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Vladimir Putin Slams "Traitors" As Yevgeny Prigozhin Claims Mercenary "Rebellion Was A "Protest", Not An Attempted Takeover; Ukraine Claims Frontline Advances Amid Russian Chaos; CNN Obtains Audi Of Donald Trump's 2021 Conversation About Classified Documents; U.K. Releases Estimated Cost Of Controversial Plan To Deport Asylum Seekers To Rwanda; Putin Brands Wagner Chief Prigozhin a "Traitor"; Armenian Christians Challenge Controversial Land Deal. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 27, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, they speak. Vladimir Putin calls the leaders of an attempted coup traitors who will face justice, while Yevgeny Prigozhin says it wasn't a coup, it was a cry for help.

In his own words, the audio recordings of former U.S. President Donald Trump talking about top secret documents in his possession after his time in office.

And an economic review of the British government's plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, finds there is no way to determine how effective it will be or how high the costs will soar.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Great to have you here on CNN. We begin with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made his first public appearance after an attempted coup over the weekend. He called the leaders of the Wagner Mercenary Group traitors and enemies of Russia.

Hours earlier, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin also made his first public statement, defending his march on Moscow as a protest, not an attempt to overthrow the government.

Putin appeared angry during his address to the nation. And while two days ago, the Kremlin said charges against Prigozhin will be dropped. The Russian president now says the leaders of the rebellion will be brought to justice for their crimes.

This uprising marked the greatest challenge to Putin's 23-year long rule, but he appeared to play down the threat posed in a nationwide address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): An armed rebellion would have been suppressed in any case, the organizers of the rebellion despite the loss of adequacy could not fail to understand this. They understood everything.


VAUSE: So, more now are those comments from the Wagner boss who was last seen in public on Saturday, and his whereabouts remains unknown.

In his audio message, Prigozhin said that our marched to Moscow with thousands of troops was a protest because he feared his troops were in danger.


YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, FOUNDER, WAGNER PRIVATE MILITARY COMPANY: Two factors played into my decision to turn around. First factor, we wanted to avoid a Russian bloodshed. Second is, we marched in demonstration of a protest, not to overturn the power in the country.


VAUSE: Live now to CNN's Paula Newton. She joins us from Ottawa with more.

And so, Paula, these statements are at least from Putin's point of view, it's quite contradictory to what was coming out of the Kremlin just a few days earlier. And searching for Prigozhin who was actually calling for the overthrow of the defense ministry. And now it was just some kind of protest, a cry for help.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, as you said, there is nothing that is clear today, despite Putin making that speech, despite Prigozhin releasing his missive and acting as if that he was justified and basically not really saying that he was going anywhere, nor were his fighters.

This is all incredibly confusing, and most importantly, it is confusing to the Russian people who are starting really this whole charade by the Kremlin, it's starting to wear thin on many of them.

You know, there was disquiet on the streets in the week -- in the weekend throughout Russia, no question and of course, many are very happy that any kind of bloodshed was averted.

Having said that, the absolute vacuum of power or direction that they're left with is also equally unsettling. You know, the Russian newspapers and media in general have been very careful in their push to make sure that they do not unsettle the Kremlin. We have seen anybody who speaks out at this point in time, threatened with fines or worse, imprisonment.

But it is interesting that when you start to see the cracks, you too see them in some areas of the media, and I've been basically monitoring it the last few days. But here is Andrei Kolesnikov in the Columnist with this line, and

when he had a comment after Putin had spoken, the rumors were he writes, in short, one better than the other and most importantly, all believable, no matter how absurd they may be, because the last days have confirmed that the more absurd (AUDIO GAP).

VAUSE: I think we've just lost Paula there. But we thank you for that report, and we'll catch up with her next hour.

With us this hour from Washington is James Clapper. CNN National Security Analyst, retired U.S. Air Force General and a former Director of National Intelligence. It's good to have you with us, sir. Thank you.



