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Two Trains Collide in Greece; Russia's Intensified Focus on Bakhmut; Belarusian and Chinese Presidents Meet; Three Arrested in American Israeli Citizen's Death; Iran's Top Diplomat Denies Sexual Abuse of Protesters in Custody; Israelis Protest Government Moves to Weaken Judiciary; Putin Acknowledges "Losses in Our Ranks". Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 01, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): I'm Becky Anderson, this is CONNECT THE WORLD live from Abu Dhabi.
Coming up this hour, a massive train crash in Greece kills at least 36 people. We now know the station manager has been arrested.
Nigerians have elected a new president but his opponents are calling the results a sham.
As Russian forces try to zero in on the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine says it is not backing down. Not yet.
And anti government protests in Israel turned violent as police use stun grenades; at least 11 people are injured.
ANDERSON: We begin with a desperate search for survivors after a head-on collision between two trains in central Greece. Rescue workers say at least
36 people have been killed, the death toll is expected to rise.
Greece has announced three days of mourning for the victims. Some of those who survived, they say they had to find a way through fires that erupted in
the derailed passenger cars.
Let's bring in CNN's Eleni Giokos, who is across the story.
The Greek president has described this crash as an unimaginable tragedy.
What is the latest as we understand it from the scene?
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, look, people are in absolute shock. It has been called the train of death and at least
36 people have lost their lives; 350 people were on that passenger train.
The latest now, about 18 hours after that initial collision, and the two first carriages you can see on your screen right now, the first two
carriages caught alight.
The heat was so intense that it completely mangled and destroyed those first two carriages. The third carriages where most of the fatalities
occurred and rescue operations are still underway.
Right now, we know the DNA testing is occurring to identify the people who lost their lives. There are reports of family members and mostly parents of
young university students that are waiting for any kind of news about their loved ones.
There was a three-day break in Greece; many people were returning to Thessaloniki from Athens. And here's the thing, this is two trains
traveling in opposite directions on the same track.
So many questions about how this happened, why this happened. The station master has been arrested, currently in police custody. And we've heard a
short while ago that the transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis, who spoke earlier at the crash site, who teared up, saying that anything he says will
not be sufficient.
But they are going to investigate. But he resigned and he says it is a fact that we received the Greek railway system in a state that is not up to 21st
century standards, in these 3.5 years we have made every effort to improve this reality. But it has not been sufficient to prevent such a bad
People in Greece are in absolute shock. People use this line, this journey, they travel extensively on this. What is even more concerning is there was
a huge train delay earlier in the day from another cable electrical fault that occurred.
So there are many questions about how this happened. But Becky, right now, still the main efforts are continued for rescue operations and the hope is,
there aren't any more victims after this head-on collision.
ANDERSON: Not clear at this stage what caused the crash. Eleni, thank you.
To Ukraine now, the horrifying, intensifying battle for the city of Bakhmut in the country's east. Ukraine's president says Bakhmut presents the most
difficult challenge across the front lines.
More than 4,000 civilians are said to still be, there including dozens of children. One of president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's advisers tells CNN,
Ukraine's military will weigh all options, including strategically pulling back if needed.
The war in Ukraine is likely to dominate discussions as G20 leaders prepare to meet in India, which will include a delegation from Russia. Let's get
the latest from the front lines. Alex Marquardt is in Eastern Ukraine, Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it is extraordinary to think that there is still more than 4,000 civilians
in that city.
MARQUARDT: This has been the scene of such incredibly fierce fighting for the past few months and no moment more so than now.
As you noted, President Zelenskyy calling this the toughest fight in the country right now. Defensive positions by Ukrainians are getting hit very
badly by the Russians. There is no announcement yet on whether Ukrainians may pull out of Bakhmut, a strategic withdrawal.
It is clearly something that is being considered, because Ukrainians do appear to be on their hind feet. The Russians are pushing forward. The
primary Russian forces in and around Bakhmut have been the Wagner mercenary group, those contractors, those convicts recruited from prisons.
Now we understand, according to Ukrainian officials, it is the more elite Wagner forces who have experience fighting elsewhere around the world that
are making this main push into the city, around the city,
Wagner claims to have taken a territory north of Bakhmut. They do appear to be trying to encircle the city. But for now, Becky, Ukrainian troops
standing their ground. One soldier that CNN spoke with yesterday saying, they are not going to leave that city without a fight.
