step. But then something shifted, not only was Trump indicted, and people had this kind of rally around Trump
effect, the other thing that happened was the main person that people wanted to move on to was Ron DeSantis. And as voters started to look closer
at him, they just kind of soured on him. They didn't -- they don't dislike him. They think he's fine. I hear a lot of people say that he's fine. But
they're not that enthusiastic about him or any other challenger.
And I think, like, you can't beat something with nothing. Like one of these people who are running against Donald Trump need to sort of capture the
imagination of Republican primary voters. And because nobody is showing sort of the sufficient political talent or charisma, and they've all kind
of internalized so much of Trump's messaging and they're so afraid of his voters that they all end up sounding sort of like a knockoff, bargain
basement version of Trump, and voters aren't going to want that when they have access to the real thing.
And so, I think that's the dynamic we're seeing. People just aren't taking him on. And so, there's nobody who can really go toe to toe with him.
AMANPOUR: Just interesting about DeSantis, because you're right, the whole political class basically said, whoa, you know, DeSantis, you're just going
to see what he's going to do. You know, he's going to be, you know, Trump but a smarter Trump, a Trump who can win. And as you could say, at the
moment, it looks like he's kind of crumbling.
However, polling today shows that he is doing a bit better in Iowa than nationally, although he's still behind Trump. What do you -- how do you
account for that? Is it just because he's not standing up and actually separating himself from being a mini-me, as you just said?
LONGWELL: Yes. I mean, look. I think it goes back to this question of political talent. When I was doing a focus group this week one of the
things that really stunned me -- and there were Iowa voters in this group - - was we said, look, if it's not Trump, who else are you interested in? And people said -- some people said Tim Scott. They liked him. There are a few
South Carolina people in the group too. We were during the early states. A couple people said Vivek Ramaswamy. And nobody said Ron DeSantis, which was
the first time that's ever happened.
Ron DeSantis is usually the first alternative people go to, and I think it's because when people are kind of meeting him, we're seeing him on TV
now, they are just not finding that he is like that great. They think the Disney thing is kind of weird, the woke stuff gets a little boring.
I will say though, the Iowa piece is incredibly important. And there is only one path, really, to defeating Donald Trump, and there is a Trump --
or, I'm sorry, there is a chunk of primary voters who are interested in moving on from him. And so, Ron DeSantis or somebody has to work on
consolidating those voters and then moving into the people that are -- you know, they like Trump, but they're open to somebody else. And I think Iowa
is a good place to do it. There's a lot of evangelical voters there. I've done several focused groups in Iowa, and Trump still has a lot of traction.
But because it's a caucus, there is an opportunity for a quick dynamic shift.
If people in Iowa went to somebody else, that could really shake up the race. But somebody is going to have to breakthrough in a bigger way, and
that's going to mean, you know, having a really -- I think Tim Scott gets closer to this, but even he feels like he is running for vice president. I
mean, yes, somebody is going to have to take on Trump really hard. And they can't do it by saying Trump was terrible. I think that's clear. But they
can kind of gold watch him. They can say, Trump was a great president, but he can't take us forward. I'm the one who can take us forward. I am the one
who can win.
But I'll tell you another thing about DeSantis, which one of the -- you brought this up, that people really thought he was Trump without the
baggage, that he was electable, and that that was one of the things they really liked about him. But because Ron DeSantis has run so far to the
right or to the extreme, on so many issues, including abortion, now Trump is actually seen as more electable than Ron DeSantis by most Republican
And so, Ron DeSantis, by trying to out-Trump Trump, really undermine sort of the central thesis of his campaign, which that he -- which was that he
was a more electable alternative.
AMANPOUR: That's really interesting. But can I ask you, because, obviously, money is a big part of any election in the United States. And
although Trump is hauling in, you know, huge donations, lots of reports say that he's also running through that money, mostly for the legal process
that he is -- you know, he is involved in. And his pack say America spent, you know, more than $40 million on legal fees. Some of them are in
financial trouble. Being asked for refunds in the tens of millions.
Chris Christie, who is currently in Ukraine, I guess, trying to burnish his foreign policy credentials and have himself stand apart from DeSantis as a
grown-up on foreign policy, he is trying to use the financial situation to attack Trump. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All those people we now know have paid over $40 million of their hard-
earned money for a billionaire's legal fees. He is not enough of a stand-up person with his wealth and his big private 737 plane, and all the rest that
he has in Mar-a-Lago, and the Trump Tower and all the rest, and he's making regular Americans pay his legal fees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's a pretty effective message because Trump always says he is for the regular American. Will that cut through, do you think?
