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U.S. and Ukrainian Presidents State Their Cases at the U.N. General Assembly; Azerbaijan Launches Operation vs. Armenian Forces in a Disputed Region; India May be Involved in the Death of Their Sikh Leader in Canada; A CNN Investigation Found that Ukraine may be the Root Cause of Wagner-backed Fighters in Sudan. Lampedusa Island now Overcrowded by Migrant Arrivals. Aired 3-3:45a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 03:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong, ahead on "CNN Newsroom."

Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy make their cases for continued support for Ukraine from the United Nations.

Shocking allegations as Canada suggests India could be involved in the murder of a prominent Sikh leader this summer. How Canada's Prime Minister is trying to ease tensions now.

And Azerbaijan launches an operation against Armenian forces in a disputed region. How it's raising fears of an all out conflict.

We begin with the United Nations General Assembly, where Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be the focus of a meeting of world leaders later today. The war 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, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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'd respectfully suggest the answer is no.


COREN: Switzerland's president said the world was going through the most difficult period in nearly 80 years and he urged Russia, as a member of the Security Council, to maintain international peace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.


COREN: Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his first in- person address to the General Assembly since Russia invaded in February of 2022. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the details.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SR. 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 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 am aware of the attempts to make some shady dealings behind the scenes. Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if one bets 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.


COREN: Ukraine has liberated 54 percent of the territory Russia occupied since it invaded in March of last year, according to the top U.S. general. The battle lines have now been entrenched for months. And though Ukraine is recapturing villages in the Donetsk region, the fighting is tough and slow.


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


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

ZELENSKYY: 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, you know, Russia to understand what we do and what we really prepared.

But it's really difficult direction south because of the mining, totally mining, you know, fields. You know that our farmers, they lost legs, arms. A lot of people were killed just on the farmer lands because Russians, they totally mined 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.


COREN: CNN investigative producer Katie Poglase joins us now from London. Katie, what is at stake here with Zelenskyy's visit to Washington as he prepares to lobby U.S. senators?

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, clearly quite a lot, Anna. I mean, there is a request currently in from the White House to the House for additional funding for Ukraine. But with this government shutdown in the United States potentially about to happen. That is a direct concern as to whether this funding will go through and clearly for President Zelenskyy that is very alarming indeed.

Now it's worth noting that a lot of the military aid that Ukraine is receiving from the U.S. is from the Pentagon's own stockpile so that might not necessarily be impacted by a U.S. government shutdown and as well the funding as well comes from the presidential drawdown authority. So again, not necessarily directly impacted, but what could be impacted, and the Pentagon spokesperson Chris Sherwood warned about this just yesterday, is the delivery of that equipment and the training of people on the ground to use that equipment.

Both of those could be affected if the government shuts down because not only will personnel be on furlough, so people to train, for example, the Ukrainian pilots on how to use these F-16 fighter jets, but also there could be a potential lack of basically any kind of equipment to deliver them to Ukraine, because a lot of this activity from the Department of Defense is not deemed critical to national security when the government is in shutdown.

Now, the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, could make an exception for this and continue some of this activity, but clearly a very big concern for Zelenskyy and for Ukraine as this counteroffensive enters some very difficult months further ahead. And particularly as we head into winter, Russia could fortify its defenses quite a lot if this counteroffensive slows down. That is particularly alarming as well. And clearly, from the Biden administration, there is political will. We saw this yesterday with President Joe Biden's speech at the U.N. Clearly, there is a lot of will from his administration for Ukraine.

It remains to be seen what the other side of the House feels about it. And we've also seen just in the last day, there has been some material support from European allies. We've seen from Denmark. We've seen from Norway some promises of new aid as well, such as ammunition, such as tanks, but clearly the U.S. support is the most important to President Zelenskyy. And if there is any disruption to that in the coming months as we head into winter, that could be very disruptive to the counteroffensive as well.

COREN: Katie Poglase, good to see you. Many thanks for the update.

A surge in violence in the South Caucasus is raising concern of an all-out conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The focus of the current fighting is a small independent enclave deep inside Azerbaijan territory called Nagorno-Karabakh. Home to many ethnic Armenians, it has seen two previous wars between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh accuse the Azerbaijan government of carrying out a mission of genocide after a military operation which left at least 27 people dead, including seven civilians. Azerbaijan says it's fighting terrorists and will continue to do so until armed forces in the region surrender.

Our Nic Robertson has more.


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 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 cowering 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 is brought about this hugely- tense situation, a spike in tensions and in the violence. The Azerbaijanis 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, 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.


COREN: Well now to the diplomatic dispute between India and Canada that stems from the murder of a Sikh leader on Canadian soil. Canada's Prime Minister says he is not trying to provoke India by suggesting its government may be linked to that killing. But Justin Trudeau says Canada will not let up on the investigation and he's urging India to take it seriously.

CNN's Vedika Sud is following all of developments, live from New Delhi. And Vedika, what has been the latest reaction from the Indian government?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: No reaction as of today. There's parliament that's on a special session in fact, but no word from the Indian Prime Minister or his government.

