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Connect the World

Germany's Incoming Chancellor: Vaccines May Be Mandatory; Turkish President, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Meet in Ankara; Geopolitical Changes in Middle East as U.S. Influence Wanes; Families of Flight 752 Victims Demand Answers in Jet's Downing; Ukraine Upgrades Navy as Fears Grow of Russian Nation. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 11:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN, Abu Dhabi. This is "Connect the World" with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Very warm welcome. We are broadcasting from our Middle East Programming Hub here in Abu Dhabi.

Ethiopia's state run TV says Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is now on the front lines leading his troops in the fight against Tigray rebels.

State broadcast video of Ahmed with soldiers though the video is believed to be from a couple of months ago. Abiy is called for all able bodied

Ethiopians to join the fight. European nations like France, Germany and the UK are urging their citizens to get out of the country before they say it's

too late.

The rebels are trying to seize important roads, which would cut off the Capital Addis Ababa from supplies. I want bring in Larry Madowo, live now

from neighboring Kenya. What do we know specifically at this point?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can start Becky with what we don't know, which is that we have not seen any photos or any video so far of Prime

Minister Abiy Ahmed on the front lines, like he said he would be going to what we have heard from his spokesperson from the government spokesperson

of Ethiopia is that he is leading on the frontlines of this battle against this coalition of rebel forces that want to remove him from office, and

that he has handed over routine administrative duties to his deputy while he's handling this matter.

So what we are - and what we're told here is a Nobel Peace Prize winner now leading a war trying to make sure that he can defeat and vanquish the

Tigray People's Liberation Front and this coalition of militias who oppose him, all of them threatening to advance to Addis Ababa and remove him from

office. But we still don't have any evidence of that, at this stage.

ANDERSON: Just how worrying is this?

MADOWO: To say that it is worrying is an understatement. Because if this were to happen, where does this military escalation, then Ethiopia

destabilized means the Horn of Africa has destabilized. Ethiopia is not only just important to the Horn of Africa Ethiopia is also the political

capital of Africa is the seat of the African Union.

And you see, just in the last two hours or so, the UK, France, Germany and the U.S. all telling their citizens they need to leave Ethiopia when there

are still commercial flight options available because this might change at any time. And there is concern within diplomatic circles about the

possibility of a military escalation.

Even though the two sides the government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front agree that they need to find out a way to come to a negotiated

ceasefire that political will does not exist. So even though the Prime Minister of Ethiopia met with the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of

Africa, Jeffrey Feldman on Sunday, and he came out feeling that there was some progress.

The actual progress the realities, unless they're actually sitting and talking, then all of it is just wishful thinking at this stage.

ANDERSON: Yes. And that top U.S. Envoy to the region is saying that both sides feel that they are on the verge of victory, which is, as he put it

complicating diplomatic efforts for a negotiated ceasefire. So what happens next?

MADOWO: What happens next is hard to tell because one or two things could happen; they could find some kind of middle ground and agree to talk. And

the top priority for Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister is to push the Tigray People's Liberation Front backs the North back to Tigray.

The priority for the Tigray People's Liberation Front is to make sure that they get their demands met, which they don't want to be Abiy Ahmed. So

finding that middle ground is going to be difficult. The other one, which nobody wants to think about the possibility of full military escalation, a

war, which could lead to combat on the streets of Addis Ababa, this is Africa's second most populous nation.

And a lot of diplomatic energy is being spent to avoid that possibility of an actual confrontation in Addis Ababa. So, so far, it looks like that's a

very remote possibility, but it's a possibility of the same.

ANDERSON: Larry, thank you. Larry Madowo is on the story for you. Three political parties have sealed the deal for new coalition government the

first without Angela Merkel at the helm in 16 years social Democrats, the Free Democrats and the Greens today announcing their new plan to work

together on all of Germany's issues including the fourth wave of COVID-19 gripping the nation.

Olaf Scholz on his way to being the next Chancellor says the new coalition government may consider making COVID vaccinations mandatory. It's a top

priority with cases soaring Germany just saw its highest daily incidence rate ever. The entire European continent is grappling with a surge of new


A short time ago, the W. H. O. Director General said there are concerns that vaccines are providing a false sense of security have a listen.



TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The sheer number of cases is translating to unsustainable pressure on health

systems and exhausted health workers in many countries and communities we're concerned about the false sense of security, that vaccines have ended

the pandemic and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions.