But it is getting incredibly difficult, so you can imagine right now Ukraine is likely focusing on trying to defend their positions west of the
city, if they do need to withdraw, to make sure that, even if Russia were to take Bakhmut, then it would be purely a symbolic victory.
But it would be a victory nonetheless, because it would give Russia another foothold in Donbas. But it would have come at great cost. They have lost
thousands of forces. Ukrainian troops have also suffered severely as well.
So it would be a loss for Ukraine but, in the short term at least, it would not alter the battlefield all that significantly -- Becky.
ANDERSON: We have got the G20 meeting coming up. Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, has said he has no plans to meet with either his
Chinese or Russian counterparts, although he says they are likely to be in the same room, which you can understand, it is a big meeting.
What is the sense from Kyiv?
What does Ukraine hope will be achieved, if anything, at this latest meeting?
MARQUARDT: Well, certainly Kyiv is hoping for a continuation of what we saw from President Biden last week, that, as we enter this second war
(sic), the war in Ukraine, that the international alliance remains solid.
And President Zelenskyy said on the anniversary of the war, that victory is inevitable, if the alliance remains tight like a fist. And so far, it has.
Now President Vladimir Putin obviously thinks that time is on his side, that he can wait out this Western alliance, this Western backing of
Ukraine, that eventually fatigue will set in and support for Ukraine will wane.
So Secretary of State Blinken at this meeting will want to show both Russia and China that that alliance is standing firm. And Becky, this comes at a
moment when the U.S. has been warning the world and warning China that China may send lethal aid, weapons to Russia.
That is something that top U.S. officials have said is actively under consideration, that is a major concern by the U.S., it could be a game-
changer, it could give a major boost to the Russians in this fight in Ukraine when they have not been doing so well.
So Secretary Blinken, along with his counterparts in the G20, who back Ukraine, will want to be showing the Russians and the Chinese that they are
standing firmly behind Ukraine, as the second year of this war starts.
ANDERSON: Yes, it will be interesting, isn't it, because this is, a G20 meeting, which includes a number of countries that aren't part of that
Western alliance, so it'll be interesting to see what the atmosphere of that meeting is, as we get a communique from there. Thank you, Alex.
As the battle of attrition in Ukraine continues, diplomatic ties are being cultivated far from Kyiv. Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko here,
meeting his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing.
Mr. Lukashenko used the meeting to say he fully supports China's 12-point position paper on the war in Ukraine, which called for the resumption of
peace talks. He also pointed to China's increasing importance on the world stage,.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We can see the situation developing in the international scene and we congratulate
you on your calm and thoughtful progress.
You are following your own path. You do not stand in anyone's way and you do not react to the petty jabs coming from left and right at the People's
Republic of China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, for his part, president Xi told Lukashenko that China's position on Ukraine is consistent and clear and one that promotes peace.
ANDERSON: Nigeria's electoral commission says Bola Tinubu has won the presidency. The 70-year old, who was the candidate of the ruling APC party,
a long time political power broker, campaigned on the slogan, "It's my turn."
Election officials say just 26 percent of voters cast ballots. Independent observers say the election contained numerous problems and is not credible.
Rival parties say it was rigged and they want a re-vote.
Let's bring in CNN's Larry Madowo with the very latest.
This is an election not without controversy, the victor has spoken. But certainly the opposition, suggesting they want a recount on this one and
they say there is evidence that this was not a transparent election; far from it.
Where do things stand?
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So where things stand, we are waiting for the Labour Party, who have said they are going to go to court to contest
the election. The opposition is not just asking for a recount; they're asking for a fresh election, because they call this one a sham.
They do not think the independent national electoral commission did a good job. They're not alone in saying that. In a general civil society security
situation (ph), that is a election standards of civil society groups, also say this election was not credible.
They have essentially accused INEC, the electoral body, of incompetence, of failure to communicate, of planning organizational challenges, of
logistical failures that are all contributing to making sure this failed, while showing Nigerians' expectations.
But Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the president elect in Nigeria, has reached out to those who oppose him. This is what he said.
AHMED BOLA TINUBU, PRESIDENT-ELECT, NIGERIA: I think (INAUDIBLE) to appease (ph) my fellow contestants to let us still long (ph) together.
TINUBU: It is the only nation we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADOWO: His motto was, "It's my turn." He has been the godfather of Lagos and now he gets to run the country. I want to hear from one voter here.
How do you feel about the win of Bola Tinubu?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a very great politician, like we always know. And he is no doubt politically (ph) very well. But comparing this election with
what (INAUDIBLE) clamoring for, I would say he got this one zero (ph) because while somebody's blood is (INAUDIBLE) for someone to be at the end
of the (ph) position, you know, it's not something we could be right about.