VAUSE: OK. Now Putin's public appearance on Monday, it was brief, about five minutes. He seemed kind of angry. In fact so angry there was even some rare movement in his forehead.

If the Russian president was hoping to project stability and control after the events over the weekend, how do you think he did?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't think he -- I don't think he did that. I thought the speech was as such as it was, was rather underwhelming from the simple standpoint of its brevity.

Normally, Putin drones on and on on his speeches, and he just didn't exhibit or display what I would call or what the military calls command presence.

So, the impression I get, he is -- I think he was caught short. He didn't -- he wasn't -- he didn't see this common. And I think at this point, he's trying to gather himself and figure out how he can regain the reins of control of whose government.

VAUSE: And this was the first time Putin or any criminal leader had been seen since that 11th hour deal on Saturday brokered by Belarus to end the uprising. So, then here's a little more from that very short -- the very short remarks that he made on Monday, listen to this.


PUTIN (through translator): However, the organizers of the rebellion betraying their country that people also portrayed those who were drawn into the crime, they lie to them, push them to death, under fire to shoot at their own.


VAUSE: We didn't hear from Putin on Saturday, and he promised back then the coup leaders will face justice, just as he did on this speech on Monday. But the problem is, in between Saturday and Monday, Putin agreed to

grant Prigozhin amnesty in return for exile in Belarus.

So yes, this is kind of confusing. Is Putin playing some kind of shell game with the Russian public? Or does he plan to prosecute Prigozhin despite their agreement? Or will they try and hang this on someone else? Because he never mentioned Prigozhin by name? How do you make sense of this?

CLAPPER: Oh, I don't. I'm having trouble sorting out what this is all about.

First, it wasn't -- it wasn't real clear to me what Prigozhin was attempting to do, had he gone to Moscow. But the fact that he without any resistance apparently took over all of the Russian command and control and logistical control operations in Moscow with virtually no resistance.

And then all of a sudden, he turns around and goes home and sends troops back to the barracks. And I just find this agreement, allegedly brokered by Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, a little strange, and I can't conceive that Prigozhin would go to Belarus, which from a security standpoint is simply an extension of Russia, where the -- you know, the long dark hand of Putin can reach out and touch him.

And if I were he, and I was going to go to -- actually go to Belarus, I'd sort of stay away from multi-storey buildings.

VAUSE: Well, we did hear from Prigozhin two hours before Putin did his five minutes address. Here is the head of the Wagner boss, here's some of what he had to say.


PRIGOZHIN (through translator): We walked 780 kilometers in a day, not a single soldier on the ground was killed. We regret that we were forced to strike on aircraft. But these aircrafts dropped bombs and launched missile strikes.


VAUSE: You know, what was interesting about his speech, it had this kind of, you know, hey, guys, I didn't really mean to try and attempt to overthrow the government feel to it, it was all just a protest, no hard feelings.

CLAPPER: This further adds to the mystery here. This rather strange behavior where he seemingly is trying to revise history. Or, you know, sorry, I was just kidding. I was just trying to get attention.

And so, I found that rather odd, as well, of course, we really haven't seen him emerge anywhere in terms of his location.

So, there's more to come here. And I think from -- as a longtime intelligence practitioner, that some analytic humility is in order here, because we just don't know exactly what's going on. But it's certainly a strange evolution. It certainly advantages Ukraine and it clearly diminishes and weakens the stature and status of Putin.

VAUSE: Yes, this is one of those moments, I guess, in history that we will not know what happened for some -- you know, for a long time to come I guess.


James Clapper, thank you for being with us. We really appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, John.

VAUSE: With Russia facing political turmoil, Ukraine appears to be making some big gains on the battlefield. In Monday's nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops were advancing in all directions from the southern and eastern front lines.

In contrast to the Russian president who appears to be under siege, Zelenskyy met with soldiers in the Donetsk region.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Donetsk region, Zaporizhzhia region, our soldiers, our forefront positions. Directions of the active actions at the front. Today in all directions, our soldiers had an advance forward and it is a happy day.


