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Biden-Putin to Discuss Ukraine by Video Call; WHO Europe Says Delta Must Be Controlled before Omicron Surge; Stolen Gilgamesh Tablet Returned to Iraq. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 07, 2021 - 10:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are holding a high stakes call this hour. Topping the agenda: Ukraine.


OLEKSIY REZNIKOV, UKRAINE'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE: No red lines from Kremlin side would be here (ph). Red line is here in Ukraine.

KINKADE (voice-over): That's Ukraine's defense minister with an urgent request to the U.S. President ahead of that meeting. We're on the ground in



KINKADE (voice-over): Plus China says the U.S. has shot itself in the foot. The Olympic boycott is undermining any chance for Beijing's

cooperation with the White House.


KINKADE: I'm Lynda Kinkade live in Atlanta, filling in for my colleague, Becky Anderson. Good to have you with us. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

Russia is downplaying the chance of any breakthroughs in a critical video call between the Russian and U.S. presidents which is happening this hour.

U.S. President Joe Biden will warn his counterpart, Vladimir Putin, if Russia invades Ukraine, it will face severe economic sanctions.

Now we have some satellite imagery, which shows a massive troop buildup in Russia along the Ukrainian border; nearly 100,000 soldiers are there right

now. And U.S. intelligence says that could increase to 175,000 ahead of a possible invasion next month.

Ukraine's defense minister says pro Russian separatist forces are reinforcing positions along the border with snipers and heavy weapons. The

defense minister warns that if Russia does invade Ukraine, it will cause, in his words, "a really bloody massacre," and would have disastrous

consequences for all of Europe.

Chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny is watching developments from the White House. And our senior international correspondent Frederik

Pleitgen is in Berlin.

Good to have you both with us.

Firstly, let's start with you, Fred. Ukraine the main source of contention right now.

Will the U.S. and Russia reach any sort of agreement today?

What are the expectations for this video call?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the expectations certainly aren't very high, as far as the Russian side is

concerned. You mentioned the spokesman said today no one is expecting any massive breakthroughs on this call.

The Kremlin does say that they believe the fact that these two leaders are speaking, that in itself is already a good thing and shows diplomacy is

still very much at work. You're right, of course; Ukraine will be the main topic of those talks.

The Russians for their part are saying they want to discuss what they call their red lines as far as Ukraine is concerned. The U.S. has already said

that they believe that any sort of talk of red lines is not something that is helpful in this case.

The Russians are saying that they want assurances that Ukraine will not become a NATO state and there will not be any further eastward expansion of

NATO. Now this has already been -- this demand has already been rejected, not just by the U.S. but of course, also by the U.S.' European allies, by

NATO itself and by the Ukrainians.

And the Ukrainians are very much saying these two leaders, they do believe this talk is very important. The Ukrainians are saying they have a massive

say in this as well. It is their country and it is their situation.

And Ukrainians have also said that they would be prepared if there was a Russian invasion. The president of Ukraine visited troops yesterday and he

said that Ukraine is prepared for any sort of aggressive move by Russia.

So right now the Ukrainians saying they're going to have fierce resistance or would have fierce resistance; they would remain steadfast as these very

important talks are set to start anytime now. And certainly all of Ukraine will be watching this very closely. But all the U.S.' allies will be

watching this as well.

KINKADE: And no doubt all eyes waiting to find out what comes of this meeting.

To you, Jeff, what is the U.S. President likely to say to Vladimir Putin about the troop buildup and what tools are at his disposal?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden, as he prepares for this meeting, which should, as you said, should

be getting underway any minute now, he'll do this side of the video call from the Situation Room, the highly secure room in the lower level of the

White House here.

But one of the things we're told he intends to offer is a de-escalation set of diplomatic alternatives.


ZELENY: By that, is really trying to persuade and encourage, I guess, if you will, President Putin from doing an invasion and if he does, to remind

him of the cost of such actions, largely through economic sanctions.

There was a phone call yesterday that President Biden engaged in with the European leaders as well, from Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain,

all really getting on the same page of coordinated message to talk about these tough economic sanctions.

And essentially try to send a message to Vladimir Putin that he would be isolated and there would be severe consequences, financially speaking, if

there is an invasion.

All that said, though, the White House is under no illusions that this is something that President Biden necessarily has the upper hand here. We're

just six months after their first face to face summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Cyberattacks were the main item of business there. That is largely going to be potentially discussed but certainly is not at center stage, Ukraine at

center stage here. So President Biden has some diplomatic tools at his disposal here.