But yesterday there were strong words. They called the claims made by Justin Trudeau on the floor of the House absolutely unsubstantiated. They called it motivated. And they also went on to talk about how Canada has been sheltering terrorists and extremists.

And this is a long-standing issue, Anna, between India and Canada. It's nothing new. The Indian Prime Minister has been taking up this issue with Trudeau very often, the issue of Khalistan.

I want our viewers to get an understanding of what the Khalistan movement is, why the Prime Minister has been urging Trudeau to understand what this could mean for India because there's been a dark past with separatist leaders, especially in the state of Punjab in India where the Khalistani movement was at its peak in the 1970s and 80s.

Here's more on the Khalistan movement.


SUD (voice-over): Ever since this meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, tensions between the two nations have escalated even further.

Modi conveyed strong concerns over anti-India campaigns and violence by Sikh hardliners in Canada, home to almost 800,000 members of the religious community, a significant voting bloc.

SUHASINI HAIDAR, DIPLOMATIC AFFAIRS EDITOR, THE HINDU: The first reason is obviously Prime Minister Modi's own political capital, which comes from him being a tough leader, especially on issues involving terrorism and separatism. The second part of it is the particular attacks, the targeting, the vandalism on Hindu temples, on Hindu community centers.

And that is a real worry again for his particular vote bank in India, but also in terms of taking care of the Indian community in all these countries.

SUD (voice-over): For decades separatists have demanded an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan to be carved out of the Indian state of Punjab. The Sikh fundamentalist movement launched a violent insurgency in the 1970s.

After massive crackdowns and the deaths of thousands of Sikhs, the government banned the movement. Decades later, the most vocal supporters are still among the Indian diaspora. One of them was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader and Canadian citizen who was gunned down outside a temple he led in British Columbia in June.

In a stunning accusation, the Canadian Prime Minister now says there's credible allegations linking New Delhi to Nijjar's murder, a claim that the Indian government has strongly denied, saying 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.

Relations between the two nations, now at a new low.

HAIDAR: I think what you're looking at is not just a deep freeze. It's an open declaration of diplomatic war, and the next few days and weeks could see more of that.


SUD (voice-over): And we have. In a rare move, both nations expelled key senior Indian and Canadian diplomats. With a national election coming up in months, Modi wants to be seen as a leader who talks tough on terror and separatism.

But for Trudeau, the expectation back home from a sizable Sikh diaspora is just as furniture. This is one diplomatic route that allies will be watching closely.


SUD (on-camera): And Anna, you had Trudeau on the floor of the house talk about how he's asked India to cooperate with the investigation, but in India's statement there was no response to that request, which would be an indication possibly that India doesn't want to play ball for now. Back to you.

COREN: Vedika Sud in New Delhi, thank you.

Joining us now is Jaskaran Sandhu, a board member with the World Sikh Organization of Canada. Great to have you with us. I want to start with the reaction from Canadians following the allegations made by Prime Minister Trudeau against the Indian government.

JASKATRTAN SANDHU, BOARD MEMBER, WORLD SIKH ORGANIZATION OF CANADA: Yeah, there's two sets of reactions. The first from your average Canadian, the mainstream. It's one of shock, you know, to have the Prime Minister speak as strongly as he did in Parliament about Canadian intelligence belief that the Indian government was behind the assassination of a Canadian on Canadian soil is earth shattering stuff.

And I think for your average Canadian who's a casual observer of India, they'll think, well, isn't India democracy? Democracies don't act like this. The reality is India has been veering closer and closer to an autocracy for a while now, especially under the BJP government of Modi.

On the other hand, there's another set of reaction. That's from Sikh Canadians. The Sikh diaspora in Canada is one of the largest outside of Punjab. And for Sikh Canadians, they've believed since June that the killing of Hardeep Singh Najjir was at the hands of the Indian government. But what did surprise the community is the strength in which Prime Minister Trudeau came out with the unequivocal terms he used, the language he used, and the unanimous support of the opposition parties.

I think that's what really shaken the Sikh community, almost a pleasant surprise to see the government stand shoulder-to-shoulder with it considering what's at stake.

COREN: Well, as you say, India prides itself as being the world's largest democracy. It wants to be a force in global relations. It's just hosted the G20. This obviously places President Biden in a difficult position, considering he spent the last however many months trying to court India.

SANDHU: Yeah, President Biden was also clear afterwards when he left India that he did bring up India's human rights record and the way that it treats minorities.

What happened in Canada is not just a Canada-India issue. This is one of geopolitical significance. We also have to remember what's Canada's place in the world. It is a middle power, but it is a key ally within the five I's. So working with the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand on intelligence sharing and other endeavors.

Now, Canada is looking towards those partners to stand with it and come out in clear terms that what India has done is unacceptable and needs to cooperate in any investigation that are continuing. And I've been told and I've seen that this is only the tip of the iceberg. There's allegedly a lot more about to come out and the Canadian government is just waiting at this point.

COREN: A lot more of what?

