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Putin: Further Exchanges Between U.S. and Russia Possible; Griner Back in U.S. as White House Tries To Free Paul Whelan; American Paul Whelan Not Included in Griner-Bout Deal; 2022 World Cup: Last 3 Teams Begin Fight for Semifinal Slots; Outcry After Iran's First Public Execution Linked to Protests; Supporters Of Ousted Peruvian President Clash with Police; Russia' Warn on Ukraine: "Who Started It?" Putin Defends Infrastructure Attacks; Pope Francis Breaks Down In Tears Over Ukraine Suffering. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 09, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is "Connect the World".
CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome. I'm Christina Macfarlane coming to you to you live from London. This is "Connect the
World." And we start with an emotional homecoming for an American basketball star, and a declaration from the Russian President Vladimir
Putin saying more prisoner exchanges with the United States are possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (via translator): Whether this can be considered a prologue to a dialogue with the United States on other issues
is a very particular question. Frankly speaking, we did not set ourselves the task of moving from these negotiations to some other ones. But, of
course, they create a certain atmosphere, it's true. Within the framework of these negotiations, no other issues are discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Just hours before President Putin spoke, Brittney Griner landed in her home state of Texas following a 10 month ordeal in Russian
detention. She was freed in a swap with Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who had been in prison in the U.S. CNN's Rosa Flores was in San Antonio
when Brittney Griner landed and sent us this report.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brittney Griner is finally home. The WNBA star landed in San Antonio early this morning after nearly
10 months detained in Russia.
CHERELLE GRINER, BRITTNEY GRINER'S WIFE: The most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude.
FLORES (voice-over): Griner is returning home to her family, teammates and a legion of supportive fans.
CHINEY OGWUMIKE, VP, WOMEN'S NATIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: We love you and we are here for you. We know that the journey that she has
just experienced was a very difficult one, but we're here to walk with her step by step.
FLORES (voice-over): The Biden Administration secured Griner's released in a high stakes prisoner swap with arms dealer Viktor Bout after months of
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proud that today we had made one more family whole again. So welcome home, Brittney.
FLORES (voice-over): Griner is seeing here leaving Russian detention, boarding a plane, given her passport and realizing she is heading home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready for flight?
BRITTNEY GRINER: Yes.
FLORES (voice-over): The swap took place in Abu Dhabi, where the two were seen passing each other on the tarmac. The WNBA star was detained in Russia
back in February after cannabis oil was founded her suitcase at an airport in the Moscow region. She was sentenced to nine years in prison in early
August and was moved to a penal colony in mid-November after losing her appeal.
Paul Whelan, another American detained in Russia was notably left out of the exchange. The Biden Administration has come under fire for not securing
ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: This was not a choice of which American to bring home. The choice was one or none.
FLORES (voice-over): A senior Administration official tells CNN, the Biden Administration has ideas for new forms of offers they are going to try with
Russia in an effort to bring Whelan home. President Biden spoke to Whelan sister on Thursday.
ELIZABETH WHELAN, PAUL WHELAN'S SISTER: There are a lot of people moaning and groaning about Viktor Bout going back to Russia. But I've got to say
it's an amazing thing to be able to get Brittany back. So I would urge everyone to, you know, to keep their partisan sniping out of it.
FLORES (voice-over): CNN spoke by phone with Whelan.
PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I would say that if a message could go to President Biden that this is a precarious situation that needs
to be resolved quickly.
MACFARLANE: Rosa Flores reporting there. She'll join us live from San Antonio in just a few minutes. But right now I have on Natasha Bertrand,
and former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty, both live joining us from Washington, DC. Welcome to you both.
And, Natasha, I just want to go to you first because we have been hearing in the last hour from the White House's John Kirby, who has been speaking
to CNN and revealing some new details about how this prisoner swap was negotiated. So what are we learning?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's exactly right. So what the White House has been saying is that over the last several months,
the U.S. had been negotiating with the Russians, obviously, to try to get Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home.
But ultimately what had happened was that the Russians were completely unwilling, according to the White House, to trade Paul Whelan in addition
for Brittney Griner, and that it was not the decision of the United States to determine which prisoner they were going to bring home, but rather it
was the Russians who were refusing to release Paul Whelan. And so ultimately, they were only able to get Brittney Griner back.
And what the administration has been telling us as well this morning is that the Russians seem to still want to still have other desires, right.
They have things that they want, that the United States feels they could use for a bargaining chip in in exchange for Paul Whelan. So what we are
told is that the U.S. does not necessarily feel like this story is over. And of course, as we heard from Vladimir Putin earlier, he has also not
ruled out the possibility that there could be an additional prisoner exchange in the future.