MADOWO: So you are disappointed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. I'm totally, entirely (ph) disappointed.
MADOWO: So what happens now?
He's going to go to court.
What if there, you know, will be an (INAUDIBLE) don't win?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It depends on their structures because I don't know the opinion of Labour Party or PDP or even (INAUDIBLE) it all depend on the
outcomes when (INAUDIBLE), which they are going to turn (INAUDIBLE).
So and then (INAUDIBLE) can now use their discretion to know who is in favor or who is against. So because I'm not a politician, I'm not a lawyer,
MADOWO: Very diplomatic and that is where it now goes to court, even though the Nigerian supreme court has never overturned an election, Becky.
So if they do so in this case, it will be a first.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right. Stay with it. Thank you.
You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still ahead, this hour:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON (voice-over): Protesters blocked the streets of Tel Aviv today and the strong response from police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON (voice-over): Plus the story of an unsung hero, who played a role in landmark trials against the Syrian regime and sadly died in last month's
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON (voice-over): Protesters blocked streets in Tel Aviv on what is being called a day of disruption in Israel. The demonstrating moves by the
prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to weaken the judiciary.
Critics call it a judicial overhaul that will threaten democracy. Police fired stun grenades to try and disperse the protesters; 11 people were
killed -- sorry, were injured; two are in hospital -- 11 injured, two in hospital, my mistake.
In the meantime, Israeli police arrested several people in the death of an American Israeli citizen, fatally shot in the West Bank. Hadas Gold
tracking developments for us from Jerusalem.
Hadas, let's start with these protests. They've been ongoing for months.
What is different about today?
HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What is different about these protests today is the police response and the violence that we saw break
out, because it has been eight or so weeks of these regular protests.
They have blocked streets. Today it was called a day of disruption, protesters up and down the country, blocking major roadways, blocking major
highways. But in Tel Aviv, those scenes of those border police officers using horses, using water cannons, using stun grenades, that is something
That is a level of response, a level of clashes that we have not seen in the previous protests, even in protests that brought out more than 100,000
people on the streets. The police were very hands off in this entire situation.
As you noted, 11 injuries reported today. Police also saying they arrested dozens of people as a result of this. The minister of national security
Itamar Ben-Gvir calling the protest anarchists and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the right to demonstrate is not a right
to anarchy -- Becky.
ANDERSON: These protests happening on the same day as the funeral of Israeli American Elan Ganeles.
What was the scene?
GOLD: Well, I mean, his family had to fly from the States because that is where he was living. He was born and raised in Connecticut. And it is, you
know, he was supposed to be here, just visiting for a wedding. Instead, his visit here ended with him being laid to rest at a cemetery north of Tel
His parents speaking at the funeral, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLYN GANELES, ELAN'S MOTHER: A whole life of so much potential. He wanted so much to see the world, to soak up every aspect of the beauty, of
the history, of the culture. Our loss is a loss for the world of such an emerging, bright, shiny, brilliant star. We feel as if a part of our being
has been taken from us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLD: Meanwhile, literally as he was being buried, as this funeral was taking place, the Israeli military announcing that they had conducted a
raid in the refugee camp next to Jericho, which is near where this shooting took place.
They say that they arrested three suspects. And another suspect, they say, was shot and killed as he tried to escape, the Israeli military saying
these suspects were the ones that they believed were involved in that shooting attack.
They said two of them actually turned themselves into the Israeli forces. Meanwhile there is still no information on the Israeli military being --
identifying the suspects behind the attack that killed the other two Israelis on Sunday, that were also shot and killed while they were driving.
Although we are hearing from Israeli police that they have arrested several more Israeli settlers, who went on those rampages after that shooting in
the West Bank. They are saying that they detained a further six suspects in those rampages where we saw one Palestinian man killed and dozens of homes
and cars being set ablaze.
GOLD: The Israeli police noting that two of those that they detained were minors -- Becky.
ANDERSON: We have had elements from the government speaking out.
What has been said?
GOLD: Yes, so we heard from the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, one of the right wing members of this new government. And he himself is a settler.
He has talked about wanting to annex the West Bank.
But something he said today is really causing quite a reaction. That is because he was asked at an event, why he liked a tweet, why he liked a
tweet by somebody else.