LONGWELL: I don't think so, not this committed voters. I mean, they know there have been -- you know, we've just been down this road so many times
before, for eight years, you know, he's had scandals through the Trump organization, ways that he's used money, the whole stop the steal campaign
where he raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the lie, that was for his legal fees and everybody knew it. And so, I don't think that that's
going to make the ultimate difference.
I will -- I do want to say that I think what Chris Christie has been doing, if the entire field were acting like Chris Christie and going at Trump and
making these arguments, there'd be less of this collective action problem, right? I mean, Chris Christie is -- he's not going to endear himself, he's
not going to win a Republican primary by, you know, talking about Trump all the time, because base voters don't like it. But if they were all doing it,
and they were all getting this message through, and they were all acting that strong, there would be a much better chance of Trump actually taking
some real hits.
The problem with Chris Christie is that Republican primary voters have made up their mind about him a long time ago.
AMANPOUR: Right. And made up their mind probably about Trump a long time ago as well. And we'll see how that plays out in the general. So, let me
ask you then. If -- you know, it is said and "The New York Times" said today, that eventually, it will be the American voters who decide Trump's
fate, whether it's politically or legally.
One of Trump's lawyers, the ones who -- you know, who moved away, citing various differences with his team, have said one of the -- you know, if he
-- if it was him, he would say, you know, that Trump didn't know the full extent of the fact that there was no fraud. You know, he truly believed it.
He would question the Justice Department and say, well, did you actually study, you know, to find -- to try to prove a negative that there was no
fraud? Is that going to be effective, do you think, in court?
LONGWELL: I don't know. I mean, look, I'm not a lawyer but I sat through all of this January 6th Committee hearings. And the case that they made,
witness after witness -- and by the way, these witnesses were Republicans who worked for Donald Trump, primarily, they were very clear that people
were telling him this is wrong. It was not stolen. I mean, you can listen to the call that he has with Brad Raffensperger.
LONGWELL: And Brad Raffensperger very clearly tells him there was no fraud. His -- the Republican, you know, secretary of state was just, there
was no fraud. And so, lots of people were telling Trump that.
Now, the question of whether or not, you know, he chose to believe the Sydney Powells and the Rudy Giulianis and that he truly believed that, I
don't know. I think that's probably the one complicating factor in this case. But the evidence -- and I think Bill Barr. You know, Bill Barr has
taken a different line than some in the Republican media who wanted to defend Trump on these grounds, and Bill Barr is saying he knew, and this is
a clean indictment and I think this is strong. And so, you know, Bill Barr is not a friend of the left. And I think that if he thinks that this is a
good indictment, it probably is.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting. Of course, he was the attorney general. Sarah Longwell, thank you so much, indeed.
LONGWELL: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And next to Iran where a draconian new law is being considered by the authorities. It would stiffen the already harsh punishments for
women who don't wear her hijab, and even use A.I. to identify them. This comes as the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini approaches. She
was the 22-year-old woman who died after being detained by Iran's notorious Morality Police, triggering mass demonstrations across the country.
A new PBS documentary is taking a closer look at just what happened at that time. Here's the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unprecedented protests across Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eyewitness accounts and footage from inside the historic protests. The women defying the regime, and the violent crackdown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I'm joined now by the film's producer, Sasha Joelle Achilli, and also by Iranian American journalist, Farnaz Fassihi, who has been covering
that country for years and chronicles this movement for "The New York Times." Welcome to you both.
Joelle, let me first ask you -- Sasha, rather, let me first ask you about what made you have to produce this documentary, how you did it? Because you
didn't actually go to Iran. How did you get all the elements?
SASHA JOELLE ACHILLI, PRODUCER, FRONTLINE'S "INSIDE THE IRANIAN UPRISING": So, I had, quite a few years ago, made a film -- worked on a film about the
White Ones Day Movement, it was 2018 and some women had to remove their hijabs in public and had been arrested.
And so, I kind of, you know, followed the events in Iran closely. And when Mahsa was killed, I was trying to figure out how we could tell a story
about what was going on. And obviously, as you know, it's really hard for foreign reporters to go to Iran and to work there. But the extraordinary
thing was that Iranian citizens themselves were filming the events and posting what they were witnessing online.
And I got in touch with a friend and colleague, filmmaker, Majed Neisi. And I said, Majed, you know, what are you doing? How -- what do -- how do you
think, you know, there could be a film about what's going on? And he said, Sasha, you know, since Mahsa was killed, every night for 12 hours I have
been sitting and watching everything that's been uploaded and I'm downloading it and archiving it.
And so, by the time he and I spoke, he had already archived, you know, over 70 to 80 hours of footage, which was pretty extraordinary. And then he put,
you know, a kind of a teaser together, just to give me a taste of the footage of the things he had been seeing, which I didn't access to. I don't
speak Farsi. So, I didn't have access to kind of some of the Telegram channels.