Of course, that is kind of small comfort at this point to Paul Whelan and his family. You heard Paul Whelan saying there earlier yesterday that he
feels that he has been left behind and he wishes more had been done to see cure his release. But at the same time, obviously, the United States is
saying it was either one or it was no one. And so we had to take this opportunity while we had it, and we will continue to speak with the
Russians on this very narrow issue of prisoner exchanges moving forward.
MACFARLANE: And Natasha, let's pick up on the point you make there about President Putin and the comments he made today with our Jill Dougherty.
Jill, what did you make of what we heard from President Putin, because this prisoner swap, of course, was very uneven and advantageous for Russia? So
is it your inclination that they will be looking for more of this?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think those comments this morning by President Putin were very interesting. And as usual, you have to read
the fine print. But what he said was at the FSB, the security services of Russia led those negotiations. And then he said, those contacts continue,
and in fact, they never stopped. So that's good.
And then he moves on and - you know, he's asked, this is at a news conference in Kyrgyzstan, are other swap possible? And he says in Russian,
(Foreign Language), everything is possible. So it's not yes, we're going to move forward. But it is anything's possible. We are continuing to talk. So
I think it is a positive thing. But again, not really definitive.
And the two factors that he points out are, negotiations and compromise. So I guess, in his calculus, he felt that negotiations did lead to compromise,
and there's going to have to be more compromise ahead. But of course, this is going to be very held behind the scenes. Obviously, this is very, very
sensitive, especially for Paul Whelan, because if the FSB has been conducting these negotiations, you're into national security on both sides,
CIA and the FSB. And as national security gets very, very sensitive, of course,
MACFARLANE: And Jill as you've been speaking, we've been seeing again images of this prisoner swap, this exchange that happened on the tarmac
yesterday. And we know that when Viktor Bout returned home yesterday, he was interviewed by Russian media. I just want to play our view as a sound
from that. Just have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIKTOR BOUT, CONVICTED RUSSIAN ARMS DEALER (via translator): In the middle of the night, they simply woke me up and said, get your things together.
And that was it. There was no preliminary information.
REPORTER (via translator): What is the first thing you're going to do now that you're here in Russia?
BOUT (via translator): It's too soon to ask those questions. Let's not talk about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Jill, what are your expectations for what will come now for Viktor Bout? Will he still have power and connections? Will they still be
able to return to his old life and career?
DOUGHERTY: Well, that is the question. I mean, he is, at least the West alleges, he denies, but the West alleges that he is a major arms dealer. So
does he return? I mean, he's been in prison in the United States for 14 years. So over a decade, he's out of the business. Does he still have
contacts that's a question.
And also he is so well known at this point that would he be able to do anything, let's say, behind the scenes. That said, we're in the midst of a
war in Ukraine, and a lot of the issues for Russia right now do deal with arms, getting more equipment, and sanctions. And Viktor Bout was one of the
world's best sanctions busters. So, I think you have to say, will he be useful? Maybe not out there in the field, but he's certainly - he's a very
smart man. I interviewed him a number of years ago. He's smart. And so he might have some advice for the Kremlin.
MACFARLANE: All right, Jill, standby. I've just noticed that our Rosa Flores has joined us from Texas. Rosa, as we've been saying today, this was
a moment that U.S. officials have been waiting for months, seeing that exchange happen yesterday. Just talk us through what you saw of Brittney
Griner arriving early this morning? And do we know anything about what has followed since she touchdown?
FLORES: You know, it was so interesting to hear describe also what happened in Russia because it's kind of the opposite what we saw here in the United
States. It was very uneventful, in a sense that there was no fanfare, there were no interviews with Brittney Griner, there was no big celebration,
there was no big welcome.
I was here this morning when the plane landed and the plane landed here in Kelly Field where I am right now. And what happened really was just a few
officials walked onto the plane and then they walked off the plane and a few minutes later we saw Brittney Griner get off of the plane and then walk
into a hangar. And that was it. That's all we could see from the public areas. That's all that our cameras could capture.
Now, moments ago, I received a statement from Brooke Army Medical Center.
Now that's a medical center here that's related to the Department of Defense - the U.S. Department of Defense. And they say that Brittney Griner
was transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center, and that that's regular port protocol. That is normal. She goes there for an evaluation. And then they
say that it's her wellness, that is their priority and they won't release more information because of privacy reasons, which is very understandable.
But Christina, as you know, just a few months ago, Trevor Reed went through this very same process. And he actually landed in Kelly Field here in San
Antonio, this same airstrip, and he was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center as well.
