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Ousted Afghan President Explains Decision to Flee; Taliban Unveil Hardline Interim Government; First Day of Paris Bataclan Terror Trial; English Students Return to Face-to-Face Learning; How Ukrainian Spies Planned to Snare Russian War Criminals. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): After diplomacy in Qatar comes compassion. America's top diplomat meets the Afghan families airlifted to

Germany after the Taliban took over Kabul.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be speaking to people who experienced that night and understand what I'm feeling and the violence and the images.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Six years after the Paris attacks, France's biggest anti-terror trial ever gets underway. We are live outside the courthouse

for you.

And --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy to be back. It is nice to be around everyone again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been really good, especially to be back after having the homeschooling.

ANDERSON (voice-over): With back to school season in full swing, tonight, we visit English students, who are themselves excited though their parents

worry whether schools are equipped to keep them safe from COVID.



ANDERSON: 6:00 pm here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello and a warm welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

We start with the ousted Afghan president, speaking out in the past hour or so again on his decision to flee the country as we get new images from the

Taliban of the man who is now in charge.

Ashraf Ghani released a long statement today, directed at the Afghan people, once again telling them that he left Kabul shortly after the

Taliban takeover to prevent a repeat of the bloodshed seen in the 1990s civil war.

He also calls allegations that he fled with millions of dollars belonging to the Afghan people, quote, "completely and categorically false."

The statement a day after the Taliban unveiled their new interim government.

Here's the first image from the Taliban of the acting prime minister, seated there in the middle between the acting finance minister and chief

justice. The cabinet comprised (sic) of Taliban hardliners with no women nor members of the former Afghan government who served during the war.

It is unclear just how long this caretaker government will actually serve or if any changes will occur over time.

What is clear is Afghanistan is in desperate need of international help. Germany's foreign minister, ahead of a meeting today with the U.S.

secretary of state, warning that Afghanistan faces a major humanitarian crisis.

America's top diplomat arriving in Germany earlier for that meeting with his German counterpart. Secretary of state Antony Blinken stopped to talk

to families there from Afghanistan, who are waiting for permanent resettlement.

And he also toured a hangar housing evacuees. More than 11,000 people currently being housed at U.S. military facilities in Germany; 23,000

already have departed for the United States or to other safe locations.

Sam Kiley is in Qatar, Nic Robertson in Islamabad, both connecting us today.

It was at this time yesterday that we saw it happen in real time, the Taliban spokesman announcing the caretaker government, which includes

members of a U.S. designated terror group.

Let's start with you in Islamabad tonight, Nic.

What do we know about the makeup of the government and how have Afghans been responding?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Afghans have been responding in Kabul by protesting that it doesn't include women. We have

seen street protests in Kabul, where women have been holding up placards, singing "Freedom, freedom, freedom," saying the government without women in

it is a loser, it won't succeed.

These are small protests; they were met yesterday with gunfire by the Taliban over people's heads. So there's a real risk, with people going out,

in this sort of protest. That's what we have seen in Kabul.

What we're understanding from the E.U., their spokesman there said this is not an inclusive looking government, not what we were expecting.

The U.S. State Department sort of said, in rather sort of muted terms, they're surprised about the makeup of some of the people in the government

and here they have to be speaking about the interior minister, Sarajuddin Haqqani, who has an FBI $10 million bounty on his head.

He's believed connected to Al Qaeda and with connections with terrorism. That's why he also has U.N. sanctions on him as well.


ROBERTSON: So this is the man that the international community would have to deal with ostensibly for counterterrorism issues inside Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network, their family has got four of the ministerial positions. They're a powerful unit within the Taliban itself. And many

analysts have said they are a potential thorn in the side of the Taliban going forward.

But the image presented to the international community is essentially getting a thumbs down, not that the international community can change the

situation right now. They're just saying this is not what we expected and we were looking to the Taliban's deeds to understand them.

I think the message from the Taliban is clear: we are doing what we want.

ANDERSON: Given the crisis or the looming humanitarian crisis, Sam, who will do business with this group and Afghanistan going forward?

Antony Blinken was in Doha. You had opportunities to put questions to him. I think it was before this group were announced. He is now in Germany.

