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Taliban Government Coordinating Emergency Response, calling for International Help; More than 1,000 Killed in Afghanistan Earthquake; Heavy Fighting Reported in Southern Ukraine; Israeli Lawmakers Approve First Step to Trigger Election; Turkey's Erdogan Welcomes Saudi Crown Prince; Russian Artist Paints Sympathy for Ukraine. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired June 22, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Over 1000 dead in Afghanistan after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the east of the country. I'm Eleni
Giokos filling in for my colleague Becky Anderson. Hello and welcome, this is "Connect the World".
The number of dead while staggering is expected to go higher as searchers reach more people buried under the debris. The earthquake struck a remote
mountainous region very close to the border with Pakistan, not far from the city of cost.
Houses mostly made of mud and other natural materials simply collapsed. 1500 people are injured. Here's a hospital where some of them were taken,
attention is now turning to getting help to the survivors that help desperately needed. Afghanistan is already in a deep economic crisis with
much of the population going hungry. CNN's Scott McLean has more.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the sound of help arriving in Afghanistan's Paktika Province. Overnight, the extremely remote
area was struck by a magnitude 5.9 earthquakes that destroyed buildings and killed the more than 1000 people, the deadliest quake in more than two
The injured are rushed to the helicopter to be taken for help. At a clinic in the region, the injured lie waiting for whatever help they can get. The
epicenter was a sparsely populated mountainous area, but the impact was felt much farther away.
It was midnight when the quake struck this woman says the kids and I screamed one of our rooms was destroyed. Our neighbor screamed and we saw
Another local man says the houses of our neighbors were destroyed. When we arrived, there were many dead and wounded. They sent us to the hospital. I
also saw many dead bodies.
Taliban trucks were seeing moving bodies out of the area. Some homes were badly damaged. The government says some entire villages were destroyed.
The man shooting this video says that one of his grandchildren was buried in the rubble, but they managed to pull them out alive. At a press
conference, the Taliban pledged to send more than $500 to the families of those injured and more than thousands of those killed, a bold pledge for a
cash strapped government in the midst of an economic crisis. Scott McLean, CNN London.
GIOKOS: Well, Dr. Alaa AbouZeid, Team Leader for Emergencies for the World Health Organization in Afghanistan joins me now. Doctor, really good to see
you, thank you so much for joining us.
You know, I guess the question here is do we know if we're seeing more rescue work occurring, that there's hope we'll find more people alive? And
then importantly, when we start to see the hospitals reaching capacity, could you give us a sense of the response there?
DR. ALAA ABOUZEID, TEAM LEADER, EMERGENCIES, WHO AFGHANISTAN: Thank you, Eleni for having me. Allow me to start by offering W.H.O condolence for the
people of Afghanistan. We're really saddened by the life lost, and we wish early recovery for those who are injured.
As per the report, - that it's a very tragic situation. We're very sorry for that. And this is the last thing Afghan people would need. It's a lot
of crisis happening for the people of Afghanistan and the suffering is at the top.
Regarding what happened today, yes, it's a lot of this is the number is still unconfirmed with and it's on the rise, it may reach hundreds or maybe
exceed 1000. We're not sure now, but it's on the rise.
The number of injured is more than 1000 injured people and we have been transferred to the different hospitals in the region. The W.H.O and all
health partners moved since the morning when we woke up on the news of this earthquake in Kabul.
All the resources have been mobilized not just from the nearby provinces, but also from Kabul including medical supplies, and medics, nurses, health
workers, ambulances, and leaders and emergency officers who are trained on dealing with these situations.
Coordination is going among the partners to ensure that there is no overlap and no waste of resources in this crisis.
DR. ABOUZEID: As you correctly said, the situation is still evolving. And we are dealing with it. And we are pushing as much resources, as the
situation will need and more as well.
Not just that which was I said, but all the health partners, the capacity of the hospitals in the--
GIOKOS: Yes, tell me about the capacity of the hospitals. But I also want to get a sense because you said that W.H.O as well as your partners is
trying to deploy, you know, resources as quickly as possible. So tell me whether you have enough to cope with the current situation and what you
DR. ABOUZEID: Thank you for this important question that the main hospital responding to this for the critical cases is Paktika Hospital, which is the
Regional Hospital in the southeast of Afghanistan.
