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Benny Gantz Quits War Government; Four Israeli Hostages Rescued, More than 200 Gazans Killed; U.S. Pushing $50 Billion Loan For Ukraine; Judge Orders Steve Bannon Report To Prison By July 1; Donald Trump Attacks Jack Smith; Jessica Dean Interviews Nina Khrushcheva; Macron Dissolves Parliament After His Party Loses Elections. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 09, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: You're in the "CNN Newsroom." Hi everyone, I'm Jessica Dean in New York, and we begin with breaking news and a major blow to Israel's emergency government. Just a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the rescue of four hostages inside Gaza, Israeli opposition leader and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz announced he's resigning from the government.

Back in May, Gantz gave Netanyahu an ultimatum, calling for a plan to end the war in Gaza and bring all the hostages home, or he said he would quit. Well, that deadline came yesterday. It was, of course, the same day Israel's military conducted a special operation to rescue those hostages from Gaza. And today, we're learning new details about that surprise mission.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Tel Aviv. She's been tracking the latest developments. And Paula, let's start first with what's happening inside the Israeli government. How is Prime Minister Netanyahu responding to this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, he has already effectively asked Gantz to come back. He has said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that now is not the time to abandon the campaign, saying it is a time for unity, not division. So this is something that we were expecting Gantz saying that there wasn't a day after plan, that there wasn't a decisive plan to get the hostages back, and there was no decisive plan to calm things down on the northern border with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

So it had been threatened. Now, what this means going forward is it doesn't mean the coalition and the government is going to collapse. Netanyahu still has a majority within the government itself. What it does mean is that this government has lost really what many saw as a counterweight to the more far-right elements. Gantz was really seen as that counterweight to some of the far-right elements, for example like Ben-Gvir, who has said that he will leave the coalition if there is a ceasefire agreed to, and it does not meet his expectations. In fact, he has already said that he should be part of the war cabinet

now that Benny Gantz is not. So there is this concern that there could be a further push to the right and what this will mean for the day-to- day decisions when it comes to the Gaza war.

Now, we know that US officials were concerned about what this would mean if Gantz were to go for the hostage ceasefire deal as well. Benny Gantz was a strong proponent of President Biden's proposal from last week, which he said was an Israeli proposal, for this hostage deal, which they are currently waiting for Hamas to officially respond to, Jessica?

DEAN: And Paula, we're also learning some new details about that surprise hostage rescue by the Israeli military in Gaza. What are these new details you can tell us?

HANCOCKS: Well, the Israeli Defense Force have been issuing new footage showing exactly what happened. They say that they had this plan in the works for weeks. They knew that there were two buildings, residential buildings, where these four hostages were being held. They're about 650 feet, 200 meters from each other.

They actually built models of these buildings so that the troops that will be part of this rescue mission could actually train on this. This is where the operation took place. Now they say also there were hundreds of personnel that were involved in this operation and they did, in their words, successfully rescue four Israeli hostages. They did lose one Israeli soldier in the mission.

But there has been backlash, given the devastation that they left behind. More than 270 Palestinians were killed, according to the hospital directors where those bodies were brought to, and also the Gaza media office, and hundreds more were injured. Now the IDF says they believe that number was less than 100. CNN has no way to independently confirm or verify either of those numbers.

But there has been criticism, claims of massacre from some neighboring countries, including from the EU's top diplomat. But Israel has pushed back, saying it is Hamas's fault because they are hiding hostages amid the civilian population.


But certainly there have been some very heated responses to what we have seen, and we did see one of the hospitals, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, struggling to cope with the sheer number of trauma cases coming through. Jessica?

DEAN: All right, Paula Hancocks for us in Tel Aviv. Thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN Global Affairs analyst Barak Ravid now. He's also the politics and foreign policy reporter for "Axios." Barak, let's start first with Benny Gantz quitting the emergency government. This was not a surprise. This was long anticipated. It also allows Netanyahu to stay in power. So what does this move actually do, and what is the fallout from this? BARAK RAVID, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hi, Jessica. I think first

what this move does is that it takes away from Benjamin Netanyahu this sort of bulletproof vest that he wore in the last eight months that was called Benny Gantz. And this bulletproof vest defended Netanyahu around the world because it gave his government, let's say, a more moderate appeal, if you can call it this way. I'm not sure that it's even an accurate description, but a more or less radical right-wing aroma, okay.