What do we make of what we heard from Blinken while he was in Qatar?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, it was very striking and, as you say this was just before, hours before the

announcement of the government.

Be interesting to see the extent to which he would continue with the attitude he struck at this press conference, when he essentially blamed, as

much the State Department, for example, for an inability to process Americans stuck, still trying to get out of the country, saying indeed that

the cooperation had been very good with the Taliban all the way through the evacuation process.

And really, striking a rather conciliatory tone. Now within hours, the Taliban had appointed an interior minister with a price on his head

effectively, the leader or a leader of a notorious terrorist network responsible for a series of terror crimes in Kabul especially but all over


And it is these sorts of individuals who are going to be dealt with when it comes not just to matters of international terror and the efforts to

prevent Afghanistan from sliding back into a potential base for terrorist groups but on the much more important, from Afghanistan perspective,

humanitarian issues.

Can they unfreeze the $10 billion worth of foreign reserves that Afghanistan has frozen overseas, to get access to that?

It's very unclear, indeed, as to whether a government, with people with a price on their head for terrorism, is going to be trusted with

international finance.

Then you have got the additional issue of bilateral issues, funding; a lot of aid work is not actually government to government. It is the funding of

aid organizations that then carry out projects in country.

The WFP, with working through partners or Medecins sans Frontieres, doing hospitals or the emergency system, which is the name of an Italian NGO.

They've been running hospitals all the way through the last Taliban dispensation.

But during those years, there were precious little aid efforts going on in Afghanistan because it was so difficult to work with the Taliban. This is

not necessarily a government that signals that that is going to be any easier in the future.

And the needs are very real: 3.1 million children identified as in danger of acute malnutrition. The U.N. warning half a million already displaced

from the homes, and another half million may try to leave the country as not only out of fear of the Taliban but also out of sheer desperation,


ANDERSON: Nic, we are talking here about who is likely to do business with the Taliban and it is clear from the statements that we are getting, that

there is a real sort of reservation at this point from anybody in what we would sort of consider the West, any further engagement depending on the

behavior of the Taliban, says the German foreign minister.

The announcement of a transitional government without the participation of other groups and yesterday's violence against demonstrators and journalists

in Kabul are not signals that give cause for optimism.

There are a number of other countries who are likely to do business with the Taliban, aren't they?

They are regional partners in commerce. Briefly explain who they are and why.

ROBERTSON: China has said they'll continue communication with the new Afghan government, the Taliban. They have said that they'll continue to

work on humanitarian projects that will benefit the Afghan people.

Pakistan has a lot at stake here because, if the economy crashes in Afghanistan, they will feel the brunt of it.


ROBERTSON: They will see a wave of potential refugees coming here to Pakistan. They've dealt with that before in the '80s and '90s, took more

than 3 million refugees. And they feel they've been as generous as they can until now.

But this is a very real economic and political impact and it's clear there are terrorist elements inside Afghanistan -- the Pakistani Taliban --

already attacking across the border and attacking Pakistan's troops.

So there's a security risk for them involved in this. So Pakistan would like to see the international community hold its breath, if you will,

perhaps read the situation when the Taliban says this is an interim government and hope there's something better, might come after it.

But at least in the short term, make sure the humanitarian needs of the Afghans are met.

ANDERSON: Nic, Sam, to both of you, thank you very much.

What about those Afghans who managed to make it out of the country in the final chaotic days?

We have seen images of some of those in Germany and are waiting for further evacuation. Some are starting their new lives, including six children in

the U.K., following a terrifying departure from Kabul. CNN's Phil Black has their story.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's difficult to comprehend what these children are feeling: fear, loneliness, trauma. These six boys

and girls, age 5 to 17, from three different families, have been transported from the desperate streets of Kabul to a small English town.

They've left behind everything they know and love, including their parents. They are at least safe because of their cousin, Mesal's (ph) extraordinary


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're crying why. I don't know what to do.

BLACK: They cry every day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They cry every day, especially with their parents there. They're like, what's going to happen?

BLACK (voice-over): Mesal (ph) is 20 years old, a British citizen who was visiting family in Kabul as the Taliban took the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 24 hours, it is like the world flipped.