The complicated cases, we refer it to there. Ambulances are moving, taking the injured and the bodies to the nearest hospitals. We have other three
provincial hospitals responding to that, besides some qualified big primary health centers receiving the cases and the victims from this.
All the health partners and W.H.O are on the top alert and we since the morning, we have, as I mentioned, we have moved the resources mobilize the
resources from the different surrounding provinces and from pebble.
And this, as I mentioned, it included human resources, health workers, medicines, medical supplies, ambulances, medical teams, and emergency
workers as well dealing with the situation. Right now the resourcing telling off the pool--
GIOKOS: I have to ask you this. You're saying that you're deploying resources from other areas in a country that is desperate for resources,
desperate for food desperate for more capacity and hospitals.
Are you not worried that you're just plugging one gap and creating another? What more would you require?
DR. ABOUZEID: You're right, when you say that the country is in dire need for all the resources and to add another crisis from top which will alter
the earthquake of today. However, it's done in a calculated way we know what can maintain the health services in a region or in a province.
And then if we can mobilize extra resources, we do that and this is what W.H.O. and all health partners have done when we are able to identify some
resources to be deployed to the affected area by the earth way.
As you correctly said, Afghanistan is in dire need of all the help and the support. The resources are overstretched here in not just for the
earthquake, even before the earthquake, we are expecting the situation to evolve as I've mentioned in the coming hours.
And we will be able to identify exactly what is needed because right now we couldn't conduct a full assessment of the situation. And we are receiving
the information from different sources that United Nation specialized agencies in the region and here in Kabul, we have deployed missions to
assess the situation beside the response.
But we are unable to take over the assessment part because everybody is overwhelmed, as the report said, was extracting the dead bodies and trying
to find alive, people alive under the debris and transporting the victims and the injured to the hospitals.
And it was not possible to conduct any assessment. But once we conduct the assessment, we will be able to identify the resources as it comes.
GIOKOS: DR. Alaa Abouzeid and we wish you and your team all the best. And we know that the people in Afghanistan have been suffering from food
shortages and are now compounded by this earthquake in that part of the country.
We thank you so much for that insight. Now, this is shaping up to be the deadliest earthquake to strike Afghanistan in decades and you may remember
1998 when a pair of quake struck the Northeast.
And you can see the aftermath a village was pretty much raised nearly 10,000 people were believed to have died in those quakes. In March of 2002,
another strong quake was felt across much of northern Afghanistan.
It killed to around 1000 people and destroyed the capital district. So why is this country so prone to earthquakes?
GIOKOS: For more I want to bring in CNN meteorologist Chad Myers from Atlanta. Chad you know, and we've heard from people in that region that
these villages that have been impacted are actually very susceptible to earthquakes. Could you give me a sense of what you're seeing from a
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly right. It's the susceptibility of those buildings to be damaged. They do not flex, they are
not made of wood timber that can bend a little bit. They are made of stone, dirt, mud, and stucco, things that don't want to bend they want to break.
This was a 5.9 earthquake. It's a big earthquake, but 150 earthquakes per year across the globe are larger than 5.9. So why don't we hear about
damaged in other places like this, this many deaths and other places?
Well, sometimes we do, but many of the areas that see the earthquakes are prepared for this. These are very old buildings with old infrastructure.
You have the India Plate crashing in to the European plate, the Eurasian plate up there, and there's Afghanistan and there is the epicenter.
We had one aftershock already on the other side of the border in Pakistan at 4.5. We do expect it to be more aftershocks. So what does that mean? No
one will be sleeping in those buildings tonight, for fear of an aftershock and more things falling in, it will get colder tonight.
This was at about 2600 meters high. So it's going to be a cold, cold night for those people trying to live in tents or whatever they can find shelter
in. The earthquake was such a rattler because it was only about nine to 10 kilometers deep.
For a big earthquake to be weighed down here 300 kilometers, it doesn't make it to the surface very well. So there's not a lot of shaking when you
have a shallow quake. It shakes like crazy.
And this is what happens to buildings that aren't prepared to shake that aren't prepared to flex a little bit with the moving earth. This is the
problem that you will see here. This is an ongoing problem.
Every time the ground shakes in these areas that are far away from cities, you're going to have this type of damage, hopefully not this type of death
toll. But this happened in the middle of the night people were in their homes. They were sleeping in the buildings collapsed, Eleni?