But there are certainly not high expectations here among administration officials, that there will be any resolution in the short term on this. But

again, seeking diplomacy, certainly trying to ward off any types of military action.

And we should also point out, U.S. officials do not believe Vladimir Putin has yet made a decision on whether he's going to go ahead with an invasion

of Ukraine.

KINKADE: Making a good point there, Jeff.

I want to go to Fred.

If an invasion is in the works, how prepared is Russia?

What could this invasion look like?

And how much support does Ukraine need?

What does it expect from the U.S. and from Europe?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, first of all, the Russians would, for an invasion of a country like Ukraine, would need a massive army. And one of the things

we heard from these intelligence estimates, from the Ukrainian source, they believe right now Russians have amassed a little under 100,000 troops at

the border, a lot of military hardware as well.

There's not many experts who believe that's something that would be sufficient to even nearly mount an invasion of Ukraine at this point in

time. But the administration believes that that troop number could nearly double to around 175,000 very quickly.

And that's something that could be already in the works. Of course, it is a very dangerous situation there, not necessarily at the border with Ukraine

but in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine. It is something Ukraine is looking at as well as NATO allies.

What the Ukrainians said, they said this, the defense minister in an exclusive interview with Matthew Chance yesterday, is they want -- would

like military assistance not in the form of troops but certainly in the form of hardware.

Ukrainians, for a while, have been in the process of trying to modernize their armed forces. They recently put in place two patrol boats they

received from the United States, also having bought some military hardware from the Turks as well, which was recently used in the Donbas conflict with

the pro Russian separatists in the east of the country.

That is something that really enraged the Russians as well, that the Ukrainians were using drones there at the border. But the Ukrainians are in

the process of strengthening their forces and they do believe they're a lot better prepared than they were in 2014.

KINKADE: All right, our senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, and our chief U.S. national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny,

good to have you both with us. We're going to stay on this story. Thanks very much.


KINKADE: I want to welcome Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who joins me from Washington, she's senior fellow and director of the Transatlantic Security

Program at the Center for a New American Security. She advised the Biden transition team on Russia and Central Asia and is a former CIA senior


Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: Certainly you've got amazing expertise in this area. Big picture, a lot at stake now.

Is this President Biden's most critical meeting to date?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: I think I agree with that. As you said and as your previous speakers laid out, we're at a critical time, as the government has

repeatedly said, the U.S. government, that President Putin has not yet made up his mind about what to do in Ukraine.

So there is a window in which the United States and its European allies can try to shape that calculus. And so that's very much what this phone call is


As your correspondents already noted, President Biden will be looking to both de-escalate and deter, to really communicate to Putin directly the

costs and the steps that the United States and its allies would be willing to take.

And it is in that kind of setting, I think, leader to leader, in private, that is most likely to resonate with President Putin.


KENDALL-TAYLOR: And I think, based on that conversation, if we make these demands in private, it gives President Putin an opportunity to change

course without looking weak domestically, which is also important in this situation. He can't walk away with nothing at this point.

KINKADE: So what does Putin have to gain, if he did indeed invade Ukraine?

Why does he care so much about Ukraine?

Does he see it as an extension of Russia?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: Yes. There is no issue that President Putin really cares about more than Ukraine. And we saw this on full display earlier this year

in a series of op-eds that -- one that he drafted that really talks about the fact that, in his view, Russians and Ukrainians are the same people.

That was followed in very short order by another op-ed by Prime Minister Medvedev, where he was making very similar arguments, in essentially

calling Ukraine a vassal state of the West.

So for them, I think that Putin looks at the trends and the trajectory in Ukraine and sees that things are not moving in a positive direction. I

think he had a lot of hopes with President Zelensky, when he came in, that Zelensky would be willing to implement some of the terms of the Minsk

agreement, an agreement that is very favorable to Russia.

It is clear that hasn't happened. So, for Putin, he has tried to accomplish his objectives through political means. And I think what Russia does is,

when that isn't possible, when they aren't able to do that through the political process, then they then resort to military means in order to

accomplish those objectives. And so that's where I think we are.

KINKADE: And, of course, we saw Russia invaded and annext Crimea seven years ago.

I wonder how difficult it would be to deter Putin if he does indeed decide to invade Ukraine?

We heard from the secretary of state, Blinken, who said he feels Russia may be attempting a rehash of the 2014 invasion.