BLACK (voice-over): Mesal (ph) knew her whole family was suddenly in great danger because they are Hazaras, an ethnic group long persecuted in

Afghanistan and often massacred by the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first enemy for the Talibans are Hazaras.

BLACK (voice-over): So she eventually headed for the airport with her cousins, determined to save them. This video shows part of their journey.

Her uncle is driving. He repeatedly tells the children, "Don't be scared. Nothing will happen."

Just hours later, he would be dead.

Video captured by other people on the same day shows the chaos they were heading into around Kabul airport. She says they pushed through the crowds.

Her uncle was trying to clear a path when he was shot.

BLACK: He just fell?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just fell. He got shot right in the heart.

BLACK: Mesal (ph) didn't know where the bullet came from or what to do. She took this picture as he lay dying.


That's the last thing he said. He said, "Go," and I went.

BLACK: Did you look back?


BLACK (voice-over): She kept the children moving, eventually approaching some American soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said I'm a British citizen.

They said who are they?

Because they didn't have passport, documents, nothing.

I said that these are my kids. I have adopted them.

BLACK: But you didn't know which way it was going to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. There was -- it was a scene where, if they don't go, even one of them, if they don't go, I'm back. I'm not going.

BLACK: You meant that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And I explained it to the man and the soldier at looked me right in the face.


BLACK (voice-over): But for Mesal (ph), that enormous relief of saving six young lives has now been overwhelmed by great responsibility. The youngest,

just 5 years old, is deeply anxious about his parents' safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like, we're Hazara. They're going to kill us first. I don't have enough time. This is what he's telling me.

BLACK: Children grow up in Afghanistan knowing that Taliban means death for the Hazara?


BLACK (voice-over): This young woman's life is now on hold indefinitely as she cares for these children, soothes their nightmares, tries to convince

them they will see their parents again -- Phil Black, CNN, Hemel Hempstead, England.


BLACK: And you can find a lot more about the country that these evacuees left behind on our website. Got to get you the latest on the diplomatic

front there and we take a closer look at the makeup of the new Afghan government. That is or on your CNN app.


ANDERSON: An historic day of reckoning in France where the focus is on a Paris courtroom and a trial described as the biggest ever held in the


You're looking at the pictures of the van, bringing the chief suspect in the 2015 terror attack on Paris to court. The trial got underway a short

time ago. You only have to say the words "the Bataclan" and people across the world immediately know what you are referring to, a November night

nearly six years ago that haunts France. CNN's Melissa Bell takes us back to those traumatic hours.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): France, shaken to its core, November 13th, 2015, a night of terror that began at the Stade de France

and then saw coordinated attacks across Parisian bars, restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall.

In all, 130 people were killed that night. Now their families and those who survived are preparing to relive an ordeal that's beyond words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sleeping a little bit less. I have some flashbacks.

BELL (voice-over): France's biggest ever trial, seeing 300 victims testify, will be in this specially designed courtroom over at least nine

months. The French president at the time, Francois Hollande, will also give evidence.

But of the 20 men accused of planning, aiding and carrying out the attacks, only 14 will be in the dock. The most closely watched will be Salah

Abdeslam, he was arrested in Brussels a few months later, one of the only known survivors amongst those accused of being directly involved on the


ISIS may have claimed responsibility but so far he has refused to speak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It isn't so much that the trial is going to disappoint because we are not expecting a lot but that it might

not even shed much light.

BELL (voice-over): One of the challenges will be ensuring that justice is done on all sides.

The outpouring of grief that followed the attacks a reminder of how wounded France was as a country, with a question now of how neutral its judiciary

can be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It won't just be about sentencing but about democracy. It is the idea of justice that's in

question. In any case, it is tested in this trial.

BELL (voice-over): For those who were there that night and still live with its images, the trial will also be about being heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only the victims and people who experienced that that night can understand what I'm feeling and the violence and the images, what

I saw, the blood, the corpse.

BELL (voice-over): Something he says that will be hard to explain but necessary to say -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


ANDERSON: Police are on high alert and security is especially tight around the courthouse in central Paris. That is where CNN's Cyril Vanier is. He

joins us live.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can bring you updates on the first words of Salah Abdeslam, the lone surviving member of the commandos, that

took part, that carried out these attacks in Paris six years ago.

