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Zelenskyy Accuses Russia Of Terrorism And Genocide; Trudeau: "Credible Allegations" Tie India To Sikh Murder; At Least 27 Deaths Reported As Azerbaijan Launches Operation Against Armenian Forces In Disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Region; Residents Left Devastated After Floods Kill Thousands. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN, stay the course. Both US and Ukrainian presidents urge fellow leaders at the UN General Assembly to remain steadfast against Russian aggression.

He said, he said, and he said again. Canada's prime minister rejects India's rejection of his allegation that the Indian government was involved in the killing of a prominent Sikh separatist and Canadian citizen. And fears of a full scale conflict after tensions escalate over a landlocked, mostly Armenian enclave deep inside Azerbaijan territory.

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

VAUSE: Wherever you are this hour, thank you for joining us on CNN NEWSROOM. And we begin with the United Nations General Assembly, where Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be the focus of the meeting of world leaders later Wednesday.

The war in Ukraine dominated the opening session, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appearing in person to accuse Russia of terrorism, genocide and weaponizing the global food trade. With US President Joe Biden urging world leaders to remain steadfast in their supper of Ukraine. Warning if Russia can carve up Ukraine, no country's independence is secure. We get more details now from CNN's Kayla Tausche.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: My fellow leaders, we gather once more at an inflection point in world history.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): US President Joe Biden urging the United Nations to stand with Ukraine as the war with Russia drags on and he battles for more aid money with his congress.

BIDEN: But I ask you this, if we abandon the core principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected. If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I respectfully suggest the answer is no.

TAUSCHE (voice-over): The message meant to galvanize many war weary countries nearly six hundred days after Russia's invasion that Ukraine could be any of them. Poland, Ukraine's neighbor to the west, knows that all too well.

ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT: On first September, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded my homeland, Poland. The Second World War broke out. On 17th September, 1939, we received a blow from another direction. The Soviet Union also made an onslaught on Poland. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country in the world.

TAUSCHE (voice-over): Poland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, providing military aid, transportation, and refuge for thousands.

DUDA: Upon Russian aggression on Ukraine, the Polls have once again illustrated that solidarity is not only the great history, but that solitary lives in us.

TAUSCHE (voice-over): Ukraine's president making his first in-person visit to the forum called on all countries to join the fight.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We must act united to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energy on addressing these challenges.

TAUSCHE (voice-over): And that the founding principles of the United Nations must be upheld.

ZELENSKYY: Weaponization must be restrained. War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home. And the occupier must return to their own land. We must be united to make it. And we will do it. Sala Ukraine.

TAUSCHE: Amid high-profile absences, such as that of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, growing questions about whether the United Nations remains an effective and relevant forum for international cooperation. At least for his part, the president of Poland says yes, the UN is very much needed and there's no better system to deliver assistance and aid to those in need. Kayla Tausche, CNN, traveling with the president in New York City.


VAUSE: Karen Donfried is an American foreign policy expert who until this year was assistant US secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Doctor Donfried, thank you so much for being with us.


[00:05:00] VAUSE: Okay, so it seems the UN Secretary-General outlining what is the biggest problem the world is facing right now is not climate change, it's not the war in Ukraine, it's not the overconsumption of our finite resources. Here he is, listen to this.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising. Global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to respond.


VAUSE: And is this the reason why they can't come together for a response is because we just can't agree on what the problem is to begin with?

DONFRIED: So I think you've put your finger on why it is so critical for Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to be at the United Nations this week. Because he is facing a Russia that undertook a full scale invasion of its country last February. We're now more than a year and a half into this war. And I think Zelenskyy is deeply concerned about the sustainability of support for Ukraine, given this broader context of problems and disagreement and polarization.

VAUSE: Yeah, he gave an incredibly passionate speech. It was a very moving speech. But to that end, I want you to listen, first to the US president when he talks about the war in Ukraine, and he'll be followed by the president of Iran also talking about the war in Ukraine. Listen to this, here we go.


BIDEN: Russia alone, Russia alone bears responsibility for this war. Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately. And it's Russia alone that stands in the way of peace.

