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Luhansk and Donetsk Separatists Call to Join Russia; Ukraine Looms Large as UNGA General Debate Begins; Iranian President Says Government Cannot Trust the Americans; Iranians Protests Death of Woman in Morality Police Custody; Brazilian President Gives First Speech at UNGA Debate; Most of Puerto Rico without Power or Water; Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): This hour calls for referenda by Russian-backed separatists as Ukraine pushes deeper into Russian occupied


With energy giants raking in record profits from the fallout of the war, the U.N. secretary general said it's time to pay up.

Plus --


ANDERSON (voice-over): Shock, outrage and defiance, protesters in Iran call for accountability in response to a woman's death after a run-in with

the morality police.



ANDERSON: Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Becky Anderson, coming to you live from CNN Center in London.

Shifts on the battlefield, pushback by Ukraine and now a new move for the Donbas to join Russia. This against a backdrop that leaders from around the

world meeting at the annual General Assembly at the United Nations are likely discussing.

The war front and center; the debate began last hour. Issues like climate and hunger are on the table. But the most urgent topic will likely be

Russia's war on Ukraine. Amid new fighting in the east, the push to join Russia may gain momentum.

The separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk say they will hold referenda over five days beginning on Friday. Pro Russian authorities in Zaporizhzhya

and occupied parts of Kherson say they're planning similar votes. Let's start on the ground in Ukraine. Ben Wedeman is in Kharkiv, a city back in

Ukrainian control.

Let's discuss the significance of these calls for referenda in Russia held territories.

How noisy are these calls?

How likely are they to be successful?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are noisy and they're synchronized. All of these four areas will hold referenda between

the 23rd and the 27th of September.

The goal is to make all of them part of the Russian Federation. The Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republic declared independence from Ukraine back in

2014. But this takes it to a whole 'nother level.

Now the leader of the Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin sent the following letter to president Vladimir Putin.

He said, "In the event of a positive decision following the referendum, which we have no doubts about, I ask you to consider the issue of the

Donetsk People's Republic joining the Russian Federation as soon as possible.

"The long suffering people of Donbas deserve to be part of the great country which they always considered their motherland. The event will be

the restoration of historical justice, the approach of which millions of Russian people crave."

Of course there's a good deal of questioning as to whether that is the case. But nobody really has any doubt when these referenda took place what

the outcome of these, officially, will be, Becky.

ANDERSON: What's the strategy here?

WEDEMAN: The strategy for the referenda is to make all of these areas officially part of Russia. Once they become part of Russia, the war is no

longer in Ukraine; the war is in Russia itself.

Does this possibly mean that it will go from, as far as the Russians are concerned, a so-called special military operation and become a real war

officially in Russia?

Does this mean there will be a mass mobilization of troops in the country?

Does it mean bringing everything into the war effort?


WEDEMAN: So it certainly is significant. The Ukrainians are saying this is just, these decisions stem from fear of defeat following the recent counter

offensive here in the Kharkiv region, Becky.

ANDERSON: It certainly an argument that this could be Russia conceding this land has been taken back and there could be more to come. Ben, you've

been speaking to people that are now free from Russian occupation.

What are they telling you?

WEDEMAN: Well, definitely the impression you get, Becky, speaking to people, is that they particularly did not enjoy living under Russian

occupation. They talk about basically trying to stay off the streets as much as possible.

Drunk Russian soldiers were a danger to anybody who went out, anybody with any sort of interaction with them. We spoke with one elderly woman who had

a stroke during the Russian occupation, could not get any medical treatment during that time.

Now that Izyum, where we were the other day, is free of Russian occupation, the local inhabitants still have many problems.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Help arrives in Izyum. Bags of barley meal, tins of food. Waiting her turn, Inessa (ph) shrugs off the tribulations of late.

She's seen worse.

We survived World War II when I was little, she tells me.

Surgeon Oksana Karapetian (ph) hands out medicine. Sedatives are in high demand.

OKSANA KARAPETIAN, KYIV RESIDENT AND SURGEON: Half of a year, six months, without any help. You can understand -- just imagine what do they feel?

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Liberation from Russia isn't the end of Izyum's troubles. Much of the city was severely bombarded before falling in spring

to the Russians. There's no running water, no electricity, no heat.

Crowds gathered to charge cell phones off an army generator and make calls, 10 minutes per person, using internet provided by a satellite connection.

Lubov (ph) and her daughter, Anzhela (ph) are calling relatives. They want to leave. Winter is coming.

People will freeze, Anzhela (ph) warns. Older people won't survive.