Whatever he says doesn't say even just his attitude really could be among the highlights of this eight- to nine-month trial, the biggest ever

organized in Paris this century.

He walked into the courtroom dressed all in black, therefore wearing the colors of the Islamic State group. He appeared to be combative. When he was

asked, as the 14 others were a moment ago, when he was asked simple questions about his identity, he said, number one, interrupting the judge,

"There is only one God but Allah."

Regarding his identity and specifically the profession he held before his role in carrying out the attacks, he said, "I gave up my profession to

become a fighter for the Islamic State," end quote.

He was also asked the question about the names of his parents, again, all with the simple objective to establish his identity.

He said, "The names of my father and mother don't matter here," end quote.

So if that is an indication -- and it more than likely is -- well, he doesn't intend to simply cooperate with the judge. And he does intend to

give his version of events -- or at least carry the voice that he wanted to bring into the trial, which will stand in sharp contrast with the weeks

that will be devoted to hearing the victims, survivors of this attack, Becky.

ANDERSON: Cyril Vanier outside the courthouse at the beginning of what is -- what he points out is a month's long trial, the biggest ever in French

history. Cyril, thank you.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, the Afghan resistance leader.


ANDERSON: Vowing not to give up the fight against the Taliban. We'll hear from the resistance movement's spokesperson next hour.

All this week we're talking about millions of kids returning to classrooms for the first time since the start of COVID-19. We're going to get you to

England tonight, where teachers wonder when they will receive the ventilation monitors that the government has promised.




ANDERSON: All this week we are talking about education. Millions upon millions of students around the globe are returning to classrooms, despite

the spread of the Delta variant and the lack of vaccines for everyone. And despite protests from many parents.

Well, at the same time there's very real worries that children are falling behind in learning and won't be able to make up for it. UNESCO and World

Bank data earlier this year showed at the peak of the crisis, 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were out of school; 125 million more

children will fall below the basic reading level.

And at a time when teachers need the most support, two-thirds of poorer countries slashed their education budgets.

Well, 20 years ago former British prime minister Tony Blair said our top priority was, is and will always be education, education, education. Few

British leaders would disagree with that.

The current prime minister Boris Johnson said recently that investment in global education is a Swiss Army knife that can solve, quote, "virtually

every problem that afflicts humanity."

But at home, his government is also being tasked with keeping kids safe from COVID-19. And right now that balancing act playing out across England,

where almost 9 million students have gone back into classrooms. Nina dos Santos is here with more on what are schools in England doing to try to

keep students safe?


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: Becky, the start of a new school year is the opportunity to start afresh if you like. But everybody knows

that not a lot changed for the better with coronavirus.

What school had teachers in facilities like this, just outside London, is to keep the measures in place of the last year of the pandemic in place

even if they're no longer obligatory.

Trying to keep doors open and students also have said they want to stay here. Let me bring you numbers that put things in context. This is still a

country, England and Wales and there's other parts like Scotland where children have been back in school for two weeks already.


DOS SANTOS: And also in Northern Ireland, where the infection rates continue to rise. In England, there are 40,000 cases per day of COVID-19.

And with the infection rate it's between 20 and 30 times higher than this time last year.


DOS SANTOS (voice-over): At Bertrard (ph) High School just north of London, pupils are happy to be back. I.T. lessons like these no longer have

to be taught online. And waiting in line for the sports hall isn't as tedious as it once seemed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy to be back. It's nice to be around everyone again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been really good, especially to be back after having the homeschooling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Along here, you can see slightly narrower corridors so we've had to use the one way systems or otherwise there would be a lot of

congestion. We've got hand sanitization pretty much everywhere.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): With nearly 9 million children returning to school across England this week, head teachers do all they can to contain

COVID-19 against a country wide infection rate much higher than a year ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have retained many of the COVID measures we had last year, like the one way systems, the recreational and social bubbles because

the students actually like them. They preferred them. So offsetting against the relaxation of fast masks. So they remain optional.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The succeed of the U.K.'s vaccination program for adults has given educators confidence these gates can stay open.

But uncertainty over whether 12 to 15 year olds should be immunized is worrying some parents and there's concern that measures to ensure proper

ventilation have not been adequately funded.