ANDERSON: CNN's Barbie Nadeau is covering the wider Europe COVID lines for us. But I do want to start with Anna Stewart with more on this new

coalition government in Germany and the sobering assessment from the incoming Chancellor COVID a real concern to that new government in Germany


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Yes, of course, because these three parties have been struggling now for two months to form coalition. Lots of

compromise will have taken place. And they want to look ahead at all the policies that they've been elected for forward looking policies around


But of course, from day one, they will have to face this huge crisis at home the issue of COVID the fourth wave being absolutely terrible. And one

of the biggest headlines coming out of the press conference today was undoubtedly that this coalition government is going to look at whether or

not they should make vaccines mandatory.

Now this has come after two months of tough talks, and Olaf Scholz, who will be the new chancellor or being well with the party votes on this had

this to say.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN VICE-CHANCELLOR AND FINANCE MINISTER: The traffic light is in place. The SPD the Greens and the FTP have agreed in negotiations on

a joint coalition agreement and thus a new government alliance. We are now submitting this agreement to our parties for vote and we are comparing

intensively for all three parties to approve this agreement in the next 10 days. Our goal is to lead this alliance of red green and yellow at a

federal level a coalition eye level.


STEWART: A significant moment for Germany but also of course for the EU given Germany is such a powerful player in the EU the engine really for

growth. And Angela Merkel leaves after 16 years as Chancellor absolutely extraordinary all being well, the earliest we could see Olaf Scholz being

sworn in as the 6th of December.

And that would actually mean that Angela Merkel will not be the longest serving Chancellor after World War II as she was expected to be should

actually lose out to Helmut Kohl by just 12 days, Becky.

ANDERSON: Wow! Thank you for that. Bobby, as we said earlier, this government announcement coming against the backdrop of skyrocketing cases

in Germany. I spoke to the Head of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn last hour, have a listen to what he told me about this

latest surge in cases.


HENDRIK STREECK, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF VIROLOGY, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL BONN: Let's put it this way, if we hadn't had the vaccine program, and if he

hadn't had the vaccines, our health system would have collapsed with this surge of new cases. The vaccination prevents the people from getting really

sick in the majority of cases and prevents them of dying from COVID-19.

So overall, the issue is that we need to get more people vaccinated to prevent of the ICUs of just being overrun by COVID-19 cases. But at the

same time, we also need to get the message out that people who are vaccinated as still part of the pandemic can get infected and can transmit

the virus to someone else. They are just protected from a very serious illness.


ANDERSON: What are you saying Barbie? Certainly echoes what the head of the W. H. O. just said is he warned that cases in Europe could be as high as 2

million by March. What's the story? Is it is this across the continent or is this in pockets?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is in pockets very much. There are some countries that are doing relatively well in Europe, but all across the

block. You've got the issue with people with waning immunity now. People who did get vaccinated, those aren't the people who they're most concerned

about right now.

They're concerned about the people who haven't been vaccinated. But on the back of that they've got to get these booster programs moving in place. In

Italy they just changed the rule that you had didn't have to - you do not have to wait six months now since your last vaccine to get your booster.

You can do it within five months now.

They're doing that just to try to encourage people to - that are protected to stay protected. Now the people who are not protected those people who

are not vaccinated this pandemic has become very difficult for them.


NADEAU: In country after country the restrictions are aimed at them. Italy is as well talking about a new soaped up green pass where you no longer can

get into a say a restaurant or a movie theater with a negative COVID test. You have to be vaccinated and more and more we're seeing that across Europe

that those people who are not vaccinated will not be able to do much even if they aren't officially locked down. They really are going to be locked

out, Becky?

ANDERSON: Yes. Barbie and Anna thank you. You're watching "Connect the World" folks. Ahead on the show rain in Ankara, but clearing skies, it

seems for the future of Turkish UAE relations. We're going to look at what led to the meeting today between the leaders of these diplomatic rivals?

And almost two years since Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane. The victims' families are still demanding justice. We will speak to one man who

says the international community simply needs to do more.


ANDERSON: Improved relations with an eye towards changing Middle East. That's the backdrop of a meeting today between President Recep Tayyip

Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and day to day leader of the UAE.

The two nations have been diplomatic rivals for the past decade. Whereas the leaders met today their diplomats signed a series of deals on energy on

technology and on finance. So how did Turkey and the UAE get to this point our Jomana Karadsheh tells us it's due in large part to the new

geopolitical reality in the Middle East as American influence here wanes.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was a stunning development the UAE's National Security Adviser in Ankara this summer

meeting with the Turkish President. What followed even more stunning a phone call between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UAE's de facto

ruler Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed?