And from his family who's done multiple interviews with CNN, we've learned that the Department of Defense does offer a reintegration program for
civilians who have gone through an isolated event. In this case, being detained in a foreign prison.
And according to the DoD, if you do a little research, the their gold standard program, the best program, when it comes to reintegrating into
society, into normal life is right here in San Antonio, Texas. And our understanding based on what Trevor Reed experience is that the U.S.
government does offer this to individuals like Trevor Reed and like Brittney Griner. Now, it's up to her if she is going to want to take the
services, she of course could take private services if she would wish to do that.
And we're of course asking those questions. But we don't know at this point in time. But unlike in Russia, here in the United States, there was no big
fanfare. There were no interviews. We are still waiting to hear from Brittney Griner's family now that she's here on U.S. soil, Christina.
MACFARLANE: Yes. And I'm sure, hopefully, we will. But, obviously, a huge comfort to her family that she is home. Rosa Flores, thank you so much for
joining us. We'll let you go. And I just want to turn back to Natasha for a final question. Because Natasha, we know that Viktor Bout is one of the
most prolific arms dealers in history, what are the national security concerns now in the United States that he has been released?
BERTRAND: Well, they are concerned, to be honest with you. And the Defense Department officials actually told my colleague Barbara Starr, that they're
watching very closely to see what Viktor Bout ends up doing when he resettles back in Russia, when he kind of gets back to his normal life.
Like Jill was outlining, is he going to continue smuggling arms?
The Pentagon has been very concerned about what the Russians are also doing in Africa, not only in Ukraine, but across the world. All of Viktor Bout's
contacts, the things that he was doing for many, many years and the U.S. did do, according to our White House reporter, here, a security assessment
of whether the release of Viktor Bout would actually impact the national security of the United States.
And what they found is that, they tell us that they do not believe that his release will pose any kind of threat to Americans. But of course, Pentagon
officials and also law enforcement officials, who of course, put him behind bars in the first place many years ago, they are very concerned about,
first of all, the precedent, of course, that it sets to release someone who was convicted a very serious crimes in exchange for someone who was taken
and detained on a charge of marijuana possession, and of course, the possibility that he could reup his activities in the arm smuggling world.
So this is something that U.S. officials are concerned about, and we'll be watching very closely in the months ahead. Christina?
MACFARLANE: All right. Natasha Bertrand, Jill Dougherty, thank you both very much on this evolving story. And we'll have much more on Britney
Griner's homecoming in this hour ahead.
Her coach tells CNN how other basketball players are reacting and how they made their voices heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about your own safety?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: CNN speaks to a man who took a huge risk by tweeting out videos of protests that China did not want the world to see. This story coming up.
MACFARLANE: We should know in the next hour or so which country will be the first to punch their ticket into the World Cup semifinal round in Qatar.
Today's first match is now in the second half as Brazil and Croatia are still tied nil-nil. Croatia were the runner up at last year's World Cup
four years ago and Brazil are trying to win their sixth title overall.
In today's second game Argentina face the Netherlands. Argentine icon Lionel Messi has never won a World Cup, and neither have the Netherlands.
Don Riddell is tracking the action in Qatar and joins us now. A huge clash in this game currently ongoing. Don, I imagine Brazilian fans getting a
little bit nervous.
DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, I would think so, Christina. Yes, it was a fairly even first half. It was a bit of a midfield tussle. But what the
Brazilians have realized is that Croatia are very, very well organized. They're very, very strong in defense.
Speculation that they Neymar or may not be 100 percent fully fit in that game. And so yes, I think that Brazilian fans certainly will be getting a
bit anxious, especially when you consider what they did to South Korea in the previous game. They just absolutely rip them to shreds.
But Croatia are a very, very different opposition. And remember, of course, they made it to the final four years ago. And Croatia's fans thinking that
they could go all the way this time. No one's talking about them. All the excitement, of course, is always around Brazil and Neymar. But we'll see if
that party is going to continue after tonight.
MACFARLANE: Yes. And I think Neymar looking to tie Pele's record of 77 goals tonight. So if he can find some form.
Elsewhere, Don, later tonight, all eyes on one Leo Messi. Obviously, Argentina taking on the Netherlands. And as we say, every match with Messi
at the World Cup, this could be his last.
RIDDELL: Yes. And, you know, I came to their first game against Saudi Arabia here at this extraordinary stadium in Lusail where Saudi Arabia beat
them. And, we were wondering, are Argentina even going to get out of the group stage. But they have improved with every game since then. But this is
going to be by far their toughest opponent. And for the Netherlands too, they've had a great run of this tournament. They've very much been flying
under the radar. And now these two teams are going to meet here this evening.