Schools were promised 300,000 air quality monitors. This school alone, with 1,450 pupils, will need 150 of the devices. It has yet to receive one.

DOS SANTOS: Is the government at the moment doing enough to keep everybody safe in the classroom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure the government is. I think our school is and I think we've continued with the lot of the measures we had before, the

one way systems, the doors open and the cleaning routines.

DOS SANTOS: Students and teachers are excited to be back but keeping COVID under control for a school of this size is a balancing act.

To ensure everyone's safety, the government recommends that all staff and pupils at English high schools get tested for COVID twice a week. Here

that's already revealed nine positive cases.

DOS SANTOS: The end of a policy of isolating anyone in contact with a suspected COVID case, rather than just close contacts of confirmed

infections makes a huge difference to Oscar. He doesn't yet know if the exams will be in person this year but he's still studying for them in hope

of attending university.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had to self isolate probably five or six times. At school I'm learning very well and when I'm at home, there's so many

distractions and you just lose the will to actually learn.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The lesson those in this school say they've learned is that kids are better off in class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do think you need to get on with it. I think all of us have had enough but we're still cautious.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Across England children, are now back in school. But without more clarity and advanced notice on government policy, it's

been difficult for schools to get back to normal.


DOS SANTOS: Becky, as you could hear there, it's not just the coronavirus that teachers are fighting here but also some clarity over vaccination of

an age group that's pertinent for an institution like this but for high school, to 11- to 18-year olds.

The next political hurdle that the government is having to decide upon, perhaps in the coming days, is whether or not to vaccinate 12 to 15 year

olds. And this is where people at this school say they're feeling the most concern from parents, some saying is it worth it?

Or when can my child have it? In the meantime, the government is also saying that they're debating potentially considering asking children themselves of that age group

whether they want to overrule their parent's own consent on the matter. A lot to play for in these first few days.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Thank you for that.

We'll continue to look at how COVID is impacting schools all over the globe. Tomorrow we'll bring you a report from Australia, where officials

are racing to get high school students vaccinated in time to allow them to take crucial exams in person.

We have been in Mexico, in Israel, in England and to Australia tomorrow.

You are watching two very busy hours of CONNECT THE WORLD.

Ukraine thought it had the perfect plan to ensnare some Russian operatives. But wait until you hear what happened when another country swooped in and

foiled the plan. We have the CNN exclusive right ahead.





ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi and you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

In July last year, security forces in Belarus arrested 33 suspected Russian mercenaries accusing the Kremlin of sending them in to enflame anti-

government tensions in the country ahead of presidential elections. Men were paraded on Belarusian state TV before being deported back to Russia.

But CNN can now reveal stunning details of what former Ukrainian intelligence officials say was actually not a failed attempt by Moscow to

meddle in the elections of Belarus at all but a foiled Ukrainian-led operation to capture and jail Russian mercenaries linked to war crimes.

Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance with this exclusive report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dramatic raid in a Minsk hotel was all over state TV, by the Russian's

special forces, shown arresting this group of alleged Russian mercenaries, experienced fighters who said they were described suspected of being sent

by Moscow to disrupt elections in the country last year.

"We got confirmed intel. These Russians had real combat experience and actually took part in armed conflicts," this heavily disguised Belarusian

police commander warned at the time.

But what he didn't know is why this mysterious group of Russians was really there. Few did until now.

CHANCE: All right, well, we're now driving to an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where we're set to meet a

group of former Ukrainian military intelligence officials, who have an extraordinary story about what actually went down in Belarus and about how

those Russian mercenaries were, in fact, part of an elaborate Ukrainian-led sting operation to capture suspected Russian war criminals to bring them to

justice here.

CHANCE (voice-over): The former high ranking officers spoke to CNN on condition we shield their identities. They're not authorized to disclose

details of what they say was an ambitious top secret plan backed by the United States that failed at the last moment when Belarus intervened.


CHANCE: When you saw all those people, those Russian mercenaries being arrested in Belarus, that was a nightmare for you.

What did you think?

SOURCE A, FORMER UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER (through translation): The feeling I got was very bad, because it meant all our hard work had gone

down the drain. We'd carefully prepared for more than a year in the hope that justice would prevail and that these bandits would be in prison and

punished. Unfortunately, this didn't happen.