GIOKOS: Yes, let's just say its preparedness. And now we have to watch out for those aftershocks. Chad, thank you so much for that insight! Now let's
move on and Russia is inching closer to gaining full control of Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials there say the city of Lysychansk is coming under heavy fire. It's right next to Sievierodonetsk. It's the last city in the Luhansk
region still held by Ukraine and several villagers around it have now fallen to Russian forces making this the most difficult week for the
Ukrainian military since the last defenders surrendered in Mariupol.
Salma Abdelaziz is live in Kyiv with the latest. Salma, the toughest week is what we're hearing for the Ukrainian military. Could you give us a sense
of what you're hearing from the Ukrainians right now in terms of what they need and just the sheer aggression that you're seeing coming through from
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Russia seems to be lobbing everything it has at these frontlines about 1000 kilometers of active
fighting Ukrainian forces are simply on the back foot. They're succumbing in several areas.
They're losing territory, as Russia is making this inch by inch advanced. I'm just going to break down what's happening in some of the key areas,
starting with the north at the Sumy region where there is cross border attacks according to Ukraine officials.
Russian troops using kamikaze drones to take out APCs and tanks heavy firepower there in the Kharkiv area. Russian artillery is increasing on
residential area. Several people killed and wounded including an eight year old child.
And then of course, that all important fight for the Donbas centered on the city of Sievierodonetsk as you mentioned, where Ukrainian defenders are
making their last holdout their last stand, really in this chemical plant trying to resist a superior Russian artillery force but also those Russian
forces backed by air and then in Lysychansk, the sister city there Ukrainian forces say Russian troops are trying to encircle that city.
They've already been able to occupy and take control of several southern villages so able to set up firing positions, Ukrainian forces again
crumbling under that sheer firepower.
And then down to Mykolaiv in the south, which has been a very important holdout for Ukrainian forces seven missile strikes there. What you're
really seeing here is Russia strategy, which is no strategy at all just throw everything you have at it to try to bring these Ukrainian defenders
to their knees.
One last thing I want to note that is important is Russia is claiming that it's able to strike that it has been able to strike rather several of those
American made halters - presided by European allies as well. Those are important very important to Ukraine's fight because they're long range
weapons they have a range of about 25 miles 40 kilometers.
ABDELAZIZ: So it's in an artillery war like this. It's those weapons that allow Ukrainian forces to hit back at those Russian positions. So if Russia
is indeed, taking out this long range weaponry that leaves Ukraine ever weaker, it's hard to imagine how Ukraine can continue to hold out in the
face of this Russian firepower.
And what's even more important here, Eleni is that Ukraine says that Russia has reserves that it could increase this assault that this could become
even more intensified
GIOKOS: Salma Abdelaziz thank you so very much for breaking that down for us. Now, it's not just Ukrainians feeling Russia's brutality to Americans
are being held by Russian or pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Now the Kremlin suggests they could face the death penalty. Here's how the White House has
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NSC CPORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: It's appalling that a public official in Russia would even suggest the death
penalty for two American citizens that were in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Right. And CNN's Kylie Atwood takes a closer look at the Americans in captivity and the heartbreak it's bringing for their loved ones.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A dire new threat from Russia to the lives of two Americans captured in Ukraine. The
Kremlin spokesperson claiming Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh are soldiers of fortune and now protected by the rules governing prisoners of war.
Dimitri Peskov saying this when asked if they would be spared the death sentence. DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESMAN: No, I cannot guarantee anything
it depends on the investigation.
ATWOOD (voice over): Their families tell CNN both men were fighting in the Ukrainian army.
JOY BLACK, FIANCE OF ANDY TAI NGOC HUYNH: Andy and Alex are not mercenaries. They are not soldiers of fortune. They are a part of the
Ukrainian military. They are a part of the military, meaning that they are prisoners of war and they should be treated as such under the Geneva
NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We have both publicly as well as privately called on the Russian government and its proxies to live
up to their international obligations in their treatment of all individuals, including those captured fighting in Ukraine.
ATWOOD (voice over): One American still wrongfully detained in Russian prison is WNBA star Brittney Griner. This week her wife Cherelle Griner
expressed deep frustration with the Biden Administration after Brittney unsuccessfully tried to call her 11 times on their anniversary on Saturday.