They also fear the Russians could return. Nearby the signs of their hasty retreat. Helmets strewn outside a house Russian soldiers commandeered.

Bread crumbs still on the table. Insects make a meal of the fruit half eaten.

On the edge of the town the remains of Russia's once vaunted army before a monument harkening back to a different time which now seems like the

distant past.

Natasha shows me a newspaper distributed during the occupation.

WEDEMAN: What does she think of him?

WEDEMAN (voice-over): I haven't thought anything good about him since 2000, she says. He destroyed everything in Russia.

The paper does, however, come in handy.


WEDEMAN: President Zelenskyy has said that the government is going to do everything it can to restore those missing basic services. Reconstruction

of Izyum, however, will take much longer, Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman's on the ground for us in Ukraine, thank you, Ben. Fascinating reporting.

As Ukraine makes inroads on the battlefield, it could get a new round of support from the West. In the U.S. Republican senators have signaled

support for another $12 billion in aid. That'll be attached to a bill funding the U.S. government.

The U.S. has given Ukraine more than $44 billion so far this year. And new prime minister Liz Truss in the U.K. promises next year Great Britain

would, quote, "meet or exceed" the military aid already given.

We'll get more on what Ukraine needs next hour when I'm joined by a member of the Ukrainian Parliament live from the UNGA, where Ukraine is a major


This is the 77th United Nations General Assembly; general debate started today. It's the first in-person session in three years. Many world leaders

from the U.N.'s 193 member nations will take their turn at the podium over the next several days.

This is Jair Bolsonaro; the Brazilians always open the floor at the UNGA.

U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres gave opening remarks ahead of that offering, a grim view of the weeks and months ahead and the huge challenges

facing the world body.


ANDERSON: Have a listen.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let's have no illusions, we're in rough seas, a winter of global discontent on the

horizon. The cost of living crisis is raging, trust is crumbling, inequalities are exploding and our planet is burning.

People are hurting, with the most vulnerable suffering the most. The United Nations Charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy. We have a

duty to act and yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.


ANDERSON: CNN United Nations correspondent Richard Roth and U.S. security correspondent Kylie Atwood connecting us this hour from the U.N.

I want to start with you, Richard. Guterres describing nations as gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction, not mincing his words at all

about the challenges that the world faces.

he's calling for a windfall tax on the, quote, "grotesque greed" of the energy giants to help solve some of the world's biggest problems. These

profits the energy giants have gained, of course, off the back of the war in Ukraine at times. Explain where Antonio Guterres is at.

What is he really calling for here?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the secretary general of the United Nations, the big oil companies seem to be villain

number one on the global stage. Of course it's easier to attack these faceless company leaders and their company oil fields sometimes rather than

a U.N. member country.

But he now has his second term, which is well underway and he's a little more free to speak. The secretary general feels that countries should tax

these big companies, the windfall profits of fossil fuels, and give the money to developed countries that have borne the brunt of climate change

and don't have the financing to help the people.

So the entire General Assembly, packed with world leaders, heard this speech, the farthest he has gone in terms of condemning oil companies.

ANDERSON: It's fascinating, isn't it?

You're asking the European Union to talk about windfall taxes. But that is to ensure they could pay their way out of what looks like a global

recession going forward. Unlikely that the money will be spent specifically on climate change and food security. But I guess he's making a wider point


Kylie, Ukraine is likely to be front and center for many nations. Others will try and ignore the fact that it's going on at all. One of those is

likely to be Iran. Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi is in New York today.

Do we think we could see any movement on what is the gridlock-stalled Iran nuclear deal?

That gridlock, of course, between Iran and Washington at this point.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Becky, we're certainly not bracing for a breakthrough when it comes to those talks that are sort

of deadlocked as you said.

What we heard from the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, last week, the last response that the United States got from the Iranians on the proposal

was a step backwards. He also said that any near-term deal was unlikely. So that is where the United States stands.

When it comes to where Iran stands, we had that interview with "60 Minutes" with president Raisi over the weekend. He spoke to the deficit of trust

between the two countries. Listen to what he said.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We cannot trust the Americans because of the behavior that we've already seen from them. That

is why there is no guarantee and there is no trust.


ATWOOD: Of course what he's referencing is that the Biden administration is trying to get back into the deal. But it's the Trump administration

initially took the United States out of the deal.

So Iran has consistently pressed the United States for some sort of guarantee that that won't happen again when and if there is a new president

in the United States.

That's a hard guarantee for the Biden administration to give to the Iranians. That's just one of a few issues that still remain between the two


ANDERSON: It's not just hard; it's almost impossible, Kylie, isn't it?