It's going to be a fascinating encounter. There's a lot of history between these two sides. They met in the final back in 1978 when Argentina won the
World Cup for the first time. Of course, the Netherlands famously have lost the World Cup final on three separate occasions.
The last time these two sides met was in the semifinal in 2014 when Argentina won it on penalties. So it's going to be a really, really good
game. I think, really interesting. And all eyes on Lionel Messi.
You know, if you look at the stats, he walks a lot. But if you've ever watched the games, you can see it, he walks a lot and his stats back it up.
But he's kind of genius, has enabled him still to lead this team. He's scored three goals. He's made another one. He's very, very involved in
everything that this team does. And of course, he is absolutely desperate to go out on a high and win the one thing that has so far eluded him.
MACFARLANE: Yes. I think Lionel Messi, the only player in the world that can get away with walking around the pitch, given the way he plays. So Don
Riddell enjoy the games. We'll see what the outcome is of this Brazil game in about half an hour from now. Thank you.
Now, Human Rights Watch is condemning FIFA and Qatar for their, "Callous responses after the death of a migrant worker." On Thursday FIFA confirmed
that migrant had died during the World Cup working at a beach resort used by the Saudi national team.
Here is what one Qatari official said in response to a question about the incident from a Reuters reporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASSER AL KHATER, 2022 QATAR WORLD CUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE: We're in the middle of a World Cup, and we have a successful World Cup. And this is something
that you want to talk about right now? I mean, death is a natural part of life, whether it's at work, whether it's in your sleep. Of course, a worker
died. Our condolences go to his family. However, you know, I mean, it's strange that this is something that you wanted to focus on as your first
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: FIFA spokesperson said the organization was deeply saddened by the tragedy. But its Secretary General said she did not think the
reporter's question was appropriate. Qatar is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the Filipino worker. That worker
just one of hundreds who have lost their lives working on World Cup related projects.
All right, let's get you up to speed on some of our other top stories that are on our radar right now. There's an international outcry and fresh
sanctions being imposed on Iran after its first known public execution linked to the protests that have swept across the country. Mohsen Shekari
was reportedly convicted of hostility against God and hanged, Thursday. The United Nations is among those strongly condemning the execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLKER TURK, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: We issued a tweet yesterday about the execution - sorry - about the execution of Mohsen
Shekari. Very troubling and clearly designed to send a chilling effect to the rest of the protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE (voice over): This was the scene Thursday in the streets of Lima as Castillo supporters clashed with police. Former president was removed
from office and arrested Wednesday after trying to dissolve Congress to avoid a third impeachment vote against him. Castillo has now requested
asylum in Mexico according to the Mexican Foreign Minister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Russian opposition figure, Ilya Yashin has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. A Russian court found him guilty of
spreading false information about the army. Prosecutors argued that his comments about the killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha went against the
law that was passed shortly after the invasion started. Yashin calls the verdict hysterical.
Vladimir Putin admits that Russia is targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure. But he says Ukraine is to blame. The Russian President
spoke off the cuff at an award ceremony for Russian soldiers. Champagne glass in hand, he claimed the relentless assault of Ukraine's ability to
keep its power on and its people warm is Ukraine's own fault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUTIN (via translator): Right now there's been a lot of uproar about our attacks on the energy infrastructure of our neighboring country. Yes, we're
doing it. But who started it? Who hit the Crimean bridge, who blew up the powerlines from the Kursk nuclear power plant? Who isn't supplying water to
Donetsk? Not supplying water to a city with more than a million people is an act of genocide. No one has ever said a word about that. Total silence.
But as soon as we move and do something in response, they scream and shout to the whole universe. This will not interfere with our combat missions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Today, Putin threatened to annihilate any nation that launches a nuclear attack on Russia. Meantime, the United Nations is sounding the
alarm on the suffering in Ukraine, calling it a human rights emergency.
The suffering of Ukraine's people brought Pope Francis to tears. He was delivering a traditional prayer in central Rome, saying, I would have liked
to have brought to you the Thanksgiving of the Ukrainian people for the peace we've long been asking the Lord for. But suddenly he became overcome
with emotion and couldn't speak. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS: (Foreign Language).
MACFARLANE (voice over): The Pope was silent for about 30 seconds before regaining his composure and continuing his prayer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Right Just ahead on "Connect the World" a closer look at our top story. Prisoner swaps and the message the Kremlin is sending to the
Plus, smiles and handshakes as China's President visits the Gulf. The trip is being called a milestone. Ahead we'll take a closer look at what's at
MACFARLANE: More now on our top story. American basketball star Brittney Griner is back home in the U.S. She was swapped for convicted Russian arms
dealer Viktor Bout, after spending 10 months jail in Russia. Her coach has just been speaking about Griner's emotional homecoming to my colleague,
Bianna Golodryga, take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANESSA NYGAARD, HEAD COACH, PHOENIX MERCURY: We are all so happy. The entire WNBA community, our fans, our supporters, and everyone who's been
involved, it is just a day of absolute joy yesterday. And waking up tomorrow and knowing that BG is not in a Russian prison, we're so happy.