VAUSE: Nick Paton Walsh has this report from Kyiv.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Unprecedented chaos in Moscow has yet to ease Ukraine's bitter fight in the trenches. Close combat around Bakhmut, two weeks into the continued grind of the counter offensive open operations filmed over the weekend just as Wagner troops roll towards Moscow.

Here, the red, white and blue are Russians in disarray and surrendering. The hope is more will follow as word spreads of the failed rebellion and morale and discipline falter.

It was near here Ukraine proclaimed Monday progress on the front lines with room for hope elsewhere.

To the south, another Donetsk front near the heavily contested Marinka, it appears some Kremlin loyal Chechen fighters were pulled to Moscow for his defense at the weekend. Here, they are strutting along an apparent highway near the capitol.

Bakhmut and Marinka opportunities for Ukraine in the east, but also further west near Kherson, on the Antonivs'kyy Bridge, the scene of intense clashes captured by this Russian drone, as Ukrainian forces claimed to cross over to the Russian controlled eastern bank, opening another front perhaps.

It is too early to tell whether or if Russia is crumbling. And Ukraine's progress has been incremental still.

This, a familiar scene when their fighters declared they'd captured another small village in the South Rivnopil on Monday.

None of this yet the strategic sea change in Russian collapse. The weekend's madness that Zelenskyy visiting troops in the East Monday as well will hope follows.

He faces anxious choices even with all the Kremlin's intimate ugliness so exposed. Move now or wait for more in Moscow to unravel. He must be sure to make no mistakes of his own, or interrupt the torrent of them in Moscow.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN Kyiv, Ukraine.


VAUSE: CNN has obtained a key piece of evidence in the federal indictment against former U.S. President Donald Trump. In a 2021 audio recording after he left office, Trump's word suggests he's holding a top secret Pentagon plan for an attack on Iran and he acknowledges he did not declassified the document. Listen to this.



STAFFER: That was your cue, you know, that against you.

TRUMP: Well, it started right at the --

STAFFER: Like when Milley is talking about, oh, we're going to try and do a coup. No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in.


STAFFER: Trying to overthrow your election.

TRUMP: Well, with Milley, let me see that. I'll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn't it amazing? I have a big pile of papers. This thing just came up. Look.

This was him. They presented me this, this is off the record but they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.

We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me. This was him. All sorts of stuff-pages long, look.

Wait a minute, let's see here.


TRUMP: I just found, isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential.

Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack and --

STAFFER: Hillary would print that out all the time, you know.

TRUMP: She'd send it.

STAFFER: Her private e-mails.

TRUMP: No, she'd send it to Anthony Weiner, the pervert.

STAFFER: Please print.

TRUMP: By the way, isn't that incredible?


TRUMP: I was just thinking because we were talking about it and you know, he said he wanted to attack Iran and what -- these are the papers.

STAFFER: You did.

TRUMP: This was done by the military and given to me. I think we can probably, right?


STAFFER: I don't know, we'll have to see. We'll have to try to figure out a --

TRUMP: Declassify it.


TRUMP: See as president I could have declassified it.


TRUMP: Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

STAFFER: Yes. Now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting?


TRUMP: It's so cool. I mean, it's so, look her and I, and you probably almost didn't believe me, but now you believe me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I believed you.

TRUMP: It's incredible, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, they never met a war they didn't want. TRUMP: Hey, bring some -- bring some Cokes in please.


VAUSE: What we just heard seems to contradict claims Trump made last week on Fox. Then he said he did not keep any secret documents in his Mar-a-Lago resort after he left office.

And earlier this month, the former president pleaded not guilty to 37 charges related to alleged mishandling of classified documents.

A short break, when we come back here on CNN NEWSROOM, the British government has revealed the high costs of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, but they're moving ahead with the plan anyway?

Plus, as a search for answers continues into the implosion of the Titan submersible, we'll hear from a victim's family member about her last moments with her husband and with his son.