The call had been planned for almost two weeks she said, "I find it unacceptable and I have zero trust in our government right now. If I can't
trust you to catch a Saturday call outside of business hours, how can I trust you to actually be negotiating on my wife's behalf to come home?
Because that's a much bigger ask than to catch a Saturday call". Cherelle told The Associated Press.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price expressed regret and said the call has been rescheduled.
PRICE: It was a mistake.
ATWOOD (voice over): Today in an open letter to the President, the families of more than a dozen Americans wrongfully detained around the world are
demanding a face to face with the Commander in Chief.
Mr. President, we need you. We need your clear leadership to prioritize the expeditious resolution of these cases they wrote in describing themselves
as exhausted, traumatized and beleaguered.
And the family of Matthew Keith, who's being held in Venezuela voiced dire concerns after he tried to take his own life this week, now urgently asking
the White House to act before it's too late.
EVERETT RUTHERFORD, UNCLE OF MATTHEW HEATH, AMERICAN DETAINED ON VENEZUELA: We do not think he is out of the woods. This particular suicide attempt was
not successful. Thank goodness. We have every confidence that he will try again.
ATWOOD: Secretary of State Tony Blinken will have a virtual conversation with the families of American hostages and of Americans wrongfully detained
abroad on Wednesday.
That's according to a senior State Department official. And we know that Matthew, his family is going to be a part of that conversation. That's what
his aunt told CNN and it'll be interesting to see how this conversation goes.
Given the circumstances that have happened the situations that have happened over the last few days and weeks and particularly because these
families and many of them have been demanding to meet with President Biden not to have a meeting with the Secretary of State Kylie Atwood, CNN, the
GIOKOS: Well, Reporters Without Borders says it has evidence Russian soldiers executed a Ukrainian journalist. The freedom of speech group says
Max Levin and his friend were killed in its words in cold blood.
In a forest near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on March 13, Levin had worked with a number of Western news outlets including Reuters. Russia has
consistently denial targeting civilians including journalists since it began its invasion of Ukraine.
GIOKOS: And still ahead, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince looks to rehabilitate his image after the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, what he could
accomplish today in a meeting with Turkey's president in Ankara.
And voter fatigue is back in Israel, as the country edges closer towards a fifth election in less than four years. We'll explain how we got here up
GIOKOS: Welcome back. Now Israel just moved one step closer to its fifth election in under four years. The Knesset gave preliminary approval earlier
Wednesday to a bill to dissolve parliament.
And it follows an announcement Monday by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he and his main coalition partner Yair Lapid believed the eight party
government had become unworkable in its current form.
The dissolution bill is expected to become law at some point next week, which would potentially throw a political lifeline to former Prime Minister
Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold live from Jerusalem to break all this down for us. Hadas, good to see you! I mean lots of questions as to why this is
happening. But I guess now, we have to look forward what would you know, dissolution look like? What is the timeline, then fast forward to
What happens between now and then? And then the question of Benjamin Netanyahu, so many issues to address.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. So today, what happened was this preliminary reading of the bill to dissolve parliament, it still has to go
through committee hearings, and it needs to go through three more votes before it will actually become law.
Now if the timeline goes, as the coalition government wants it to, then by early next week, this bill will be passed, Parliament will be dissolved.
And within 24 hours now Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become the 14th prime minister of Israel.
And elections will be triggered which would be expected to be held sometime in the fall, likely in late October. But there are a few days to go and
there's some reporting that there are moves in the Israeli Knesset in the parliament to try and potentially form a new government with being led by
former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without having the need to go to elections that is technically possible.
But for Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies to do so they need to convince something like six members of the current coalition to defect switch sides
and join them. That right now seems unlikely to happen.
But things have happened in Israeli politics that are even crazier than that so it could happen. But Benjamin Netanyahu does have a lifeline to
come back to power because of these elections.
If you look at the polling as it stands right now, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party would get the most number of seats. But as it happens in many
elections that are still not enough to have the 61 seat majority needed to have a governing coalition.
GOLD: As of right now the pro Netanyahu block still does not have the 61 seats needed, but they are the closest out of any of the blocks that could
potentially reach that majority.
Now, the elections will be held in four months. Yair Lapid will become the interim caretaker Prime Minister that is four months of people calling him
Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
And I'm sure he and his allies are hoping that it is enough time for people to get used to the idea of Prime Minister Yair Lapid and that will help
their election chances to keep Netanyahu out of power once again.
