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Brittney Griner Released from Russian Detention; Harry and Meghan Take Aim in Netflix Documentary; Doctors in Kramatorsk Race to Treat Wounded Soldiers; Peru's President Impeached, New One Sworn In; Mauna Loa Lava Closer to Major Highway. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 08, 2022 - 10:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade at the CNN Center. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

We are following the breaking news on the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner. Right now, she is on a plane headed home after Russia

freed her today in a prisoner swap. In exchange, the United States released convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout.

The swap happened earlier today at an airport in Abu Dhabi. It is mediated by the UAE and Saudi Arabia. A Russian court had sentenced Griner to nine

years in prison for illegally smuggling cannabis oil into the country. She had been moved to a penal colony last month.

Bout was serving a 25 year sentence for conspiring to kill Americans and other charges. U.S. President Joe Biden approved the swap over the past

week. That's according to a U.S. official familiar with this matter.

And earlier, the White House released a picture of the president greeting Griner's wife. Here's what they had to say a short time ago.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my job as President of the United States to make the hard calls and protect American citizens

everywhere in the world, anywhere in the world. And I'm proud that today we have made one more family whole again. So welcome home, Brittney.

CHERELLE GRINER, BRITTNEY'S WIFE: Today, I am just standing here, overwhelmed with emotions. But the most important emotion I have right now

is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration.


KINKADE: Despite What happened today, another American detained in Russia remains in custody in Russia. We're connecting you to all the angles of the

story with Kylie Atwood at the U.S. State Department, Fred Pleitgen and Nick Paton Walsh.

I want to start first with Fred, who, of course, was in Moscow for much of the trial.

Good to have you with us, Fred. After 10 months in captivity, including time in a penal colony, Brittney Griner now on the way back to the U.S.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I think that something all of her legal representatives in

Russia, we had a lot of contact with them over the months that she was on trial, obviously they're very happy about it.

One of the things that became clear to them, they put up a really strong defense for Brittney Griner as the trial was going on. And you can see that

it was really tough for Brittney Griner to be attending those trials.

She was always brought in in chains, she had to sit inside of a cage and at the same time she always remained very respectful to the court in all of

this. She also talked about how she respected Russia, how much she wanted to do for basketball on Russia.

There were character witnesses speaking to the fact that she had done a lot for basketball in Russia and indeed around the world. None of that led to

any leniency from the court.

You can really see those court appearances were one gut punch after the next for Brittney Griner. Finally, she was sentenced more than nine years

in prison and then sent to that penal colony.

And it was very difficult for the lawyers to then keep Britney Griner's spirits high. They always said she remained in good spirits, she remained

hopeful that she would be released. The U.S. embassy in Moscow also played a big role in all of this as well, keeping Britney Griner's spirits up.

So definitely, they are all very happy that this has now gone through. The legal team themselves were telling me they believe that, you know, there

pretty much wasn't any legal recourse left and that this swap was definitely exactly what they were hoping for.

So now, for Brittney Griner, this big ordeal that she has been going through after getting arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17th, that

has now come to an end.

And certainly also a big saga for the United States, trying to get her release, going through all the political machinations, which, of course,

the Russians made very difficult, insisting time and time again that everything happened behind closed doors.


PLEITGEN: But then also going public to a certain extent themselves. Just saying last week that they believe there weren't going to be any more talks

about prisoner swaps until the end of the year. That also turned out to be not true.

So certainly a good end but, of course, there is still a lot of concern about Paul Whelan, about his fate and whether or not or how long he might

still have to remain in custody in Russia, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, still major concerns for Paul Whelan but great news for Britney Griner and her family, as you say, Fred. If you just stand by for

us, I want to bring in Kylie Atwood, who joins us from the State Department.

Kylie, just give us a sense of the negotiations that led to this release. I understand this involved several countries, the most recent talks and the

prisoner exchange happening in Abu Dhabi.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, a senior administration official just expressing deep appreciation to the United

Arab Emirates for facilitating this transfer, for allowing their country to be the trusted location where the swap actually occurred.