Shortly after those two Israeli brothers were killed, essentially saying that Huwara, which is the town, the Palestinian town where that shooting
took place and then where those rampages happened afterwards, that he liked a tweet, essentially saying Huwara should be erased.
Listen to his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEZALEL SMOTRICH, ISRAEL FINANCE MINISTER: I think the village of Huwara needs to be erased. I think that the State of Israel needs to do this and,
God forbid, not private people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLD: Now there has been a huge uproar here over those comments, because he is literally saying, calling on the Israeli government and military, to
wipe out a Palestinian town.
Already the attorney general has called on the police to investigate another member of parliament who made similar remarks. So there is a lot of
calls out there now for this minister, who is actually the finance minister, to be investigated for these incendiary remarks as well -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Certainly not helping. Hadas, thank you. Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog is talking with Iran over a report confirming the discovery of uranium particles enriched close to weapons grade,
particles enriched to near 84 percent purity were found at Iran's Fordo plant.
Now weapons grade is around 90 percent. It is not clear what caused the spike.
The report also shows Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent is growing. Now Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. A
senior U.S. Defense official says Iran could produce a bomb's worth of fissile material in less than two weeks.
That does not mean an actual bomb could be made within that timeframe. The official spoke to Congress as efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN KAHL, U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: Iran's nuclear progress since we left the JCPOA has been remarkable. Back in 2018, when
the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA, it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one fissile -- one bomb's worth of fissile
Now it would take about 12 days. And so I think there is still the view that, if you can resolve this issue diplomatically and put constraints back
on their nuclear program, it is better than the other options.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: He also said for the time being, at least, the nuclear deal is on ice.
In an exclusive interview with Christiane Amanpour, Iran's foreign minister spoke on a range of topics, including the alleged sexual abuse of anti
government protesters in the custody of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR-CORRESPONDENT: When you say the Islamic Republic of Iran respects human rights, one female protester
says that she was detained inside a Revolutionary Guard vicinity for more than a month and raped by three different men.
She went to a cleric, a mullah, afterwards, because she was having suicide thoughts, she was so upset.
CNN spoke with that cleric.
Is that acceptable?
Is it acceptable for a woman, whatever she's done, to be arrested and raped?
And there are many, many, many reports of sexual abuse in this situation against women and men.
HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Firstly, in the peaceful demonstrations in the fall, no one was arrested.
AMANPOUR: So you're just denying that?
AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): However, in this part is to have become violent, some individuals, some of whom had entered Iran from the
outside and were using firearms and killing the police, were arrested.
You do know that the supreme leader actually issued an amnesty and all those who were imprisoned were released, with the exception at those who
had killed someone or were being sued.
Regarding the Iranian women that you mentioned, I cannot confirm it. There have been so many such baseless claims made on social media and in media.
AMANPOUR: OK, these -- these are not baseless and they weren't on the Internet, as CNN spoke to a cleric, a religious person, inside your country
and got this confirmed.
AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN (through translator): We have seen some of CNN's reports that are targeted and false.
AMANPOUR: That's not true.
AMANPOUR: We report the facts and we report the truth. And that's why you're sitting here with me, Mr. Foreign Minister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: We'll tune in for Christiane Amanpour's exclusive interview with the Iranian foreign minister, including topics on the crackdown on
protesters, supplying Russia with drones and Iran's uranium enrichment. Just a couple hours from, now 7 pm in Geneva, 10 pm here in Abu Dhabi, only
Well, a short while, ago the Turkish president signaled that elections will be held in Turkiye on May the 14th, meaning, he is sticking to his plan,
even with last month's devastating earthquake.
The quake's death toll in Turkiye and Syria has now risen to more than 51,000. And millions have been left homeless. The World Health
Organization's regional director for Europe tells CNN, all of Turkiye has been affected by the quakes in some way and that mental health should not
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. HANS KLUGE, WHO EUROPE: Mental health wise, what we see is secondary trauma. So either people are directly affected in the (INAUDIBLE) provinces
and (INAUDIBLE) people watch television.
What the people are telling me, they were speaking to those who were really rescued from under the rubble, is that they lost faith in the ground
beneath them. And since the 6th of February, there have been more than 8,000 still aftershocks. So people are afraid to sleep.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Among the lives lost, a man who risked his life to smuggle out evidence of atrocities at the hands of the Syrian regime. CNN's Jomana
Karadsheh has the story.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under the rubble of every building are stories, of lives, of families, of dreams, all ended too
soon. Here lived an unsung hero, a man who risked his life for justice, for his Syria.