And I was -- you know, when I watch what he showed me, I was moved. I was in tears. I was angry. And I knew, along with the executive producer, Fiona
Stourton, that we needed to get this out as soon as possible.
AMANPOUR: And we are going to, you know, dive into a little of the specifics, because it does make one angry and sad given what happened to
the -- many of the women and to a lot of the protesters, including the children.
But, Farnaz, as a journalist who has been covering it, albeit now from a distance, but with unbelievable and unparalleled access to sources inside
Iran, you know, one year later, where does this protest movement start stand? Because, you know, you've profiled many people, including somebody
in prison in Iran, an activist, Narges Mohammadi, who said, we, the people of Iran, are transitioning out of the Islamic Republic's theocracy.
Transition won't be jumping from one point to the next. It will be a long and hard protest but the evidence suggests it will definitely happen.
Do you think the evidence suggests? What do you think is the trajectory from now?
FARNAZ FASSIHI, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Christiane. Thank you for having me. I think that after a year of this uprising, we can
definitely say that Iran has evolved, the society has evolved, that there's a huge gap now between the public and the Islamic Republic and the demand
for overhaul all sale change has never been more clear.
We've seen that, yes, the security forces and the government was successful in brutally crushing the mass protests that we saw all over Iran, but they
haven't been able to really kill this desire for revolutionary change that we've see in Iran. You know, we've seen protests movements over the past 40
years sparked by different things. But this time around, I think it was very clear that the people in the streets, woman leading, young people at
the forefront of it, the new generation were calling for an end to the Islamic Republic.
And if we were to just look at the way that the women continue to defy the hijab law, they continue to defy the government's attempt to control what
they wear, to control how the appearance in society, we see that this movement is living through the people of Iran this desire for change lives,
because despite the new law that's being considered in the parliament that you mentioned and, you know, criminalization of showing your hair and not
wearing hijab, our reporting and evidence shows that women are still coming out not wearing the hijab every chance they get.
I'd also like to point out, we see that every chance that people get, be it funerals, be it religious Ashura ceremonies, whatever chance they have, or
Nowruz celebrations, when people can congregate in public that the -- these gatherings quickly become political, they quickly turned into a rallying
cry against the oppression that they face.
So, we -- you know, I don't think that the Islamic Republic can ever go back to the pre-Mahsa era.
AMANPOUR: And in the actual documentary, Sasha, and of course, we have both seen it, Farnaz has seen it as well, it's yet to air on PBS. We'll do
this coming week. But you have one of your -- one of the interviewees says, you know, our generation kind of accepted, had to accept all these
restrictions on women's rights. But Gen Z and the younger generations simply will not tolerate it.
What are you hearing and now from inside, from your contacts, Sasha, about what the younger women are doing, about how they plan to resist, if so, any
kind of new more draconian hijab law that we mentioned?
ACHILLI: I mean, honestly, in terms of the news that just came out about the more draconian laws, it's a really good question. And as Farnaz
mentioned, you know, although the street protests did die down, I was still amazed by the bravery of young women going out on the streets not wearing
their hijabs, dancing in public and filming it and posting it online and committing these acts of defiance, continuing acts of defiance.
It's a really good question because I think that what I have understood, and maybe Farnaz can back me up on this, is that Gen Z also doesn't have a
desire to leave Iran like the previous generation probably did to seek a better future and to find that freedom that perhaps they didn't have in
Iran. I think what we heard was that, you know, they are committed to staying and seeing change. But, Farnaz, perhaps you can provide more
context to that.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Go ahead, Farnaz.
FASSIHI: Yes. I mean, we're definitely seeing younger generation that even by the admission of their own government and their officials is very
different from past generations. They're connected to the outside world, they're very much online and active on social media, Instagram, Twitter,
Facebook, and they see the way that other people in other countries, people their age, are living. Their demands, their wants are very basic, they want
a basic good life. They want to be able dress the way they want. They want to have basic, you know, human rights and agency over their fate. And they
want to also be able to, you know, have a job that supports them, be able to get married, be able to buy a car.
And, you know, they look around and they see, not -- they're not -- many of the young people that I talked to say, we're not even comparing ourselves
with Europeans or Americans, we look at the region, we look at the way people live and even young people live in Turkey or in the Arab countries
around us, and why can't we be the same? And we don't have anything in Iran. We don't have political freedom. We don't have social freedom. We
don't have economic prosperity. And they're is also very fearless, right?
As the Islamic Republic has sort of evolved in a way that it's kind of distanced itself from those ideological things that fueled the early years,
this young generation is not really ideologically invested in the Islamic Republic, they're not particularly religious, they see themselves as really
global citizens and they're fearless.