Of course, it is U.S. officials however that really secured the deal that did all of the behind the scenes negotiations over the course of the last

many months to try to make this come to fruition.

We should know that this was not the outcome of that U.S. officials went into those conversations with Russia aiming to achieve. They wanted to get

both Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner home.

We reported over the summer that they actually put a proposal on the table with the Russians that included both of those Americans in exchange for a

deal that included Viktor Bout, who, of course, was released today.

But it's clear that the Russians are treating Paul Whelan differently. You can sense that because President Biden said today very clearly, this was

not a choice that the Biden administration had.

They really only had an option to do this, you know, one for one swap that came to fruition today.

Now the question will be, what can the United States do to secure Paul Whelan's release?

They are celebrating Britney Griner's return here. But Viktor Bout was really the person that the Russians wanted released. And we heard today

from David Whelan, Paul Whelan's brother, saying that this was the right choice for the administration to make, to secure the release of Britney


But questioning now what the United States can put on the table to get his brother home, who has been detained in Russia for about four years now.

KINKADE: Right, Kylie Atwood, if you could stand by for us, I want to go now to MJ Lee who is at the White House.

Good to have you with us, MJ. This is a huge victory for the Biden administration. The president did make the point of mentioning the other

well-known American in Russian prison, we were just talking about with Kylie.

He said though that essentially the U.S. did not have a choice here of who to bring home, adding that the Russians are treating the case of Paul

Whelan very differently to Brittney Griner.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is absolutely right and I think we saw those two dynamics at play when the president just spoke from the

White House moments ago.

You know, first and foremost, he was celebrating this, a victory, finally getting Brittney Griner out of Russia. He said she should be home within

the next 24 hours. But yes, a big part of the speech was also addressing the issue of Paul Whelan and making clear that he is still top of mind for


But the U.S. will continue to try to do everything it can to get him out. At one point he said, we have not forgotten about Paul Whelan. But I think

this sort of goes to the very, very complicated dynamics at play now as the U.S. tries to secure Paul Whelan's release as well.

You know, what we know is that, in recent weeks, the Russians had made clear to the West that Paul Whelan was not going to be an acceptable part

of this deal, that really Brittney Griner was the only person that could be a part of the deal.

We're told that in recent days President Biden himself personally signed off to accept this deal but that that was a very difficult decision for the

president and a difficult decision for him to accept, even as he ultimately knew that this was the right thing to do.

You know, the White House has gotten so much pressure in recent months to get a deal, to get Brittney Griner out of Russia. And now that that has

happened, you can certainly expect that pressure is going to ramp up more and focus on Paul Whelan, because he is now the person who has been left


Administration officials are trying to explain this morning why they felt like they simply did not have a choice but to accept the only deal that the

Russians were simply putting on the table.

KINKADE: Exactly, MJ Lee, just stand by for us. I want to go back to Kylie Atwood at the State Department.

Because, Kylie, we have been talking for many months --


KINKADE: -- about negotiations for the release of Britney Griner and also Paul Whelan.

And at one point the Russians wanted another prisoner, who is in Germany, released as part of this deal, right?

ATWOOD: That's right. Our reporting is that the U.S. had put an offer on the table --


ATWOOD: -- and the Russians responded by saying not only would they not accept it but they wanted someone convicted of murder and in prison in

Germany to be returned to Russia.

Clearly they weren't being productive in their back and forth negotiations because officials described it as the Russians were asking for things the

United States couldn't deliver on.

As we understood it, over the last few months, there remain channels of communication open between U.S. and Russian officials but Russians made

this difficult with this frustrating series of conversations.

It became evident more recently that the U.S. felt that Russia was willing to move forward with this one-for-one. As MJ said, that was a choice that

the administration decided to go forward with because, in their words, it was the only way to get something done here.

KINKADE: Kylie Atwood for us at the State Department, MJ Lee for us outside the White House, good to have you both with us. Thank you very


We are going to stay on the story. I want to bring in Nick Paton Walsh. He joins us from London.