A senior Emirati official describing the call as "Positive and friendly" based on a new phase in which the UAE seeks to build bridges, maximize

commonalities and work together with friends and brothers to ensure future decades or for regional stability. This week, the two leaders are meeting

for the first time in years.

YUSUF ERIM, MENA AND TURKEY FOREIGN POLICY EXPERT: The reconciliations I saw the least likely are the most problems divergent interests was the UAE

Turkey relationship. So this type of fast forwarding of the rest conciliation process leading to a top level meeting is definitely



KARADSHEH (voice over): The rift emerged with the so called Arab Spring with Turkey support for popular uprisings in groups close to the Muslim

Brotherhood putting it at odds with Middle East monarchies, including the UAE that viewed these movements as a threat to their own rule.

Tensions continue to rise, with Turkish officials accusing the UAE of supporting the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. And in 2017, it was Turkey that

extended a lifeline to Qatar when its Gulf neighbors tried to isolate Doha. The rivalry between the two regional powers played out through their

expansionist foreign policy across the Middle East and Africa, where it unfolded dangerously in Libya's devastating proxy war.

KARADSHEH (on camera): But the dynamics across the region are starting to change with clear geopolitical shifts from Qatar's reconciliation with the

Saudi led alliance two longtime foes Saudi Arabia and Iran engaged in diplomatic talks. The UAE and Iran are also trying to de-escalate tensions.

And it seems Turkey is on a diplomatic spree, trying to mend ties with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and now bitter rival the UAE.

ERIM: There's a lot of changing regional dynamics that are leading actors in the region to reformulate and recalibrate their foreign policies now,

the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Aramco attack on Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed militia, the withdrawal of American forces from

Afghanistan, led by the Taliban takeover, the perception of less U.S. engagement in the region of return to the Iran nuclear deal. These are all

factors that are leading these countries to reformulate their strategies.

KARADSHEH (voice over): For Turkey, this is not just about mending fences; it is very much about the dire state of its economy, with inflation near 20

percent and its currency the Lira at an all-time low.

ERIM: President Erdogan came to power in 2002 on the back of positive economic policies, he stayed in power due to the economy, so a weaker

economy before 2023 elections is definitely something he doesn't want and the Emiratis have the money to be able to provide a booster shot for the

Turkish economy.

KARADSHEH (voice over): Before relations sour Turkey was one of the UAE's biggest trade partners, and both sides are hoping to pick up where they

left off with the Gulf state already eyeing more investment opportunities in Turkey.


KARADSHEH: No one is expecting one high level meeting to resolve a decade long feud, but many are hoping this could be the beginning of the end of a

rivalry that continues to reverberate across this region and beyond Jomana Karadsheh, CNN Istanbul.

ANDERSON: I want to bring in Author, Professor and Friend of this show Fawaz Gerges. He wrote a book entitled, "Making the Arab World: What's

happening now" part of a remaking of this region. I want to start with where we are at here with Turkey and the UAE.

I mean, it's quite a scene, isn't it to see these two leaders standing together for the benefit of our viewers who aren't is perhaps imbued in

Middle Eastern politics, as you and I are just explain the significance what you believe is going on behind the scenes it?

FAWAZ GERGES, AUTHOR, "MAKING THE ARAB WOLD": Well, I think we are what we are seeing in the past two years are so, is most of the regional

heavyweights are trying to climb down because they climbed up too high in the past 10 years.

Whether you're talking about Turkey, whether you're talking about Iran and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, I don't see a major

breakthrough. I don't see a rapprochement I see de-escalation.

I see more focus on the economy is the economy, the economy in particular after the COVID-19 situation that had hit Middle Eastern states very hard,

whether you're talking about Turkey, or Egypt or Iran and the rest. So there is de-escalation.

The American retrenchment Becky from the Middle East was a decisive factor. In the fact now, regional players have to really fend for their own safety.

All in all, it's a good situation. But let me give you an idea why I'm not too optimistic.

Even though Iran and Saudi Arabia are talking to each other, yet, the regional - the regional proxy wars are escalating, whether you're talking

about Yemen or whether you're talking about Lebanon, or whether you're talking about Syria, so even though they're talking to each other, even

though they are deepening economic ties, but the proxy war was continued to inflame and do a great deal of damage in the region.


ANDERSON: And I just want and you've got a really interesting perspective. So let's just pick that apart a bit. Deepening economic ties, that is

certainly what we are seeing going on around the region at present.