At this stage with a, quote, "deficit of trust," verbalized by the new Iranian president, is there any sign of a meeting between Raisi and Biden

or, indeed, their officials at this point?

ATWOOD: No sign of that right now.


ATWOOD: Raisi said in that interview that he doesn't think that he will have a meeting with President Biden on the sidelines of the General

Assembly this week.

I've also talked to State Department officials; they are not expecting at all that they will see the Iranian counterparts face to face. So what that

means is that we'll be watching for who else the Iranians speak to on the sidelines, the other members of the JCPOA.

Could there be any quiet discussions that could break this logjam here?

We don't expect that that is likely to come over the next few days just because the secretary of state, as I said, they said they don't expect the

breakthrough is coming in the near term here.

But that is where we will be turning our attention, given the fact that we don't expect the U.S. and Iran to meet face-to-face.

ANDERSON: Fascinating, thank you.

Meanwhile in Iran, the death of a young woman in police custody is sparking anger and protests across the country.


ANDERSON (voice-over): At least five people were killed in Iran's Kurdish region, when security forces opened fire during these demonstrations on

Sunday and Monday. According to a Norwegian human rights group, which also said dozens of people were injured in other cities over the weekend.

Mahsa Amini was arrested by the morality police in Tehran last week and died after falling into a coma. Iran's semi official Fars news agency

quoted police, saying her death was an unfortunate accident. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is monitoring the situation, joining us from Istanbul, Turkiye.

These protests are always a surprise to see; perhaps there are more often than many watching the show would know. But it's still important that we

talk about these.

How widespread are they?

And explain what it is that happened to her.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, as you know well, it's very hard to verify what's going on on the ground in Iran. But we have been able

to confirm that, over the past few days, since the weekend, a number of protests have taken place.

A number of cities have small but spreading and widespread protests countrywide. This, despite the crackdown we're seeing reported by activists

and human rights organizations, with authorities using everything from water cannons to live bullets, according to activists, as you mentioned.

There are reports of death and injuries. We've heard from the United Nations Human Rights Office a short time ago, saying they're very concerned

about these reports of the excessive use of force by the authorities there.

And you know they're saying that these protests are taking place in at least seven cities, including the capital, Tehran. Becky, this is happening

after the government came out and said they are investigating the circumstances.

We heard over the weekend them saying an autopsy was carried out and they're reviewing it. What you have right now is her family saying she was

a healthy 22 year old taken away by a patrol of the controversial and notorious morality police.

A couple of hours later, she's in a coma and in hospital. On Friday, just a few days after she was taken to the so-called reeducation center, she died.

Authorities on the other hand saying that she died of natural causes. They even tried to release a CCTV video edited.

But they said it shows she wasn't well and that she collapsed and fell into a coma at that so-called reeducation center.

So you've got these two different stories out there. For her family and human rights groups, they really don't trust that the government and

authorities there will be able to deliver a credible investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.

We've heard from the United Nations' acting human rights commissioner a short time ago, saying, look, there are reports of ill treatment. There are

reports that she may have been beaten up. And those should be investigated by a competent and an independent authority, as she put it, Becky.

ANDERSON: That's interesting. We're seeing protests and there's clearly a cohort of people who believe the religious camp has crossed the line here.

In what you just reported is there a concession that, in fact, there's a wider cohort of people that believe that, that devote you (ph) religious

camp has crossed the line?

KARADSHEH: Well, Becky, since the reports of her in a coma and then reports of her death coming out late last week --


KARADSHEH: -- we've seen that she has been mourned across Iranian society. The fact you have the government very much straightaway on Friday,

president Raisi ordering the interior minister to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death.

The authorities came out quickly with reports they'd carried out an autopsy. That gave us an indication that this incident may have crossed the

line even for the country's most religious.

But at the same time, Becky, this is igniting, as we see from the pictures coming from Tehran and other places, this debate over the role and the

existence of the country's morality police.

You've got young men and women coming out and speaking out and questioning if they should be out there and should be enforcing the country's strict

Islamic dress code, including the compulsory head scarf or even if the country should have compulsory head scarves.

So you're seen this coming up again. And we've seen those images coming from the ground, these remarkable images of women yet again on the street,

saying enough is enough and brave enough to remove their head scarves, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, Jomana, thank you. Jomana Karadsheh keeping an eye on that from her base in Istanbul.

Find out why this incident may be different to those that have sparked outrage in Iran in the past in CNN's "Meanwhile in the Middle East"

newsletter. If you haven't signed up, please do so. You will find the biggest stories and trends in the region as they happen. It explains why

what's going on matters. That's

Ahead, facing a tough election next month, Brazil's president just took the world stage at the United Nations.