I don't know if I would necessarily say that they don't want to leave Iran. You know, even the government's own sort of statistics show that people who
graduate from college, medical professionals, doctors, nurses, if they have a chance to leave, they're leaving and the -- you know, the brain drain
continues to be in sort of a rising, you know, pattern.
But for those who remain or those who can't leave aren't just going to give up and say, well, this is the way it is, we're going to put up with it.
FASSIHI: They have shown their resolve to fight.
AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary. And I just want to pick up on what you both were saying about, you know, they are brave, the government cracks down on
the media and on any sort of diversity in the media, and yet, they have continued to use whatever access they have to the internet, to social
media, continue to post all these videos of individual acts of defiance.
Let us just play small clip from the film, highlighting the very major role that the internet and social media has played in at least, you know,
showing the world these protests.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Despite internet blackouts imposed by the government, videos went viral showing extraordinary acts of defiance. School girls
filmed and shared footage of themselves defacing pictures of the supreme leader, a crime under Iranian law.
CROWD: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. We're all in this together. -- are not united we will be destroyed one by one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you know, that shows us in -- you know, a stark color, in black and white exactly how this message is getting, you know, sent around
the world and within. But you have also -- and we know that young children, young girls, a lot of young women have been targeted by sexual violence
when they are arrested and put into jail. And even under suspicious circumstances, some have died.
And for instance, a very well-known case is that of the 16-year-old, Nika Shahkarami. And her mother is featured in this documentary, and it's a
really profound interview and the way the mother speaks about what happened to her daughter. Tell us a little bit, you know, Sasha, about that story
and about what you learned and what people will see the mother saying about the death of her daughter.
ACHILLI: So, it was actually quite extraordinary to have her agree to speak to Zar Amir Ebrahim, who is one of the women we film in the
documentary, who is reaching out to people inside Iran to understand more about what's happening. And she -- what was incredible about her narration
is that despite a lot of families being threatened by the regime, once their loved ones have died, she continues to stand up and continues to say
that her daughter was killed by the regime and also, that she's proud of her daughter and for what her daughter did in ultimately sacrificing her
life for what she believed in. And want for freedom that Farnaz so beautifully put was, you know, the basic freedom, basic rights. Things that
in the West we're so used to.
So, I felt like that was incredibly moving for her to hear, you know, calling her daughter and saying, please come home, it is dangerous.
And yet, still being -- feeling really proud of her daughter for the sacrifice she made and hopes that the children's lives won't go wasted, and
they didn't die in vain, essentially.
AMANPOUR: And of course, as we said, the Iranian authorities have always denied having a hand in her death. But a previous CNN investigation found
evidence suggesting that Nika had been detained at the protest shortly before she went missing.
And, Farnaz, it is really very deep to hear these women, these mothers talk about how proud they are, that their young children, their young daughters
are even braver than they ever were.
FASSIHI: I think mothers, grieving mothers have become really a nightmare for the Islamic Republic, because no matter how much they try to oppress
these, you know, crackdown and threaten and intimidate the mothers whose children they have killed, the moms speak out. I also did a big story on
Nika Shakarami and on Sarina Esmailzadeh who was -- they were both 16 years old, and they both went out just to demand basic rights and they were
But, you know, when they killed the children, it doesn't -- the harassment doesn't end there. They continued to harass the families. They threatened
the families. Nika's aunt was detained. Sarina's mother was threatened, that if you speak up, we will also murder your son, who's also her only
child. I also interviewed Nika's mom on the phone, and our conversation was abruptly cut by whoever was listening. I assumed the intelligence ministry.
But despite all these pressures, the mothers refused to be silent. They are grieving mothers. And Christiane, as you know in our culture, mothers have
particular respect in our culture. And I don't think there's anyone who can listen to a mother grieving and crying and speaking of their child -- of
their children who was -- who have been killed and not sympathize and empathize with them. That's why the regime wants to silence the moms
because they know the power that they have, you know, with the narrative of what's happened to them and their families.
AMANPOUR: So -- I mean, that absolutely comes across loud and clear in a very, very powerful way. And this film that you have essentially, you know,
gathered a lot of the evidence that was posted on social media, but these extra interviews just show the total courage of these people who are under
such daily threat for their lives. Whether the mothers, whether the girls.
And of course, we have this whole situation of the girls who were somehow poisoned in, you know, in schools and all the rest of it. And there's a
whole new article, Farnaz. Is it -- it's your article, isn't it? The wave of alcohol poisoning that has just come out. These alcohol poisonings in
Iran. I mean, A, what's going? And this extra, apparently, use of alcohol, is it related to the pressures people feel in that country right now?