KENDALL-TAYLOR: That is absolutely the concern, that Russia will escalate militarily. We don't know exactly what form that will take or what their

full objectives would be.

But the question you raised is really the critical one on everyone's mind, is how can we deter Putin?

There is a significant asymmetry of interest, one that Putin understands. He knows that Russia cares more than even the United States and the West

about Ukraine. So he's able to use that to his advantage.

The Biden administration, I think, has laid out the contours of their approach to deter Putin. So it is based on sanctions. It is based on

providing Ukraine with military aid, offensive lethal aid, to help Ukrainians defend themselves.

They talked about renewing and revitalizing the political process, calling on Russia and Ukraine to come back to the table under the Minsk process.

And we're seeing a little bit more inklings of adding to those economic costs and security costs, hearing administration officials, you know,

expressing that, should Putin do something in Ukraine, that it will force the United States to change its security posture in Europe.

We may have to send in additional forces, we have to put in new weapons systems, perhaps feeder missile defense, long range fires. That is

something that I think could shape Putin's calculus.

He has always long been -- he's always been concerned about that security dynamic. And so if we can express that we are willing to alter the security

environment that he faces, that could be something that might resonate with him.

KINKADE: So I am hearing from our producers that this video call between the Russian president and the U.S. President is currently underway.

How substantial do you think this discussion will be?

How long do you think it will go on for?

And what do you expect will come of it in terms of the readout at the end of this conversation?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: It is always hard to say. I think it could be extremely short, where Putin lays out his points and the president Biden does the

same. And, because they are so at odds with each other, it could be a very short call.

But from what I understand, President Biden wants to have a substantive discussion with President Putin, to hear out his demands, many of which are

nonstarters from the United States. So we expect President Putin to look for what he has called long-term and credible security guarantees.

And by that he means no Ukraine and NATO and an end to the deployment of weapons systems in Ukraine, that the Kremlin sees as threatening to Russia.

But from what I understand, you know, they've framed this conversation as both talking about Ukraine and this current situation, looking to de-

escalate and deter.


KENDALL-TAYLOR: But they also have other items on the agenda, including the cyber dialogue, Iran and the strategic stability dialogue, which is

also ongoing. So it is hard to say exactly the way that the conversation will go. But my best guess is will be a substantive and lengthy discussion.

KINKADE: Certainly plenty to discuss, none of it easy by any means. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, good to have you with us. Good to have your perspective,

thank you.

KENDALL-TAYLOR: Thank you for having me.


KINKADE: The U.S. is also in a diplomatic tangle with another major player, China. Beijing is vowing the U.S. will, in its words, "pay the

price" for its wrongdoings. It comes after the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Well, the Biden administration says it is making the move to quiet human rights abuses in China but it's stopping short of a full boycott like the

one in 1980, when then President Jimmy Carter protested the Moscow Olympics, keeping American athletes from taking part in the games.

CNN's David Culver has more of China's reaction from his vantage point in Shanghai.

China accusing the U.S. of politicizing sports and wanting a resolute countermeasure.

What could that mean?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Strong words coming out of the foreign ministry as well today, Lynda.

The question is, will it be followed by action?

It seems to suggest, if you hear what they had to say from the podium, there will be these resolute countermeasures, not giving much detail but

saying, please wait and see. That's what the spokesperson for the foreign ministry told reporters, saying the U.S. shot itself in the foot with its

decision to diplomatically boycott the Beijing 2022 games.

What could that look like?

It is likely that it will be something that advances China's ideological goals and moves forward with their attempts to really slow down or even

block, at times, Western influence here within China. We have seen that on multiple occasions.

There's even suggestions by some here, who are really expressing concern online, that it could be taken out in the U.S. films being released here in

China. This is the world's largest box office but it is also one that the Chinese are concerned about, because they always worry about that Western

influence creeping in.

So one way to stop that woud be through Hollywood movies. And another suggestion would be that it would impact those American businesses,

particularly ones here in Shanghai, for example, that perhaps would then be further restricted in their expansions here within China or their ability

to introduce brands and other sort of Western influences that would go counter to Beijing's ideology.

Those are the more likely scenarios that would play out. Should they move in another direction and escalate tensions between the U.S. and China, for

example, going forward with visa restrictions on U.S. diplomats or even issuing sanctions, that would likely incite countermeasures to be put in

place by the U.S.

So it is very unlikely that they would move in that direction. Nonetheless, they seem to have put themselves in a position, domestically now, to

suggest they have to do something.