What did Jair Bolsonaro say?

That's up next.

No power and water, we'll look at the damage left behind by hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico. That's next. Today out of London, stay with us.




ANDERSON: Let's get back to the top story, a gathering of world leaders at the 77th U.N. General Assembly, in the shadow of Russia's war in the


In the last hour, Brazil's president gave the first speech, as is tradition. CNN's Shasta Darlington has been following Jair Bolsonaro's

address from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She joins us live.

The Brazilian president just got off the plane from the queen's funeral in the U.K. He promised that this will be focused on domestic issues.


ANDERSON: Taking an opportunity to really plug what is the best of Brazil in what is the run-up to an election at this point, which he is not looking

particularly strong in polling. Explain what was said and why it's significant.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. He held up his promise on that end. He stuck to domestic issues and

promoted his own achievements, as he campaigns for reelection, as you pointed out.

He praised Brazil's COVID response. That's despite widespread criticism and a very high death toll during the pandemic itself. He also hailed the

economy and said it was coming back. Inflation is coming down.

And those have been two of his Achilles heels until recently, a weak economy and high inflation. But he pointed out that they're recovering. He

also addressed the environment in the Amazon, accusing the media of being overly critical of his government.

He says that two-thirds of the territory is still covered in native vegetation across the country. He also said, when you look at the Amazon,

you can't only think about the environment; you also have to think about the people. So economic development has to be a part of the equation.

He touched on the agro industry, gender ideology; these are important topics for his base in Brazil. And he squeezed in criticism of the left-

wing Workers Party.

That's not surprising, considering his main rival is Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a two-time president from the Workers Party, who is also ahead of

him in the polls for the election coming up on October 2nd.

ANDERSON: Yes and it's interesting, isn't it?

So the speech feels like it was designed for a domestic audience, from a president who goes first, by tradition, standing on the stage in front of

192 world leaders, addressing specifically domestic issues here. The Ukraine war is expected to crowd out so many other issues.

What did Jair Bolsonaro say, if anything, about that?

DARLINGTON: He didn't touch on it. But what's important is that he knows he's not talking to an international audience; he's talking to his

Brazilian audience. He has kept to the line that Brazil needs to remain neutral.

He praised the countries that helped get Brazilians out of Ukraine at the beginning of the conflict. But Brazil gets a lot of fertilizers and

components for fertilizers from Russia, which is important because the agro industry is huge here.

So he definitely stays clear of criticizing Russia. Again, this was an opportunity for him to try and show himself in the statesman-like

environment because he is behind in the polls.

The latest polls for example show that, while he had been inching closer, that tendency has reverted. One poll showed Lula ahead with 40 percent

versus 31 percent for Bolsonaro.

The big question is, can the opposition pass 50 percent?

In which case this wouldn't go to a second round of elections. So it's important for Bolsonaro to try and get as many votes as he can before the

first round of elections on October 2nd.

ANDERSON: Shasta Darlington, thank you very much indeed.

Hurricane Fiona is barreling through the Caribbean. Coming up, a look at the damage left in its wake and strong it will be when it hits its next


And a stunning decision by a judge in the murder conviction of man featured in the "Serial" podcast. Why he was set free, at least for now. That after






ANDERSON: Welcome, back I'm Becky Anderson in London where it's half past 3 in the afternoon. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

As Russia continues to battle for territory in the east of Ukraine, the region is planning to vote on whether to join Russia. Referenda is

scheduled in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions beginning on Friday.

Ukraine ha declared the votes a sham. Ukrainian officials say they stem from Russia's fear it will be defeated in the war. We'll get you the latest

on what's going on on the ground as we get it.

Much of Puerto Rico is in the dark after hurricane Fiona ripped through the island. The storm is now gaining strength and becoming a category 3

hurricane, with wind gusts of up to 185 kilometers an hour. At least four deaths are being blamed on the storm across the Caribbean. Leyla Santiago

has the latest for you from Puerto Rico.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today the majority of people in Puerto Rico are waking up without power and water. If you're in San Juan, where we

are now, I'm having families tell me that they are getting some power restored and water back.

But that's a small portion of the island. If you go into the interior, if you go to the southern coast, really hit hard by hurricane Fiona, they do

not have power. They do not have water.

The big question is, when will this come to an end so that crews can begin to really work at that?

When you ask government officials if they have estimation as to when power will be fully restored, they'll tell you it could be a matter of days. But

really there is no guarantee.