The Russian arms dealer known as the merchant of death was released in exchange for Brittney Griner. You have interviewed him in the past. Tell us

about his case and how much longer he had on his sentence.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: About seven or eight years, depending on how you are counting. The merchant of death, the phrase

you used there, was the title of a book detailing extensively of his arms dealing around Africa and other conflicts in the '90s and early 2000s.

He also often was associated with a film starring Nicolas Cage called, "Lord of War," a fictitious adaptation of that book, "The Merchant of

Death," showing a man trafficking arms around the world.

That added to his sense of notoriety. This was a man who made it clear he was not guilty of the arms and trafficking he was not accused of, although

there were multiple U.N. investigations and analysts who brought forward what they said was evidence that he was.

I have seen home videos of him at various conflict areas in Africa. He always said, I'm just a tradesmen, I'm just a pilot, I'm just moving

materiel around war zones. I'm not the arms dealer people make me out to be.

At the same time, you know, you have to try and reconcile his claims of being essentially a nobody pilot to the outsize importance that he had for

Russia, the effort they put to stop him being extradited from Bangkok to the United States after a sting operation by U.S. agents, who were posing

as Colombian terrorists and got him to agree on camera, it seems, secret camera to sell them weaponry, which could have been used to kill Americans.

That extradition lied to him having the lengthy sentence in the States. Even now, they continue to diplomacy to get him back at a time when

relations between Moscow and Washington are at the worst they have been, potentially, you could say, for decades.

A man of massive importance. Some might say he has gained this notoriety and outsized relevance to Russia's intelligence and defense community and

perhaps now at this time it's an important moment for Vladimir Putin to show to those people he is relying upon in the war in Ukraine that they are

genuinely not left behind, that Russia will do anything it can to get its important figures like Viktor Bout back as well.

But there is the outstanding theory that, in his past, Viktor Bout knew people who were close to Vladimir Putin when they all served together in

various conflict zones, potentially in Africa, also something he denies as well.

A man whose past has never really been clearly elucidated but it is of massive value to Moscow, a value which the Biden administration was able to

use to get back Ms. Griner, a woman of enormous importance to many in the United States.

KINKADE: I want to ask a little bit more about the negotiations to get Viktor Bout back and what he means to Russia.

There is that question of, should the U.S. be giving an arms dealer back to Russia?

Initially, when these negotiations began months and months and months ago, the U.S. was reportedly offering him in exchange for Brittney Griner and

Paul Whelan.

That was a deal that Russia rejected, right?


WALSH: Look, you always see Moscow negotiating in such a way where at the last moment, they potentially pull the rug from beneath the offer that

everyone thought we were settled upon. That has been their way.

Frankly, that's why few trust Moscow to engage in diplomacy or peace talks in the war in Ukraine. Yes, it is this outsized difference between that

which Ms. Griner was accused of, carrying an incredibly small amount of cannabis oil, a wrongdoing, I think is the phrase the Biden administration

used to describe it, which still left an often very intolerant justice system of Russia, where convictions are almost guaranteed to some degree.

They left her in a penal colony in Mordovia, versus Viktor Bout, who was accused of a career history of staggering arms dealing in multiple

conflicts, all of which he denied, that led him through a lawful process of extradition to be tried in the United States and that held a U.S. jail

facility which, in some emails I exchanged with him, he was not actually finding that uncomfortable.

So a remarkable disparity between the crimes he was accused of, how he was treated by the United States and the crimes accused -- that Ms. Griner was

accused of and how she ended up in a penal colony in Mordovia of stark conditions.

KINKADE: Nick Paton Walsh for us in London, great to have you on the story. Our thanks to you.

We are going to take a short break right now. We are back with much more news, including a reaction from the royal family on the release of that new

Harry and Meghan Netflix series. Stay with us. Much more news in a moment.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Turning to news now on the British royal family, Netflix has just released the first few episodes of the new Harry and Meghan docuseries. In it, the

Duke and Duchess of Sussex take aim at the royal family and the media, especially at the U.K. tabloid press.

The couple talked about dating and death threats, in what Prince Harry calls the paparazzi feeding frenzy. He goes on to discuss life behind

palace walls and what he described as an acute level of unconscious bias in the royal family.