We're seeing in state media they're being much more vocal about this say than 24 hours ago, when it was just expected that the White House would

announce this diplomatic boycott.

Now that it is official, they're putting that out in state media and portraying themselves as the victim in all of this, saying the U.S. has

used lies and rumors with regard to widespread allegations of human rights abuses.

And saying they're using that as political manipulation and politicizing sports and damaging U.S.-China relations and the global atmosphere

altogether, Lynda.

KINKADE: We'll have to see if any other countries follow suit. David Culver, good to have you with us. We will talk to you again soon.

Well, as Russian soldiers amass near the Ukraine border, the Ukrainian defense minister is saying the country needs help from the West but not

troops. Our exclusive interview coming

Plus as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads, what shouldn't governments be doing lightly?

Ahead, what some experts call the absolute last resort in the fight against COVID.





KINKADE: Welcome back.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading to another region, East Africa, seven cases now confirmed in Uganda. And in Europe, experts from

the World Health Organization say that, despite Omicron's rapid spread, the Delta variant is still the top concern. Europe is struggling with a

crushing full wave of the virus.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is in the U.K. and Larry Madowo is in Johannesburg.

Good to have you with us.

Salma, with the Omicron variant spreading in Europe, what is the WHO saying about mandating vaccines?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we heard today from the Europe director, the regional director for Europe of the World Health

Organization. And he started by saying we still need to wait on the information about Omicron from scientists.

We need to keep cool heads. That was his message to European leaders. In the meanwhile, we need the tools we've used against the Delta variant,

right now behind the surge in cases, those same tools should work with Omicron.

Key among them is mask mandates. He brought up only about 48 percent of masks are worn indoors, 48 percent of people indoors are wearing masks

across Europe. He wants to see that number rise to over 90 percent.

He said that could save over 160,000 lives in the European region by the spring of next year, just wearing masks indoors.

Then, of course, the other crucial tool is vaccines. Now several countries have been looking at the possibility of vaccine mandates because about one

in three Europeans has yet to be fully immunized. Germany has been considering that. Austria already put a vaccine mandate in place.

This is what the European director of the World Health Organization had to say on those vaccine mandates.


DR. HANS KLUGE, WHO EUROPE: Mandates around vaccination are an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve

vaccination uptake have been exhausted.

They have proven effective in some environments to increase vaccine uptake. But the effectiveness of mandates is very context specific. The effects

that mandating vaccination could have on public confidence and public trust, as well as vaccination uptake, must be considered.


ABDELAZIZ: That means, for now, it seems like, the World Health Organization is recommending public messaging, get the message out there,

go into local communities and get people who are yet to be immunized.

But it is a big task. One in three Europeans still to get the jab, many headline antivaxers.

Meanwhile, the other campaign going on across the European region is boosters, boosters, boosters. The health secretary here in the U.K. said

thousands of vaccinators will be hired in the coming weeks.

The U.K.'s goal is to get an invitation for your booster jab to every single adult by the end of January. It's a massive feat, accomplishment, if

they can pull that off. But for now, it seems we still have to wait for more information for scientists. So all of this are just preemptive



KINKADE: A massive undertaking and massive hurdles to encourage those unwilling to get vaccinated to get the jab.

Larry, to you. South Africa's president is not at all happy about the travel bans enacted by many countries on South Africa, after South Africa

found and identified this latest variant of COVID-19. I understand you were just at Johannesburg airport.

What are officials there saying?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spent the whole day at the airport. It is one of the busiest airports in Africa. It is a pale shadow of itself. It

is nothing like what I'm used to seeing.

I used to live here so I know how busy this is. Very few international flights are going out of the country and many people are scrambling to get

into them because often they are going to places where there is travel restrictions, some are just repatriation flights and officials say this is

going to be devastating to the tourism economy of this country.

This is the top tourist destination in sub-Saharan Africa and it was only beginning to recover after the shutdowns of the last 1.5 years of the

pandemic. And now the Omicron variant and these travel bans areaffecting this country.

There is a lesson here, according to one expert, who says Africa needs to stop depending on the rest of the world.


THEBE IKALAFENG, SOUTH AFRICA TOURISM BOARD: If Africa is going to rise, Africa has to look to Africa and to Africans. This is a reminder of the

selfishness of the West when it comes to issues like vaccine -- sharing their vaccines or sharing their knowledge.

So for Africa to thrive again, Africa must look to itself and to not -- and we need to get over this need to get validation from the rest of the world.