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Any type of tension and fanning the flames of violence in Ukraine has been done by the United States of America in order to weaken the European countries. And this is a long term plan, unfortunately.


VAUSE: One of those statements reflects reality. The other is cuckoo for cocoa puffs. The answer to which is which, is that determined by the fact on where you actually live in the world?

DONFRIED: Well, the first point to make is that facts are stubborn things. And it is a fact that Russia invaded its smaller, weaker neighbor Ukraine last February for no reason. It was unprovoked. So that is a fact that we all should be clear about.

The second point I would make is what President Biden said to the UN General Assembly today is Russia believes the world is going to grow weary of this conflict and we will all turn away and that will allow Ukraine to be further brutalized by Russia. And President Biden said, but that would be wrong, and we the United States are not going to abandon the UN charter.

And what's been so inspiring over the past year and a half, as you've seen, multiple votes in the UN General Assembly where the majority of countries in the world have voted in support of Ukraine's sovereign and territorial integrity. They have said we want to stand up for the UN charter.

We believe in this rules based order because we too have big neighbors we worry about. And so we do want to see a world body that seeks to live up to those values and principles. So, I would point to those two factors as I hear the statements you shared from those two leaders.

VAUSE: Okay, notably though, the leaders of the four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, no shows this year, there they are up on the screen. Add to that the ongoing issue of Russia violating not just the same UN Security Council resolutions it has voted for, but also one of the fundamental principles on which the UN was founded, which is don't invade your neighbor. And it seems this announcement from the UN secretary of defense takes on some extra significance in light of that. Here's Lloyd Austin.


LLOYD AUSTIN, US DEFENCE SECRETARY: Some 50 Nations of Goodwill from around the world have gathered here today to stand up united for Ukraine's right to defend itself. It's no wonder that Putin has been forced to rely on the likes of Iran and North Korea.


VAUSE: And it's true, Russia is very much isolated. But this international splintering has been happening at a very slow pace over some time but it seems to have really accelerated in the last year or so. Is this now becoming sort of more of a prominent reality, the 50 Good Nations doing the right thing, the others sort of going their own way, you know, shifting allegiances when convenient?

DONFRIED: Well, I would think that it's more than 50 countries that want to do the right thing.


It is very powerful what's happening at rams time, that 50 countries are providing military support to Ukraine. But I do think it's a broader coalition of countries that believe in the principles of the UN charter. And this is where we see US leadership still playing such a powerful role in the world. And you're going to see President Zelenskyy come to Washington later this week.

But because he's also concerned about the sustainability of US support for Ukraine. Because at the same time you see what you're describing as a splintering in the world, we're also seeing deepening polarization in the US. And the bipartisan deep support we've seen for Ukraine and the

principles that are at stake here, Zelenskyy's concern could be fracturing in the run up to our election here. So I think we see these trends more broadly, and it's critically important that we be clear about the principles we stand for, what's right, what's wrong, and continue to act accordingly.

VAUSE: Dr. Donfried, thank you so much for being with us. You put it all together, explanation, insights, very much appreciated, thank you.

DONFRIED: My pleasure, thanks so much. Bye bye.

VAUSE: At least two of the so-called Five Eyes Intelligence allies have backed Canada's call for an investigation into the murder of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil. Australia and the United Kingdom have both described a serious accusation by the Canadian prime minister linking New Delhi to the killing of the Canadian citizen. As CNN's Paula Newton reports, the dispute has resulted in tit for tat diplomatic expulsions and plunged relations between both countries into crisis.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hardeep Singh Nijjar was just steps away from the temple he led in worship, when Canadian police say he was shot several times by masked gunmen who had marked him for murder as he sat in his gray truck. Police say the suspects then fled on foot, possibly in this car, a silver Toyota Camry.

Canadian police released this image pleading for the public's help. That was mid June. There has been no trace of the car or suspects since. The trail had gone cold. But many in the Sikh community in British Columbia believed it had all the hallmarks of a political assassination. Then in a stunning disclosure, their suspicions were voiced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.