GIOKOS: Yes Hadas, lots of probabilities playing out there. Thank you so much for that insight. Now moving on Russian President Vladimir Putin says
his country is rerouting trade to "reliable international partners" including BRICS countries.
And that's what he said during the group's annual summit this year hosted by China, the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa are also
participating. This is the first such meeting since Russia launched its war on Ukraine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also addressed Western sanctions against Russia saying the West is weaponizing the global economy, he is urging
solidarity to tackle the worldwide economic slowdown.
Now ahead on "Connect the World" Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince and Turkey's President meet in Ankara, we'll take a look at what each leader is looking
to get out of the Crown Prince's first visit to Turkey since the Jamal Khashoggi murder.
And just a little later, weaponizing creativity, how a 76 year old artist who's been detained several times in Russia, standing up to Vladimir Putin.
GIOKOS: The Saudi Crown Prince is in Turkey today the latest stop on a regional tour to rehabilitate his image. Mohammed bin Salman is meeting
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
After visits to Egypt and Jordan this week, it's his first visit to Turkey since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate
in Istanbul. U.S. Intelligence concluded the Crown Prince ordered Khashoggi's death.
Today's meeting follows Turkey's decision to transfer the case of 26 Saudi suspects accused in the murder to Riyadh. And it comes as President Erdogan
looks for financial boost to help Turkey's struggling economy.
And I want to talk more about this with Sinan Ulgen; he's a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Europe specializing in Turkish foreign policy.
GIOKOS: And he joins me now via Skype from Paris, really good to see you. I guess the question here is, for Turkey in particular, does this visit have
to do with economic issues and challenges that the country is facing and building alliances with Saudi Arabia, despite the past issues?
SINAN ULGEN, VISITING SCHOLAR, CARNEGIE EUROPE: There is certainly a strong component of economic expectations. But it's not only about that; it's also
part of the re-shifting of Turkish foreign policy that we have witnessed over the past year or so.
After a decade of more aggressive assertive Turkish foreign policy, which essentially ended in a situation those policymakers in Ankara, decided that
it ultimately was detrimental to the countries of interest, the fact that Turkey had been isolated regionally.
And therefore, since the beginning of last year, there have been efforts to mend the relationship with the regional states. This has indeed, achieved
an outcome with the United Arab Emirates, we've seen an accelerated path to normalization with UAE.
There have been overtures as well, to Saudi Arabia, to Egypt and to Israel. And now it seems that this process is also gathering traction with Saudi
GIOKOS: Sinan, it's really interesting, because, you know, the reporting is telling us that there might be signing agreements on energy, on security
and on the economy in particular, as well, and that this is going to be the start of a new era that we're going to go back to what we saw pre-crisis
levels, in other words, of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. What would that New Era look like for Turkey and Saudi Arabia?
ULGEN: Well, from the Turkish perspective, obviously, this would involve new and stronger economic ties. We've already seen in the past few months,
the lifting of some of these barriers, there was a trade embargo that Riyadh had imposed. That's been lifted.
A few days ago, a travel ban on Saudi citizens to travel to Turkey has been lifted. And now there are expectations that the two countries will indeed
sign agreements that would strengthen these ties.
Turkey also wants to attract foreign capital from Saudi Arabia, the church economies is under duress, and is in need of this type of funding,
particularly from GCC.
And there might also be cooperation on defense industries, there has been enormous interest in Turkish capabilities, particularly on the side of
drones. And Saudi Arabia might have an interest in that as well.
From the Saudi perspective, of course, there is a political angle to this. The Crown Prince wants to demonstrate before he meets Biden, that he can
actually create a constructive relationship with many countries in the region. It was Egypt before in Jordan before and now in Turkey.
GIOKOS: OK, I wanted to widen the NATO. We know that Turkey is against Sweden and Finland joining NATO, it's playing sort of diplomat with Russia.
It has, you know, voiced its concerns with the West and the U.S. specifically.
What is Turkey's endgame here in terms of building these alliances, because many are questioning, you know which side Turkey is really on despite it
being a NATO member?
ULGEN: Well, Turkey as you stated, Turkey is a NATO member, that's its main anchor. But over the years, the Turkish policymakers have tried to
diversify Turkey's relationship by building political and economic relations with other non-western powers, particularly Russia, to a lesser
extent China, but also some of the regional countries.