And now it's gone. And I think this will change the way many governments around the world, first and foremost, the Biden administration, but also governments in Europe, governments in the Arab world, the way they look at the Israeli government. And this is something we haven't had for eight months. And I think this is a whole new chapter now with how the world looks at this war.

DEAN: And so to that point, some analysts do believe that this resignation could lead Netanyahu, like you're saying, to lean more on his far-right allies in this government. What might that look like?

RAVID: Okay. It's not going to look nice, I'll tell you that, because we know exactly what Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich want. They want to occupy the Gaza Strip permanently. They want to rebuild settlements in Gaza. They want to destroy and topple the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. And they want to invade Lebanon.

So if you take all of that together, I think we're looking at, you know, quite a lot of potential for moves that will escalate the situation. And Netanyahu, day one of his government said, I'm the guy with the hands on the wheel. I'll make sure that sound decisions will be taken. But we already have the track record, and we know that he cannot really control the government, and he cannot really stop them from pushing for their own policies. So I think it's a matter of concern.

DEAN: Yeah. And let's talk, too, about this military operation in central Gaza that led to the rescue of the four hostages yesterday. We're getting new details as time goes on. The IDF says that hostages were being kept in separate residential buildings, the three males in one, the one female in the other.

You've reported a Hamas operative was holding three of the hostages in his own family's apartment. This is something that the IDF has talked about and also that the U.S. government has talked about, these Hamas tactics to embed themselves in civilian areas. So tell us more about what you're learning and how that strategy that Hamas uses complicates a rescue mission like this.

RAVID: Well, I think it's -- on the one hand, it complicates this rescue mission. On the other hand, it gave a sort of opportunity, because what some eyewitnesses in the Nuseirat refugee camp said was that some of the special forces who were part of this operation came there as displaced Palestinians. This was their disguise. And others came as if they were part of Hamas's military wing. Those were the two covers that the special forces used. And in this specific area, it worked. But I think that, you know, as the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told Dana Bash just this morning, a lot of the reason we saw so many civilian casualties in this operation was that those hostages were hidden in civilian homes inside a refugee camp. And when you go on such an operation and there was quite a robust firefight after those hostages were rescued, and the result is a lot of civilian casualties.

DEAN: And you mentioned, just before I let you go, you mentioned Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor. He was on with our colleague Dana Bash earlier this morning. And he said a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is, quote, the only credible path forward.


Has this rescue mission affected those talks that are ongoing? Tony Blinken, the Secretary of State, is headed to the Middle East this upcoming week to try to continue to get some momentum on those. Do you think it has any effect?

RAVID: I'm sure it has. But I don't think we still know what kind of effect exactly, meaning what I hear from both Israeli officials who are dealing with the negotiations and U.S. officials who are dealing with the negotiations, they say that it can go either way, meaning on the one hand, Hamas can say in the immediate term, okay, we're not negotiating. That's it. You did this operation, we're not negotiating.

On the other hand, in the more interim, this could be a way for the more sinking in among Hamas leadership of the notion that they might lose more hostages that will be rescued in more of the special operations. And every hostage that the Israelis rescue is taking leverage away from Hamas.

So there are people who think that this operation may be actually, you know, sort of encourage Hamas to say, we can get this deal now. Let's get this deal now.

DEAN: Barack Ravid, always great to have your analysis. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

RAVID: Thank you.

DEAN: Coming up, a conversation with actress Hilary Swank, who's putting her voice behind Ukraine's efforts to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for its recovery as it fends off Russia's invasion.

And former President Donald Trump back on the campaign trail in Las Vegas, attacking President Biden on the border and inflation just one day before he's due to meet with a probation officer after his hush money conviction. You're in the "CNN Newsroom."


[17:16:23] DEAN: U.S. officials are racing against the clock tonight to finalize a deal for $50 billion in a loan package for Ukraine using profits from frozen Russian assets. Sources say this is a top priority ahead of President Joe Biden's meeting with G7 leaders in Italy next week. But the nations haven't agreed on the deal just yet. And meanwhile, Russia continues its relentless invasion into Ukraine.

Joining me now is Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank. She's also an ambassador for Ukraine's United 24 and also joining us, the CEO of the Legacy of War Foundation, Giles Duley. It's great to have both of you here with us to talk a little more about this. Hilary, let's start first with you. The Ukrainian government started United 24. Tell us about its mission.