FASSIHI: Well, the people -- I -- so, there's been -- as you mentioned, there's been a wave of alcohol poisonings because alcohol is banned in
Iran, the sale and consumption of it. So, this bootleg market -- unregulated, bootleg market has, kind of, you know, taken off in Iran.
People really don't know whether the alcohol they're buying if it's distilled at home or if it's, you know, fake, sort of, brand models.
And, you know the -- even the government says that there's been rise in the number of people who've died, including a very famous Iranian artist,
Khosrow Hassanzadeh, who had drunk with his friends and then fell into a coma and died about a week later.
So, you know, the people that I interviewed, including Khosrow's partner and friends and many other people said that we feel that this is -- that we
are victims of religious oppression because if it weren't for these restrictive rules, you know, like many other countries, we would have
access to safe regulated alcohol. So, you know, Christiane, people in Iran feel like they're, kind of, hostages to economic, you know, corruption to,
you know, to many, many difficult things that they're facing.
FASSIHI: And they just can't seem to get a break.
AMANPOUR: Well, honestly, Farnaz Fassihi, remarkable continual reporting about Iran. And Sasha Joelle Achilli, it's a really amazing documentary
that synthesizes everything in the world is, you know, been seeing over the last year and really puts into sharp focus. So, thank you both very much
for joining us. And of course, you can watch that FRONTLINE documentary "Inside the Iranian Uprising" on PBS next Tuesday. The film's also
available to stream for free right now on FRONTLINE's website, YouTube, and in the PBS app.
Iran's ally, Russia, also cracks down on any dissent. And today, opposition activist Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to an additional 19 years in
jail on what his team calls trumped-up charges of extremism. And Nic Robertson is joining us now with the latest. So, Nic, I mean, was this an -
- did everybody expect this?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Navalny certainly did. I mean, he tweeted this morning that the prosecution has asked for 20
years. He said he thought the judge might give him 18 years. He said he thought it would be, you know, whatever the outcome it would be Stalinist
in its approach.
19 years, he won't be shocked by that. In fact, he's just released on a Telegram channel, a statement, which says, 19 years in a special regime
colony. It's like a life sentence but, essentially, I'm serving a life sentence already. So, he -- I don't think he's shocked by it. But this is
really going to put him in a place where he can't reach his supporters in anyway.
AMANPOUR: Nic, did you find it strange or noteworthy that actually the Russian authorities allowed the press, at least some access, to the end of
this so-called trial and to this verdict?
ROBERTSON: You know, I think when you look at the images that we had, they're almost comical and farcical. I mean, Navalny says these are
trumped-up charges. And I -- you know, I think that stands a sniff test here.
The whole courtroom itself looked as flimsy and as prefabricated and transitory as the charges against him. And where the media were held, they
didn't get into the courtroom, of course. They were kept in another room. So, they only had one television screen where they can see what was
happening. And the camera in the courtroom, you couldn't see the judge. You could only see Navalny and his legal team.
And this is the most farcical part of it all. Navalny had a co-defendant in there with him, one of his media team. The audio from the judge was so
distorted, even his legal team could barely understand what the judge was saying about Navalny's case. And they're still scratching their heads about
what his co-defendant, his -- the gentleman who was running his YouTube channel for him. They still don't know what sentence he got. I mean,
AMANPOUR: Indeed. Well, thanks, Nic, for that update.
No amount of silencing on the home front, though, will quietening the -- will quieten the troubles on Russia's western front. Ukrainian forces
continue to push against its heavily dug-in defenses. And this week, they launched several drone attacks, taking the conflict right to the Russian
Now, it is rare to get Russian government officials to speak with the press. But Moscow's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Andre Kelin, who's
had prominent diplomatic roles around the world since the '70s, did come in to our London studio earlier this week to explain the view from the Kremlin
about how the war is going. And we must say that we did record that interview before today's Navalny verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Kelin, welcome to the program.
ANDREI KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UK: Thank you for inviting.
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you, because it is the news of the day, the news of the world, and that is the latest indictment of President Trump,
specifically on allegations of conspiring to overturn a legitimate American election. Now, because of Russia's interest in U.S. elections, I would like
to know what your reaction is. What is your reaction to President Trump?
KELIN: That will be very simple. I think it is that we are going to work with the president that will be elected in the United States. And for us,
it is -- we do not command either on this side or that side.
AMANPOUR: Is it strange for you as a Russian diplomat to see somebody indicted actually running for president and likely to get the nomination of
KELIN: No, of course we do we do follow what is going on in the United States. For us, it is an interest on how it maybe done. But I hope that it
will not turn into this such a turmoil that was at last elections and before that election and all of this. So, it should really -- elections,
and someone should be elected and guide the country in the right way.