Netflix opens the series with a disclaimer, saying Buckingham Palace, quote, "declined to comment and be involved in the series." CNN royal

correspondent, Max Foster, reports.



PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: Hi, still here on ...

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been billed as the firsthand account of the relationship between Harry and Meghan, their

families, in the media and in their own words.

The first three episodes of the Netflix docuseries on the couple dropped in the early hours of this morning. And it returned to some familiar themes.


PRINCE HARRY: And that press pack of royal correspondents is essentially just an extended PR arm of the royal family.

FOSTER (voice-over): Harry comparing Meghan's experience to that of his mother, Diana's. He feared she would be driven away by the media


PRINCE HARRY: As far as a lot of the family members, everything that she was being put through, they have been put through as well. So it was almost

like a right of passage. And some of them (INAUDIBLE) right, but my wife had to go through that, so, why should your girlfriend be treated any


Why should you get special treatment?

Why should she be protected?

I said, the difference here is the risk element.

FOSTER (voice-over): Ultimately, Harry said he had to leave the U.K. to protect his family.

PRINCE HARRY: I accept there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I've done and how I have done it. But I

knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family.


PRINCE HARRY: Especially after what happened to my mom. I did not want history to repeat itself.

FOSTER (voice-over): We heard from Meghan's mother for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I remember when I first met him, too. You know, he was 6'1", handsome man with red hair, really great manners.

FOSTER (voice-over): Harry says, when he introduced Meghan to his family, they did not think the relationship would last.

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: The actress then was the biggest problem, funny enough. There is a big idea of what that looks like from the U.K.

standpoint, Hollywood, and there's just very easy for them to typecast that.

FOSTER (voice-over): The couple say they felt unprotected by the palace against a barrage of media attacks. The palace has yet to comment.


KINKADE: Well, Max Foster reporting this. CNN's Bianca Nobilo is live from London now.

Bianca, good to have you with us. So the first three episodes were released.

Any major bombshelling?

Any major revelation?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You get the sense when you watch the first three episodes that it's building to a more controversial

crescendo in the latter three, which we'll get to see next week.

That's because the first three episodes focus on the beginnings of their relationship and their early lives, their love story, which is very

touching at points, and then Meghan's initial reception in the United Kingdom and their engagement.

So obviously the next batch that we are going to see will be of the reasons why they decided that they actually could not function and feel safe in the

royal family, living in Britain.

So in all likelihood, that's where the revelations will be concentrated. But it is a striking, intimate portrayal. We've never had this type of

access to figures in the royal family before.

There is a scene where Meghan is in a turban, in a bathrobe, in a bathroom, with no makeup on, clearly very emotional and upset.

Prince Harry talks about his concerns dating and why it was difficult for him. They talk about their first kiss, their first date, staying in a tent

together. It's really an unusual amount of insight.

In terms of the bombshells or revelations, there is definitely targeted criticism of the British media in particular and the royal correspondents.

They argue they're an extension of the PR arm of the palace, which, working alongside Max Foster and others, I can tell you it's not the case from my


That is something which has been picked up on. But I would say, overall, it is what you could have expected. It is a very well produced Netflix

documentary. I think it garners sympathy for the couple and begins to give their side of the story. The next part will more likely be more

contentious, Lynda.

KINKADE: It's interesting, Bianca, because both talk about the sacrifices they made to get married. Meghan essentially saying she had to give up her

life, Harry saying he sacrificed his world for her.

I'm wondering how much empathy they have in the U.K. press and also if there has been any reaction from the palace?

NOBILO: In terms of reaction from the palace, there is one particular issue, which hits you straightaway when you begin to stream this

docuseries. That's the fact that it begins with a black slate with white writing, says the palace was reached out to for comment, but they declined

or didn't respond to a request for comment.

Then we heard from the palace later in the day that they had actually received an email from a third party asking for comment or to discuss this

docuseries but that the identity of that person could not be verified.

They had reached out to Archewell Foundation and to Meghan and Harry's camp to see if this person was legitimate but they did not receive response from


This is a very much sort of a he said/she said situation between these two camps. We don't yet know the full facts around that.