However, some of these initiatives proved to be also detrimental to Turkey's image in the West, particularly the decision to purchase the S400
Air and Missile Defense system from Russia.
But given its geography, Turkey still feels compelled to maintain a degree of political relationship with the Russian leadership, despite what has
happened in Ukraine. So Turkey has essentially been critical of the Russian stance and has backed Ukraine.
ULGEN: But nonetheless, it also remains the only NATO country not to have implemented sanctions against Russia. Because ultimately, Turkey needs
Russian support in Syria, in particularly in a region, like Idlib, where the Turkish Government wants to prevent yet another humanitarian disaster
that could lead to new refugee flows to Turkey.
So that's the careful balancing act that Turkey is trying to devise and implement vis-a-vis Russia and Ukraine at the same time.
GIOKOS: That's exactly what it is an interesting balancing act between the East and West. Sinan Ulgen, thank you very much. Good to see you. Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begins a two day visit to Tehran today.
Lavrov is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as well as the Iranian foreign minister. Russia's Foreign Ministry says a number of
issues will be covered and that includes the war in Ukraine and the Iran nuclear deal, talks have stalled over Iran returning to the deal.
Meanwhile, Russia and Iran are working to expand economic ties and tightening economic sanctions by the West. This is Lavrov's first trip to
run under the new Raisi administration.
And just ahead on "Connect the World".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Elena Osipova might seem a bit frail, but her will is strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIOKOS: Meet the artist who is fast becoming a symbol of courage. And who wants the world to know. In her words, Russia is not Vladimir Putin, next.
And why the British royal family is in Rwanda leaving criticism back home over the UK's new plan for asylum seekers, that's coming up after the
GIOKOS: So you'll know from watching this program that people in Russia who showed dissent against what Moscow calls its special military operation in
Ukraine can face arrest fines and imprisonment.
But not everyone is faced by that, CNN's Fred Pleitgen went to meet St. Petersburg artist who is using her paintings to send a message. A caution
though, his report contains graphic images.
PLEITGEN (voice over): Elena Osipova might seem a bit frail, but her will is strong and her creativity seems unstoppable. The 76 year old artist has
been detained for several antiwar protests since Russia began what it called its special military operation in Ukraine.
But when we visited her in her apartment in St, Petersburg, she showed no signs of feeling intimidated instead complaining that police had taken her
PLEITGEN (voice over): They took some away and haven't given them back although they promised to give them back to me, she says, this has been
going on for some time. So she keeps painting more posters like this one, a bird symbolizing Russia with the writing. Russia is mourning and Russia is
It's a repentant bird, she says, a bird in mourning. And there are many such people in mourning here. Elena Osipova is not afraid to speak out
about even the most difficult topics like the massacre in Bucha, where hundreds of dead bodies were found in the key of suburb after Russian
forces retreated from there in early April.
Ukraine and international investigators have launched investigations into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Moscow continues
to reject its forces were responsible.
The very large poster shows dead people with huge piercing open eyes. The text says the eyes of the dead will remain open until Russia repents. For
me what was important in this poster is this word repentance, she says, it was important to me to emphasize it.
While some Russians took to the streets to protest Vladimir Putin's special military operation during its early days, authorities have now effectively
stopped any larger movement from taking hold, dismantling opposition groups and banning many media organizations not in line with the Kremlin's
Elena Osipova says she understands people's fears. We are afraid of losing their jobs, she says, being expelled from college. And there have been such
incidents even if they see a photo on the internet showing someone holding a Ukrainian flag that is already grounds for sacking.
But Elena Osipova isn't scared. She says if the authorities keep taking her protest art, she'll paint more and even a battalion of riot police won't
silence her creative mind. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, St. Petersburg Russia.
GIOKOS: Right, for tonight's parting shots a historic trip for the British Royal Family, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are attending the
Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda, marking the first time a member of the royal family has set foot in the country.
The Summit's opening ceremony kicks off Friday, but the Royals have a full itinerary until then. They laid a wreath for the victims of the 1994
Rwandan genocide and met with survivors at the Kigali Memorial sites.
But the trip comes at a time when the relevance of the Commonwealth has been called into question. Previous royal trips have been tainted by anti-
And this visit in particular has an added layer with many divided over the UK's latest asylum plan that asylum that sends asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Prince Charles reportedly called the scheme appalling.