AMANPOUR: It is thought by the, sort of, cognoscenti, that the Kremlin, notably President Putin, who decent relationship President Trump would like
to see another Trump administration. Clearly, he's got his differences with President Biden. I mean, you both, obviously, are on the different side of
the Ukraine issue. You know, do you think that President Putin would have invaded Ukraine, or however you like to call it, if Trump had been
KELIN: I will say that my president has not once said that he will never pronounce one -- the outcome of elections in the United States. Otherwise,
it will be told that he is trying to influence it.
AMANPOUR: Which, basically the last indictment or some of the investigations into President Trump suggested that in 2016 the Russians did
influence the election. Can I ask you --
KELIN: We did not.
AMANPOUR: I know that's what you say. The offensive counteroffensive appears to be gaining momentum. I know the Kremlin has spoken already. I
know Putin has spoken on it, saying that it's, you know, a highly telegraphed operation that has achieved nothing. But we can see, and you're
seeing now, many more reports of softening up lines trying to breakthrough, but most especially, in the last few days, a stepped-up Ukrainian drone
strikes into Russia, including into Moscow on certain businesses and the like. Is this war going according to plan for the Kremlin?
KELIN: First, you have mentioned the issue of a counteroffensive that have started from Ukrainian side. I have -- reading final reports by British
Ministry of Defense which is -- still continue to say that they're moving because this is not correct. A couple of villages that has been taken by
Ukrainian forces, just two weeks ago, beginning of this month, has been retaken by the Russian forces.
The losses that have been suffering to Ukraine are terrible. It is 21,000 this month and 26,000 in June. Now, Ukrainians are trying to attack our
foreign alliance ways, only human power. They are saving tanks, including British tank. I have never seen (INAUDIBLE), by the way, on the field. So,
this is awful what is happening over there. So, they achieved nothing in this counteroffensive.
And in contrary, Russian forces are now advancing in the north of the Luhansk region. So, that is effective life (ph). So, sooner or later, the
government here also in the United Kingdom should recognize the truth. So, this counteroffensive is not a success.
Coming back to your issue of sending drones to the Russian civil building, buildings in Moscow, this is a terrorist attack because they deliberately,
deliberately targeted civilian buildings. Not much of a damage, I would say, not much of a fear, but it is -- it goes of any definition of
AMANPOUR: You say that, but I mean, you know, then everybody -- then you must accept the fact the Ukrainians and the rest of the world also called
Moscow's drone and missile attacks on civilian locations inside Kyiv and just about a church in Odessa, an orthodox church in Odessa, Mr.
Ambassador, terrorist attacks then from Russia.
KELIN: This is easy. We do not target deliberately, as I have, said civilian infrastructure. Damage --
AMANPOUR: Do you still believe that?
KELIN: -- damage --
AMANPOUR: Do you still believe that?
KELIN: Let me finish, OK. Damage that has caused in Odessa and in Krivoy Rog recent. It has been done mainly by the air defense missile that has
been strike --
AMANPOUR: You're basically saying the Ukrainians are shooting themselves?
KELIN: No, no, no. It is just an effect of -- like -- they're putting their installations inside towns and cities, which is contrary to
humanitarian law. And when they're shooting, there are debris, or even the full -- last time, that was a full missile that has targeted Krivoy Rog.
So, it -- sometimes there is collateral damage. But as we have established in Odessa, all are points that were beyond Odessa. Not far, but inside or
sometimes but beyond Odessa. So, it was just occasional.
AMANPOUR: So, is it then still the Russian position, despite all of us, myself, my colleagues, the U.N., you know -- well, I don't know about the
U.N. but many other independents --
KELIN: Don't bring this -- the U.N. is --
AMANPOUR: Right. Others have consistently accused Russia of targeting both military and civilian targets. I mean, the restaurant, you know, the train
station and all these civilian casualties. I'm just trying to figure out, are you still trying to say that none of that is deliberate after nearly
KELIN: Not deliberately. Things happened. This is, of course, war, a special military operation. It is close to the war. Things happen. Weapons
is flying back and forth. So that -- of course, it may happen. But in general, there is no intention to do the -- any harm to civilians.
AMANPOUR: The U.N. says, at least 9,000 civilians have died since your full-scale invasion started. 500 of them are children. Just -- is this
level of what you call enemy deaths, is it acceptable? These are civilians.
KELIN: We do not call enemy Ukrainian population at all. And we are against the destruction of Ukraine --
AMANPOUR: Then why are you invading the country?
