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Zelenskyy Accuses Russia Of Terrorism, Genocide; At Least 27 Deaths Reported As Azerbaijan Launches Operation Against Armenian Forces In Disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Region; Growing Diplomatic Rift Between Canada And India; Italian Island Hit by Soaring Migrant Arrivals; Officials Discuss Isolating Hardest Hit Areas of Derna; Exploring Use of Debt-for-Climate Swaps; Zelenskyy's Warnings; Ukraine May be Striking Wagner-Backed Forces in Sudan; social Media Sites Looking for New Revenue Sources. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN, stay the course, both U.S. and Ukrainian president urged fellow leaders at the U.N. 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 accusation that the Indian government was involved in the killing of a prominent Sikh leader and a Canadian citizen. Fears of a full scale conflict after tensions escalate over landlocked mostly Armenian enclave deep inside Azerbaijan territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Wherever you are this hour, thank you for joining us. This is CNN Newsroom. And we begin with the United Nations General Assembly. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be the focus of a meeting of world leaders later Wednesday. The war in Ukraine dominated the opening session with U.S. President Joe Biden, urging world leaders to remain steadfast in their support of Ukraine. He said Russia alone bears responsibility for the war, and Russia alone is standing in the way of peace.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me ask you this. If we abandon the core principles of the United States to a peace and aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that there are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I'd respectfully suggest the answer is no.


VAUSE: The president of Switzerland says the world has endured its most difficult period in nearly 80 years and urged Russia as a member of the Security Council to maintain international peace.


ALAIN BERSET, SWISS PRESIDENT (through translator): It's true that we can all see this clearly, we are going through a crisis most probably the most significant one since the end of the Second World War, the Russian Federation by launching a war of aggression against Ukraine has attacked not only a peaceful country, but also has attacked international law.


VAUSE: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his address in person the first time since Russia invaded in February of 2022. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In an impassioned speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, ripping into the Russians accusing Moscow of destabilizing the entire world through the Kremlin's war against Ukraine. Now, Zelenskyy said that Russia's actions were essentially weaponizing hunger by bombing Ukraine's grain ports also weaponizing energy as well by occupying the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and even weaponizing children through all of the Ukrainian children who have been brought to Russia.

Now, of course, the Kremlin has consistently denied any of the allegations put forward by the Ukrainians. But Zelenskyy said that none of the global problems that are pressing in the world like for instance, climate change he believes can be solved unless there's peace in Ukraine.


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


PLEITGEN: The Ukrainians are vowing to take back all of their territory from the Russians and they specifically say that that includes Crimea as well. At this point in time, Kyiv also says they believe that right now is not the time for negotiations with Russia, simply because Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes that Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted. Now, he said this also in his speech in front of the United Nations, alluding to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former Wagner boss who was killed in the plane crash even though the Kremlin denies it was behind it.


ZELENSKYY: I'm aware of their attempts to make some shady dealings behind the scenes, evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin you want that on Putin's promises.


PLEITGEN: All this comes as the Ukrainians have been making some gains on the battlefield in recent days, giving them additional momentum as Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Washington hoping of course for additional weapons packages from the U.S. and its partners.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.


VAUSE: Karen Donfried is an American foreign policy expert who until this year was assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Dr. Donfried, thanks so much for being with us.


VAUSE: OK, so it seems the U.N. Secretary General outlined what is the biggest problem of the world is facing right now and it's not climate change, it's not the war in Ukraine, it's not the, you know, overconsumption of our finite resources. Here he is. Listen to this.



ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: Our world is becoming unhinged. Geopolitical tensions are rising, global challenges are mounting. And we seem incapable of coming together to response.


VAUSE: And it's the reason why we can't come together for 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 his country last February, we're now more 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: Yes. He gave an incredibly impassioned speech. It was a very moving speech. But to that end, I want you to listen first to the U.S. 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 stands in the way of peace.

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: 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 does that determine 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 U.N. General Assembly today is Russia believes the world is going to grow weary of this conflict.