And seeing the images that have come out and knowing that she is doing well, we are aesthetic.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: As a team, you and other teams in the WNBA have collectively come together and never lost sight of the fact that you
want to shine a light on her name, on the cause, on the pressure to bring her home. How are your teammates and how are your players feeling about
this specifically now?
NYGAARD: Yes, I think it is really a testament to their hard work, their energy, their commitment to keeping BG's name in the news. And first, their
commitment to getting her name in the news, to getting the attention. And the women of the WNBA are trendsetters. And they use their voice, they
amplify from their platform to get attention to things that are important to them. And there's nothing more important than bringing their sister home
from her Russian jail.
And so they constantly beat the drum, got other people on board. And it is a testament to their power and their voice and a great role model for other
Americans of what they can do when they set their mind to it and stick together.
GOLODRYGA: I'm so glad you brought that up, because I was struck by something that Dawn Staley, the University of South Carolina Women's
Basketball Coach, who also coached Brittney at the Olympics had to say about this. And it's in the same vein, she said, "Women, when we're
advocating for something, when we want something to happen, we've got the strength of 10 men. I hope people are watching." What is your reaction to
that? Do you agree with that sentiment?
NYGAARD: I absolutely agree with it. Our women in the WNBA had made their voice heard several times. This isn't the first time. They led the way with
social protests and making sure that things are said that are important. Many times players on my team have refused to do media after game to make
statement about different things, social causes and things that are important happening in the world. They really use their voice to make a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: A short time ago Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that more prisoner exchanges between Moscow and Washington are possible.
But a Kremlin spokesperson says the swap between Viktor Bout and Brittney Griner does not signal an improvement in Russian-U.S. relations. And keep
in mind Thursday's exchange did not include another American who the U.S. State Department says is being wrongfully detained in Russia, Paul Whelan.
Well CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is joining me now live here in London. Nick, I want to get your assessment of these comments
by President Putin in the last few hours saying that prisoner swaps are possible. In agreeing to this uneven prisoner swap, how likely is it that
Russia - Putin will be looking for another deal like this one and that Biden will have to acquiesce in the way we saw with Griner or is there
something else here that Russians will be looking for?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think it's all about what Putin is looking for. Putin has lost a lot of political
capital over this war in Ukraine. The conscription was, you know, a public relations disaster. He had hundreds of 1000s of people flocking to the
border, the streets of Moscow even were deserted in the day -in the days after people were worried about being conscripted. The war's not popular,
people are coming home dead. Families are grieving.
Putin hadn't made a big deal of getting Viktor Bout released. But he's done it. And now they appear set on playing it up. And I think there's a couple
of sort of key indicators here about Paul Whelan and about President Putin saying that more deals are possible.
Paul Whelan was able to get access to a phone from his jail to call CNN yesterday and say that he was disappointed about being left behind. Now
that plays into President Putin's hands very well.
Paul Whelan sometimes can't even get to see his lawyers, can't get to see his representatives from the U.S. Embassy. So the fact that he got a phone
last night, right after Brittney Griner was released, I think tells you a lot that Putin is trying to play up this issue of Paul Whelan because there
must be something else that he wants, and whatever it is, that will be political capital, to replace some of that that is lost over the war in
And I think the other indicator here is Viktor Bout himself. He knows Russia well, and he knows that there will be a message the Russian
authorities want him to portray. Now he's back. I think in the short conversations reporters have had with him, they've tried to play up this
issue of Russia phobia, which of course, is very popular at the moment.
It's the Kremlin's narrative, the world against us. And he said, well, I didn't experience that. And he did say that that phrase, we never leave
anyone behind. So I think we're going to hear Bout when he comes out, after having had more consultations with Russian authorities, amplifying the
benefits to Russia, of his release. And what this says about Putin and Putin's strength, because at the end of the day, that's what's most
important to President Putin, the political capital from it.
MACFARLANE: Yes. And I've been wondering what this high stakes prisoner exchange does tell us about Putin. Why he's been so determined to free
Viktor Bout in particular, for over a decade now, and why it's important or why it's coming at this juncture and this moment now, of the war?
There's been some suggestion that this is to shore up his base, to shore up his elite base back in Russia.