NEWTON (voice-over): He cited credible intelligence that the Indian government may have ordered Nijjar's killing.

TRUDEAU: India, the government of India, needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that. We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them. And we want to work with the government of India.

NEWTON (voice-over): Nijjar's lawyer confirms to CNN the Canadian intelligence officials warned the Sikh leader that his life was in danger.

NEWTON: Did they offer any protection?

GURPATWANT SINGH PANNUN, GENERAL COUNSEL OF SIKHS FOR JUSTICE: They did not offer any protection. But they advised him to relocate. They advised him do not go to work. Besides giving advice how to safeguard his life, they did not give him any protection.

NEWTON (voice-over): The Indian government has denied allegations linking it to the killing. Trudeau says he confronted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the accusations at the G20 summit last week, but Modi would not accept his claims. Trudeau instead went public with the accusations, but not before speaking with US President Joe Biden and other allies.

This audacious killing in front of a place of worship is now no closer to being solved. Canada and India have traded tit for tat diplomatic expulsions, with India firing back that Canada shelters terrorists and extremists. At issue is Sikh independence.

India has long sought to put down the separatist movement to divide India, and it labeled Nijjar a wanted terrorist in 2022. While Canada is leaning on what it describes as solid evidence, Canadian police are still asking for the public's help, telling CNN this homicide remains a priority investigation. Paula Newton, CNN.


VAUSE: Bobby Ghosh is a columnist at Bloomberg and the former editor in chief at the Hindustan Times. He's with us this hour from New York. Thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: Okay so here's part of a statement from New Delhi in response to the allegations by the Canadian prime minister. Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.


The inaction of the Canadian government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern. So just some context here, India has long accused Canada of harboring Sikh terrorists, in their words, while plotting to create an independent Sikh nation called Khalistan and Hardeep Singh Nijjar was the leader within that Sikh separatist movement, right? So this is where this has all come from. What's the background to all of this?

GHOSH: Well the background is that, as you say, there is a large Sikh population in Canada. A small subset of that population supports the idea of Khalistan, which is the notion of an independent Sikh state where Punjab now is the Indian northwestern state of Punjab. India regards these people, some of these people, as terrorists. They accused them of inciting violence within India. And for some years India has complained to Canada about it.

Canada's point of view is that these people are not committing any crimes in Canada, that India has not provided sufficient evidence of criminal activity by these people back on India soil, and as such, these people deserve Canadian protection under Canadian law, and that if India can provide accurate and substantial evidence, then Canada will take action. So in that context, we are in the he said, he said, realm of things.

VAUSE: Well here's a little more he said, and this is the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the allegations that he's just made. Listen to this.


TRUDEAU: We wanted to make sure that we had solid grounding in understanding what was going on in analysis and indeed in facts. We wanted to make sure we were taking the time to talk with our allies, to share what we knew. We wanted to make sure that we fully shared with the government of India the seriousness and the depth of our preoccupations and, indeed, conclusions.


VAUSE: As The Economist described it, this is a devastating accusation by Justin Trudeau against India. So if this allegation is true, you know, this is the type of stuff the Kremlin does, this kind of hit job. So why would Justin Trudeau go public at this point with this allegation, going public without any releasing evidence publicly to back it up?

GHOSH: That's a good question. The fact that it comes from the lips of the Canadian prime minister suggests a high degree of seriousness. I can't imagine that he would've said this without having substantial evidence.

Now, it falls upon him to make that evidence available to the Indian authorities, I believe that they've already done. But now that he has brought this to the court of public opinion, it is incumbent on him to show that court the evidence. And I suspect that over the next few days, we will see that.

VAUSE: So in terms of why the indications of this dispute, here's some reaction, first from the foreign minister of Australia, followed by the UK foreign secretary. Here we go.


PENNY WONG, AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Obviously, these are concerning reports. And as I've said, you know, we have -- we are monitoring these developments closely with our partners. And we will continue to do so.

JAMES CLEVERLY, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Obviously, we have a very strong relationship with Canada, a very strong relationship with India. And what we want to do is we want to see an investigation into this.