And we'll 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 U.N. Charter. And what's been so inspiring over the past year and a half, as you've seen multiple votes in the U.N. General Assembly, where the majority of countries in the world have voted in support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

They have said, we want to stand up for the U.N. 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: OK. Not only the leaders of the four of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, no shows this year, there they are up on the screen. After that the ongoing issue of Russia violating not just the same U.N. Security Council resolutions it has voted for, but also one of the fundamental principles on which the ordinance was founded, which is don't invade your neighbor.

And it seems this announcement for the U.S. Secretary of Defense takes on some extra significance in light of that. Here's Lloyd Austin.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE 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 splintering, this international splintering has been happening at a very slow pace over some time, but it seems to really accelerated in the last year or so. Is this now becoming sort of more of a permanent reality, the 50 good nations do the right thing the other 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 Ramstein, 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 U.N. Charter. And this is where we see U.S. leadership still playing such a powerful role in the world.


And you're going to see President Zelenskyy come to Washington later this week because he's also concerned about sustainability of U.S. 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 U.S. And the bipartisan deep support we've seen for Ukraine and the principles that are at stake here, Zelenskyy is concerned 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, very much appreciated. Thank you.

DONFRIED: My pleasure. Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

VAUSE: A surge in violence in the South Caucasus is raising concern about all that conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The focus of the current fighting is this small, independent enclave deep inside Azerbaijan's territory. According to Nagorno-Karabakh, mostly home to ethnic Armenians, which has already been at the center of two previous wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh accused the Azerbaijan government of carrying out admission genocide. After a military operation, which left at least 27 people dead, seven of which were civilians, dozens more are set to be wounded. Azerbaijan though claims it is a counterterrorism operation, which will continue until all armed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh surrender.

Tensions in the region though had been racing -- have been rising rather for months. In December, Azerbaijani troops blockaded a key corridor, cutting off the only road linking the landlocked enclave to Armenia. More details now from CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Azerbaijani officials say they've launched a counter terrorism offensive around the Armenian majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Residents of that enclave there 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 caring in the streets and some residents say that they're worried that isn't -- 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 Latin corridor.

Russian peacekeepers there have not been effective in getting that humanitarian aid into enclave. This has brought about this hugely tense situation of spiking -- a spike in tensions and in the violence. The Azerbaijan is a sign 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 say 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: At least two of the five eyes, so called intelligence allies have blocked or brother back candidates call for an independent investigation into the murder of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil. Australia and the U.K. described as serious and concerning accusations by the Canadian Prime Minister linking New Delhi to the killing of the Canadian citizen. CNN's Paula Newton reports the dispute has resulted in tit for tat diplomatic expulsions, and its foreign relations between both countries into crisis.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL 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 gunman 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 aspects since. The trail had gone cold. But many in the Sikh community in British Columbia believe 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, 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 that Canadian intelligence officials warn the Sikh leader that his life was in danger.

(on camera): 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 U.S. 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 candidate shelters terrorists and extremists. At issue is sick 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: Still to come here on CNN, The Wall Street Journal reporter already detained in Russia for six months set remain in prison for months longer after a Moscow court refuses to hear and appeal to his pretrial detention. We'll have very latest from Moscow.

Also a long awaited homecoming for five Americans in prison for years in Iran. You're watching CNN Newsroom.


VAUSE: Welcome back. Another legal setback for Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who's been in a Russian prison for almost six months accused of spying. Moscow Court declined to hear his latest appeal on pretrial detention over unspecific procedural irregularities. And according to The Wall Street Journal, the case has been returned to a lower court without any ruling being made. CNN's Matthew Chance has the latest now from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: While the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich who has been held in Russia since the end of March on charges of espionage, made a brief appearance in a Moscow courthouse earlier today to appeal his detention. He's the first American journalist to be accused of spying in Russia since the end of the Cold War, allegations denied by both his newspaper and the U.S. government while we were given very brief access to Gershkovich inside the court and managed to see him and say a few words before being kicked out. Take a look at what happened.