HILARY SWANK, AMBASSADOR, UNITED24: Yes. So it was an honor to be -- it is an honor to be an ambassador. It's great to be here, by the way. Hi, Jessica. And United24 is this wonderful way to raise awareness with a bunch of different ambassadors so that we can get out there, get our voices out there, make sure that everyone knows, understands what's happening so we can raise critical funds to help that country.

DEAN: And it seems like, Hilary, that some Americans struggle, too. They'll say, well, why do we need to help Ukraine? It seems so far away. We live here in America. What would you say to them?

SWANK: Well, I would say to them, it's really easy to, you know, kind of not even think about what's going on there because it's really challenging. It's really difficult. But we are blessed with the freedom we have in the United States and a lot of the other countries that, you know, need to be doing something to help others.

The bottom line is I chose to be an ambassador in the medical area because hundreds of hospitals have been bombed. One of the statistics that I just learned, which is really harrowing, too, is that thousands of mothers are having their babies prematurely because of the stress of the war. And when they have those premature babies, there's no incubators. So these babies are dying.

So as a mother, and I know there's millions of other mothers out there who hold their babies tight, love their babies. These mothers aren't able to hold their babies anymore because of war. And we've got to do something about it. As people, as all one people, we need to stand united and help. So there's also more than 1,000 schools destroyed.

Another statistic that I just learned that I think is important for people to know, which I had no idea, 20,000 babies and children have been abducted or legally deported from Ukraine into Russia to help them raise their population. This is just criminal. And we have to raise awareness. We have to do something about it.

DEAN: It's very, very sobering statistics you're laying out there. Giles, the UN says more Ukrainian civilians were hurt in this war last month than in a year. You're a war documentarian who studies the cost of conflict. So you know this very well, and you personally know it very well. Tell us why it is important. It's so important to safeguard civilians in this war. [17:20:00]

GILES DULEY, CEO, LEGACY OF WAR FOUNDATION: Well, Jessica, thanks for having me on this evening. I've been documenting conflicts for over 20 years as a photographer and a writer. And one of the things I've seen in all the Russian wars of aggression is the attacks on health care facilities. So in Ukraine, over 1,600 health care facilities have been destroyed by Russia. This is what they did in Syria. It's what they did in Chechnya. It's a pattern they continue to follow.

And so for my work, as well as being a photographer, I also have a foundation, the Legacy of War Foundation. We work in partnership with United24, providing health care facilities in what's known as the gray area, the areas very near the front line. Whereas Hilary said people are going out without basic medical health care.

So if you imagine a young mother, it's impossible to get to a hospital, which can take days to get to. There are dangers of doing that. The local health care facilities are damaged. And what doctors and nurses are telling me is that, sadly, they only see patients when it's too late.

DEAN: And so that clearly has really motivated you to take part in this. I'm interested to hear your thoughts, too. We saw President Biden speaking at that D-Day event marking the 80th anniversary in Normandy last week about the importance of democracy and the dangers of, he said, tyrants like Putin. How critical is it Ukraine win this war?

SWANK: It's vital. And I'll let you speak to that, Giles. Giles and I have done a lot of humanitarian work together, and he works on this daily. So I'll let you speak to that.

DULEY: Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Hilary. As we go back a long way, as Hilary said, we have seen the impact of the war, for example, in Syria, which was the same Russian aggression. Putin has continued this. Putin will not stop until he is stopped. I live in Europe, and I fly to Ukraine very regularly. I fly to Poland and then catch a train.

And you become very aware that literally two hours, one and a half hours from London, and then I'm on the border with Ukraine. And what is happening there is a threat to democracy. It's a threat to Europe, and it's a threat to the world. As I say, it's 20 years I've been documenting what Putin does in wars. He has to be stopped.

DEAN: And Hilary, to that end, now you are taking this moment in time, this particular moment to take part and do what you can to raise awareness. Was there a moment when you said to yourself, obviously, you've worked in this in this general space for a while, but was there a moment when it crystallized for you that you wanted to speak out on behalf of Ukrainians?

SWANK: It's a great question. Thank you. Yeah, Giles and I have -- we were in Lebanon with the Syrian refugees helping Syrian families out of encampments. And when you get the opportunity to actually visit people, then you realize you really are one people. And that we all just desire to be with our loved ones, see our loved ones thrive and live. And now that I'm a mom of newborn babies, it's crystallized even deeper for me. You know, there's no words that you can say when you see this firsthand.

