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CNN International: Sunak: Interference in U.K. Democracy Unacceptable; Putin's Party Wins in Widely Criticized Regional Elections; Decoy Weapons Help Protect Ukraine's True Military Targets; Macron: Summit Not a Massive Diplomatic Victory for Russia. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 04:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ... The Tunisian government says it's also sending reinforcements, who stood with bags packed and ready to leave as the country's interior affairs minister wished them luck in what will likely be difficult work ahead.

KAMEL AL-FEKI, TUNISIAN INTERIOR AFFAIRS MINISTER (through translator): God willing, we will be proficient as expected. We will do our best, standing alongside those who will also participate in the search and rescue in the Moroccan regions affected by the earthquake.

HOLMES (voice-over): Some food and water is already reaching some hard-hit areas, these supplies organized by the Moroccan government and civil society organizations. Other essential items are being collected outside grocery stores in Marrakesh by volunteers.

ABDELTIF RAZOUKI, VICE PRESIDENT, DRAW SMILE (through translator): I think the food supplies collected today should be able to sustain at least 100 families for a week, covering all their food needs.

HOLMES (voice-over): Needs that are likely to continue in the coming days, weeks, and months as Morocco faces a long road to recovery.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously unacceptable. That's what British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he told Chinese Premier Li Qiang following reports that a Parliamentary researcher and another Parliament employee have been arrested on charges of spying for Beijing. He says Britain won't tolerate interference in its democracy.

NOBILO: But China is forcefully denying that it tried to steal British secrets. Its embassy in London is calling the accusation, quote, completely fabricated and nothing but malicious slander.

CNN's Nic Robertson is following this diplomatic dust up for us and he joins us now. Nic, what is the evidence China's saying that this is fabricated? But what do we really know about the arrests and what information they may have been privy to? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The interesting

thing is the arrests were made earlier this year, in March. A 20-year- old man arrested in Edinburgh. A 30-year-old man arrested in Oxfordshire. Both taken to London. Both questioned, both release, both expecting to appear in court in October. The specific details we don't know. Contravention of the Official Secrets Act, espionage is what the broad allegations are, or the laws will fall under.

But what were actually the roles of these two men? The researcher we do know, would have had access to very senior conservative members of Parliament. He was working within the auspices of two particular people who were at different times, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee. So people with --

NOBILO: A hugely influential and powerful.

ROBERTSON: A hugely influential and at a time when Conservative MP's have been taking a very great interest in in China's activities. So that's the level of concern. And I think for some Conservative MP's who've been sanctioned by China in the past, concerns about why, if this happens in March, they're only finding about it now in British newspapers.

NOBILO: And what happens next? Surely the British Government will be trying to reassure their colleagues and the nation on a larger scale that they have the issue of Chinese interference under control and that there isn't a concerted effort to try and pick up British state secrets from within the mother of Parliament.

ROBERTSON: You know, it's not just the U.K. where China's been acting with on with -- in nefarious ways of trying to gain information about what's going on inside Parliament, be it Australia, be it Canada, be it the United States. And also industrial espionage within taking secrets, stealing secrets from both from businesses.

So in a way, it's not new. But in how the government can reassure. The question would be how would a researcher -- and we don't know publicly yet the full details of his background -- but how a researcher could come to be in a position of getting -- having access to so many potential secrets. The doors, as we were talking about earlier, inside Parliament, are relatively open. The ease of access is there, but what was this person's background and why was that not checked more thoroughly?

NOBILO: Nic Robertson, thank you so much for joining us.

A march in Chile remembering the start of a brutal dictatorship erupts in an all-out clash with police. We'll have more on that, and the solemn anniversary just ahead.

FOSTER: Plus, Vladimir Putin is claiming a landslide electoral win for his political party, but like any vote held in Russia these days, the outcome is raising all kinds of doubts. We'll dive into that.