Meantime all eyes are on the man behind that controversial plan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who is also attending the summit. Well, thanks
so very much for joining us. I am Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. "Marketplace Middle East" is up next, take care.
GIOKOS: From digital banking to biometric payments, innovation and technology in the world of finance. Coming up on "Marketplace Middle East"
new ways to do business in the region, we explore the future of commerce and the impact of new technologies on the way we shop, pay and are paid.
Welcome to "Marketplace Middle East", I'm Eleni Giokos. And this month I come to you from the iconic Dubai International Financial Center. Nearly
two decades of the DIFC is testament to the fact that Dubai has positioned itself as a leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South
Now the region is looking ahead to the next 20 years. According to the Middle East Institute, the future lies in FinTech growing 30 percent
annually, the sector is expected to rise over $2 billion in venture capital funding this year alone.
With almost half the population in the region under the age of 25, the push for a digital first solution in finance will only continue to surge. And
Jody Waugh, the Head of Banking and Finance at Al Tamimi & Company tells me why.
Why do you think the region fell behind within the FinTech space when you look at it, comparatively speaking to other sectors that really have
technology at the heart of what they do?
JODY WAUGH, PARTNER, AL TAMIMI & COMPANY: Yes, I mean, it's an interesting question. But I think when you look at the region, you know, if you look at
today, there's been various FinTech hives been various initiatives to help grow homegrown technology, FinTech solutions, and so on.
The banks themselves have adopted technology, so potentially slower than other parts of the world. But you know, there's been a keen interest in
technology and how that can help the banking sector have been here for a long time.
And probably the change over the last two years has exceeded the change I experienced over the last 15. And I think that the speed and the paradigm
shift in terms of financial services will continue over the next two to three years.
GIOKOS: While the DIFC is the leading financial hub here in the UAE innovation and technology in finance are thriving across the Middle East.
Now in Bahrain, I caught up with the woman that's leading the charge at the Al Waha Fund to see how they are turning venture capital on its head.
AREIJE AL-SHAKAR, DIRECTOR AND FUND MANAGER, AL WAHA FUND OF FUNDS: Tell me a little bit about what's happening now with the first FinTech fund.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So ultimately it's going to lead into this transformational change that we're experiencing right now in FinTech.
GIOKOS: Part of Areije Al-Shakar's routine, is to see how well innovative startups are performing across the Middle East. She heads up the Al Waha
Fund of funds, a fund that provides backing to other funds in the region, people who are closer to the businesses that need support.
AL-SHAKAR: Our problem when we first started in 2018.
GIOKOS: That people with great ideas, but no money.
AL-SHAKAR: Absolutely. But I think now there is access to capital. And so now we have great startups, great ideas, and now they get to choose who
they want to fund.
GIOKOS: Last year, venture capital funding reached more than two and a half billion dollars in the Middle East and North Africa. It's the highest
number the region has ever seen. More than doubled from 2020 with a growth of 138 percent and out of all the deals closed in the region last year, a
third we're in FinTech and ecommerce.
From Bahrain to the UAE one of the companies that the Al Waha Fund of funds banks is Venturesouq in Dubai.
Venturesouq that created the MENA region's first fund that specializes in FinTech, this fund now has $50 million from Al Waha and other backers to
work with early stage startups in the digital sector, focusing on everything from payment platforms to personal finance management, to
banking. The ultimate goal to ensure the region makes its mark on the FinTech space, globally.
TAMMER QADDUMI, PARTNER VENTURESOUQ: The regional in general is going through this fundamental shift and underpinning that shift is FinTech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're investing globally. Let us take what we've learned from investing into other places in the world. And let's apply that to
what's going on in NATO.
GIOKOS: While some FinTech hubs are emerging in the region such as in Riyadh in Tel Aviv and Dubai, according to the global FinTech index most
cities in the Middle East and North Africa are still not part of the world's top FinTech ecosystems. But for Qaddumi cooperation is the key to
QADDUMI: We're in a region divided into 20 different countries that all have their own rules and regulations. And so to build a product and a
service that can, you know, apply realistically to someone in Algeria and someone in Qatar at the same time is a challenge.
If we don't move more and more in the direction of a unified economic market, then it's going to be hard for us to get mega outcomes.
GIOKOS: And Al-Shakar agrees, connecting the region, one fund at a time.