MADOWO: "Selfishness," that's the word that he used. That's something that the president Cyril Ramaphosa also used today traveling in Senegal. He said

the travel bans against South Africa have been emotional, unscientific and born out of selfishness.

And he doesn't think that they need to be in place as travel apartheid. But the message for the local population for South Africa is you need to get

vaccinated because in the last two weeks, the case rate here has increased 1,048 percent.

The positivity rate, two weeks ago, was 2.3 percent. The positivity rate in tests conducted in last 24 hours after mandate was 26.4 percent. So a huge,

huge surge in just a fortnight.

KINKADE: A huge concerning surge there across South Africa. Larry Madowo and Salma Abdelaziz, thank you very much.

The U.S. is warning Russia of substantial consequences if it invades Ukraine. Coming up, CNN speaks with Ukraine's defense minister about why he

thinks Russia will not invade.




KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta. You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We have vision just in to us that high level meeting

between the Russian president and the U.S. President, we're getting that vision from Russia of that meeting that is underway this hour.

Certainly a lot to discuss. U.S. intelligence warning that Russia is preparing for the possibility of invating Ukraine as soon as next month.

Now according to one assessment, tens of thousands of Russian troops are along the border, with assets for a drawn-out conflict.

Ukraine is urging President Biden to stand firm against Moscow. Our Matthew Chance is in Odessa in southern Ukraine and joins us now live.

Matthew, I don't know if you're able to see this vision of the Russian president meeting with the U.S. president, seemingly smirking.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, I'm not able to see it, because it appeared on Russian television. They're the

first people to have been given this snippet. But we understand it is from the top of that meeting, which started within the past half an hour,

perhaps within the past few minutes.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, speaking from his residence in Sochi on the Black Sea coast, around the coast in -- on the Russian side of the

Black Sea, as we are here.

Obviously President Biden speaking from Washington. It is a crucial diplomatic encounter because at this meeting, the Russians are set to

restate their demand from the United States and its allies that the NATO military alliance does not expand any further eastwards toward Russia's


It's been a big national security concern in Russia for some time. It has now really come to the fore. And not just former membership of NATO,

either. The Russians are saying they do not want Ukraine being used as a sort of platform for NATO to deploy sophisticated missile systems.

In other words, they want to stop it from becoming a forward operating base for NATO countries as well, even if it doesn't actually formally join the


The reason it is important is because of those tens of thousands of Russian troops, that U.S. intelligence assesses, have been massing across the

border in Russia, poised potentially to carry out an invasion of Ukraine if Russia does not get its way.

The response of President Biden of the United States is going to be key, of course, to decide whether the military tensions here that we're currently

experiencing ratchet up or whether they de-escalate.

Certainly been common here from the Ukrainians. I sat down yesterday with the Ukrainian defense minister, he's only been on the job for four weeks,

just over a month in fact. And he urged President Biden at this meeting to stand strongly for its commitment to the security of Ukraine. Take a



REZNIKOV: This is empty place (ph).


REZNIKOV: And I hope that they will empty forever just under these bars (ph).

CHANCE: These are the guys that have already lost their lives?

REZNIKOV: Yes. These could soon be filled.

CHANCE (voice-over): This is the real threat Ukraine now faces. More soldiers dying in battles with Russia, something the country's new defense

minister, appointed just a month ago, tells me he is struggling with.

REZNIKOV: In Russia, they will have also the same places. Old reason, old saying, Russians will die.

For what?

CHANCE: Across the border, the Kremlin calls these its regular winter drills. Ukraine says there are now about 95,000 Russian troops within

striking distance. U.S. intel indicates that will rise to 175,000.

But even that, the defense minister tells me, is an underestimate.

REZNIKOV: One hundred seventy-five, it's not enough to go to Ukraine.

CHANCE: You think Russia will need more than 175,000?

REZNIKOV: Yes, sure.

CHANCE: How much more is unclear. But these latest satellite images from Russia suggest Moscow is now engaged in an unprecedented build up near the

Ukrainian frontier, enough to mount an overwhelming invasion, alarming the U.S. and NATO -- Although Ukrainian officials seem calm at what looks like

an imminent threat.

REZNIKOV: I would say that the different means that we're not in fear mood. So we have no chance to be on this -- pushing of this.

CHANCE: But you're not fearful of a Russian invasion?

Is that because you don't believe the intelligence?

REZNIKOV: No, no, no.

CHANCE: You don't believe Russians are going to invade?