And the Turkish President certainly has a lot of problems on his hands so far as the economy is concerned. We've just had the announcement that the

Emirates have put in, have announced a $10 billion investment fund in Turkey today.

So you can see where these sort of bilateral ties are strengthening in terms of the economy. And you see that around the region. It's when you as

you rightly point out, it's when you come to the region and its conflicts and its problems that you that you you're not convinced that this region is

out of the woods correct.

We are seeing a recalibration. Certainly, we are seeing a rebalancing, certainly, and whether or whether Washington wants it or not, we are seeing

the waning influence of the states here, aren't we?

GERGES: I mean, you really you have summarized the major dynamics that are unfolding in the region. You have de-escalation. You have revival of

economic ties at that key. Even though Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have been waging a bitter fight in Libya, in the eastern Mediterranean, and

the Gulf, the economic ties have never been ruptured.

Last year, the trade between Turkey and the United Arab Emirates reached almost 15 billion U.S. dollars. So what we're seeing really is that more

deepening of economic ties. What I see is the following, I think you'll have a major focus on the economic bilateral relationship, and what the

regional powers are doing, they have compartments.

So they continue to really support the regional proxies, whether you're talking about Libya, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, and

Saudi Arabia support the actors in Libya, but they try to really manage their rivals.

And this is good, everything. I'll take anything Becky at this stage. We are desperate for de- escalation. I would like the regional players to

really think of more of really trying to find a way to create what I call regional security architecture, in you regional security architecture.

Instead of waging and battling proxy wars, I like him to really find ways to co-exist, --piece, whether you're talking about Yemen, or Syria, or

Lebanon, or Libya. So far, we have not seen that. But I'll take it at this particular stage.

And yes, I mean, I think the reason why President Erdogan is, I mean, this is not now as you know, Turkey President Erdogan has gone on a charm

offensive in the past year vis-A -vis Egypt, vis-A -vis the Gulf states and the eastern Mediterranean.

Because yes, I mean, the Turkish Lira has lost almost 40 percent, 40 percent of its value in the past year. And inflation, as your report said,

basically is more than 20 percent. So economic necessities are bringing regional players to really deal with each other. So far the region -

continue to unfold and rage.

ANDERSON: And what's really interesting is that you are seeing many key players in the Middle East deciding to take a different approach, a new

approach to some of their long standing issues.

Motivated by two beliefs really one is that the U.S. has got less stickability than before but also because they genuinely seem to believe

that a new approach is needed that these old approaches haven't worked. This is something that the Jordanian Foreign Minister said to me recently

about the reason for the --, the return to near normalized relations with Syria, for example.

And we saw the foreign minister from the UAE in Damascus the other day, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to all intents and purposes expected to

be sort of welcomed back into the Arab fold. What are your thoughts on that?

GERGES: Well, I mean, what we need to understand and I think again, Becky, the past 11 years since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, 2012, what you

have multiple regional Cold War's and I think the scenario I think the logic was, lose, lose, everyone has lost.

So we are moving now from lose, lose to win, win. Neither President Erdogan nor Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto leader the United Arab Emirates

are going to really basically give up their regional gains, but they're trying to basically manage their rivals.


GERGES: Why, for the simple reason, the Americans are retrenching, the Russians are in, there is a regional vacuum security vacuum. The economic

situation is really terrible, as you well know, everywhere, even in the Gulf, because they cannot just depend on oil, but the energy.

So all in all, a host of variables have really motivated regional players to fend for their own and try to find ways to coexist with each other. My

hope is that they move from this particular stage from de-escalation into the next stage, finding ways to create new security architecture whereby

the major civil wars.

And the major wars raging in Yemen and Libya and Lebanon and Iraq, basically, they'll find ways to resolve them and bring about peace and

stability and prosperity. We're still far off, but at least they've taken they have taken the first step in a long journey.

ANDERSON: Right. And we are not just the first step, I think we all see a number of steps being taken all over this region, not least, any rock, for

example, which recently hosted a regional summit, that allows longtime rivals Saudi and Iran to sit across from each other.

I mean, for sessions, an unimaginable scene again, just a few years ago, Iraq's be mediating talks between the two countries, I recently spoke to

the country's foreign minister in what was a wide ranging interview, have a listen at what he told me.


FUAD HUSSEIN, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: Iraq can play an important role in the area. You see, although you have got many problems, even some problems

with our neighboring countries, but still, perhaps we are the only country which has got a good relationship with all countries in the area in the


Our relationship with the Gulf States is excellent. We have got, of course, a good relationship with our neighboring country, Turkey, and Iran, and

Jordan, and even Syria so we can play any portable.