CHANCE: OK. We've been let into the courthouse where you can see Evan Gershkovich is in there. Hi. I'm Matthew from CNN. You holding up all right. No questions. OK, understood. OK, well there he is standing here you can see him looking relaxed. All the cameras being allowed in to take a closer look at him. The security is very tight. What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

CHANCE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

CHANCE: OK. What you want us to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

CHANCE: What you want us to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

CHANCE: OK. Let's get out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

CHANCE: You want us to get out?


VAUSE: It was close to hearing. Matthew Chance there with that report. In a statement, The Wall Street Journal once again stress Gershkovich had done nothing wrong, saying, Evan has now been wrongfully detained for nearly six months. The charges leveled against him are categorically false and we continue to demand his immediate release.

The five Americans detained by Iran are now back on U.S. soil. They arrived in an Army Airfield near Washington early Tuesday after a long flight from Qatar. U.S. at least five Iranians and unfroze $6 billion in Iranian assets as part of the deal. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan posted an image on social media of the Americans on the flight back to the U.S., along with a message. Welcome home. One of the Americans, Morad Tahbaz, a cancer survivor shared this statement to CNN. I had to dig deep within myself to find the resilience to overcome this challenge. However, I also learned that even in the darkest places, at worst conditions, there are still good people in this world. And that gave me hope.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria spoke exclusively with the Iranian President about this deal. He's part of their conversation.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Let me start by asking you about this prisoner release that took place. 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?

RAISI (through translator): In the name of the creator, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful? Praise beyond to God, the sovereign of the world and many blessings. The issue of exchange of prisoners, that is the at the core of your question, we did something that was prompted by humanitarian motives.

And those individuals who were imprisoned in the United States whom, up to the point that we were informed, our information indicated that they were unjustly in prison. But the folks who were imprisoned in Iran, they had committed crimes. And their complaints have 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 accomplishment was something that led to the happiness of the families of the prisoners, as well as having been able to, in some loosening and junction show the true face of our humanitarian motives and efforts.

ZAKARIA: As you know, the U.S. government says that the people in Iran were unjustly arrested and imprisoned but there was also a piece of this deal which was the release of several billion dollars of money, which has been earmarked to be used only for humanitarian reasons. It is being monitored from Qatar. Will Iran abide by that part of the agreement and use that money only for humanitarian reasons?


RAISI (through translator): Well, you see funds belong to the people of Iran. Up to now, they were unjustly and unfairly blocked. These were funds belonging to the Iranian nation. Naturally, when these funds come back, they will have to be spent towards the needs that are drawn -- towards objectives that address the needs of the Iranian people. And we will certainly keep to the core of our belief that the objective is to spend those funds to respond to the needs of the Iranian people.


VAUSE: The full interview with the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi can be seen on Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. in London. That's 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in Abu Dhabi.

Still ahead, growing fears of a secondary crisis in Libya, as bodies remain buried under mud more than a week after catastrophic flooding.

Also how Italian authorities plan to deal with an overwhelming and record number of migrants arriving on the small island of Lampedusa.


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

Well, it seems living under the Taliban the misogynistic Islamic fundamentalist childbearing leaders of Afghanistan is causing depression among Afghan women. This according to a U.N. report, which says 69 percent of women report increased feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression between April and June.

The report reveals that the financial and mental hardship women face mostly due to the Taliban restrictions on freedom, as well as the economic crisis caused by their appalling policies. The report says women frequently described their lives as quote, that a prisoner is living in darkness confined to the home without hope of a future. Some suggested appointing a female Afghan leader could help the situation.


Well, it's an ongoing struggle for Italian authorities a small island of Lampedusa has long been the first port of call for migrants from North Africa and elsewhere, but this tiny island is now facing an influx of migrants 7,000 new arrivals in just two days. The crisis point for many they say.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has our report.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "From today, Lampedusa says enough," shouts a resident of this small, Italian island closer to Tunisia than the European mainland.

This year, Lampedusa has been the destination of a dramatic influx of mostly Sub-Saharan migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Tunisia. Prompting European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen to fly there with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, to show Europe's support.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: But we will decide who comes to the European Union and under what circumstances and not the smugglers and traffickers. WEDEMAN: The number of migrants reaching Italy so far this year is

twice as many as derived by this time in 2022. In July, the E.U. and Tunisia signed a memorandum of understanding, whereby the Europeans promised nearly bankrupt Tunisia financial support and Tunisia promised to do more to stop unregulated migration. But Europe has less to hang over the money, and the migrants keep coming.

