Return to Transcripts main page

Connect the World

Thailand Mourns Victims of Nursery School Attack; U.S., South Korea Begin Two Days of Naval Drills; Norway to Strengthen Security at Oil and Gas Installations; Fighting Takes a Toll on Russia's Wagner Mercenaries; U.S. Issues New Sanctions Over Crackdown on Protesters. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired October 07, 2022 - 10:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't imagine this kind of person exists, says his grandmother. I can't imagine human could be this cruel to



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thailand mourns after a tragedy that has shocked and sickened the world.


MARAT GABIDULLIN, FORMER WAGNER MERCENARY: There is not a lot of motivation, only money. Russian peace for the American dollars.


ANDERSON: As the resolve of Russian hired soldiers fades, President Biden issues a chilling warning about Putin's next steps. And despite harsh

government crackdowns protesters continue to rally in Iran.

It's 6:00 p.m. here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Hello, and welcome to the show.

We begin with Thailand, a nation in grief and disbelief over a tragedy that has shocked and sickened people around the globe. Flags fly at half-staff

in memory of 36 people killed Thursday at a nursery school, most of them children. Authorities say a former police officer armed with a knife and a

gun forced his way inside and began stabbing the napping children in their sleep. He eventually killed his own wife and child before taking his own


Well, today the Thai prime minister and the king and queen met with survivors in the hospital. There will be no trial and no justice for the

families who lost their children in such a horrific way, just unimaginable grief. They are left to make sense of, frankly, the senseless.

CNN's Anna Coren talked to stunned parents and the emergency crews who responded to the scene. A warning to those of you who are watching, some of

the images that you are about to see are disturbing.


COREN (voice-over): Sitting in the stifling heat under a corrugated iron roof, a mother is unable to contain her heartache and anguish. Her pain

muffled by the collective grief being felt in the province of Nong Bua Lamphu in Thailand's northeast after a disgraced police officer went on the

country's most murderous rampage in recent history inside a daycare center. Of the 36 victims, 24 were children.

Four-year-old Dan was one of them. This happy, cheerful little boy was expecting a baby brother in a matter of weeks. His mother, barely conscious

as she sits with other grief stricken parents and relatives who'd come to register for assistance at the government relief center just meters away

from the scene of the massacre.

I can't imagine this kind of person exists, says his grandmother. I can't imagine a human could be this cruel to children.

For this couple, clutching each other, their loss is unfathomable. Their 3 and a half-year-old fraternal twin boys, Weerapat and Worapon, their only

children, were slaughtered. Here we see them in the car with their parents just days before their future was horrifically cut short. The father now

speechless, the mother still in shock.

They were so talkative, they were at that age where they talked a lot, she explained. They had different characters. They were so lovely.

For the emergency crews the carnage they witnessed when they walked through the doors is a nightmare they won't ever be able to erase.

The first thing I saw when I opened the door, I was stunned, I had to gather myself, he says. I have never seen anything like this before.

(On-camera): We are learning gruesome details about what happened at this daycare center from the first responders who were on the scene. They said

that they found the bodies of the children and teachers spread across these three rooms. And we can still see the bloodstains splattered across the

floor. They said all the bodies had knife wounds to the head.

(Voice-over): One of the children had tried to protect his face when the attacker wield the knife, one responder says. He also found two children

still alive.


The first image I saw was children covered with blood, he remembers. I was trying to transport them to the hospital, some of the kids still had a

pulse, but I don't know if they made it.

While children's picture and animal masks decorate the walls, the innocence of this daycare center has been lost forever. Bloodstains smeared

throughout the classrooms, the furniture and abandoned school bags a ghastly reminder of the horrors and evils unleashed in this refuge to the

community's youngest and most treasured.


ANDERSON: Anna joining us now live from northeastern Thailand, and these are horrific scenes, Anna. Describe what we know about the victims and what

their families will be doing over the coming days.