ANDERSON: Right. And Iran of course, in play at present, we are expecting that Iran talks to begin once again in Vienna on Monday, just finally, your

perspective on the significance of Iran at present for this region and what you believe is likely to happen next.

GERGES: Well, you know, Becky the talks between the United States and Iran since the victory of President Biden was really a major is a major factor

in the equation, the reason why the Saudis and the Iranians are talking to each other, because they're trying to really think of the post nuclear


We do not know whether there will be a breakthrough between the great powers and Iran, it seems to me the situation is very complex. And there's

I mean, storm, gathering over the nuclear talks for a variety of reasons.

But at the end of the day, I come back to the basic I mean, logic, there is no trust between Saudi Arabia and Iran, even though they have basically

talked to each other, they have had four rounds of talks.

They're escalating the rivalries in the major theatres of Yemen and Lebanon and Iraq. I mean, what the Iraqi leader told you absolutely correct, about

Iraq, trying to basically free itself from the Iranian rock and U.S. harder place.

But look what's happening in Iraq itself. Iraq itself is in state in progress, because the political situation in Iraq is highly polarized among

the various political actors. All in all, we are seeing many signs of change in the region.

But I don't think we are really we're seeing any major breakthrough, because the situation is unfolding too quickly and look Becky; we are

blinded by the dust. There's still a great deal of trust, even though the regional the talks among major regional players is positive is a positive

sign that is a bit of rationality. I see a bit of rationality really dominating the regional scene at this particular moment.

ANDERSON: With that we'll leave it there. It's always a pleasure having you on it's a complex region. Its multi layered. We do our best to try and pull

those layers apart and get a sense of what is going on below the surface as it were.

Thank you for that. Up next on "Connect the World: it's been almost two years since Iran shot down a passenger plane. Want to speak to one man

demanding justice that is after this.



ANDERSON: Well, it's been almost two years since Ukraine Airlines Flight 752 was shut down after takeoff in Iran and the victims' families are still

demanding justice.

The deaths of all 176 people on board came during a period of heightened tension between Iran and the United States. The crash happened hours after

Iran retaliated in Iraq for U.S. drone strike that killed its Military Commander General Qasem Soleimani. Well, days later Iranian officials

admitted to shooting down the passenger jet saying it was misidentified as a cruise missile. Well this week Iran started hearings into the crash.

And today the victims' families are releasing a new fact finding report. Hamed Esmaeilion tragically lost his wife and young daughter seen here in

the plane crash. He is now the speaker for the Association of victim's family.

And he joins me now from Toronto and firstly, we are so terribly, terribly sorry for your loss, Hamed. I want to begin by reading a portion of the

report. We cannot blindly accept Iran's assertions it says,

It is the belief of the association that high ranking officials of Iran are responsible for the downing of flight PS752. And not just a handful of low

ranking IRGC members as per the claims of the government of Iran, there is no doubt that many questions still need to be answered. Had, why did the

families feel the need to release this report? You talk about so many questions that still need answers. What are they?

HAMED ESMAEILION, SPOKESPERSON, ASSOCIATION OF FAMILIES OF FLIGHT PS752 VICTIMS: Thanks for having me, Becky. For the last two years there have

been several reports published.

One was the Prime Minister's Special Advisors report in Canada and the other one was a forensic report done by Canadian government and the United

Nations Special Rapporteur, Dr. Agnes Callamard.

Unfortunately, none of these reports answered these questions. This time - was Dr. Callamard report that raised some questions and the doubt that the

downing of PS752 could have been intentional if Iran doesn't give any explanation.


ESMAEILION: So Iran hasn't given any explanation. And then we decided, so to speak to the aviation experts, military experts gather information, call

today, you know, talk to the informants, and then talk to the families that witness as witnesses. And even hire a private investigator to put all this

information together and publish the report today.

ANDERSON: This week, Iran began a so called trial that will see as I said, 10 low ranking suspects tried, what do you make of what is happening in


ESMAEILION: So if you go to our report, you will find that we say that the downing of Flight PS752 was an intentional act. What they do in Iran is

based on the human error story that the Supreme Leader of Iran asked the court to proceed, so there are 10 paths is coming to the court.

We know the names, but we don't know the rankings. We don't know who they are. When the head of IRGC and the head of aerospace of IRGC, they confess

in front in front of the camera in Iran, that they down Flight PS752 and they took the responsibility.