FOSTER: Police and protesters clashed in Chili's capital on Sunday at a march commemorating 50 years since the military coup of General Augusto Pinochet. Some protesters threw stones whilst police responded with water cannon and tear gas.

NOBILO: Families who lost loved ones when Pinochet rounded up opponents, social activists and students to be tortured and executed, were also at the march clutching photos of those who were killed or disappeared.

Ahead of Monday's anniversary, the Chilean government announced a new national initiative to find the remains of more than 1,000 people who've vanished during Pinochet's 15-year dictatorship.

At least four people have been killed and more than sixty others injured amid clashes in Lebanon. It happened at a camp for Palestinian refugees near the city of Sidon. The UN says hundreds of families are fleeing for safety amid ongoing fighting between the Palestinian Fatah movement and other Islamic groups.

FOSTER: And Lebanese military officials say shells hit two army centers injuring five soldiers. About 200,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, spread across 12 different camps. The majority of which are overseen by Palestinian factions.

Now in Sudan, a doctor's union says at least 43 people are dead and another four dozen are injured following an air strike on Sunday. The group says it happened at a market in the capital city of Khartoum.

NOBILO: Fighting in Sudan has been raging between the military and paramilitary forces since April. It's forced more than four million people to flee the country. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than half of the people who left came from the nation's capital.

President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party is claiming overwhelming victory in regional elections held across the country and in parts of occupied Ukraine. The international community and monitoring groups say these so-called elections were rigged and an outright sham.

FOSTER: There was limited choice in many places with opposing candidates blocked from running. One independent Russian vote monitoring group says they saw many instances where the result was falsified.


Katie's been looking at all of this. I mean, what do we know?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Max, it's clear that having results like these are unsurprising in Russia, and clearly the West has been very quick to condemn them. The United States have said that the results are prefabricated, that this is all a propaganda exercise in Ukraine as well. Of course, unsurprisingly, very strong and condemning, saying this is a violation of their territory and their sovereignty.

But from the Russian side, this is extremely important. 21 regions across Russia as well as these annexed Ukrainian territories, and there has been one very notable dissenting voice from inside Russia. And this is Golos, which is an independent vote monitoring body in Russia, highly unusual. Have a listen to what their co-chair said about these results.


STANISLAV ANDREYCHUK, CO-CHARI, GOLOS (through translator): Probably one of the main features of voting in 2023 is the blatant use of power resources by the state and a rather blatant disregard for the law on the part of members of election commissions in some regions.


POLGLASE: Now, Golos have been described as a foreign agent by Russia. Again, unsurprising for those that dissent. But this is part of the key message here that these elections, while the West are seeing them as a sham, they're describing them as rigged. Perhaps we should be looking at the motivation for Russia's president here, and that is the domestic audience.

Let's not forget in the last few months there was a mutiny against Putin, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, mysteriously then died in a plane crash. There was a mutiny that reflects perhaps domestic support for Putin is wavering. It's not as secure as it could be.

And so when we look at these elections, not only in Russia but also in the Ukrainian territories they occupy, there is a sense here that this is a projection of Putin's power. Not just Russia's power but his specific power. Showing he's very much still in control. That this war in Ukraine is very much still going their way -- according to him. And that this is still a marker of success and he as a leader, Putin, is very much here to stay.

FOSTER: Thank you so much, Katie.

NOBILO: The top U.S. general is praising Ukraine's counteroffensive gains, but he is warning that there are just a few weeks left for Ukrainian forces to capitalize on the good weather before winter comes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his forces have made advances on the southern front this past week, and he claims there's movement around the beleaguered city of Bakhmut in the east.

FOSTER: The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says Ukraine has made a very steady progress in the counteroffensive so far, and he predicts that momentum will continue.


GEN, MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: There's still a reasonable amount of time, probably about 30 to 45 days worth of fighting weather left. So the Ukrainians aren't done. This battle is not done. And they haven't achieved -- they haven't finished the fighting part of what they're trying to accomplish. So we'll see. It's too early to say how this is going to end.