COREN: Well, the victims, Becky, are mainly children. You know, these are daycare kids, age between 2, the youngest I think was about 2, up to 4. You

know, they went to this center before they started school. This was a place they had attended for many years according to some of the parents that we

spoke to today. And, you know, we gained access to this center. And you could see that the joy and the happiness that must have gone on in this

wonderful sanctuary that it was for these children and these parents until that 34-year-old disgruntled police officer walked in there yesterday at

lunchtime, and just committed this unthinkable massacre.

For the families that we have spoken to, I mean, as you could see from our package they are in shock, in disbelief. They are grief stricken, as you

would be. I mean, we are in a province, Becky. This is rural Thailand up in the northeast. This is where there are sugar cane plantations, and rice

paddies, and, you know, people here know each other. This is a community. These sorts of horrors do not take place here. And yet they have. And

children have been the overwhelming, you know, number of victims.

We are at the hospital where we believe there are a number of survivors. Some of them children. The king and queen of Thailand are due any moment,

Becky. We were down in the foyer a little bit earlier. We got moved on by the police and the military who told us we are not allowed to be anywhere

near the king. So we are still expecting him to come to this hospital. And that's a big deal because they don't make these sorts of appearances very


It's quite rare that they do this. So it just goes to speak really to the scale of this tragedy, this massacre, the worst in living history here in

Thailand. Over the coming days families are going to be getting the bodies, many of them that were brought here to this hospital. They'll be taking

them to the temples. They'll be putting them in coffins before they cremate them. That obviously being part of the Buddhist ritual here in Thailand.

This is a Buddhist country.

So, you know, a lot of pain and suffering, obviously, in the days ahead. We've been down at this temple, Becky, and they wailing, the constant

wailing of these parents is -- it just sends, you know, absolute chills up my spine to think that these parents, like so many other parents when you

send your child to daycare thinking that they will come home safely to you, and instead they are having to cremate their babies -- Becky.

ANDERSON: It's unspeakable. Anna, thank you.

You can see more of Anna's reporting about the tragic scene in Thailand, where we have grieving parents clinging to their kids' blankets, their

bottles, and to each other. Those details are at That's our digital platform, of course.

Well, the U.S. and South Korea are conducting two more days of naval exercises in the waters between Japan and South Korea. The drills like

these ones last week are a show of military force and a direct response to provocations from North Korea. In a significant escalation Pyongyang has

carried out six ballistic missile launches in the last two weeks. And this intense activity is raising fears it might be gearing up for its seventh

nuclear test.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is following these developments from Seoul -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, we certainly are seeing very speedy responses from the U.S. and from South Korea, and also on

Thursday with the Japanese Navy involved as well. Having these joint drills, which were unpredicted, they were unplanned, but they are being

held in response to those missile launches.


The Navy's, according to the South Korean JCS saying that it's a message to North Korea to show them that they are capable of reacting quickly and of

having a response if they wanted to. Now, if you take North Korea at their word, they are saying the reason they are carrying out this missile

launches at this point is because of these joint drills that they had seen between the U.S. and South Korea. They are the drills that always irritate


But, we are seeing a remarkable flurry, not just of launches, but also of other exercises from the North. We found out just Thursday night that in

the afternoon there had been what the joint chiefs of staff here called a protest flight from North Korea. They said it appeared that about 12 North

Korean aircraft carried out an air-to-surface firing exercise.

Now this was in an area of North Korea which was just south of the Special Surveillance Line. This is a virtual lied, as I say, in North Korea but

close enough to the DMZ that the South Korean military, if they see aircraft coming south of that line, they mobilize. And that's exactly what

the South Korean Air Force did. They mobilized 30 aircraft as well.

Now we don't know how close either side came to the Demilitarized Zone at this point. But it just goes to show that there is this continual uptick of

tit-for-tat action on both sides.

ANDERSON: Paula Hancocks in Seoul.

Was the Nord Stream pipeline really sabotaged? Many believed it was. Joining us next is the state secretary for Norway's Petroleum and Energy

Ministry to give us his perspective and more. And the sound of protest in Tehran as the government issues an official report on the woman's death

that sparked the demonstrations. Details on that are just ahead.