Italian politicians, particularly those on the right, have seized on the flood of migrants reaching the tiny island of 6,000 souls. But the politicians need to keep it all in perspective, says Flavio di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration.

FLAVIO DE GIACOMO, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: I would say that this is an emergency for Lampedusa, but definitely not an emergency for Italy, nor for Europe.

WEDEMAN: The migrants are quickly sent to reception centers on the Italian mainland, and the crisis eases. With its plummeting-burgeoning (ph), Europe desperately needs new blood says di Giacomo.

DI GIACOMO: For demographic reasons Europe will need migrants. It's needing migrants now. So the most important thing is to manage these phenomena with long term policies, not with short-sighted policies.

WEDEMAN: An idea shared by Italian president Sergio Mattarella, who recently said immigrants can constitute a great potential for our country.

An important point lost perhaps on politicians focused on the next election and not the future.

Ben Wedeman, CNN -- Rome.


VAUSE: Officials in Libya are considering isolating some areas hit hardest by last week's devastating floods because of concerns a number of bodies still buried under the mud in the city of Derna could cause a widespread health crisis amid an already horrific disaster.

Officials have restricted the number of journalists allowed access to Derna. Among the small number allowed to stay is CNN's Jomana Karadsheh. Here's her report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.

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 the city in two. 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 (ph) has been searching for her 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.

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

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 has others 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.


KARADSHEH: 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. I'd rather die here than leave, he tells us. He doesn't trust the same powers that failed them to now protect them.

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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: The torrential rainfall which caused the flooding in Libya was made many times worse by human-caused climate change. According to a new scientific analysis from the World Weather Attribution Initiative.

The study found that planet-warming pollution made the extreme rainfall in Libya up to 50 times more likely to occur and 50 percent more severe.

And the heavy rain that hit Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria was ten times more likely to happen because of the warmer planet.

Studies have found that for every one degree Celsius of warming, the air can hold around 70 percent more moisture, which means there's a lot more rain.

Colombia and other middle-income countries are now endorsing the idea of swapping foreign debt for a sustainable climate solution. This as climate crisis is one of the areas under focus at the United Nations General Assembly this week.

Details now from Stefano Pozzebon.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: What do climate protesters in New York and British Royalty have in common?

PRINCE WILLIAM, PRINCE OF WALES: This is the decade of change.

POZZEBON: A series of unprecedented natural disasters this summer from cyclones in Brazil to catastrophic floods in Libya laid all too bare the need for a transition to more sustainable practices.

And this week at the United Nations General Assembly, who will pay for that transition is a big topic. Middle-income countries like Colombia are proposing to swap foreign debt to be able to spend more on climate mitigation.

The idea presented by Colombian environment minister Susana Muhamad is for multilateral institutions to pay back discounted debt from certain debtor nations which then redirect those funds for conservation projects and renewable energies.

SUSANA MUHAMAD, COLOMBIA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: We WILL need to invest something like three points to four points of GDP annually in climate to fulfill those promises that we made to the Paris agreement. And we are only investing 0.16 percent.

POZZEBON: Muhamad believes Colombia will soon have to plan for relocating communities from some of the areas most affected by climate change while building infrastructure to prevent disasters like those seen elsewhere.

(INAUDIBLE) foreign debt to allow more resources to be spent on climate might sound too good to be true but it is not impossible. The small country of Belize did just that in 2021.

STAV GATCHEV, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABLE DEBT, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY: We refinanced $550 million so the entirety of Belize's foreign commercial debt generating $180 million of savings towards marine conservation allowing the country to credibly protect 30 percent of its ocean.

POZZEBON: Replicating the success of tiny Belize on a global scale will present new challenges of course. Experts from the IMF and the private sector believe debt for climate swaps are not the only strategy but can be a powerful instrument for mid-income countries looking to make their climate adaptation more efficient.