AL-SHAKAR: We're seeing a lot more VCs that are now trying to be set up that are not just focused on Bahrain, but also the eastern province of
Saudi Arabia and the wider regions.
The funds that we invest in, they always say when you back a fund or a company, it's not just for one country or another, but it's actually for
the wider GCC.
GIOKOS: FinTech may be a buzzword for many across the globe, but in the Middle East, some players are determined its here to stay making way to the
future of finance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for your time.
AL-SHAKAR: Thanks. OK, take care, bye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye.
GIOKOS: An interesting venture coming out of the island nation of Bahrain, coming up how the adoption of digital banking went into overdrive during a
GIOKOS: Welcome back to "Marketplace Middle East". Around the world, online banking and FinTech is a mainstay in people's lives. But here in the Gulf
cash is still king.
Now a recent poll shows that 89 percent of respondents here would much rather opt for online banking services as opposed to going into a physical
bank. I caught up with a country manager of Citigroup Bahrain, Michel Sawaya, who says that the pandemic over the past few years sped up the
adoption of online banking.
GIOKOS: The future of the financial industry, I guess that's what everyone is trying to figure out. What's the future of banks roles?
MICHEL SAWAYA, CEO, CITI BAHRAIN: This is a very, very big question. In fact, if you look at what COVID has done, it has sped up the pace and
acceleration of digital economies. Everybody has increased the pace of digitization of the businesses, the efficiency and so forth.
GIOKOS: You're seeing competition rising between countries. And it's interesting it is this is a good thing, because you're a bank and you're
just going to sit back and enjoy the game.
SAWAYA: Actually, I truly believe is a good thing. I think one country's development one country's push, like you say, should not take from another
country. Companies can be complementary to each other.
GIOKOS: Back here in Dubai visa recently opened its regional headquarters serving 90 markets. And at the heart of it all is this fascinating
innovation center that has incredible technology that has the potential to transform our lives and then importantly, make my shopping a lot easier.
But this innovation hub is not just about shopping. OK, this is the innovation center right?
AKSHAY CHOPRA, VP HEAD OF INNOVATION & DESIGN, CEMEA: No matter the magic happens. So what you're going to be going through now is an experience
zone, built with the end user journey in mind.
GIOKOS: Akshay Chopra, Heads the Innovation Center, this is newly opened regional headquarters in Dubai. I'm taking a seat.
CHOPRA: This is all yours.
GIOKOA: Thank you very much.
CHOPRA: Overseeing 90 markets from Europe to Asia can.
GIOKOS: Can take any surface like a bus stop or metro station turn it into a well-stocked retail store.
GIOKOS: And let's just say its pretty cool turning everyday balls and chores into a digital delight. This is actually a really good first take,
don't you think, add to - fantastic.
CHOPRA: We want to make it easier for people to pay and get paid. We work with governments with FinTech, with banks with merchants of all shapes and
sizes to help build payment experiences that are more convenient, more seamless and more secure.
GIOKOS: In a region where cash is king Akshay says the global pandemic accelerated the move to digital.
CHOPRA: Actually, the pandemic has done a tremendous work in changing people's perceptions about digital payments. If you look at Saudi, we saw
94 percent of our payments there are contactless. The contactless is in general a lot safer, in addition to being more hygienic.
And so this trend has actually changed payments forever, people are much more used to just tap and go than they were ever before.
GIOKOS: And the next step to onboard small businesses, from the baker to the souk or market owner. I want this spice mix, please.
CHOPRA: This is the backbone for the global economy. But unfortunately, a lot of the small businesses are often left out of the latest in digital
right. And they are the ones who need it the most.
GIOKOS: How is that going to transform the industry here in the Middle East once you start to work more extensively with small immersions?
CHOPRA: I think it's going to digitize the economy to a much greater extent than we have now. And I think that bringing those people into the economy,
the formal digital economy is going to make them more productive, more efficient. And it's going to make the whole system a lot more transparent.
GIOKOS: High tech digital payments and biometrics changing the way we do business and the future of finance.
CHOPRA: Everyone goes there.
GIOKOS: That's fantastic.
GIOKOS: Yes, great stuff, waiting for my drone delivery.
GIOKOS: Well, that's it for this edition of "Marketplace Middle East". You can head to our website for more insights into the stories we've been
covering for me Eleni Giokos here in Dubai. I'll see you next time.