ANDERSON: Joe Biden delivered a stark warning on Thursday night. At a Democratic fundraiser, the U.S. president said he is very worried that

Vladimir Putin may resort to nuclear weapons if the war in Ukraine continues to go against him. And he said he thinks any nuclear move by

Russia would lead to, quote, "Armageddon." They were strikingly frank comments from a U.S. president. Mr. Biden also said he doesn't know how the

Russian president ends the war without losing significant power inside Russia.

Well, the second day of a huge summit of more than 40 European leaders revealed major divisions on the continent when it comes to dealing with gas

prices that have spiked since the war in Ukraine began.


E.U. leaders are split over how to implement gas price caps, with some nations worried that capping prices could make it difficult for them to buy

oil during the cold winter months.

Well, Sweden's security agency says the explosions that caused extensive damage to the Nord Stream pipelines were an act of gross sabotage.

Satellites last week show thousands of tons of methane bubbled up from the damaged Nord Stream One and Two pipelines, and it turned parts of the

Baltic Sea into this, which looked like a giant jacuzzi.

Norway expected to strengthen its security and its oil and gas installations following these leaks. And my next guest says, and I quote,

"I think obviously this is the sort of challenge at the moment. We are doing what we can to maintain the security of the Norwegian Continental


Well, joining us now is the state secretary for Norway's Petroleum and Energy Ministry, Andreas Eriksen.

So thank you for joining us. As we already mentioned, Sweden's security service said on Thursday that a crime scene investigation of the two

pipelines has strengthened suspicions of gross sabotage, and that is ratcheting up the language somewhat. The inference is being Russia to date.

What's your perspective?


authorities. Undoubtedly if this is an act of sabotage that is a very grave situation that we are in. And it's very important from our perspective to

strengthen security on the continental shelf to secure that we're able to produce gas for the continent that (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: With respect, let me just press you on that, I did ask whether you believe or perhaps I did not ask as directly as I should have done.

Have you seen intelligence? Do you have any evidence to back up others' claims that this is a Russian act of sabotage?

ERIKSEN: I think the explosions happened within the jurisdiction of our neighboring countries, so we rely on the information that we get from them.

And if they are so clear in their language then we have to trust that that is correct.

ANDERSON: So my sense is that you are suggesting that you believe it was Russia.

ERIKSEN: I cannot go into detail on who it might have been beside behind such an act. That is too early for me to comment on with the information

that we have. But we are looking forward to the inquiries being done by our neighboring countries. We think it's very important that we get the full

information in this matter to be able to see both what was done in practice and who was behind the act of sabotage, if it was an act of sabotage.

ANDERSON: And you are right, I mean, the most important thing is working out what happened and who may have been behind this and clear a lot of

unanswered questions at the moment so forgive me for pressing you. I did want to ensure that I had, you know, as much as you might be able to

provide. So I rest my case on that.

You deployed a specialist vessel to inspect a pipeline to Germany. Your energy sector is on high alert and you have deployed your navy and now air

force to patrol offshore facilities. You are clearly very worried about security at this point. Is it a concern about another incident similar to

the Nord Stream?

ERIKSEN: I think it's a general security concern right now. It's not out that the importance of the Norwegian Continental Shelf is crucial to

European energy security, and for obvious reasons that makes the continental shelf and the production of gas a target. Therefore it has been

natural for us to increase security overtime, both with a visible measures being taken, but also other measures that I for natural reasons cannot go

into detail about.

ANDERSON: Is this enhanced security, this ratcheting up of security around Norway's energy infrastructure unprecedented?

ERIKSEN: It's at least reflecting of a new energy situation in Europe. We supply almost a third of gas consumption in Europe right now. For obvious

reasons that makes the production and the export from the Norwegian Continental Shelf extremely important to Europe going into a tough, cold

European winter.


And therefore we have to do everything we can to ensure that security is at a high level, and that we avoid incidents as far as possible.