FOSTER: Some of Russia's ongoing strikes aimed to destroy expensive Ukrainian weaponry, but Ukraine has a strategy to outsmart the enemy by luring them into costly mistakes. CNN's Melissa Bell shows us how decoy weapons are shielding Ukraine's true military targets from Russian fire.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An Iranian made Shahed drone launched by Russian forces heads towards a Ukrainian air defense system. A miss, quickly celebrated by Ukrainian soldiers. What the Russians missed was this. A fake air defense system. Part of an entire arsenal of decoys that has popped up around the country, fake weapons that are as cheap to make as they are useful to deploy.

BELL: An American towed Howitzer costs anywhere between $2- to $4 million. This one cost just $1,000 to make it essentially made-up of drain pipes. But the point is each time one of these is hit it is a real one that is spared and it's cost the Russians time, energy and money to hit it.

BELL (voice-over): The challenge for this steelworks company that had nothing to do with arms making a all, updating their designs to keep up with the ever more sophisticated weapons arriving in Ukraine.

Despite them, the fighting along the Eastern Front has been tough, Ukrainian officials acknowledge. The forest just outside the eastern town of Kreminna has been a battleground for much of the war. But the counteroffensive has made its daily battles that much more intense. Yuriy Mykuliak, a special forces commander, has just returned from there with his men.

YURIY MYKULIAK, SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER (through translated text): We need munitions. Without all these high-precision missiles, long-range artillery and ammunition, we cannot fight effectively.

BELL (voice-over): Behind Mykuliak, one of the Russian tanks his unit took in Irpin early in the war. He says the lack of ammunition has been chronic in this war. Ukraine, he explains, has had to use creativity as it holds the lines.

MYKULIAK (through translated text): We are trying to use military ingenuity together with our combat experience to fool the enemy and invent new traps.

BELL (voice-over): A part of that effort is happening far from the frontlines in factories like this one. Perfecting the art of the fake weapon. The measure of each decoy's success, how quickly it gets destroyed once in the field.

Melissa Bell, CNN, in Central Ukraine. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOSTER: Even as Western nations deny the just concluded G20 summit was a diplomatic victory for Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is declaring an unconditional success.

NOBILO: Lavrov spoke after the summit. Participants failed to condemn Russia's aggression against Ukraine. He told reporters at the New Delhi summit that Russia's partners in the global south, prevented the West from, in his words, Ukrainizing the agenda.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): It is telling that the Ukrainian paragraph was included and is a consensus subject but is not about Ukraine. This is very important because as soon as Ukraine is mentioned, you cannot engage with the West on an intellectual level. They just demand a cessation of Russian aggression and a restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity.


NOBILO: But French President Emmanuel Macron disagreed with Lavrov's assessment.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): We have reiterated at the G20 that we support the Charter of the United Nations, which is being violated at this very moment by Russia, so there is no ambiguity. Sixteen G20 members have voted for the solutions that sanction and condemn Russia, three have abstained, one voted against it. Guess who? Russia. I don't think it's a massive diplomatic victory or anything other than the reality of isolation and minority status.


FOSTER: Mr. Macron also downplayed the G20's interest in political issues. He said the summit is primarily a forum for discussing economic, financial and climate issues.

Next on CNN NEWSROOM, Novak Djokovic makes history once again. You'll hear from the Serbian tennis star after another impressive performance at the U.S. Open.



NOBILO: Novak Djokovic has won his fourth U.S. Open title, adding more incredible achievements to his already illustrious career. With Sunday's victory over Russia's Daniel Medvedev in straight sets, Djokovic is tied with Australian legend Margaret Court for the most all time Grand Slam singles titles with 24. And he says he has exceeded his dreams. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 2023 MEN'S U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: To make the history you know of this sport is just something truly remarkable and special. Obviously, in every possible way, in every possible meaning of the world -- of the word, special. Yes, it's hard to describe the words.