ROBERTSON: Yes, that's the political - it's their political capital, a part of the equation here and the other part of the equation here is the very
mechanism. Although, you know, we've heard from his spokesman, President Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov at the Kremlin, saying these - these
prisoner releases don't herald or don't indicate anything positive, necessarily about good communications between the United States and Russia,
over the war in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, they do oil, if you will, those layers of communication, whether they're through intermediaries like the President, the Emirati
President Mohammed bin Zayed, or whether it's been direct between sort of lower level, second tier contacts and negotiations between Russia and the
So, you know, in that context, I think, you know, Putin has more political capital to gain over Paul Whelan for what he can get there. And it does
allow him the opportunity to continue with his message direct to the United States that I want peace, I want it on my terms. I want these pieces of
Ukraine I've already annexed. Let's do it.
He has always believed, Putin has always believed that it's negotiating with the United States rather than anyone else is going to get him what he
wants. He's losing the war on the ground. He wants out, he wants to cement his gains. No one is going to give that to him but it doesn't stop him
playing for that end.
MACFARLANE: So given what you're saying there, Nic, and what we heard from the Kremlin today saying that this will not improve relations between
Washington and Moscow, does this deal suggest that there could be a window now for a functional negotiation between the U.S. and Russia or even when
it comes to peace in Ukraine, nuclear weapon treaties?
ROBERTSON: I think number one, we have to take with a huge pinch of salt, whatever the Kremlin says. It often means entirely the opposite. So if they
say this doesn't do anything, then maybe it does. But I think at the moment, the war still has a long way to play out on the ground.
Ukraine, the United States, the European Union, NATO, all believe that Putin cannot annex these parts of Ukraine by force, you know, 20th century
19th century tactics to grab territory, no one in Europe and the United States believes Putin should be able to do that. So I think in terms of
trying to find common ground, it's not there yet.
There's more war that has to be fought, sad and unfortunate as it is, the communications behind the scenes might be flowing better than they had
been. But - but the gap is massive at the moment.
MACFARLANE: Yes, Nic Robertson, great to have your analysis. Thanks very much for joining us. And still ahead on Connect the World, Gulf states are
welcoming China's President. I'll talk with a guest who says U.S. policy is backfiring and creating new opportunities for Beijing.
And later she put a ring on it. We'll speak to the activist who helped raise more than a million dollars to help Ukrainians by auctioning off a
very special engagement ring.
MACFARLANE: Welcome back. Chinese President Xi Jinping is making the rounds in the Gulf as part of his high profile visit to the Middle East. After he
met with Saudi leaders on Thursday, Beijing and Riyadh urged Iran to work with international monitors and keep its nuclear program peaceful. They
also called for stability in oil markets.
Oil and trade are of course at the heart of the relationship between China and the Saudis. China is Saudi Arabia's top trading partner, and Riyadh is
Beijing's top oil supplier. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow with the National University of Singapore's Middle East Institute. He's joining me
now Good evening to you.
We know the summit between Xi Jinping and Arab leaders today is being billed as a milestone for relations for China - Arab countries. Clearly the
focus here is going to be on oil but we also know that it goes beyond that. So what agreements are China hoping to walk away with from this trip?
JAMES M. DORSEY, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE'S MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: I think it goes far beyond energy. Obviously the Chinese
and Xi Jinping would like to capitalize on strains within the U.S. Saudi relationship particularly but they also have a common interest and the
common interest is to clarify or to persuade the United States to clarify what its commitment is to Gulf security, and possibly to codify or
formulize that. China is as dependent as the Gulf on U.S. security for its energy supplies.
MACFARLANE: And when it comes to defense and security, I mean, are China in a position to offer Saudi Arabia something that the U.S. are not? Is it is
it a genuine interest in providing that or collaborating in that way?
DORSEY: Well, what you've seen is China's offered, for example, in drones, or (inaudible), those things that the United States has not been willing to
supply for Saudi Arabia. China has no interest at this point, and probably is not able to replace the United States as the regional security
guarantor. That overtime may change but at this point, it has an interest in ensuring that the United States remains committed.
MACFARLANE: Following what, two years of tension culminating in that awkward trip by President Biden in July in Saudi Arabia, how vital is it
that China take this opportunity to deepen their economic relations and other obviously relations at this time when you know, Saudi ties are at a
low point with the U.S.?
DORSEY: Well, I think there are two things to keep in mind. Obviously, it's in China's interest. For one thing, the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and other
producers put a - supply China with more than half of its energy or fossil fuel needs, oil and gas. But on top of that, it's important because if you
look at the map, there is no Indo-Pacific strategy for the United States that does not include the Arabian Sea. So in that sense, fortifying its
position in the Arabian Sea region is crucial to China.