ANDERSON: So ratcheting up of security, investigations ongoing into what happened around the Nord Stream One and Two pipelines. You are surveying

what's known as Euro Pipe Two right now. That runs from Norway to Germany. What's the status briefly of that investigation?

ERIKSEN: I have seen that the companies on the shelf has stated that there are undergoing investigation. And I'll have to come back from commenting

concretely on that after the investigation is done.

ANDERSON: Your prime minister, in a joint statement with Ursula von der Leyen said, and I quote here, "We are at a critical juncture for the

security and stability of the European continent. We therefore also need to rethink and reshape energy security in Europe."

Norway is Europe's largest gas supply following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Norwegian oil and gas assets frankly making an awful lot of

money at this point. How do you propose to help and ensure that European energy costs are kept realistic for consumers as you rightly point out, we

head towards what could be and is forecast to be a cold European winter?

ERIKSEN: I think first and foremost the work that is being conducted together with the European Commission is important and fruitful, and we

share the goal of stabilizing energy prices. This situation that we are in right now is not good for Norway, it's not good for Europe, It's not good

for the West. So we have to find measures.

But there are no real sort of quick fix measures available. We have been critical, for example, about a price gap due to the fact that it could lead

gas away from Europe, increased demand when it should be decreased to be able to ensure that there is enough energy. So we had to work together with

the European Commission, together with the European countries to find the right measures in this crucial situation. And we have to be honest that

that's not an easy thing to do in practice.

ANDERSON: Even if that is to the detriment of the energy giants' profit- making ability, briefly.

ERIKSEN: I think we have been very clear from our side that the situation we're right now with the high prices that we see now that yes, to a certain

extent benefits Norway and the tax incomes of Norway. But they're not good for Norway in the long run and we will do everything we can to help find

the right types of measures that both ensure energy security while at the same time stabilize prices, bring down prices in the short to medium run.

ANDERSON: Andreas, it's good to have you and your perspective is very important. We appreciate it. We appreciate your time.

In the next hour we'll be hearing from the head of Ukraine's state nuclear energy company Petro Kotin, he'll give us more information on how he plans

to take charge of the Russian occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. It's not just Russian regular troops, meantime while racking up losses in Ukraine.

The same now applies to the so-called Wagner Group, a private mercenary forces being deployed from the get-go.

But as Melissa Bell found out, the war is now taking a toll on that group's ranks and morale. And, warning, some images you are about to see are



MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The chaos of Ukraine's frontlines through the eyes of a Wagner mercenary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Legs, guts, arms. Boys, it's all messed up.

BELL: A video shared exclusively with CNN by a member of Vladimir Putin's so-called private army. One of those who's seen enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm sorry, bro. I'm sorry.

BELL: A far cry from the slick propaganda used by Wagner to entice recruits to the depleted Russian frontlines. Long kept in the shadows by Moscow, the

elite paramilitary group or the musicians, as they call themselves now lionized for their role in Russia's springtime victories. Like the

surrender of Azovstal or the fall of Mariupol.


The mercenaries' experience initially making all the difference to Moscow, according to this former Wagner commander.

GABIDULLIN (through translator): Without their active assistance, the Russian armed forces would not have been able to move forward at all.

BELL: The Kremlin didn't respond to our request for comment. But a months- long CNN investigation has found what the war has cost Moscow's elite fighting force. Its men, its confidence, and its allure.

Marat Gabidullin says Wagner fighters are paid $5,000 a month to do the work regular Russian soldiers can't or won't.

GABIDULLIN: There is not enough motivation on the money. Russian peace for the American dollars.

BELL: Through their telegram channels and through intercepts, Ukrainian intelligence keeps a watchful eye. Morale within Wagner is low, says Andrei

Yusof (PH). It wasn't designed to participate in a full-scale war.

GABIDULLIN (through translator): They're dissatisfied with the overall organization of the fighting, the inability to make competent decisions to

organize battles, and of course, this means losses.