NOBILO: But in terms of reaction, that's all we heard so far. But it does really show this noticeable difference between the two sides of this

family, those on the Atlantic and those in England.

And that is the fact that Meghan and Harry have chosen to tell their story and explain their lived experience in the most public of ways, to millions

and millions of people all around the world, in a very intimate expose of what's happened in their lives.

Whereas the Prince and Princess of Wales and King Charles III have much more limited options. Obviously, they tend to not address things, never

complain, never explain.

So it will be quite interesting to see the response and how this is dealt with when you have such divulge and some personal details met with what

will likely be pretty stony silence or definitely very restrained feedback, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, it's interesting, they make a point of saying they've had too much press coverage. But then they make this Netflix show, earning

millions and millions of dollars. It will be interesting to see more reaction in the coming days. Bianca in London, thanks very much.


KINKADE: Well, for the fourth time this week, territory inside Russia has come under apparent attack. A regional governor reports shelling damaged

power lines today in the city of Belgorod, about 35 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Earlier this week, Russia says Ukraine launched three drone attacks deep inside Russia. And in Eastern Ukraine, a regional military chief in Luhansk

says the town of Bilohorivka is under constant attack from Russian forces.

Ukraine liberated the town in September. In Eastern Ukraine, soldiers severely wounded in the battle are now flooding into a trauma hospital in

the city of Kramatorsk where doctors are working urgently to save lives. CNN's Sam Kiley went inside to see the intense work underway.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wartime brain surgery in tandem, wounded in battle on the same day, on the same

front, two young men, the focus of these over practice neurosurgeons.

Kramatorsk is often bombed. The windows even in here are taped to slow flying glass. The effort is intense to repair brains to save lives,

memories, loves and future dreams.

They would have little idea where to start their delicate work. If they didn't have use of this, a CT scanner. It can pinpoint damage, find what

it's done and it gives surgeons a plan of action.

He says, yes, and, unfortunately, there is no left eye; there's a suspicion of damage to the right eye as well but definitely no left eye.

This is the fourth patient we've seen in the space of about an hour come in for a CT scan. It's supposed to be doing 15 or 20 a day. They're actually

doing 70 or 80. In short, it's wearing out.

This equipment is vital. The hospital can't afford a new one. But used ones for sale in the west of Ukraine cost about $120,000; the price of losing

this one, incalculable.

He says he shows signs of severe cranial cerebral injury with acute subdural hematoma and severe brain contusion. He needs urgent surgery.

The administrators here have raised about $60,000. They need help with the rest. This is the only CT scanner in a vast region.

Critical, this machine is critical. CT is critical to provide appropriate care for patients with both head wounds and acute brain injuries.

Is it saving lives?

Definitely, absolutely 100 percent.

There's been a steady flow of soldiers injured in a near Bakhmut. That is the scene of the heaviest fighting. This is a hospital that is trying to

deal really with an area they say about 300 square kilometers and a lot of that is at war.

Some soldiers are relatively lucky. Duck (ph) was shooting mortars at the Russians, who shot mortars back.

"My commander was lucky. He sat in front of me and I sat behind him and he was unhurt and I got hit in the leg. But, yes, we've seen wounded and dead

before. If I'm sitting here, I'm lucky."

Ukrainians on this eastern front call it the meat grinder. Check (ph) was alongside Duck when they were hit.

How would you describe the battle for Bakhmut?


KILEY (voice-over): He says, "World War I trenches, mud, blood, trenches again, artillery trench warfare, that's it. World War I and World War II,

something like that, Verdun, something like that."

The difference is that modern weapons are now more powerful. Modern surgery often the only route to survival -- that and old-fashioned grit -- Sam

Kiley, CNN, in Kramatorsk.


KINKADE: We are going to take a short break. We will have more on the release of basketball star Brittney Griner when we return. Stay with us.

You are watching CNN.




KINKADE: You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. It's good to have you with us.

I want to return to our breaking news. Brittney Griner is on her way home after arriving in Abu Dhabi from Moscow. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia

mediated to secure her release in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Standing beside Griner's wife, U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken to Griner and she will be home as soon as possible. We are covering this from

all sides. Former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty is in Washington. Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has perspective from


It's good to have you both with us.