VAUSE: So, Australia, the UK, along with the United States and many other nations have been, you know, trying to woo India in a diplomatic sense. You know, wooing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in hope that India would be a counterbalance to China in the region. How could all of this impact those efforts? You know, this conflict between what is essentially an isolated conflict between New Delhi and Ottawa, could it have wider ramifications?

GHOSH: Yes, it could. This is a hit on the border practically with the United States, on the soil of a very, very close ally, couldn't possibly be closer, by a country that Biden would like to see become an ally, that is not yet. So this is a very, very serious problem for Biden to have to confront.

The Indians are counting, if this is indeed the case, that India was behind this, one can only speculate that the Indians are counting on proving to the world that this man was a terrorist. But that's not what the Indian government is saying. For the moment, all the Indian authorities are saying is that these charges are unsubstantiated. So, as we were saying before, it now falls to Justin Trudeau to bring the evidence before the wider court of public opinion.

VAUSE: Bobby Ghosh, thank you so much for being with us sir, your insights are very valuable, we appreciate you for being with us. Thank you sir.

GHOSH: Anytime, John.


VAUSE: A little more now the reaction from the Australian government which, in the past, has been accused of going easy on India as it tries to strengthen relations. Four months ago, when the Indian prime minister visited Sydney, the Australian prime minister introduced him as 'The Boss', the nickname of rockstar Bruce Springsteen. And now that remark may be coming back to haunt Anthony Albanese.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret calling him 'The Boss'?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Seriously, you should chill out a bit. You know, we were at a venue where Bruce Springsteen played the last time I was there. And I made the point that the reception he got from the community, which was a very broad based community, where they're from the Indian diaspora welcomed him very strongly. It's as simple as that.


VAUSE: Still to come, one side calls it an act of counterterrorism, the other says it's a run up to genocide. Azerbaijan launches a military operation in a disputed region, raising fears of all out war. Details, next. Also, great fears of a secondary health crisis in Libya. Bodies remain buried under mud after more than a week after catastrophic flooding in the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VAUSE: Officials in a disputed ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan have accused the Azerbaijan government of carrying out a mission of genocide after a military operation in the region killed at least 27 people and wounded 200 others. Azerbaijan says the aim of the military operation is to fight terrorism, and there are no plans to stop until military forces inside that independent enclave known as Nagorno-Karabakh raise a white flag. More now from CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Azerbaijani officials say they've launched a counterterrorism offensive around the Armenian majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Residents of that enclave, there are about 120,000 of them, say that there have been casualties, including a few civilians, houses have been damaged, people have been seen taken to hospital, women and children seen carried in the streets, and some residents say that they're worried that no one is taking care of their situation.

They're concerned about what's going to happen next. Over the past few weeks, Armenian officials say that the Azerbaijan government has been amassing weapons near the border of the enclave, and have said that they have feared an outbreak of violence like this from the Azerbaijan government.

And they point to the fact over the past few months, Azerbaijan has effectively blockaded the vital and only road from Armenia Proper to the enclave, through the Lachin Corridor. Russian peacekeepers there have not been effective in getting that humanitarian aid into the enclave.


This has brought about this hugely tense situation, a spike in tensions and in the violence. The Azerbaijani's are saying that the Armenian army must get out of the enclave, that the government must stand down there, leave the enclave. The Armenians, for their point, saying that they don't have an army within the enclave. They have been fearing this situation which they consider a potential genocide that may happen here. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Libyan officials are considering whether or not to isolate some of the areas hardest hit by devastating floods last week, leaving growing concerns about a secondary health crisis. The health minister believes the number of bodies buried under the mud in the city of Derna could become a massive health problem.

Nearly 60 rescue and recovery workers were hospitalized on Tuesday. The UN humanitarian team meantime says it was prevented from delivering aid to the city. Allegations the Libyan government has denied. Now, officials have restricted the number of journalists allowed access to Derna, but among the small number allowed to stay is CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bit by bit, they begin to clear what's left of Derna's battered streets and buildings. But for its people, it's too soon to move on. It's all still so incomprehensible.