SANDHU: Information that the extent of Indian interference, the violent extent of it, how it actually executed this assassination. There's a lot of information that is coming down the pipeline. And Prime Minister Trudeau and his caucus made that clear today. There was an emergency session at the House of Commons where they spoke at length about all these things.

What you're gonna see is more and more evidence showing the reality of Indians' interference in Canada and how that should be a concern to allies considering the Sikh diaspora is also large in countries like the U.K. and the U.S. that also face Indian interference.

COREN: Now we should stress that Indian denies any involvement in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, but tell us the threat that this activist posed to the Indian government.

SANDHU: The threat was one as a peaceful advocate that was utilizing charter protected rights in Canada. That was his threat. He was a president of a large gurdwara or a Sikh place of worship in Surrey, which is a city home to a large population of Sikhs. He's been an active advocate for Khalistan, which is a Sikh self-determination movement, a Sikh sovereignty movement.

And he also was a recent supporter and organizer for the Khalistan referendum, a non-binding vote that's been happening in the diaspora.


India thinks these things are acts of terrorism or extremism and have made it very clear, alongside with our allegations against Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in every bilateral meeting in the last 10 years or so with the Canadian government that if Canada doesn't clamp down on these acts, India will be incredibly disappointed. And Canada has responded the same every time. If you don't have evidence of extremism or terrorism, we treat those words very differently than India may.

If you don't have any evidence for that, we can't arbitrarily clamp down on Sikhs practicing their rights. And so the Indian government has, you know, launched a lot of allegations that have had a signature over the years. None of them have been proven. None of those allegations have led to any charges. He was a Canadian citizen and he was a freely continuing his advocacy work until he was assassinated.

COREN: Yeah, a Canadian citizen since 2015. Jaskaran Sandhu, we certainly appreciate your time. Thank you for speaking to us.

SANDHU: Thank you for having me.

COREN: Still to come, there are growing fears of a health crisis in Libya as bodies remain trapped under mud more than a week after catastrophic flooding in the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COREN: Officials in Libya are considering whether to isolate some of the area's hardest hit by devastating floods last week amid growing concerns about a secondary health crisis. The health ministry says there could still be many bodies trapped under the mud in the city of Derna.

And there's concern around waterborne diseases being easily spread. Nearly 60 rescue and recovery workers were hospitalized on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a U.N. humanitarian team says it was prevented from delivering aid to the city, allegations the Libyan government denies.

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


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.

(on-camera): 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 into.

(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 turn into shelters. People scour through lists with the names of survivors inside.

Salma has been searching for her parents and her brothers, but the gut-wrenching reality is starting to sink in.

A single mother is now homeless living in this school. What happens to them next keeps her up at night.


(on-camera): Salma says it feels now that life has no meaning anymore, that life is over, she says.

(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.

I would 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. Its 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.


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

Stefano Pozzebon explains.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): What do climate protesters in New York and British royalty have in common?

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 (voice-over): 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. Rising off foreign debt to allow more resources to be spent on climate

might sound too good to be true, but it's not impossible. The small country of Belize did just that in 2021.

SLAV 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 (voice-over): 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 OAK ADVISORY: These debt- financed swaps are not supposed to be a panacea for those kind of underlying debt problems. Nobody should embark on debt swaps simply because they think they're going to be able to reduce their debt or--

POZZEBON (voice-over): This week, calls to address climate change took center stage at the U.N., and even its largest donor promised to create new partnerships to reach sustainable development.

Who will foot the bill, however, remains uncertain.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


COREN: A mysterious ground operation and drone strikes inside Sudan are raising the question, who is behind them? An exclusive CNN investigation indicates it could be Ukraine.




ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: 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-backed fighters inside Sudan.

CNN's Nima Elbagir has the details.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE 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 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 operation showing 14 different strikes on RSF weapons and equipment believed to be provided by Wagner.

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 controller seen here is in Ukrainian.

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 a 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.

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.

Military 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 network has expanded further, this time into Chad.

(on-camera): 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.

(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 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


COREN: Well, still to come, how authorities plan to handle the surge of migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa every single week.


COREN: Welcome back. It's an ongoing struggle for Italian authorities. The island of Lampedusa has long been the first port of call for migrants from North Africa to Europe and continues to face an influx of migrants with 7,000 new arrivals in just two days. CNN's Ben Wedeman has more.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: But we will decide who comes to the European Union and under what circumstances and not the smugglers and traffickers.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The number of migrants reaching Italy so far this year is twice as many as arrived 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 yet to hand 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 DI GIACOMO, IOM SPOKESPERSON: I would say that this is an emergency for Lampedusa, but definitely not an emergency for Italy, nor for Europe.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The migrants are quickly sent to reception centers on the Italian mainland, and the crisis eases.

With its plummeting birth rate, Europe desperately needs new blood, says di Giacomo.

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

WEDEMAN (voice-over): 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.


COREN: Well thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong "CNN Newsroom" continues with Laila Harrak at the top of the hour. "Marketplace Europe" is coming up next.