VAUSE: In Sudan, paramilitary forces claim to make some major gains in recent days, taking control the headquarters of the militarized police unit aligned with their rivals, the Sudanese army, as well as seizing dozens of armored vehicles and ammunition storage facility. The Paramilitary Forces also says they've killed or captured hundreds of soldiers.

Meantime, Doctors Without Borders says Khartoum hospitals have treated 150 war wounded patients in the past two days. Most of the injured are civilians that includes children and the elderly.

Sudan's Health Ministry said earlier this month, at least 3,000 people have died, 6,000 have been wounded since fighting erupted between these rival military factions, April 15th.

UNICEF says more than 100,000 children who have fled the violence in Sudan now face new challenges in neighboring Chad, including the risk of disease and the late access to humanitarian aid.

As of June 23rd, more than 140,000 Sudanese refugees, and 34,000 Chadian and returnees have crossed the border into Chad. 90 percent of them are women and children, thousands more are expected to arrive as violence escalates in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

The British government's controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda now kind of has a price tag, their price is more than $215,000 per person. They just don't know how many people would need to be deported. That's according to the first detailed government assessment of the plan.

Britain's conservative leaders are determined to drive down the costs of housing thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who crossed the British Channel from France. They say in order for the plan to break even, it needs to deter about two and five people from making the dangerous journey in the first place. But critics and opposition leaders say the government is spending

astronomical amounts to deport people who are seeking safety in the United Kingdom.


CNN European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas joins us now from Los Angeles. Good to see you, Dominic.


VAUSE: Thank you. Now looking closely at this economic assessment by the home office, it found that there is a risk that the practical complexities of the bill mean the bill will not be fully delivered. And deterrence impact relies on the policy working as intended, with sufficient capacity to detain and remove an appreciable proportion of individuals in scope to a safe third country.

It also adds this, it is not possible to estimate with precision, the level of deterrence that the bill might achieve.

So, in other words, they don't know if it will work. They don't know if there'll be value for money. And on top of that, they don't really know how much it'll cost in the end. Apart from that, how much it will play this weekend (PH)?

THEODORE: Well, John, I think that you know, at the end of the day, the truth is that the economic argument is really kind of secondary to the optics here that this government is playing around with, which is ultimately instrumentalizing. The question of immigration to distract from broader issues that are taking place.

And we know that when it comes to deterrence, especially in the case of asylum seekers, that are fleeing persecution, the first and only rational choice they're making is to leave point A to try and make it to point B and a similar argument can be made for when it comes to the question of migrants.

And so, as I've said, the government here is almost sort of stigmatizing and blaming migrants for a sort of an out of control cost that is somehow impacting the existing cost of living crisis in the U.K., that when you actually look at the sort of the demographics here, the fact is that the majority of these asylum seekers and migrants attempting to enter the U.K. are from countries like Albania, and Syria and Iraq.

And the idea of then deporting them, essentially rounding them up, which is the kind of language they're talking about here. To send them to Rwanda just simply points to the ridiculous aspect of this entire scheme, John.

VAUSE: Yes, let's take a close look at the cost because sending an asylum seeker to Rwanda. These are the government numbers, or some other mystery third country, it's 169,000 pounds, that breaks down to 105,000 pounds for each asylum seeker (INAUDIBLE) to Rwanda, 22,000 pounds for flights and other travel costs, 18,000 pounds for processing.

There will be savings they say of 106,000 pounds, because there'll be no need to provide long term housing to these asylum seekers.

Total net costs per person per asylum seeker, 63,000 pounds, those savings are based on 85 percent of future illegal immigrants needing accommodation support for an average of four years, at a cost of about 85 pounds per night.

So, putting -- as you say, putting aside the argument of moral bankruptcy and sheer cruelty here, this scheme could end up costing many more times what they don't know it costs already.

THOMAS: You're absolutely right, John. I mean, this in terms of, you know, the sort of the math here, it's just sort of unconscionable how they're playing around with this.

And yes, you can say we can talk about the economics and ignore the human rights aspect. There's also the international law aspect and the cost of that.