It's like I said, it's really easy to be in the comfort of your own home and not really have an understanding what's going on. But if we can all just open our eyes and stand together to stop the atrocities, we can do it and we need to do it. It's of the utmost importance.

DEAN: And so with that in mind, Giles, if someone's watching, what can they do? Because it might feel like they're really far away. How do they help? How do they connect?

DULEY: Well, they're not far away. And I think that's one of the really important things is that everybody has to feel at a time when generally the world feels very overwhelming, that actually each one of us can create change by both advocacies, supporting organizations like United24 or Legacy of War Foundation, but also speaking out.

You know, I'd say we feel overwhelmed by what's happening in the world, but we have to remember, you just said recently about Biden and the D-Day celebrations. My father, who passed away recently, was in the Air Force in World War II. It was only when the world came together to stop Hitler that we had victory. And that same has to happen again with Putin.

It will only happen when the world comes together. And that involves all of us getting involved. And I'm just very proud to have Hilary as a friend. I've worked in Ukraine for over 10 years. I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is every time I go down to the front lines to see the health care facilities, to see the doctors and nurses risking their lives every day to bring what we would take for granted, basic health care. And we just have to do whatever we can.

DEAN: All right, Hilary Swank and Giles Duley, thank you so much. It's United24. And Hilary, congrats on the new babies. That's wonderful news. We really appreciate your time.

SWANK: Thank you for having us. Really appreciate you raising awareness.

DEAN: Yeah. We'll be right back.



DEAN: New today, we are learning Donald Trump is set to have a pre- sentencing virtual hearing tomorrow with a probation officer. This is following his historic conviction on 34 felony counts in the New York hush money trial. And that is happening as a judge orders prison time for another former Trump adviser, Steve Bannon. Bannon now must report to prison by July 1st.

He was convicted of contempt of Congress in 2022 and has now been sentenced to four months in prison. We're joined now by prison consultant Sam Mangel, who represents Peter Navarro.


And Sam, as of this weekend, I understand you're also representing Steve Bannon.

SAM MANGEL, PRISON CONSULTANT: Hi, Jessica. I really can't comment on my relationship with Mr. Bannon at this point. I know he's going through his appeal process. So, I think it'd be best if we let that play out and see what happens. Of course, as things develop, we'll see what happens and go from there.

DEAN: All right. So, let's talk a little more generally. Thanks again for coming on. We're glad to have you. Just first off, we are seeing people like Peter Navarro, like Steve Bannon, potentially, you know, going to prison. And a lot of people are pretty defiant. They have been defiant about going to prison. Steve Bannon, for example, said he's going to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. But at what point have you found in your line of work does kind of the reality set in and they start to really prepare or does it take getting there to really let the reality set in?

MANGEL: Most people that I work with, it usually takes until the day they're sentenced for it to really kick in. Up until the time you're sentenced, a lot of it is theoretical or conceptual. We're not sure what's going to happen at sentencing.

And I would say 99% of the people I work with are very optimistic and sometimes like to bury their head in the sand and think that when they go into sentencing, they're going to be the unicorn, they're going to be the person that the judge has unlimited mercy on and decides to sentence them to a noncustodial home confinement-type sentence. In reality, that just doesn't happen. So, most of the time, it really sinks in the day that the judge reads a number. And that's why when I help people, I would say probably 65% to 70% of my practice is post sentencing, what happens from the time the judge reads that number.

DEAN: And so, what -- what does happen? How do you prepare people like this for high profile -- high profile people to go into prison? How is that different for them than it may be for somebody else?

MANGEL: I tell everyone, high profile or not, be a little fish in a big pond. And when you are high profile, naturally, you're going into a situation regardless of the length of your sentence that will make you stand out. People are going to want to hear your stories. Staff are going to be interested in you. Staff are going to more closely monitor your phone and emails, which they're permitted to do. Staff will really not only tend to look out for you more, but be more curious to know who you're talking to and what you're discussing.

Inmates, on the other hand, tend to put high-profile clients, whether you're a crypto person or a politician, more on a pedestal. They're curious to hear and learn from them.

Don't forget, Jessica, a lot of people, even in minimum security camps where my clients are going to, might have been in the system for 5, 10, 20 years and finally make it down to a camp. They're not all white-collar offenders. So, they're thirsty for knowledge. They want to hear what it's like to live in the White House or be involved in politics or have a private plane. Basically, they try to live vicariously through that individual. So, they're safe. Ultimately, people that go into minimum security camps are safe. Their biggest problem is boredom and really staying out of the fray.