KELIN: -- as a state. We have a big problem with Ukrainian governments which is following --
AMANPOUR: These -- I'm talking about civilian deaths. Is that level of civilian deaths --
KELIN: My dear --
AMANPOUR: -- and destruction acceptable to Russia?
KELIN: Is it -- can I continue to say something?
AMANPOUR: Yes, but I know what you're going to say. You're going to say -- you know, you're going to call them the criminal neo-nazi fascist Ukrainian
KELIN: Of the government.
AMANPOUR: -- government.
KELIN: The government and there are people, of course, that are supporting. It is -- it was a big mistake to combat -- to try to combat
Russian people that are living in Ukraine and to combat Russian Federation. So now, Ukraine is paying for this for mistreat (ph).
AMANPOUR: OK. So, here's -- you've given me a great opening. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former ally, maybe still an ally of President Putin, we'll go
there in a second. In part of his challenge to the president and to the Russian military establishment, basically said, you all must now that
Zelenskyy was elected in order to try to improve relations with Russia, to try to change all the dynamics that was going on in eastern Ukraine. Not to
go to war with Russia or to challenge Russia in that regard.
He said that Russia's quote, unquote -- no, I think he called it a war, he didn't call it a special military operation, has been completely
counterproductive. Because if Ukraine had, you know, three tanks before the war, it's now got X number of tanks. If Ukraine had a military that had a
few thousand prepared soldiers, now it has, you know, the whole country is prepared.
So, in other words, it was a big mistake by Russia. Do you think you are willing to accept any of that? This is from an ally of the president.
KELIN: It's hard to say. He's -- I wouldn't say that he does not belong to those who are planning something or doing something. He's a businessman,
certainly. He's, in a way, he's adventurist, of course.
KELIN: Prigozhin, definitely. He is -- because he is -- apart from that, he was involved into a certain business project in --
AMANPOUR: I know but his troops did --
KELIN: He can --
AMANPOUR: If there were any successes on the battlefield that his troops did them.
KELIN: Listen, he can do whatever he thinks he does. When he tried to arrange this mutiny, I would say that he has good qualifications. So, it
was a high treason. The president has qualified it when it has started, then it has -- then it was all over. Now, he's traveling to some place. So,
we do recognize some hero deeds by Wagner group in -- when they have specifically stormed Bakhmut and all of that. But there are organizers and
there are soldiers. So, we make a definition there.
AMANPOUR: I would like to understand why it is that people like Kara- Murza, the intellectual others, Navalny are in jail for verbally protesting and disagreeing with the Russian government? But Yevgeny Prigozhin who
tried to commit a coup against the Kremlin, maybe even against the president himself, an armed coup is still wandering around free in Russia.
He was photographed meeting with the African leaders during this week's summit in St. Petersburg.
KELIN: Because -- I'll tell you --
AMANPOUR: Why is he not in jail for treason?
KELIN: The investigation is going on. But in fact, what has happened when these troops has gone to Rostov, no one has been killed at all. No one has
-- there was no damage at all. And it was just -- in my understanding, it was just -- as one of them also said that he is too outstanding. And they
say it was something --
AMANPOUR: But you know Russian soldiers died in the --
KELIN: I never recall this information. No, no one has died.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, it was reported that Russian soldiers died. That President Putin also said it was an act of treason.
KELIN: Exactly, yes.
AMANPOUR: But why is he still glad handing with people, like, invited African presidents where Putin is in St. Petersburg? Why is he not --
KELIN: I saw this photograph. It doesn't prove anything. So, perhaps they have business relations or something like that. I can only -- it was -- I
have no explanation to that. It is --
AMANPOUR: Do you think it was a real coup against Putin are an attempt against Putin?
KELIN: No, no, no.
AMANPOUR: What was it then?
KELIN: There was no attempt to get Putin. There was an idea that Prigozhin's people and Wagner, especially organizers, they had something
special. They were supposed to go under the control of the ministry of defense, getting some salaries, getting some ammunition supplies, and all
of that. They didn't want because of the profit that before that when they were independent was much higher than the arrangement that was proposed to
AMANPOUR: Just so you know, the reports are that at least 15 Russian servicemen died, most of those were air force pilots.
KELIN: Yes, I remember that.
AMANPOUR: But anyway that's --
KELIN: There was a helicopter --
AMANPOUR: Yes. OK.
KELIN: -- helicopter --
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. So, the guys responsible for the death of Russian military --
KELIN: When -- he was asked this question, why the helicopter was downed. And he said we have got a crazy air defense commander who has done it
without command. That was an answer by Prigozhin.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you this, has failed coup weekend or strengthened Putin?
KELIN: In a way, I think that it has strengthened him because recent polls they are showing that, I guess, 77 percent have trust in Putin over our
population. 73 percent of the population support his policy.