I should mention, today is exactly five years to the day since Hurricane Maria, the hurricane that left many here without power for months. In some

cases it was up to 11 months, nearly a year.

So there's much anxiety and fear talking to people at shelters and in their homes that they're fearing the worst, fearing what happened five years ago

because of the images you're seeing, because of the flooding and water.

The anxiety that's tied to the timing of all this, emergency crews said they would be right back today, trying to get into areas they haven't

gotten into. But most people are just waiting for the rain to stop -- back to you.


ANDERSON: Leyla Santiago reporting in Puerto Rico.



ANDERSON: Let's get up to speed on some other stories that are on the radar right now.

A powerful earthquake on Monday in southwestern Mexico has left at least two people dead. Hundreds of kilometers away in Mexico City people can feel

the shaking. That came on the anniversaries of two deadly earthquakes in Mexico in 1985 and 2017.

Angelina Jolie is using her star power to draw attention to Pakistan's devastating floods. The actor and U.N. special envoy is in the port city of

Karachi to highlight the humanitarian situation. More than 1,500 people have died in flooding since June.

A judge in the U.S. is vacating the murder conviction of a man who spent 23 years in prison. Adnan Syed's case gained national attention and global

attention from a popular podcast and television series.

Prosecutors are not saying Adnan Syed is innocent in the death of his former high school girlfriend but they do believe he deserves a new trial.

CNN's Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Free from prison after 23 years behind bars, a crowd swarmed Adnan Syed outside a Baltimore circuit

court moments after a judge vacated the murder conviction against him.

Syed didn't stop to speak, whisked away in a car and ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet until the state decides whether to pursue a new

trial against him or drop all charges in the death of Hae Min Lee, his ex- girlfriend, a high school student strangled to death in 1999. Her body was discovered weeks later.

MARILYN MOSBY, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR BALTIMORE CITY, MARYLAND: We're not yet declaring, not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent. But we are

declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial.

FIELD (voice-over): Syed has maintained his innocence since he was convicted in 2000. Defense attorneys have repeatedly tried to have him


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It felt like they got to the wrong guy.

FIELD (voice-over): A popular HBO series raised new questions about the case against Adnan Syed in 2019.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Young lovers from different worlds.

FIELD (voice-over): But it was the hit podcast Serial that brought the case and the possibility there had been a miscarriage of justice to

national attention in 2014. Lee's brother Yung Lee telling the courtroom this isn't a podcast for me. This is real life. And tearfully adding,

whenever I think it's over, it's ended, it always comes back.

But the judge ruled in favor of the motion filed by prosecutors who had asked for Syed's immediate release following a yearlong reinvestigation

into the case against him. That turned up a slew of failures Syed in a 21- page court document.

Among them the unreliability of cell phone data used in the original trial, advances in DNA testing and most critically, newly developed information

about two alternative suspects and the state's failure to disclose critical information about those suspects to the defense at the time of the trial.

MOSBY: Our investigation uncovered that one of the suspects threatened Ms. Lee saying he would make her disappear, he would kill her. We also received

information that provided motive for that same alternative suspects.

FIELD (voice-over): A final decision on whether to actually proceed with a new trial will likely hinge according to prosecutors on the results of

touch DNA testing of some items recovered from the crime scene. A technology that didn't exist at the time of the crime.

Still, for throngs of Syed's supporters, this is the first victory more than two decades in the making. For the family of Hae Min Lee, the start of

another search for answers in the death of their beloved.

STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR LEE FAMILY: This family is interested in the pursuit of justice.


KELLY: They want to know more than anybody who it was that killed Hae Min Lee.

FIELD (voice-over): Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


ANDERSON: From top amateur to her first LPGA win, we'll find out how Andrea Lee could do no wrong at the Portland classic, that's coming up

after the break.




ANDERSON: Sustainable development is getting some star power.



ANDERSON (voice-over): K-pop group BLACKPINK took a moment away from promoting their latest single "Shot Down" to use their global popularity to

send a message about climate change.


ANDERSON: BLACKPINK spoke by video to dignitaries gathered at the U.N. General Assembly. Have a listen.


ROSE, MEMBER, BLACKPINK: We can't deny that the climate crisis is getting worse. There isn't a single moment to lose. That is why SDG13 for Climate

Action is so important. It can truly make or break our efforts across all global goals.

JENNIE KIM, MEMBER, BLACKPINK: We must seize this moment and take actions to create a world that is more sustainable and leave no one behind.


ANDERSON: To do that the group urged people to cut energy consumption and food waste.

Doing their bit.