I want to start with you, Nic. This negotiation required several countries, the actual trade, the prisoner exchange happened in Abu Dhabi.

What more can you tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The interlocutors came from the Gulf, the Saudis and the Emirates saying they were involved

as mediators. They were very grateful and happy with the success of the mediation.

The prisoner swap, the final prisoner swap, took place in the UAE. The president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, met with President Putin back in

October. We are told that this possible prisoner exchange came up as part of the conversation.

Just yesterday, Wednesday, we were told that Mohammed bin Zayed had a phone call with President Putin again, moving the process along. It's not quite

clear what role crown prince Mohammed bin Salman played. But he is being credited for being involved.

Mediation has played a role. It's something that is politically valuable to President Biden. He is bringing a prisoner home from a foreign country,

specifically Russia. Brittney Griner is a very high-profile prisoner.


ROBERTSON: And President Putin will have been very, very keenly aware of the value to President Biden, of giving the opportunity because he did not

have to make this exchange happen.

We do know that over the past few months, Putin has been trying to find a way out of the war in Ukraine on his terms, terms that are not acceptable

to Ukrainians or the Americans. And he does see the United States as a key interlocutor to put pressure on Ukraine to end the war -- again, on

Russia's terms.

None of that is going to happen. It's interesting in this whole big context, that conversations between Moscow and Washington have been

happening, not at senior levels maybe, perhaps only through mediators.

But they have been happening and are possible. That speaks to backchannel diplomacy at this time of extreme tension.

KINKADE: Stand by for us. You spoke about how this is politically valuable for Biden.

In terms of who has the upper hand in this prisoner swap, what does Putin get out of this?

Initially on the table, the U.S. had offered Bout in exchange for Griner and the other American, Paul Whelan. That deal was rejected. In the end,

they swapped a one-for-one deal. And Britney Griner had a very, very minor charge in comparison to Bout.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a very different calculus on both sides. If you look at Biden, enormous political pressure; very human story,

a basketball player sent off to a prison camp, et cetera.

So there was a lot of political pressure coming from the public. But if you look at Russia, I would not say that there was very much public pressure to

release Viktor Bout. He's been in prison for a while. He was sentenced to 25 years. But it's important to the Kremlin to get him back.


Well, you can name a number of things. His was -- he denies this -- but he is believed to be an arms dealer, one of the biggest in the world, selling

arms to terrorist organizations, et cetera.

He was also believed -- and he denies this -- that he was somehow connected to intelligence and security services in Russia. So you have to say that

the value to the Kremlin was not big public swell for releasing him but to get him back for their own purposes.

I really do think that we have to look at the circumstances right now. A war in Ukraine, I which weapons, weapons supplies, et cetera, are very,

very important. We don't know if Viktor Bout still has connections that he had or allegedly had years ago.

But he is apparently very important to the Kremlin. I was noting today that this morning the Kremlin -- I should say the foreign minister was saying

that this was a diplomatic victory. We really worked hard.

But they never mention Viktor Bout's alleged arms dealing. They talk about his health, bringing him back, things like that. Again, it's a very

different calculus on both sides.

KINKADE: In recent months, we were talking about the conditions that Brittney Griner was facing.

What does she leave behind?

Most recently, she was sent to a penal colony.

DOUGHERTY: Really harsh conditions. I was thinking, you know, here's a basketball player, very tall, in fantastic shape. That has to be maintained

every single day. There she was in a war camp, in a remote area of Russia, really horrible, spartan conditions, allowed to exercise, so-called, walk

in the yard for about an hour a day.

That would be extremely difficult for a real sports person who is in great shape, not to mention her feeling -- she apparently talked about this to

her team over there. She was beginning to lose hope that she would ever be released. There was a lot of physical but mainly psychological pressure

against her.

KINKADE: Nic, can I just go back to you?

Obviously, the timing of this is interesting. There is a war underway in Ukraine. Relations between the U.S. and Russia are very poor. I'm sure the

family of Paul Whelan, the other wrongfully detained American in Russia right now, is wondering if this offers them any --


KINKADE: -- hope at all that there could be a breakthrough in his case.