REZNIKOV: We believe through our intel. We believe to all facts that was fixed by the United States intel and et cetera. But this is the last



CHANCE: But do you believe Russia will invade?

Do you believe Russia will invade?

REZNIKOV: I'm not believe that -- I will not believe that Russia will have a victory in Ukraine. It's a different, because it will be a really bloody

massacre and Russian guys also will come back in the -- coffins, yes.

CHANCE: There's also a belief in Ukraine that Russia, which denies plans to invade, can, with the help of the United States and its allies, still be


This is the defense minister inducting two new coastal patrol boats from the U.S. into the Ukrainian navy. Part of a much broader military

modernization program Ukraine is trying to carry out with support from the West, angering Moscow.


CHANCE (voice-over): Ukraine's growing ties with NATO and Kremlin demands for NATO expansion to be curbed is set to dominate President Biden's

virtual summit with Vladimir Putin of Russia on Tuesday, a crucial online meeting that could determine Ukraine's fate.

The U.S. president, the defense minister tells me, should double down on support for Ukraine.

REZNIKOV: If I can advise President Biden, I would like to ask him to very understandable, articulate to Mr. Putin that no red lines from Kremlin side

could be here. Red line is here in Ukraine and civilized world will react without any hesitation.

We don't need the American or Canadian soldiers here to fighting for Ukraine. We will fight by ourselves. But we need modernizational (sic)

weaponry. We have -- we need electronic warfare and et cetera, et cetera.

CHANCE: The problem with America and NATO and others stepping up their help, their assistance for Ukraine is that it could potentially provoke the

Kremlin even further. Could be poking the bear and force them to invade.

Is that a concern for you?

Do you think that's realistic?

REZNIKOV: The idea don't provoke Russia will not work. I'm sure.


REZNIKOV: Because Georgia, Salisbury, Crimea.

CHANCE: So you think confrontation with Russia is the only way to stop Russia's malign activity around the world?

REZNIKOV: It could be not only confrontation. It could be very -- it should be strong position. We are partners of Ukraine. We will help them in

all kind of ways to do it.

CHANCE: And the Kremlin will hear that and it will understand that and it will stop?

REZNIKOV: I'm sure.

CHANCE: But it is a high-stakes gamble with no guarantee such a hard line from the White House to the Kremlin will do anything to force Russia back.


CHANCE: That meeting, of course, still underway, such a lot at stake. There is a bit more detail emerged on Russian media about what was said.

Apparently President Biden started the call by greeting President Putin, saying sorry they didn't get to see him at the G20 summit earlier and also

was glad he could see him now.

So there was some pleasantries exchanged. But as we have been reporting, such a lot riding on the diplomatic outcome of this meeting, not just for

Ukraine but for Russia, for the United States, for the broader region as well.

KINKADE: Matthew Chance for us in Odessa, really good to get that perspective from Ukraine in your report. Thanks very much.

As Matthew says, that meeting underway right now between the U.S. President and the Russian president. We did just see that vision from Russian state

TV. And the minute we get a readout from either side, we will bring it to you.

Still to come, a long journey home for an ancient artifact stolen, a 3,500 year old tablet has a tale to tell.

And in football, Everton snaps its losing streak.

Who scored the winning goal and what does it mean for the club's future?





KINKADE: Welcome back. Let's get you up to speed on some other stories on our radar now.

Four people killed in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra. Four others were also wounded. Iraqi authorities say a motorcycle booby, trapped

with explosives, set fire to two vehicles in the heart of the city. The investigation is ongoing.

A whistleblower in the U.K. claims a slow response by the British government put Afghan lives in danger when the Taliban took over Kabul.

An ex-staffer at the U.K.'s foreign office says, in a written testimony, that only 5 percent of Afghans requested the U.K.'s help evacuating were

actually helped. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is denying one claim that vital resources were used to evacuate animals instead of people, calling it


The UAE is the first Gulf country to shift its government to a Saturday-to- Sunday weekend. The new workweek starts January 1st and federal employees will work Mondays to Fridays at noon before Friday prayers start, making it

a 4.5 day week. The workweek is currently Sunday through Thursday.

One of the world's oldest surviving works of literature, looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago, has made its way back home. The Gilgamesh tablet

dating back 3.5 millennia shows part of the story of a superhuman king.

But it has its own story to tell. After the ancient tablet was stolen in 1991, it was illegally traded and then seized by U.S. authorities in 2019.

Today it was formally returned to Baghdad, along with other artifacts looted during the 1991 Gulf War.