So we believe the families believe that the Supreme Leader of Iran as a commander in chief, the commanders of IRGC, the members of National

Security Council, all of them should sit on the witness stand on that bench to answer the questions and say, first of all, why they didn't close the

airspace that night. Second of all, who ordered to shoot down Flight PS752?

We know that they screened the passengers in the airport if they have American citizenship or American passport, so they wanted to be sure that

there is no American on the flight. So we know that this story of misidentification and misalignment is a fabricated story.

And this is based on the facts based on the conversation that we have. So there are lots of findings in this report. We know that the destructive

evidence, the phone devices, they have been tampered with, after the fact after master crashed and why they did they - they hide something here.

ANDERSON: You obviously tragically lost your wife and daughter. You've talked in the past about finding closure. Very briefly, do you feel like

this report will do that for you? Is there some sort of closure at this point?

ESMAEILION: The government's they have promised us to do an impartial international investigation. They failed to do so the four countries that

they are involved. They were not able to have a joint investigation about this case.

Ukraine is the only country the RCMP of Canada, I mean, the Federal Police; they refuse to open the criminal case here. And we don't know the truth. If

we don't know the truth, what kind of closure we are talking about.

And about justice, if we don't have this case, in international criminal court or in a domestic court in Canada, or in Ukraine for 55 Canadian

citizens who were murdered in cold blood, what kind of justice we can have. So these are our questions, these are our demands, and so far, nothing for


ANDERSON: Well, I hope the world is listening tonight. And I do hope that you will find some closure. Thank you for joining us. We will continue to

follow this case Hamed, thank you, taking a very short break, back after this.



ANDERSON: The U.S. Embassy in Kiev is warning Americans are what it calls unusual Russian military activity near Ukraine's borders. At the same time,

Ukrainian forces are carrying out what Kiev calls a special operation to shore up the country's border with Belarus.

Now this all comes as the world watches the buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. Fear and potential Russian invasion Kiev isn't taking

any chances. It seems it's pressing ahead with upgrades to its navy. CNN's Fred Pleitgen got a rare look at the work underway at a naval base.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On patrol in some of the most contested waters in the world. Ukraine's Navy

took us on an artillery boat in the Sea of Azov, just as tensions with Russia have reached a boiling point.

Our main goal is to defend and keep the sovereignty of Ukraine from the direction of the sea the captain tells me. Russia has been massive troops

near Ukraine's borders the U.S. says warning its allies a large scale invasion could happen soon.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Ukrainians believe that if Russia does decide to launch an attack of a Sea of Azov could be one of the main battlegrounds.

That's why the Ukrainians are both modernizing their fleet, but also their infrastructure on land as well.

PLEITGEN (voice over): The Azov coastline holds a strategic value to Russia. It would allow President Vladimir Putin to establish a much sought

land corridor to connect Russia to annexed Crimea.

Ukraine's defense ministry gave us rare access to the massive construction going on at the Berdyansk Naval Base. Kiev has now ordered this building

program to urgently be accelerated with the Russian threat looming large.

PLEITGEN (on camera): In order to complete this project as quick as possible, the Ukrainian military tells us they are now working seven days a

week and they say once it's finished, it will offer a formidable deterrent against any Russian aggression.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Upgrade seemed badly needed here with much of Berdyansk port in other disrepair. Ukraine says new facilities will allow

them to base more and bigger ships here. We are ready this officer says that is why we are here so that at any time if there is any aggression on

the Azov Sea, we can resist it.

Ukraine's president says Russia has positioned close to 100,000 troops near its borders, which the Kremlin denies, these satellite images appearing to

show dozens of military vehicles near Yelnya in Southwestern Russia.

The Biden Administration has warned Moscow not to attack and is mulling more weapons deliveries to Kiev. CNN has learned one U.S. defense officials

say Russia's aim may be to create confusion or to get concessions. The Kremlin dismisses talk about possible invasion as hysteria. But Vladimir

Putin also issued a clear warning.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We need to consider that Western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kiev modern lethal weapons

and provocative exercises in the black scene. And not only there but also other regions close to our borders.

PLEITGEN (voice over): Ukraine's armed forces say they are on constant alert preparing for an armed confrontation they hope can be avoided.


ANDERSON: That's it from us tonight. Marketplace Middle East follows this short break. Stay with us.



ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR, CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to Marketplace Middle East, I'm Eleni Giokos. And I'm here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the

kingdom is hosting its annual future Investment Initiative, commonly known as "Davos in the desert".