BELL: This video shared with CNN by Ukraine's Defense Ministry shows a mercenary desperately asking why there is no body armor for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are no more flak jackets, no more helmets either.

BELL: Of the estimated 5,000 Wagner mercenaries sent to Ukraine 1500 have been killed, according to intelligence sources in Kyiv. In Russia, that's

meant recruitment drives. From front pages to billboards, the W Orchestra is waiting for you, says this one, with a number to call and no experience

needed. A recruiter telling CNN through WhatsApp that barring thuggery terrorism and sexual impropriety, all criminal convictions, are negotiable.

A man who appears to be the founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, personally offering clemency to prisoners for six months of military

service. The illusive oligarch no longer denying ties to the group that the war in Ukraine has both exposed and transformed.

YURIY BELOUSOV, UKRAINE'S WAR CRIMES PROSECUTOR: It really shows that these guys are in trouble, so they really don't have people. They're ready to

send anyone. There's no criteria for professionalism anymore.

BELL: And that could mean more possible war crimes, especially on the retreat. This video shared with CNN by a Wagner soldier appears to show

mercenaries lining up the bodies of dead Ukrainian soldiers. In a chilling conversation, they debate whether to booby trap them or shoot those who

come to retrieve them before realizing that they're out of ammunition.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Kyiv.


ANDERSON: Well, the Nobel Peace Prize out just earlier today and will likely be seen as a condemnation of the leaders of both Russia and Belarus.

The honor is one of humanity's most coveted accolades and it's been awarded jointly to jailed human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the

Russian human rights group Memorial, and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties. The Ukrainian group says the accolade will spur them on.


ANNA TRUSHOVA, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, CENTER FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES (through translator): When someone's work is recognized, particularly at such a

level, it is a motivation to do even more, take up new, important initiatives, important projects, so that there is peace in our country,

freedom and democracy.


ANDERSON: Well, applause for the winners can be heard across the West, with the E.U.'s chief praising what she calls the outstanding courage of the

women and men standing against autocracy. More on the winners later in the show.

Well, Iran has issued a formal report over how Mahsa Amini died in police custody, as thousands continue to protest her death in Tehran and

elsewhere. We'll tell you what the government is saying after this.



ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. The time is just after half past six here. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Iran says Mahsa Amini's death was caused by an underlying medical condition and not by head injuries. Iran released an official medical report on the

22-year-old's death, which came after she was arrested by morality police for allegedly wearing her head scarf improperly. Now the report says Amini

had an operation for a brain tumor when she was 8 years old. Her death three weeks ago has sparked waves of protests across the country. Women in

Tehran have been burning scarves, cutting their hair, and chanting death to the dictator.

Well, the U.S. has issued new sanctions over what is a violent crackdown on protesters.

Nada Bashir is following the developments from London and she joins us now. We've seen criticism from the West over how Iran has handled these

protests, and these U.S. sanctions are the very latest. What do we know at this point?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Becky, there is now mounting pressure on members of the international community to take a

tougher response the Iranian regime, not only in response to the death of Mahsa Amini and other young women, as well as other protesters. Human

Rights Watch now are pegging at least 150 deaths as a result of that violent crackdown.

But there are also pressure on the international community to take action in response to that violent crackdown. We've seen, according to the Human

Rights Watch, the use of lethal tactics by the Iranian regime, by the Iranian security forces in response to these demonstrations. And despite

that we are continuing to say that remarkable show of defiance by the Iranian people up and down the country.

Many of them of course students, even young schoolchildren taking part in these demonstrations, protesting against the regime. All of this, of

course, as you mentioned, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini and, of course, by the notorious actions, brutal actions of Iran's morality police.

But as you laid out there, we are now seeing sanctions by the U.S. government and of course the European Union now also considering toughening

its penalties on the Iranian regime.


BASHIR (voice over): As protests in Iran enter the third week, global pressure is mounting on the country's hard line regime.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We stand with all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.

BASHIR: In the U.S. solidarity and sanctions.