KARADSHEH: What happened here, residents say, was a disaster of epic proportions. It was like a bombing, an earthquake, and a tsunami all in one, a wall of water as high as six stories submerged buildings and crushed almost everything in its path and split this city in two.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Divers combed the Mediterranean for the remains of men, women, and children swept away into the sea with their homes. It is now these waters that tell the stories of lives ended too soon. Survivors still cling on to the hope their loved ones are just lost in the chaos.

Outside schools turned into shelters, people scour through lists with the names of survivors inside. Salma has been searching for parents and her brothers, but the gut wrenching reality is starting to sink in. The single mother is now homeless, living in the school. What happens to them next keeps her up at night.

KARADSHEH: Salma says it feels now that life has no meaning anymore, life is over, she says.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): For the youngest survivors, life goes on. Makeshift swings enough to distract them and help them forget. But Derna's nightmare is far from over. Warnings of a looming health crisis have everyone on edge. Access to the disaster zones now restricted as they fumigate the area to wash away the stench of death and the ills it may bring.

The once bustling streets around Derna's old city now almost deserted. Defiant residents who've returned to their homes are now being asked to leave. Muftah survived ISIS that once ruled his city. He's also been displaced by civil war just a few years ago. He refuses to live through that again.

MUFTAH (through translator): I would rather die here than leave, he tells us. He doesn't trust the same powers that failed them to now protect them.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Shock and grief have turned into anger, with calls for accountability for a calamity brought by mother nature compounded by man. It's years of negligence, neglect, mismanagement, corruption, and a failed state they blame. A resilient Derna and its soul have been crushed. No one knows how they or their city will ever heal from this. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Derna, Libya.


VAUSE: A mysterious ground operation and drone strikes in Sudan are raising one question, who done it? An exclusive CNN investigation indicates it might be Ukraine. In a moment we'll explain why Ukraine could be involved in Sudan's civil war.



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

Russian attacks killed at least nine civilians across Ukraine Tuesday. Two people have died from shelling in the Southern city, Kherson. At least five were killed further North in Kupiansk.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia launched 18 attack drones on Lviv, a Western city far from the frontlines, not far from the Polish border. Three of those drones made it past Ukrainian air defenses, killing one person and destroying a warehouse filled with humanitarian aid.

Ukraine has liberated 54 percent of the territory Russian occupied since it invaded in March of last year. That's according to the top U.S. general.

But the battle lines have now largely been entrenched for months. And though Ukraine is re-capturing villages in the Donetsk region, the fighting remains tough and slow.

Earlier, Ukraine's president spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer and explained why he remains optimistic.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is a major breakthrough on the military front possible this year?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: I think nobody knows, really. But I think that we will have more success and, really, we see it now on the East direction. We didn't want, you know, publicly to communicate this, some successful steps, previously, because we didn't want Russia to understand what we do and what we are really prepared.

But it's really a difficult direction South because of the mined, total mined fields, you know, that our farmers, they lost legs, arms. A lot of people were killed just on their former lands. Because Russians, they totally mine everything.

But we go slowly. But we go forward. Very important information that initiative, in our arms, in all the directions, it shows how it's changed.


VAUSE: The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking there to CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

The fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine may be spreading far beyond Ukraine's borders. An exclusive CNN investigation has uncovered compelling evidence that Ukrainian forces have struck Wagner-based fighters inside Sudan.

It comes as Russia tries to expand its influence in Africa following the death of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. CNN's Nima Elbagir has our report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nightfall in a war-torn neighborhood in the Sudanese city of Omdurman. You are watching a thermal imaging video depicting military forces equipped in high-tech gear. Far more sophisticated than the Sudanese have demonstrated to date.

And here, a series of high precision daytime strikes raining down from the sky, in and around the same city, hitting targets backed by Russia's Wagner mercenary group in Sudan.

A Ukrainian military source told CNN this is the work of a foreign military. Pressed on whether they would say unequivocally that Kyiv was behind the attacks. The source would only say that Ukrainian special services were likely responsible, which would constitute a dramatic expansion in Kyiv's theater of war against Moscow.