SEBASTIAN ESPINOSA, FOUNDING PARTNER, WHITE OAKE ADVISOR: These (INAUDIBLE) are not supposed to be a panacea for those kinds of underlying debt problems. Nobody should (INAUDIBLE) simply because they think that they're going to be able to reduce their debt.

POZZEBON: This week calls to address climate change took center stage at the U.N. and even its largest donor promise to create new partnerships to reach the sustainable development. Who will foot the bill however, remains uncertain.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN -- Bogota.


VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN.

Ukraine's president speaks exclusively to CNN's Wolf Blitzer about challenges on the battlefield, and the much bigger threat Russia poses to the rest of the world.

Also ahead, mysterious military strikes in Sudan could be the work of Ukrainian operatives. An exclusive CNN investigation on why Ukraine could be involved in Sudan's civil war.



VAUSE: According to U.S. Military officials, Russian forces have lost more than half of the Ukrainian territory seized since its invasion last year. The battle lines though have now largely been entrenched, and while Ukraine is recapturing villages in the next region, the fighting remains tough and slow.

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


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

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: 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 communicate this, some successful steps, previously, because we didn't want, you know, Russia to understand what we do and what we're really prepared.

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

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


VAUSE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking there with 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 has struck Russian-backed fighters inside Sudan.

This comes as Russia tries to expand its influence in Russia after the death of Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

CNN's Nima Elbagir has our report.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: 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 in a war for dominance.

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


ELBAGIR: We pinpointed seven 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 remain as to the identity of those behind the attacks.

Text on the monitor of the drone control is seen here, is in Ukrainian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press to start recording.

ELBAGIR: 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 that 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.

Sudan became embroiled in Russia's war against Ukraine last year, despite being thousands of miles from the front line.

Is this the Russian company?


ELBAGIR: 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 recede. But just the opposite has happened.

Whistle-blowers 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 network has expanded further, this time into Chad.

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.

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 a hundred 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. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Still to come here on CNN. Elon Musk may have paid way too much for Twitter and now users of the platform known as X may have to pay up as well. Hear what Musk said and find out what it actually means in a moment.


VAUSE: Billionaire Elon Musk sat down for Q&A with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. They discussed online anti-Semitism and artificial intelligence.


VAUSE: But it seems Musk's marks about the future of X his platform, formerly known as Twitter, had triggered widespread speculation about whether or not he intends to impose a fee on all X users.

And when it comes to building successful Paywalls (ph) as well as digitalizing online context, few know more than Nicholas Thompson, currently CEO of "The Atlantic". Good to have you with us.

NICHOLAS THOMPSON, CEO, "THE ATLANTIC": Hello. So happy to be here.

VAUSE: OK. So Musk raised this possibility of a fee for using what we all still call Twitter during the Q&A with the Israeli prime minister on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. \

Here it is. Listen to this.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I don't even know if it's technically possible to prevent the use of you know, bots -- armies of bots to replicate and amplify.

So at least if you get a crazy guy and a hateful guy, to let him be speaking for one voice rather than arming an army of men and an army of fake millions.

ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA: Absolutely.

This is actually a super tough problem. And it's really the single most important reason that we're moving to having a small monthly payment for the use of X system is the only way I could think of to combat vast armies of bots.


VAUSE: Ok, so let's talk technical details. Are there other ways of combatting bots without using a paywall or, in this instance, is a paywall simply just the easiest, the cheapest and the most cost- effective option? THOMPSON: A paywall is a very good way to combat bots. Bots aren't

going to pay subscription fees. You can combat bots in lots of other ways. You can use sophisticated A.I. to find bots, which Twitter does do.

You can have rigorous user identification, you can mandate that a user take a photograph of a driver's license or some other form of identification. There are lots of systems that lots of companies use to identify bots. But yes, making them pay is a potential solution to Twitter's problem.

VAUSE: It also seems to be unintentional solution to another one of Twitter's problems. Earlier this month, Musk posted on X, U.S. advertising revenue is still down 60 percent.