MACFARLANE: We also saw James, a joint statement from both countries urging Iran to cooperate with the IAEI. What does that tell us about the possible
changing dynamic of China's relationship with Iran, now?
DORSEY: I don't know that it really changes the dynamic. I think what it does is it reassures the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, particularly in terms of
what China's position is, keep in mind that China is part of the P5, those five powers that negotiated with the 2015 international agreement that
curbed Iran's nuclear program. And it's been a full partner in the efforts to revive that agreement after the United States walked away from it in
MACFARLANE: Well, more of this trip to come, of course, but it's great to have your analysis, James M. Dorsey. Thank you very much for joining us.
And as China's president makes moves on the world stage, he's still facing issues back in Beijing, where there's relief and happiness after China
rolled back some of its most stringent COVID restrictions.
There's also worry of course, and unease about the rapid change on Chinese social media topics relating to that and what to do if infected by COVID
were trending. Some people are stocking up on medications. One retailer says sales of drugs including cold and cough medicines has gone up 18 times
higher, and sales of face masks went up a whopping 680 percent compared to the previous year.
But the loosening of COVID restrictions in China were of course sparked by landmark protests. Videos shared online gave a rare glimpse at the harsh
reality on the ground defying China's giant censorship apparatus.
Now, the man responsible for sharing many of those videos says he's received death threats. He speaks exclusively with CNN's Selina Wang.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Video after video of historic anti-zero- COVID protests in China, broadcast on the world's television screens everywhere but inside China, where authorities censored all evidence of the
protests. So how did these images manage to get beyond China's controlled internet?
Newsrooms around the world, including CNN have been relying on information from this Twitter account, and there's only one man behind it? Li, a
Chinese painter in Italy, whose identity we're hiding for security reasons.
MR. LI, OWNER OF TWITTER ACCOUNT @WHYYOUTOUZHELE (through translator): This account may become a symbol that Chinese people are still pursuing freedom
of speech. When you post something within China, it will quickly disappear. This account can document all these historical events that cannot be saved
inside the country.
WANG: His account quickly turned into one of the world's key sources for protest information. Li says he received 1000s of submissions per day as
the demonstrations unfolded. Apps like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are banned in China. But people used virtual private networks or VPNs, which
are prohibited in China to access Twitter and send their videos to Li. What's the motivation behind all the work you do?
LI (through translator): It's to let people inside of China, climb out of the great (inaudible) to see what's happening this very moment.
WANG: But that's exactly what authorities want to prevent. Here's what happens if you search for information about any of the protests on Chinese
social media. You get a notice that says sorry, no relevant results are found. Meanwhile, on Li's Twitter account, he was rapidly uploading videos
of demonstrations across China from (inaudible) to Shanghai, where protesters chanted for Xi Jinping to step down, calling for freedom and an
end to zero COVID.
And researchers say that Chinese government is even trying to bury information about the protests from social media users abroad, search on
Twitter in Chinese characters for cities that had protests. And you get this a flood of spam and porn advertisements. The spam campaign researchers
say appears to be the work of Chinese authorities. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
Are you worried about your own safety?
LI: Of course I'm very worried. I get a lot of anonymous harassment saying, I know who you are, where you live and I will kill you.
WANG: His parents frequently call him in fear, he says, and the Chinese authorities have been harassing them to making midnight visits to their
home in China. What price do you think you have to pay for the work that you do?
LI: This account is more important than my life. I will not shut it down. I've arranged for someone else to take over if something bad happens to me.
I'm mentally prepared. Even if authorities won't let me see my parents.
WANG: Authorities in China tried to keep the country in a parallel universe. But Li's playing a pivotal role in breaking that bubble. Li
spends hours a day on the account only taking breaks to feed his cat and barely slept during the peak of protests. As he sorted and verified the
endless stream of video submissions. Each one urgent and historic. He's doing the work that he hopes one day Chinese journalists and Chinese
citizens from within China will be able to do without fear. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Now giving up a family treasure to help at risk women and children. We'll speak to the activists who auctioned off a historic piece
of jewelry to help Ukrainians in need. That's next.
MACFARLANE: Welcome back. A ring with a 400-year old emerald has raised $1.2 million at an auction to benefit Ukrainians at risk. Its former owner
is American philanthropist and activist Mitzi Perdue. She put the ring up for auction to help protect women and children against human trafficking
along the Ukrainian border. The five carat emerald has a rich history.