CHANCE (voice-over): When he says bandits, he means Russian-backed fighters battling Ukrainian government forces in the country's breakaway

east. Among them, Russian nationals accused of involvement in some of the worst atrocities of the war, like the downing in 2014 of a Malaysian

airliner, MH17, with nearly 300 people on board.

Our intelligence sources say the men detained in Belarus have been identified over many months as having suspected links to war crimes.

SOURCE B, FORMER UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER (through translation): There were two who were present when the missile that downed MH17 was

launched. Four others were members of a group responsible for shooting down our military aircraft and killing at least 70 of our best men.

So identifying and punishing these people was of high interest to us.

CHANCE (voice-over): It was apparently of interest to U.S. intelligence, too. But U.S. officials deny having any direct role.

According to our sources, the Ukrainian-led operation got some U.S. cash, technical assistance and advice from the CIA on drawing Russian mercenaries

in. A senior U.S. official told CNN those allegations are false.

CHANCE: But identifying the right people and then luring them out of Russia required an elaborate deception. So our former Ukrainian military

intelligence sources told us they set about creating a fake private military company with its own Russian language websites.

On it, they advertised jobs, like one lucrative contract, $5,000 a month to protect oil facilities in Venezuela. That was the bait. And we're told

hundreds of Russian mercenaries actually took it.

CHANCE (voice-over): All they had to do, according to our sources, was prove who they were and where they fought.

SOURCE A (through translation): We started to call them and say, "Hey, man, OK, tell me something about yourself. Maybe you are not really a

fighter. Maybe you were a plumber or something like that."

And then they started to reveal things about themselves, sending us documents, military IDs and proof of where they'd fought and we're like,

"Bingo, we can use that."

CHANCE: They're sending you evidence of who they are?

SOURCE A (through translation): Yes, they sent it to us. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): In fact, what followed was, according to our sources, a fountain of freely volunteered intel, not just documents and photos but

potentially incriminating videos like this one, after the downing of a Ukrainian military aircraft in the eastern war zone, offered up by the

fighters themselves.

All Ukrainian intelligence had to do was pick the ones that wanted the offer of the lucrative Venezuela contracts and, because of COVID-19 travel

restrictions in Russia, assemble them in neighboring Belarus to fly out.

Our intelligence sources say the real plan was to land them in Ukraine and make the arrests.

SOURCE B (through translator): If these people would have ended up here in Ukraine, the details of their criminal acts would have become known around

the world. Ukraine could have brought them to justice and shown that our fight with Russia is serious and that we won't raise our hands and


CHANCE (voice-over): But the plan failed when the Belarusians arrested the group just hours before they were meant to leave. It could have been a

stunning blow to Moscow. Instead, according to our sources, a bold Ukrainian intelligence operation was foiled.

CHANCE: The current Ukrainian government trying to put distance between themselves and what unfolded last year. They're not yet responded to

request for a comment about this failed sting.

But even if this operation had been successful and so many Russians captured, it's unlikely anybody from the Ukrainian or the U.S. governments

would have wanted to take responsibility -- Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: A fire at an Indonesian prison has claimed at least 41 lives. The country's minister of law said 40 died while locked in their cells.

Another prisoner died on the way to hospital.

The guards could not open all of those cells fast enough. The minister said the prison is 400 percent over capacity and that he suspects an electrical

problem started the fire.

In Hong Kong police have arrested four activists from the group that organize the city's annual June 4th Tiananmen Square vigil.


ANDERSON: Police say the group did not submit requested information and it has accused it of being a foreign agent, which violates the city's national

security law. One Hong Kong alliance organizer posted on social media that police were at her door, trying to get in.

When we come back, the new teenage darling of the tennis world, we'll look at the player who came out of nowhere to be the youngest U.S. Open

semifinalist in more than a decade. That after this.




ANDERSON: Just a day after turning 19, Leylah Fernandez got quite the birthday present at the U.S. Open. The young seeded Canadian scored a

thrilling three-set victory to reach the semifinals in her first-ever U.S. Open appearance. Fernandez is now the youngest semifinalist at the Open

since Maria Sharapova back in 2005.