He then goes on to blame pressure on advertisers by the ADL. He says that's what advertisers tell us, and he warns if this continues, we have no choice to file a defamation suit against ironically the Anti- Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League is a legal group specializing in civil rights law, working against extremism and anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism and hate speech has dramatically increase on Twitter since it was bought by Musk. So are the bots really the issue here?

THOMPSON: I think that you're probably right. That Musk's motivation for wanting a paywall is more than just combating bots. It's also to build out a better revenue stream us advertising declined.

Now, why is advertising declining on Twitter? That is a problem with many explanations. The one that Musk gives is not, I think the central one.

I think that the conversations on the platform have become less appealing for advertisers to be near for lots of reasons. So I think that Musk is pushing this paywall and saying it's because of bots, in large part, because yes, he wants a paywall. He wants a subscription method. He thinks that will help Twitter's economic woes. It makes some sense.

VAUSE: And when it comes to looking for extra revenue, the news Web site Axios reported earlier this year Twitter isn't alone in its push for a more stable recurring revenue.

Other social networks, having reached the point of maturity and a slowdown in the ad market are also looking to make more money from subscription, and licensing.

Is there a price point here which uses are ok with paying especially if it's something which had never come with a cost in the past. And then do you get a knock-on effect with advertisers, assuming many who pay -- there are many who won't pay rather and that decreases the reach for advertisers and then you get sort of this downward spiral.

THOMPSON: Yes, that is a great question and a huge question. So a couple of things. Having this paywall on a social media platform

at the beginning, I think would be a very good idea because it aligns the social media platform's interest with the users' interest, right.

One of the problems in social media, I have talked about it with you, and I talked about it a lot of times is that the social media companies optimize for engagement. They don't optimize for user experience. But if you're asking people to pay you have to optimize for user experience.

So in general, paywalls are pretty interesting and potentially positive idea for social media companies. That said, it is extremely hard to get people who have been using something for free to start paying.

Also, there is this really important phenomenon called network effects. When you start a social media platform, each new user you add makes it more valuable for the next one.


THOMPSON: Twitter is better for you if there are a thousand people on it than if there are 900. It's better if there's 2,000. That is one of the things that make social networks grow.

The problem is that network effect also work in reverse. So if you start adding pressure (ph), you make it harder for people to use Twitter because they have to set up an account. They have to add credit cards, they have to pay, they have to go through this emotional hurdle. People will start to leave. Then there will be less content on the platform. And the platform could become a worst user experience.

So, that is the biggest problem that this starts a downward spiral that, effectively accelerate for the same reason that it went up.

So, to your core question is there a price point? Probably. Musk has asked for -- he talked about $10 a month settlement, $8 a month, very small number of people have paid. Twitter had a subscription service before. People didn't pay.

It is possible that Musk through his force of personality, through his business acumen will be able to find some combination of price and services that lots of people want to use. My instinct would be this is a very hard problem to solve with the solution he put out there in the conversation with Netanyahu.

VAUSE: Nicholas, we're out of time but great to have you with us. We (INAUDIBLE) that Musk has raised a lot of things in the past which he's never followed through on, so I guess we'll see what happens.

This one as you say is a pretty tall order. Great to have you with us.

THOMPSON: We will see what happens. So much fun to chat with you.

VAUSE: Always. Thank you, sir.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, bankrupt crypto exchange FTX is suing the parents of founder Sam Bankman Fried. The FTX accuses him of embezzling millions of dollars from the company. The lawsuit aims to recover funds that FTX leaders say were fraudulently transferred and misappropriated by Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried.

Attorneys for the parents called the lawsuit completely false. The 31- year-old founder fraud and conspiracy trial is scheduled for the third of next month.

Archaeologists have found new treasure in an underwater temple of Egypt's Mediterranean coast. The discoveries were made at the site of what was once a thriving port city, likely founded around the 8th century BC.

Among the objects -- instruments, gold jewelry and fragile little containers for perfume. The site also includes a temple to a god where pharaohs came to receive their titles as universal kings.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues with my friend and colleague Anna Coren after a very short break.

Hope to see you right back here tomorrow.