GIOKOS (voice over): The conference seeks to support the development of technology in addressing some of the world's biggest social and

environmental challenges.

Now, in its fifth year, it has faced challenges of its own, from numerous attendees boycotting the events in 2018, in the wake of the murder of Jamal

Khashoggi, to a hybrid forum last year, in the midst of the pandemic.

GIOKOS (on camera): Today, it's a who's who of global leaders and most influential business executives and policy makers gathered here to discuss

innovations and to find solutions to the world's pressing problems.

And it's centered around this year's theme of investing in humanity high on the agenda, navigating the world economy through unprecedented times. And

the key lies in technology.

GIOKOS (voice over): From Space Technology, drones, satellites, and even electric jets think the Jetsons.

ALEX ASSEILY, VICE CHAIRMAN, LILIUM: Are the only electric vertical takeoff and landing jet that uses jet powered propulsion rather than propellers.

GIOKOS (voice over): The biggest names in technology and innovation make their presence known in Saudi Arabia as they look to the Middle East as

their next frontier for growth.

The big news at the future Investment Initiative is the announcement that 44 multinationals from Siemens to PepsiCo and Baker Hughes will move their

Middle East regional headquarters to the kingdom. Many say the move is all about the tech opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

JOSEPH BRADLEY, CEO, NEOM TECH AND DIGITAL HOLD CO: These multinationals have choices. They are just like anyone else. And at the end of the day,

they're going to make their choice based on business value and growth. No, we haven't course anyone to come. It's all been about business and a bit

about selling our value proposition.

GIOKOS (voice over): And that value proposition includes Neom build is the world's first cognitive city.

BRADLEY: So when we go to a cognitive city, we need one that is predictive, that is proactive. In other words, eliminates friction from your life.

GIOKOS (voice over): At the summit Neom sign to deal with Oneweb for $200 million.

NEIL MASTERSON, CEO, ONEWEB: Our mission is to connect the unconnected. And the way that we do that is that we use satellite technology to essentially

deploy low latency broadband connectivity across the world.

GIOKOS (voice over): Representatives say the joint venture agreement between Neom Tech and digital subsidiary will bring satellite connectivity

to Saudi Arabia and the neighboring Middle East and East African countries.

BRADLEY: We're seeing that only from Neon has gone from a vision and PowerPoint slides to entities that are executing to customers that are

buying our value proposition. If you look around the world, why are they come in this area? Let's be clear.

They're coming to this area because 60 percent of Saudis under the age of 35. The cloud penetration or growth rate in this area is like 40 percent

CAGR year over year. It's a growth story.

GIOKOS (voice over): And it's not just the Gulf region tapping into new tech horizons. From 2019 to 2021 Turkey went from zero, unicorns to five

private startups valued at over $1 billion, mainly in the tech sector, including online shopping services like Trendyol which recently reached a

value of $10 billion following a $350 million investment by Alibaba.


GIOKOS (voice over): Is the region undergoes significant change the Middle East presents an abundance of opportunity and innovation through

technology. Jomana Karadsheh, CNN for Marketplace Middle East.


KARADSHEH (voice over): The UAE is one country leading the way in the tech sector, even creating the first ever Minister of Artificial Intelligence

back in 2017. I caught up with Omar Al Allama, in Dubai, to talk about the UAE digital transformation.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Your Excellency, Minister, thank you very much for joining us, it's good to be here. It looks like a very exciting place. So

we're talking about digital transformation rights and transforming the UAE's economy. What does that mean for you as the AI Minister when you're

thinking about the future of the UAE?

OLAMA: So let's talk about internet and connectivity first on the --. 4G as per some analysts created an opportunity cost for the U.S. economy around

$800 billion.

It set the motion for the creation of companies like Uber, companies like Airbnb and others that leveraged on GPS data on, you know, internet data or

internet connectivity and telecom data together in one device.

5G will have trillions of dollars of impact, not just on the U.S., but globally. How can we ensure that we, as a country invest in infrastructure

today, to be able to be players in the future moving forward? What we do know is we want to be the best country when it comes to quality of life

moving forward.

KARADSHEH (on camera): So you're thinking social impact, you're thinking business impact, and then you're just you know, thinking about how sectors

can be propelled right? But for many people, AI is still the sort of abstract thing like, yes, it's kind of happening, it's filtering through

into our lives.

How are you bringing it into reality? What are the things that you're seeing that have made a significant impact in the UAE?