AMANPOUR: As you know, President Putin has been indicted, you know, by the ICC, so is his main, you know, children's rights expert or commissioner.
President Putin decided not to go to South Africa for the next BRICS Summit even though these are very close allies. Is he afraid of being arrested?
KELIN: First about this funny indictment, and you should put in there because there is a good statistic on that, we delivered it to security
counsel. Lots of children has gone from Ukraine to Russia with their parents, first of all.
AMANPOUR: 700,000 says Russia, Ukrainian children are being taken to Russia since the start of the war.
KELIN: 700 is not -- that's --
KELIN: I have no figure of that. I know that 200,000 of children has been taken from the care houses that were close to the front line and initially
are going to Russia. Then 2,000 of these has returned because of the line of the limitation has gone through Ukraine. But 400, we could not place
into the care houses because they were too close to the front line and they're camping in some places, in Crimea, mainly.
AMANPOUR: Finally --
KELIN: So, that's the case. Finally.
AMANPOUR: Finally, you say these kids are on a camping expedition in Crimea. Finally, as you know of course, Crimea -- but let's just not go
there. Where do you see an end and how do you see an end to this war? We've got Saudi Arabia talking about a potential, you know, hosting a peace
process to which Russia is not invited, China is. You --
KELIN: Very funny, of course.
KELIN: Very funny, of course.
AMANPOUR: You've got, you know, some attempts by the African Union, President Zelenskyy has his 10 Point Peace Plan. Do you see right now, as
we speak, any opening for any dialogue between the sides or any mediated dialogue to end this war?
KELIN: I'll tell you. We are ready for any negotiated solution. But we have very bad experience because April of this -- last year in 2022, we are
very close to -- beginning of the war, we are very close to an agreement. And it was even initialed with detailed stipulation of how many tanks, how
many (INAUDIBLE). However, Ukrainians, the Ukrainian government in its president has asked us to withdraw from the region of Kyiv. We have done it
as a sign of goodwill. And right after that --
AMANPOUR: Ambassador --
KELIN: Right after that --
AMANPOUR: You were thrown out of Kyiv, your forces were.
KELIN: Never. Never at all. It was -- not just --
AMANPOUR: We were there. We watched.
KELIN: -- just look at, it was -- what has been said during this time by our officials, by ministry of defense there. And Putin has confirmed it in
his recent statements. It was a sign of goodwill. We have withdrawn. We have withdrawn our troops from Kyiv -- Kyiv region, sorry, not from Kyiv
but from Kyiv region. And right after that, Ukrainians said, no deal. We are going to fight.
AMANPOUR: Because of what was revealed.
KELIN: And so, we --
AMANPOUR: Bucha --
KELIN: -- we are not going --
AMANPOUR: -- Bucha and all those --
KELIN: Whatever. Whatever.
AMANPOUR: -- other terrible war crimes --
AMANPOUR: -- that were committed.
KELIN: OK. Whatever.
AMANPOUR: It's not whatever.
KELIN: But what I'm --
AMANPOUR: It's why the president --
KELIN: -- what I'm saying --
AMANPOUR: -- has been indicted as well.
KELIN: We are not going to repeat this experience.
AMANPOUR: So, no.
KELIN: You say that --
AMANPOUR: So, the answer is, no?
KELIN: No, if preconditions will be there, preconditions will be there, if desire on Ukrainian side will be for a real negotiation, because at the
moment, the plan that has been suggested by Zelenskyy, what is it saying? It is saying that our -- we have to withdraw from all territories,
including Crimea. We have to pay enormous reparations, and we have to submit to President Putin to, kind of, international tribunal. Do you think
we can accept this? Never, of course. It should a realistic deal.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Ambassador Kelin, thank you very much for coming in.
KELIN: OK. Good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: There is, of course, revisionist history.
And finally, tonight there is a revisiting history. 80 years ago, a young lieutenant named John F. Kennedy was stationed in the Solomon Islands when
his World War II patrol boat was sunk by a Japanese Destroyer. The crew ended up overboard, but Kennedy led them to safety on a tiny island three
and a half miles away. To find food, JFK swam to surrounding islands before two allied island scouts came to their rescue. His actions earned him a
navy and marine corps medal and a purple heart. He's the only president who have received that medal.
On the anniversary of the ship sinking, his daughter, the current ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, and her son Jack, recreated part
of her father's heroic swim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLINE KENNEDY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA: An incredibly emotional experience for me and for my son. And I'm so lucky to be able to be here
and to thank the community and the families of the Solomon scouts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: She also said the island's, "Made President Kennedy the man he was. It was where he first experienced the responsibility of leadership."
And that is it for now. Goodbye from London.