Previous CNN investigations exposed that the Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, RSF, has been heavily backed by Wagner as they fight the Sudanese army in a war for dominance.


CNN obtained a series of videos of the operations show 14 different strikes on RSF weapons and equipment, believed to be provided by Wagner.

We pinpointed several different locations of the drone strikes in Omdurman, an RSF stronghold that has become a focal point of the conflict. And we geolocated footage of the night raid to the same city by identifying the buildings seen here.

The drone video, obtained by CNN, had already been edited, but clues remained as to the identity of those behind the attacks. Text on the monitor of the drone control, as seen here, is in Ukrainian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press to start recording --

ELBAGIR (voice-over): These commercially-available drones are widely used by Ukrainian forces. They have a maximum video transmission range of around nine miles. That means we can tell the pilots of the drones were in Sudan, close by.

It's a common tactic in Ukraine, but not so much in Sudan. Drone experts consulted by CNN said this is the first time drones like this have been deployed in this fashion in Africa.

CNN shared the videos with a high-level source in Sudan's army for comment, who said they had no knowledge of the Ukrainian operation in Sudan and did not believe it was true. (SOUNDS OF GUNFIRE)

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Sudan became embroiled in Russia's war against Ukraine last year, despite being thousands of miles from the front line.

When as we reported, Wagner exploited Sudan's gold resources to help finance Moscow's Ukraine war effort, circumventing U.S. sanctions on Russia.

After a plane carrying Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin plummeted to the ground late last month, many believed that Wagner's influence would proceed. But just the opposite has happened.

Major whistleblowers in a number of African countries have told CNN that the Kremlin is consolidating its power over Wagner's networks. In the Central African Republic, in Sudan, in Libya, and in Mali. And now that work has expanded further, this time into Chad.

ELBAGIR: Chad has really been impacted by the fighting in neighboring Sudan. And yet, it's emerging as a key transit point for supplies to the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan. Part of an expansion of Russia's influence in Africa.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Cross-referencing testimony from intelligence and military sources active in the region with satellite imagery, CNN has uncovered evidence that Wagner arms crossed through Chad within the last two weeks to get to an RSF military base in Sudan.

If you look closely, you can see over 100 vehicles, including scores of trucks at the base, proof the supplies provided by Russia, Wagner, continue.

A strike on Wagner-backed forces in Sudan would constitute a blow to Moscow. If it is Ukraine, they will have raised the stakes for those willing to accept Wagner's backing in the future, a lesson illustrating the price they could be forced to pay for cooperating with Russia.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, N'Djamena, Chad.


VAUSE: Still ahead here on CNN, five Americans home from Iran after years in prison. CNN speaks exclusively with Iran's president about the deal which secured their freedom.



VAUSE: Five Americans detained by Iran are now back on U.S. soil. They arrived in an army Air Force -- airfield, rather, near Washington early Tuesday on a flight from Qatar.

The U.S. released five Iranians and unfroze $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of the deal. But the U.S. says that money will only be used, in theory, for humanitarian purposes.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria spoke exclusively with the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi about the deal. Here's part of the conversation.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: I know relations between your government and the United States are still very strained. But does this deal mean that you are able to work with the United States government on issues of mutual interest?

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The issue of exchange of prisoners, that is at the core of your question.

We did something that was prompted by humanitarian motives. And those individuals who are imprisoned in the United States, whom up to the point that we are informed, our information indicated that they were unjustly in prison.

But the folks who were in prison in Iran, they had committed crimes, and their complaints had gone through the legal system. And they were condemned.

And there was an opportunity for this exchange to take place. And this exchange was, as I said, prompted by purely humanitarian motives. And I do think that that accomplishment was something that led to the happiness of the families of the prisoners, as well as having been able to -- show the true face of our humanitarian motives and efforts.


VAUSE: See the full interview with the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." That's Sunday at 3 p.m., 6 p.m. in London, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

I'm John Vause, back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. But in the meantime, WORLD SPORT will start after a very short break. See you right back here.