What we do know thus far and it's important to look at the language, is this is a deal between the U.K. and Rwanda that is framed as a migration partnership and an economic partnership.

And I don't think there's been enough discussion yet as to what the sort of either economic sort of, you know, stakes are in this particular relationship.

What we know thus far is that 140 million British pounds have been promised to the Rwandan authorities, which is an extraordinary figure.

And I think the irony of this as well, which feeds into this question of instrumentalizing immigration is now that the U.K. is no longer a member of the European Union, it no longer participates in the European Union's coordinated asylum, and migration policies. And so, there's a tremendous cost there of administering this.

But ultimately, at the end of the day, we're looking at an economic argument versus a human argument with the math and the numbers around the economics based on something that has essentially got very little sort of background and experience in terms of how this has been used before, with no certain outcome as to with all these different variables as to whether or not those savings will be an actor, John.

VAUSE: OK. So, when the British interior minister says this.


SUELLA BRAVERMAN, BRITISH INTERIOR MINISTER: We saw at the end of last year, people dying on the channel in their ill-fated attempt to get to the U.K. So, the compassionate thing to do and the humanitarian thing to do is find another solution.


VAUSE: She is absolutely 100 percent right. But this plan is not a solution.

THOMAS: It's not a solution. And there's nothing compassionate about this plan or pretending it, she's stigmatizing and instrumentalizing that vulnerable, these migrants and asylum seekers.

Yes, of course, there's exploitation. There are smugglers, there are armed gangs, and so on and so forth. That is secondary to the broader issue here.

What's so interesting is that seven years ago, John, we were having discussions about the aftermath of Brexit after the leave though. And we know that the number one factor that influenced those voting to leave the European Union was the question of immigration.


What's interesting is that even though control for immigration is something that continues to go on to support in the U.K., deporting individuals, families and groups to Rwanda is not.

And yet again, we have a kind of empty Conservative Party slogan here of stop the boats, much like we had, let's get Brexit done. And all of this simply points to a government in crisis that is pretending in creating this immigration crisis to seem competent in trying to find the solutions.

But I think as we move forward in this discussion, it's more evident that this party that has been in power for 13 years that is about to face a general election, is simply ill equipped to deal with any of the problems facing the U.K. today, John.

VAUSE: Dominic, as always, we appreciate your time. Thanks for being with us.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: When we come back, from Putin shift to the apparent leader of an attempted coup against the Russian president. We'll have more on Yevgeny Prigozhin in a moment.


VAUSE: Welcome back, I'm John Vause, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The president of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko is expected to speak publicly later Tuesday about the short lived military rebellion in Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin broke his silence on Monday. He did not mention the leader of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin by name. Instead, he criticized the organizers of the rebellion for betraying their country, and he said the Wagner Group fighters could go with Prigozhin to Belarus, or join the Russian military.

Prigozhin for his part spoke earlier on Monday. He said he never intended to replace Putin. This was not an attempt to overthrow the government, but he wanted to prevent the breakup of the Wagner Group, and he stopped the march on Moscow to avoid more bloodshed.

U.S. President Joe Biden is keeping his distance from the turmoil in Russia. Sources tell CNN the U.S. intelligence had a detailed and accurate picture of Prigozhin's plans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to keep assessing the fallout of this weekend's events and the implications from Russia and Ukraine. But it's still too early to reach a definitive conclusion about where this is going.

The ultimate outcome of all this remains to be seen. But no matter what comes next, I will keep making sure that our allies and our partners are closely aligned and how we are reading and responding to the situation.


VAUSE: Precisely where Prigozhin is right now is a mystery. Part of a deal to end this uprising Prigozhin agreed to go into exile they say in Belarus, many experts believe he won't be safe in Belarus.


CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the Wagner Chief's long and complicated relations with the Russian president.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): From Putin's chef to billionaire, powerful mercenary boss, Prigozhin's rapid rise to the Russian president's top of books military enforcer seems over.