DEAN: And what is typically their biggest concern? For somebody like a Steve Bannon or Peter Navarro, what are they worried about?

MANGEL: Overwhelmingly, remember, when somebody goes to prison, you're like every other inmate. You are strictly a number. So, their initial concern is, well, what am I going to do? Am I going to be safe? Once they realize they're going to be safe, that it's not an environment where their cells and camps, their large dormitories or in the example of a military base where the camp might be their individual rooms, so safety, once that fear is removed, it's, well, how do I access my loved ones? How do I access, in some people's case, the media?

And when you have to explain to them, look, you get 510 minutes a month of phone time, you can't buy more minutes, you get 15 minutes per call, if you don't use those minutes judiciously, there's nothing worse than running out of phone time after two weeks. You can't buy more, you can't use someone else's phone time, and the temptation maybe to use a cell phone when in prison might exist.

And I warn all of my clients, stay away from that because everyone eventually gets caught with contraband. And all that does is it could jeopardize where they are. They might get moved to higher level institution and how long they're there.


So, lack of communication is probably the biggest frustration, especially for high profile type A clients.

DEAN: All right. Sam Mangel, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

MANGEL: Thank you, Jessica.

DEAN: From local police to the Feds, officials are pulling out all the stops to make sure things stay safe in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. You're in the "CNN Newsroom."



DEAN: A post-conviction President Trump takes the stage in Las Vegas trying to make a case for his return to the White House and targeting the Justice Department that's pursuing two other criminal cases against him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what they've done is they've weaponized the Department of Justice. The only thing they didn't understand is that we just had the largest fundraising effort in a period of one week than anybody has ever had. I did nothing. We have a deranged individual named Jack Smith. He's a deranged dumb guy. He's a dumb son of a bitch.


DEAN: Joining us now, Larry Sabato, director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. The former president, Larry, is continuing to hit these familiar themes about the border, the economy, Joe Biden. But that's a very personal attack there on Jack Smith. He's attacking the Justice Department and anyone who works there. What do you make of that? What does that say to you?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, it's very abusive and rude and inappropriate for a presidential nominee, much less a president, to say and do something like that. But, of course, this is Donald Trump. We're all used to it. He does it all the time.

What is disturbing about it or most disturbing about it is the fact that having spent years undermining public confidence in our election system, which arguably is the best and most accurate in the world, he has now turned his attention to undermining the legal system and the rule of law. He hasn't done enough damage in one category, so he's going to include another important category in our system.

This is up to the people in the end. It's not going to be up to the judiciary. It's not going to be up to the special counsel. It's going to be up to the people in November, and they'll have to judge whether this is a good thing. As I say, it's extremely offensive to anyone who believes in the American system.

DEAN: And Larry, to that point, I think sometimes people will say, oh, it's just Donald Trump, he says these things, we know he says these things. But can you talk about, when you're really pulling at foundational tenets of democracy, like a fair judicial system, like a fair and free and secure election process, and you're getting even just a fraction of the people, even just his base, 20%, 30%, to believe that they are fundamentally broken, rigged, can be weaponized? How damaging is that for the future of a country built on those tenets?

SABATO: Well, it's very damaging. Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say we have a fragile system. I think it takes a lot to defeat it or to bring down the pillars. But he has been working at it for years. He really has. The election system since, of course, the latter part of 2020, after he clearly lost and refused to accept it, now the judicial system. This has an impact.

And if he should get elected, he has already made very clear two things. One, he is going to use retribution, going after Democrats, having misled people into believing that all the charges against him in a series of trials, most of which haven't occurred yet, are somehow the product of political retribution from Democrats. Utterly untrue. President Biden has had nothing to do with these charges. But, of course, he tells his supporters and they all go along with it.

But I think the second thing that really is most disturbing is that Donald Trump has now proven to us that he really does follow through on what he says he's going to do, at least in his area of priority, which in this case is hurting our system in order to benefit him and possibly to extend his rule.

So, we have -- we have a crisis in democracy, not just a crisis because of this specific election or the people in his base who will use violence to get their goals accomplished. This is a major long- term problem for the United States created by one Donald Trump.

DEAN: Hmm. All right, Larry Sabato, we're going to have to leave it there. But thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you, Jessica.