You know, I had a childhood dream when I was 7-8. I wanted to become the best player in the world and win Wimbledon Trophy. There was -- there was only thing I -- only thing I wanted. But then when I when I realized that, you know, obviously I started to dream new dreams and set new objectives, new goals, I never imagined that I would be here, sitting, standing with you, talking about 24 slams. I never thought that that's that that would be the reality. But you know, the last couple of years I felt I have a chance. I have a shot that history and why not grab it if it's presented.


NOBILO: At 36, Djokovic is now the oldest man to win the U.S. Open singles title in the Open era, and he's the first man to win three Grand Slam titles in a single season on four separate occasions.

FOSTER: In the NFL, it was Tom Brady Appreciation Day in Foxborough, Massachusetts in half-time ceremony during Sundays, season opener. The New England Patriots honored their legendary former quarterback who helped guide the team to six Super Bowl titles. Brady ran onto the field to a rousing ovation from the fans. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also announced the team will hold a special stadium ceremony when Brady gets an early induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, which is next summer.

NOBILO: And some stories in the spotlight this hour for you. Actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are addressing the backlash that they've got for writing character letters in support of Danny Masterson. He's their former sitcom co-star, who was sentenced last week to 30 years to life in prison for raping two women back in 2003.

FOSTER: In the letters, the actors described Masterson as a friend and a role model, but backlash erupted when their letters became public and the couple shared this video response.


ASHTON KUTCHER, ACTOR: We are aware of the pain that has been caused by the character letters that we wrote on behalf of Danny Masterson.

MILA KUNIS, ACTOR: We support victims. We have done this historically through our work and will continue to do so in the future.

KUTCHER: Couple of months ago, Danny's family reached out to us and they asked us to write character letters to represent the person that we knew for 25 years, so that the judge could take that into full consideration relative to the sentencing.

KUNIS: The letters were not written to question the legitimacy of the judicial system or the validity of the juries ruling.

KUTCHER: They were intended for the judge to reach and not to undermine the testimony of the victims or retraumatize them in any way. We would never want to do that. And we're sorry if that has taken place.

KUNIS: Our heart goes out to every single person who's ever been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape.


FOSTER: Quite confusing that message, isn't it?


NOBILO: Well, there's been a lot of criticism online that the particular rhetoric is sounds like it's written by a lawyer, obviously we --

FOSTER: Yes, yes.

NOBILO: -- don't know.


NOBILO: But there has been huge backlash to that and people feeling like interpreting it as an attempt to mitigate a sentence of somebody convicted of rape.

FOSTER: Yes, it'll go on, I'm sure.

Now a Delta passenger is being reunited with her beloved dog Maia. More than three weeks after the dog disappeared at the world's busiest airport. Paula Rodriguez and Maia were flying from the Dominican Republic to California last month for vacation. But during a layover in Atlanta, the women's tourist visa was cancelled and Rodriguez had to return home.

NOBILO: Maia though never made that return flight. Rodriguez later learned that her dog had escaped Delta handlers and went missing somewhere in Atlanta's airport. Luckily, this past Saturday, Rodriguez was told that Maia had been found hiding near a cargo facility. Now Delta is working to get them reunited.

FOSTER: And Disney's working on a movie.

In the coming hours, Americans will mark 22 years since the deadly attacks on 9/11. Houses of worship in New York will tour their belts throughout the city and at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, families of victims will read the names of the loved ones they lost that day.

NOBILO: Moments of silence will mark the time when the Twin Towers were hit and fell, when the Pentagon was attacked and when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to attend the ceremony in New York and President Biden will address service members and their families at a military base in Alaska as he returns from his trip to India and Vietnam.

FOSTER: Thanks for joining us on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster.

NOBILO: And I'm Bianca Nobilo, "EARLY START" is up next right here on CNN. We'll see you tomorrow.