Saturday, Putin indirectly, branding Prigozhin a traitor, saying he was leading an armed insurrection. The tipping point in escalating tensions Prigozhin, sending battle hardened Wagner mercenary fighters towards Moscow from an undisclosed location, ostensibly on his way to exile in Belarus, Prigozhin denied he wanted to overthrow Putin.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, WAGNER GROUP BOSS (through translator): We marched in demonstration of a protest not to overturn the power in the country.

ROBERTSON: Prigozhin's point his beef not with Putin directly. But with his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whom he blames for starting an ill-conceived and badly executed war in Ukraine, and wants to strip Prigozhin of his troops.

PRIGOZHIN (through translator): As a result of intrigues ill-conceived decisions, it was planned that this unit would cease to exist on July 1, 2023.

ROBERTSON: Wagner, PMC drew in the shadows of Russia's 2014 war in Ukraine, following that got bigger supporting Russian troops in Syria, precisely when Prigozhin joined forces with Wagner is a well-kept secret. His connections with Putin had helped him get catering contracts for the Russian military. In Ukraine, Prigozhin real value to Putin rocketed in Africa, secretly winning influence in countries including Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Libya, making big money on gold, diamond and other deals on the side.

It was Prigozhin's private fiefdom shared with Putin, whom he always wanted to impress. But Wagner and Prigozhin was still in the shadows. The Ukraine war change that, Prigozhin went public had victories, potentially please Putin by taking ground and Bakhmut.

But then hubris took hold. He began to bite the hand that once fed him, criticized Putin's Defense Chief Sergei Shoigu, making a big noise, claiming he was being shorted on ammo, and his fighters were dying. His powers reached a pinnacle Saturday, adoration from the crowds before Putin pushed him into exile in Belarus.

And if there were any doubt how irreversibly the pair have fallen out, Putin again late Monday, labeling him a traitor, a measure of how much Prigozhin is now under Putin skin. He won't even say his name.

(On camera): And the measure of Putin's weakening grip on power, it didn't round up Prigozhin Saturday, when he had the chance. Leaving him free to keep up is critical anti-Defense Ministry drumbeat. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Still no word on what caused the implosion which destroyed the Titan submersible killing all five people on board. But we are hearing heartbreaking stories from the families. The mother of Suleman Dawood, the 19-year-old who was on board with his dad, says she was meant to be on that expedition, but instead gave the spot to her son.


CHRISTINE DAWOOD, WIFE AND MOTHER OF VICTIMS: I was really happy for them because both of them they really, really wanted to do that for a very long time. So it was supposed to be Shahzada and I, going down. And then I step back and give the space to Suleman because he really wanted to grow.


VAUSE: Meantime, investigators are prioritizing recovery of debris from the floor of the sea. Also looking into whether any laws regulations or guidelines are broken. The submersible was on its way to the Titanic wreckage when it imploded. Killing all on -- all on board.

Still to come, a controversial land deal has pitted Armenians in Jerusalem against their religious leaders. How, one contract threatens more than 1600 years of history, when we return.



VAUSE: The apocalyptic like wildfire smoke that blanketed much of the U.S. East Coast a few weeks ago, has now travelled to Europe crossing the Atlantic via the jet stream, which means it's now in the upper levels of the atmosphere and should have a limited impact on air quality. This was boundary on Sunday, dozens of forest fires still rage in Quebec Province alone.

A pollution monitor says Montreal now has the worst air quality of any major city in the world. That shows that this is the worst Canadian wildfire season on record. Authorities are warning people to avoid outdoor activities and wear a face mask.

Greek Prime Minister has been sworn in for another four-year term after a landslide election win, the 55-year-old promised to rebuild Greece's credit rate, increased jobs, increase wages. His ruling new democracy party won 158 of the 300-seat parliament on Sunday. In his second term he also promised to boost revenue from Greece's tourist industry. Residents of Jerusalem's Armenia quarter are fighting to keep their community intact amid a real estate deal potentially offering up precious land to hotel developers. Someday, it could mark the beginning of the end for the Armenians in the Old City. Here's CNN's Hadas Gold.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the hushed ornate St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter, one of Jerusalem's most famous photographers Garo Nalbandian is at work, documenting precious community artifacts.