What is your reading of the situation?

ROBERTSON: When we heard from his brother a couple of hours ago, he was joyed (sic) by the news of Brittney Griner. They would be certainly aware

that this was a huge opportunity to bring Paul back. That wasn't possible, as President Biden said.

This does show that there can be prisoner exchanges. They undoubtedly would take some help in that. But they would also be wondering what it will take,

who it would take, for Paul Whelan.

It's clear that they believe that he is being held for more serious charges, the Russians do. In their, eyes he was wrongfully accused. But I

think that for the family, they were perhaps looking to what the Russians had originally said. They wanted a two for two deal.

The second person in the lineup would be a convicted Russian murderer sitting in a German jail, for which the U.S. has no jurisdiction.

Certainly, you would expect their attention to have turned toward that.

Paul Whelan's brother was saying that it is a daily grind every day. There is no magic in what we do, campaign for Paul's release. It's just hard

work. So you would imagine that they would also be talking, have been talking with German authorities about that possibility.

But these must be terribly tough moments for Paul Whelan's family and even for him when he understands what happened and this did not get him freedom.

KINKADE: Exactly. Our thoughts are with the Whelan family. Good news for the family of Britney Griner. Nic Robertson, our international diplomatic

editor, and our former Moscow bureau, Jill Dougherty, thank you.

Still to come, Peru has a new president under less than ideal circumstances.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): As we all know, there has been an attempted coup pushed by Mr. Pedro Castillo.

KINKADE (voice-over): How the country's first female president is dealing with her predecessor when we come back.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

Peru has a new president, its sixth president in less than five years and the country's first female president. She took the oath of office on

Wednesday, just hours after parliament voted to oust the then president Pedro Castillo. Castillo had plans to dissolve Congress and put in an

emergency one.


KINKADE: And the police arrested him for rebellion. There are a lot of twists and turns on all of this. I want to welcome Stefano Pozzebon.

Good to see you, Stefano. Pablo Castillo won the presidency in 2021 in what was a surprise win. This is a former teacher with very little political

experience. He is now being accused of being morally unfit. There are six investigations against him, five of which involve corruption.

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What a frantic few hours. There is a meme going around, saying that Castillo was president at breakfast and

then he was a dictator at lunchtime and was detained by dinnertime.

It's a little more complicated than that but the long story short is that facing yet another impeachment vote, it was the third time in less than two

years that Castillo was facing an impeachment vote in Congress.

He decided to throw the dice. When he saw that nobody was following him, it was pretty clear that this action did not pay out. He is being presented in

front of a judge at this very hour to hear the charges.

Yesterday the attorney general of Peru presented in a statement that he would be charged with rebellion, among all of their charges. This brings to

an end a little bit over 18 months of really chaotic presidency.

Castillo lasted 18 months, he had to go through five different government cabinet reshuffles. He had myriad investigations looking at himself

personally and members of his family.

I was reading a column on Peruvian press this morning with an op-ed, saying that the former president just had enough of the scrutiny and was trying to

do this botched coup (ph), tried to dismiss congress, which is something we might have seen working 10, 20, 30 years ago in Latin America. But not this


KINKADE: We will leave it there for now. Good to have you with us, Stefano. We will chat with you again soon. Stefano Pozzebon.


KINKADE: I want to get you up to speed on some other stories on our radar right now.

The first known execution linked to the protests that have swept across Iran, a man was executed for stabbing and injuring a paramilitary officer

during the demonstrations back in Tehran in September.

The man was reportedly convicted of waging war against God and hanged on Thursday morning.

The Taliban have conducted their first public execution since taking over in Afghanistan last year. The group says it was against a man charged with

murdering another man and then stealing his cell phone and bike.

Executions and other violent punishments were common when the Taliban was last in power from 1996 to 2001.

More than 1,000 employees of "The New York Times" are staging a historic 24 hour strike. This comes after "Times" management and the union representing

journalists failed to reach a deal for higher wages.

The newspaper says it will rely on its non-unionized international staffers to fill the void.