OLAMA: Let's look at different ways that AI is being deployed. If you look at oil and gas, for example, AI is being deployed in the oil and gas sector

in the UAE, to ensure that if you can't control the price of oil, you can deploy AI to make your production distribution storage of oil much better,

and the processes are much better.

So you can actually have efficiency gains that will translate to reducing the cost per barrel and increasing your margins. So instead of trying to

dictate the prices, let's try to improve our processes, and improve our insights from the data that we have and create more with less.

KARADSHEH (on camera): So if I just say, describe what it would be like to live in the UAE, in say, the next five to 10 years, what are the

fundamental changes that you think will be a reality?

OLAMA: So the first thing I'll say is that I don't think technology is going to be at the forefront. I think technology as it evolves and improves

will be very pervasive and can be very hidden.

And what we are going to see is we are going to see human beings be able to do their job better, they're going to have a lot more time on their hands,

and they're going to be a lot happier. That is the ultimate goal.

Our goal as the government is to use all of these tools, whether it's AI blockchain or any other technology to improve the human life in the UAE and

to improve the lives not just on the locals of everyone, the residents, the locals, the tourists, through technology.

The technology is a means to an end, and the end is happiness of people. So I think the last 50 years were proved that it can be done, not just for the

Middle East, it can be done globally, that you can be a startup nation, you can have enlightened leaders.

You can set a vision that attracts people from 200 nationalities to come together to live work and thrive for a better future not just for the local

economy. Dubai and the UAE today is a hub for the global economy around it right.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Well, I'm glad to be part of the journey.

OLAMA: I'm glad you are.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Thank you very much; we're going to stick - to see you.


GIOKOS: Up next we had to Israel to meet up with one Tech Company that pivoted its business during the global pandemic through innovation and




GIOKOS: Welcome back to Marketplace Middle East from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When it comes to navigating an unprecedented situation, nothing comes to

mind quicker than COVID-19.

The global pandemic had a profound impact on economies around the world. But for one Tech Company, innovation and adaptation was key. And that means

acceleration of tech adoption; Hadas Gold has more from Israel.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When COVID hit this Israeli companies fortune soared. TytoCare allows consumers to bring the doctor's

office to their home. It's modular smart device paired with innovative software allows you to perform eight different types of medical exams and

share them with your healthcare provider anywhere at any time.

When COVID shut down most routine in person medical visits, TytoCare experienced exponential growth, saying they tripled their manufacturing

output as a result. Co-founded by Dedi Gilad in 2012 patients in several countries can get TytoCare from their doctors or health insurers.

DEDI GILAD, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, TYTOCARE: Do you know that you're doing a type of exam that are typically being done in a clinic, you do it from

home? And the physician gives you a feedback, either in real time they actually see your ear or listen to your lungs. And they give you thumbs up

themselves or the app do that and they later on give you a diagnosis.

GOLD (voice over): To see just how simple it is, I tested out my own ears and lungs. TytoCare app helps guide patients through the process.

GOLD (on camera): See the inside of my ears.

GILAD: Yes, this is your ear, amazing picture. Really, wow.

GOLD (on camera): OK.

GOLD (voice over): TytoCare's AI lets you know when you've captured the right image or measurement.

GOLD (on camera): And it got the green checkmark saying that it's taken the right picture.

GOLD (voice over): Exams of the lung and heart record high definition sound to send to your doctor. Dedi Gilad says their biggest innovation is in

their software, storing all of a patient's medical exams and using artificial intelligence to track patterns, even alerting a clinician on its

own if something is wrong.

GILAD: We really think the edge is on the data analysis, title is very strong. We created for the first time this very basic but inaccessible

data, those sound recordings of the heart, the lungs, the imaging of the ear, the throat and so forth are not existing in a digital way anywhere.

Unlike CT scans, unlike MRIs, so when you get collect so much data from the consumers under all the security required security, you can start analyze

the data and provide insights, insights for the parents, but more importantly, insight for the clinician.

GOLD (voice over): TytoCare is betting that even as the world hopefully slowly emerges out of the pandemic, the preference of Telehealth at home as

the new frontline to health care is here to stay. Hadas Gold, CNN, Tel Aviv.


GIOKOS: Here in Saudi Arabia, there is optimism around as governments, businesses and entrepreneurs are finding solutions for a more digital

world. If you want to know more about these stories, you can visit our websites at Middle East. And that's it for this edition

of Marketplace Middle East from me Eleni Giokos in Riyadh, it's bye for now.