VEDANT PATEL, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: We took action today by newly designating seven individuals across Iran's

government for their role in perpetrating violence against peaceful protesters and their crackdown on human rights.

BASHIR: The new sanctions come amid ongoing efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, though U.S. officials have asserted that those efforts won't

change Washington's response to the violent suppression of peaceful protests in Iran.

JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: For those that are worried about sanctions relief coming immediately with respect to the JCPOA for the

Iranian regime, that's just not going to happen anytime soon. What will happen is we're going to continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable

for the way they treat their own citizens.

BASHIR: Yet while President Joe Biden has been firm in his support for those protesting peacefully across Iran, the U.S. government has taken a

more cautious approach to holding the Iranian regime to account in comparison to the Obama administration.


BRIAN O'TOOLE, NON-RESIDENT SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Protest in 2009, where there were a lot of allegations of Western interference and

influence. And I think the Biden administration wants to avoid as much of that as possible and let them be organic, and let the will of the Iranian


BASHIR: At the European parliament lawmakers have also called for further sanctions on Iranian officials involved in the regime's crackdown.


BASHIR: Though some European lawmakers say E.U. leaders simply aren't doing enough.

AL-SAHLANI: Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the commission, who has not shown an act of solidarity that is worth its name. I do expect more of

the president of the only union of democracies where the peoples and citizens of the European Union have been protesting showing solidarity.

BASHIR: Human Rights Watch has warned of a growing death toll as a result of Iran's brutal crackdown detailing what it has described as excessive and

lethal force. Iranian authorities using shotguns and assault rifles against protesters.

Across the globe people have come out in solidarity with those protesting in Iran. From Sydney to Paris, London to Washington, D.C., a resounding

call for tougher action by the international community and greater support for those defying the Iranian regime.


BASHIR: And look, Becky, of course this was sparked by the actions of the morality police, the brutal tactics of the morality police against women in

Iran, and women have been playing a central role in this protest movement. But this has really moved to expand and to encompass a number of grievances

by the Iranian people against the Iranian regime. And we are still seeing these protests taking place up and down the country. A real brave show of

defiance it has to be said by the Iranian people -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nada, thank you, and more on Iran in our Middle East newsletter. Scroll down and find out how a fierce battle to control the narrative in

Iran is now being fought on social media. Also get some updates on some of the other major stories in the region this week. Sign up for "Meanwhile in

the Middle East,"

Back after this.



ANDERSON: American pro-basketball is breaking new ground. The Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks faced off in what was the first NBA game ever

played here in Abu Dhabi. A sellout crowd of 18,000 saw the Hawks come out on top at the Etihad Arena. Fans who missed the first game will get another

chance Saturday when the teams face off again.

Well, the best woman's football team in the world will get its toughest test of the year in just a few hours. The U.S. women are playing friendly

against England who's been dominating other European teams this year. But as the two teams prepare for battle they are united in speaking out about

something else.

Let's bring in CNN's "WORLD SPORT'S" Amanda Davies for more on that -- Amanda.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN ANCHOR, WORLD SPORT: Yes, Becky, both sides, the USA and England set to be wearing teal armbands later on Friday night in solidarity

of victims of sexual abuse because this game, which was already huge putting the world champions against the European champions, as you said, is

now coming just days after the Yates report was published detailing widespread emotional and sexual abuse from top to bottom really in the

women's professional game in the United States, the NWSL.

Megan Rapino always so eloquent talking about these issues has described how she and her teammates have been left emotionally exhausted by reading,

learning what has been happening within their game. So, so much more at stake this evening at this match which is a 90,000 sellout crowd. It's a

huge moment for the women's game. And now something that is so much more than just what happened on the pitch.

A little bit earlier on I was joined by the president of U.S. Soccer, a World Cup winner, an Olympic gold medal winner Cindy Cone. And you'll be

hearing what she had to say in just a couple of minutes in "WORLD SPORT."

ANDERSON: Terrific. Thank you for that. "WORLD SPORTS" up after this. We are back with CONNECT THE WORLD at the top of the hour for you.