GARO NALBANDIAN, PHOTOGRAPHER: Sometimes, I have some pieces. I fall in love.

GOLD: He's also one of only a few 100 Armenians still living in the Old City. Now sounding the alarm over a recent deal that will see at least 20% of the Armenian Quarter handed over to developers for a 99- year lease, with reported plans to build a luxury hotel. A deal many Armenians here say threatens their more than 1600-year presence in the Old City. And though they face pressures from others, like Jewish settlers in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, this deal was struck by their very own religious leaders, the Armenian Patriarchate.

NALBANDIAN: This is a copy of The Last Supper room.

GOLD: Garo's centuries old home is part of the land transfer, he says.

NALBANDIAN: I'm having nightmares every night. How -- when I'm going to live with my family, with my children if we lose this, it's been -- we're losing all Armenians people here

GOLD: Garo says church leaders are avoiding them and refuse to show the contract or maps.

NALBANDIAN: It's not important who bought it? I'm not blaming who bought it. I'm blaming why they sell it. Anybody can buy, if has the money. But it's this is it's not Patriarchate property, it's a property for all Armenians. All Armenians in the world, most important thing.

GOLD: With his wife and granddaughter looking on, he gets emotional over what he calls betrayal.

NALBANDIAN: No, they say -- they said, no. I don't understand them. You know, they don't have a feeling. What I will tell you, those are not Armenians.

GOLD: Uproar over the sale and the lack of clarity have resulted in regular protests outside the Armenians Patriarchs Nourhan Manougian office. A group of volunteer lawyers from Armenia and the United States arrived for a week-long fact-finding mission and to suggest remedies.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Consider the envisioned prospects, unacceptable.

GOLD: The defrocked priest and former Real Estate Manager for the Patriarch a to Father Khachik "Baret" Yeretzian told CNN via text message, the deal was signed by the Patriarch with Zana Capital in 2021. With the intention of providing for the future financial security of the patriarchate. Photos from what Yeretzian says was the night the contract was signed, shows the Patriarch shaking hands with developers Zana Capital Chairman Danny Rothman, who did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

But earlier this year, Yeretzian says he was asked to leave by the Patriarch, needing police protection as he was chased by protesters. He said he now feels like a scapegoat and was only following orders. The Patriarch declined our request for an interview but we managed to catch his deputy.

GOLD: -- Armenia Quarter, can you help explain what's been sold in the Armenian Quarter and why the community --


GOLD: Nothing has been sold?

GHARIBIAN: Nothing sold. They are saying sold but nothing is sold.

GOLD: So why --

GHARIBIAN: We have rented it to the other company, that it's all.

GOLD: Should --

GHARIBIAN: But about 99 year down (inaudible). But we are doing our best to cancel it if we can.

GOLD: The Archbishop also defending the Patriarch silence towards the community saying they're working behind the scenes. GHARIBIAN: We don't answer to any -- every question, every talking. Let them talk, later we will see who is right doing --

GOLD: Garo Nalbandian is not convinced, he says they will have to physically carry him out of his home fighting until the end. Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: It was a harmless romantic gesture in a locker room has sparked outrage in Rome. And the video tweeted out by Italy's Cultural Minister, a young man, there he is, seeing a using a key to carve into a wall of the Colosseum. According to Italian News Agency answer, the inscription reads, "Ivan plus Haley 23." The apparent name or the tourists and his fiancee.

Police are now involved and the Culture Minister says he hopes whoever did it will be identified and, "sanctioned according to our laws." If convicted he could face a fine or at least 15,000 euros up to five years in prison, hope it was worth it. I'm John Vause. Back at the top of the hour with more CNN Newsroom but first, World Sport starts after a short break. Back here in 18 minutes.