MACFARLANE: It was recovered in the 1980s from a Spanish shipwreck off the Florida coast. Perdue's late husband wealthy chicken producer Frank Perdue
had helped finance the expedition. He then used the stone to create an engagement ring for her. I'm very pleased to say Mitzi Perdue, well, I just
need to tell you about Mitzi's book because she is, of course a best- selling author.
Her book, Relentless is about the man behind the inspirational Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She's also an anti-human trafficking advocate who saw
human rights abuses firsthand during a visit to Ukraine earlier this year. Now she's being praised for her willingness to offer up an iconic family
heirloom to help with humanitarian aid. And Mitzi Perdue is now joining me live from New York.
Mitzi, it's great to have you, welcome. I just reading about that ring, five carats, 400 years old. Just tell us a little bit more about the
extraordinary history behind this ring and how it found its way to your finger.
MITZI PERDUE, AUTHOR AND ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING ADVOCATE: All right, it is an amazing gem. Back in 1622, there was a treasure ship that was going to
the king of Spain. It founded in a hurricane. And it was lost for more than 350 years. My late husband, as you mentioned was one of the backers that
helped find the whole treasure ship. And by the way, in today's dollars, I've heard estimates that there was $2 billion worth of treasure aboard it.
MACFARLANE: That's extraordinary. So as we were saying, you obviously made the decision to auction this ring for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. What is
it that prompted you to do that? I read that you had actually visited Ukraine earlier this year after the war breakout.
PERDUE: I did. I was - I had written an article on human trafficking. I'd written it for Psychology Today. And you know, it's just amazing how the
world works. But my article on human trafficking in Ukraine reached the head of police for Kyiv region. And he happened to have written his
master's thesis on human trafficking. That resulted in a zoom call, which invited me to come as his guest, to see for myself what I've been writing
And so I was there in August. And I'm going back again, close to Christmas time. And I totally fell in love with the Ukrainian people. And I also felt
that I wanted to do everything that I possibly could. I'm 81 years old. In the years that remain to me, want to do what I can to help the Ukrainian
people. And along the way, whatever I can do to combat human trafficking.
MACFARLANE: And what did you find when you were in Ukraine. I read that you had actually spent a night or a couple of nights hiding out in a bomb
shelter with Ukrainian civilians. So what was the experience like for you?
PERDUE: All right, at 81, I had not lost a taste for adventure. And knowing that there's an incoming rocket heading towards your city, well that's
adventure. I also got to see Chernobyl, which is an area that in general, it's restricted, you can't go there because there's - there's lethal
radiation. As a guest of the Ukrainian police, I did get to see it.
And I got to write. Here's something that's kind of important. The Russians pretty much destroyed the police vehicle fleet of the Ukrainian police.
With the result that right now poachers go in and take deadly radiated metal and sell it in the world market. And so I've been raising funds to
buy, replace the police cars so that they can stop highly radiated metal going into the world market.
MACFARLANE: Your late husband by the sound of it went to an awful lot of effort to craft this ring for you to secure it. What do you think he would
have made of what you've done this week in auctioning off for those in Ukraine?
PERDUE: Well, he was the most philanthropic person I ever met. All his - all the treasure that came his way as a financial backer, he gave away to
the Smithsonian Museum, which by the way, was founded by a Brit and - and also sort of found a museum in the state of Delaware. So he actually gave
away almost everything that he got.
He did hold back a gold coin and the Atocha emerald that - that was my engagement ring. I think he would be enchanted that I'm following his
tradition of giving it away. I'm wearing my wedding ring. I'm not going to give up my wedding ring, but using the engagement ring to help possibly, I
mean, I don't think we can count how many people will be helped but the proceeds of it are being or will be used for things that the Mayor of
Ukraine - of Kyiv requested including warm clothing flashlights, particularly gloves, personal generators.
And so I do believe that that ring is going to save a lot of people from misery because I don't know how recently you've felt really cold, but it's
no fun. And I'm ecstatic that it can be used for that purpose.
MACFARLANE: Well, it is an extraordinary act of kindness. I'm glad you keep - you get to keep your wedding band at the very least, and the very best of
luck. You said you're back to Ukraine soon. The very best of luck for that trip. Thank you so much for joining us and telling us your story. Mitzi
Now the Orion spacecraft is coming back to Earth on Sunday, but not exactly where NASA had planned. The craft which is being used for the Artemis
Mission launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida about three weeks ago. It was supported, sorry, it was supposed to splash down off the coast
of San Diego. But NASA says wind and rain forecast to come in from a cold front make that site a no go.
Instead Orion will splashdown off the coast of Baja, California. And that is it for us. Thank you for watching connect the world. I'm Christina
Macfarlane, stay with us. We'll have more after this short break on CNN.