The world's largest active volcano has been spewing fountains of lava high into the air. The eruption is creating major concerns on the Big Island.

Lava from Mauna Loa is inching toward a road connecting the east and west side of the island. That's not stopping curious people from getting up

close and personal. David Culver is in Hawaii.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seemingly photogenic from every angle, there is a striking beauty to Mauna Loa's

eruption, especially as captured by photographer C.J. Kale.

C.J. KALE, PHOTOGRAPHER: Volcanoes are different every single day, every single time you go. It's always different.

CULVER (voice-over): C.J. is driving us to his picture perfect spot at 4:00 in the morning. The best view, he believes, the rising sun greeting

the glowing lava. Many hours of sleep sacrificed for just a few minutes of perfect lighting, weather permitting.

KALE: Yes, that it is super thick.

CULVER (voice-over): We step out into the cold rain, hoping it will burn off. As we wait, C.J. admits to us he's a particular kind of thrill seeker.


KALE: A lava junkie, you know?

Kind of the term out here, we all call ourselves lava junkies. It's kind of our fix. We go on out -- it gives us our excitement. It gives us our

adrenaline for the day.

CULVER (voice-over): This lava junkie has even gone swimming with it, catching these fiery waves in 2018's Kilauea eruption.

CULVER: Is there a range of lava junkie mode, those who get a little bit too close, too extreme?

KALE: My group of friends is definitely the far outer limits of that range.

I would not recommend pushing it far for everyone.

CULVER (voice-over): But some are still pushing it.

Well, good morning, Don.

If you got our live report Monday for "CNN THIS MORNING," you might have noticed this person, headlamp on, returning from a trip to the lava's edge.

Officials have repeatedly warned folks of the dangers of getting that close to the flow, not to mention it is trespassing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, you can live caged up and have a pretty boring life or you can go see for yourself and take the chance.

Curtis and Sheri (ph) Grumbles, perhaps rookie lava junkies, hiked five hours round-trip over unstable lava rock out to the edge of the flow. They

recorded this video about 50 yards from the crawling lava.

There were those going to the source of the lava, the expert lava junkies, if you will. USGS scientists in protective gear, collecting samples of the

lava and bringing them here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we put them into the drying oven.

CULVER (voice-over): The University of Hawaii at Hilo is helping run the rapid response lab for the Mauna Loa eruption. We got a rare look inside.

These samples were collected since the lava started spewing.

CHERYL GANSECKI, UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII/HILO: It was thrown up in the air. It landed and they scooped it up while it was still molten and clenched it.

If you look at it, you will see it is very, very bubbly, soft; you can break it in your hands.

CULVER (voice-over): Researchers here quickly turning out data to help the USGS chart where the lava flow might be heading, especially as it inches

closer to crossing Saddle Road, a major highway connecting the east and west of the Big Island. They warned that the slower pace is deceptive at


GANSECKI: It might just look like a big wall of hot rock and it doesn't look like it's moving much. But they can really surge, (INAUDIBLE) the

brakes off and lava comes spewing out.

CULVER (voice-over): Dangerous, perhaps. But for C.J. Kale, an eruption is never destructive.

CULVER: At what point does it become destruction?

When we put a house in the way?

You can't do that.

KALE: I lost property during the 2018 eruption. I have many friends who lost properties. My mom lost a house. We don't view it as lost. We view it

as borrowed time.

CULVER (voice-over): Speaking of time, the sun is up. Our view is still this.

CULVER: Does it feel like a washout when you get to this point and there is nothing?

Is there disappointment?

KALE: It's all part of the journey. If every single time we have pulled up, it's absolutely amazing. It would not be as special as it is on the

days it is amazing.

CULVER (voice-over): David Culver, CNN, Hawaii.


KINKADE: Our thanks to David Culver reporting from Hawaii. We are going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more news on the release of

Britney Griner when we come back. Stay with us.




KINKADE: Breaking news, Britney Griner is heading back to the United States --


KINKADE: -- after being detained and imprisoned in Russia. She was released in a prisoner exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.


KINKADE: We will have more on the release of Griner in just a few minutes with another hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. Stay with us.