DEAN: The current fight against Russian aggression mirrors the same conflict that dominated the Cold War. And ahead, we are talking to the granddaughter of former Soviet Union leader, Nikita Khrushchev, about the parallels between that era and what we're seeing now.



DEAN: CNN's New Original Series is taking a close look at the tensions of the Cold War through the eyes of two double agents as world leaders tried diplomacy to end the Cold War. These spies are pulling the threads behind the scenes to try and unravel any truths.


On the world stage, President Reagan is determined to defeat what he calls the evil empire. But another battle is playing out in the shadows.

JACK BARSKY, FORMER UNDERCOVER KGB AGENT: For me, becoming a spy for the KGB was ideology.


I am Jack Barsky. That's not the name I was born with. We stole the identity of Jack Barsky, who passed away at the young age of 11. I spent 10 years as an illegal undercover agent for the KGB in the United States. I was 100% convinced that communism was the right thing, that the world eventually would wind up being one happy communist family.


DEAN: And joining us now is Nina Khrushchev, the granddaughter of former Soviet Union leader, Nikita Khrushchev. She is a professor of international affairs at the New School in New York City and the author of "The Lost Khrushchev: Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind." Nina, we're so pleased to have you. Thanks so much for joining us. Would you mind talking first about what it was like growing up as Khrushchev's grandchild who was trying to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessor, Joseph Stalin?

NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, RUSSIAN HISTORIAN: Well, that's a very complicated question. Khrushchev was ousted from power in 1964, and his name was not officially mentioned in any documents, in any history books, in public. So, when I was growing up, I actually was growing up knowing that my grandfather, my great-grandfather, was a very important man, but at the same time, he was sort of a secret important man because anything that the Soviet Union did during his leadership from 1953 when Stalin died to 1964 when he was ousted was done by the Communist Party. But the Communist Party at the time supposedly had no leader.

So, I grew up as a secret Khrushchev, in a sense. I wasn't -- I wasn't an open Khrushchev, and we talk about his legacy and his achievements that is denouncing Stalin, most of all, only in our kitchen or with my mother's friends who were the Moscow intellectuals at the time.

DEAN: Yeah. It must have been strange as a little kid to have to hold a secret like that.

KHRUSHCHEVA: It was very strange because you go to school and you're told, don't mention Khrushchev's name because you'll get in trouble. Well, he was the leader of the Soviet Union, why would I get in trouble? So, it was difficult to understand. But also, I remember him a little bit. I was a little girl. So, I remember him as a pensioner. And every time we would come and visit him in the country house, there was sort of a feeling of a very dark cloud over Khrushchev that was the Soviet Union. Outside of his estate, he was a nobody.

DEAN: Hmm. And so, from that childhood and that experience, you then devoted your life to international relations and history. What made you decide to study these things?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Another complicated question. Well, I didn't devote life, I was interested in politics, and a lot of it came from the fact that in the Soviet Union, there was no politics. I mean, I actually originally studied literature because only literature you can speak freely, you can write things, kind of between the lines. You can -- there's such thing as -- George Orwell used this writing his dystopia in 1984, the Doublespeak. You think one thing and you speak another thing.

And that what made me interested, this kind of Russian intersection between art and politics. And from then on, I became very interested in it, not only in politics, but also how art influences and actually becomes politics in the absence of open politics, so to speak.

And if we look at Russia today, who are the greatest enemies of the Putin state? The greatest enemies are the musicians, the writers, the actors, those who spoke against the war, those who spoke in defense of Ukraine. These are the main -- the main actors, the main -- the main evil people in Putin's state. And that's in many ways is a very -- is very reminiscent of what was happening under Stalin. And I really feel that in this sense, I'm better prepared to understand Putinism because I studied Stalinism to a great extent and also art under Stalin.

DEAN: Yeah. It's fascinating. All right, Nina Khrushcheva, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it. And you can watch an all new episode of "Secrets and Spies: A Nuclear Game." It's tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.

We're also following some breaking news out of Europe tonight as parliamentary elections showing far right parties making significant gains.


France's President Macron is dissolving that country's parliament, calling for new elections. We'll have a live report for you, next.


DEAN: You're in the "CNN Newsroom." I'm Jessica Dean in New York.


And breaking now, French President Emmanuel Macron has dissolved parliament and called a snap election after polls show his party being trounced by the far-right opposition party in European parliamentary elections.