CNN met Mustafa (ph) in 2018 at Turkiye's border with Syria while filming a report about his team's work. For his safety, we could not show his face.
He was on one of many clandestine missions over the past decade, to smuggle out evidence of atrocities committed by the regime of Syrian president
Mustafa (ph), a trained lawyer with the deputy chief of the Syria investigations unit at the nonprofit CIJA, the Commission for International
Justice and Accountability.
NERMA JELACIC, CIJA: Mustafa (ph) was a man, quite unlike any other man in the field of work, especially in Syria. He has been one of our first
recruited investigators. They have secured over 1 million pages of the documents produced by the regime itself. And that is something unheard of.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): The troves of evidence secured by Mustafa (ph) played a key role in landmark trials, including the case in the U.S. of
slain journalist Marie Colvin versus the Syrian Arab republic.
JELACIC: Mustafa's (ph) contribution to accountability in Syria has already been enormous. He never lost sight of what it was all for. And
despite all the hardships, he and his family have been through, he never gave up, he never lost hope and he never lost track why he was doing what
he was doing.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): Three years ago, Mustafa (ph) and his family had to leave their beloved homeland.
JELACIC: We helped move Mustafa (ph) and his family into Turkiye, not only because of the security threats that he had faced but also because his
daughter had a medical condition. Ironically, the effect, that he lived in Turkiye, was supposed to mean some level of normalcy and hope and
peacefulness for his family. And it ended so tragically.
KARADSHEH (voice-over): Mustafa (ph), Rulah (ph) and their children, Talah (ph), Hamim (ph), Mace (ph) and Ahmad (ph) were asleep in their apartment
in a new high-rise building in the Turkish city of Antakya when the earthquake struck.
The family all perished and, with them, the dream of a new life they were planning in Europe. "When I'm with them, there is no war," Mustafa (ph)
would say -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Antakya, Turkiye.
ANDERSON: The battle for Bakhmut is intensifying. Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, with me, Becky Anderson, Russian forces are carrying out their
assault with the help of Wagner's private military.
Plus the theory that COVID originated from a lab accident in China gets a high profile endorsement. Taking a very short break; that after this.
ANDERSON: Your headlines this hour.
Rescue workers say at least 36 people have been killed after two trains crashed in Greece. Dozens of people are in hospital. The country has
announced three days of mourning for the crash victims.
Israeli police have fired stun grenades, as protesters block the streets of Tel Aviv. Demonstrators are railing against moves by prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's government to reform the judiciary.
Nigerian ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the country's next president. Local civic organizations say officials bungled the
election and the opposition Labour Party says it will challenge the results in court.
Ukrainian forces say they have no plans to withdraw from Bakhmut in the face of Russia's intensifying push for the eastern city. But Ukrainian
officials are urging the 4,500 civilians who remain to leave. CNN's Fred Pleitgen shows us how Russia's private military company, the Wagner group,
is helping Russia advance.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian warplanes bombing Bakhmut, this video posted on state media trying
to show the advances the Kremlin's forces are making.
On the ground, mercenaries of the Wagner private military company are leading the assault, the Ukrainian say. These Wagner foot soldiers saying
they're close to Bakhmut's city limits.
We're approaching Yahidne, he says, and Yahidne is the entrance into town. This district our platoon has taken without a single loss.
Ukraine says the situation is tough for their troops in Bakhmut but that they are clinging on.
While Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is recruiting even more people in an ad with a top Russian propagandist. Sign up for PMC Wagner, he says, you'll
learn a man's work and we'll be in good shape for the upcoming World War III.
While progression claims he's gearing up for World War III, he's also involved in a social media standoff with the son-in-law of Russia's defense
minister Sergei Shoigu. After his son-in-law, Alexei Stolyarov allegedly liked an antiwar bloggers comment on social media which Stolyarov later
denied doing, Prigozhin taking aim.
We need to catch Stolyarov and bring him to me, he says. I will train him for six weeks since I am a Z-redneck myself, I will help him improve by
sending him to combat operations.
PLEITGEN: As the fighting in Ukraine rages on, Russia's president now acknowledges that operatives for the intelligence service the FSB are both
on the front lines and allegedly behind Ukrainian lines.
PUTIN (through translator): Unfortunately, there are losses in our ranks, the leadership of the FSB must do everything to provide additional support
to the families of our fallen comrades.
PLEITGEN: With FSB boss Alexander Bortnikov on the stage, Putin also said Russian intelligence needs to up its game.
PUTIN (through translator): We need to beef up our counter intelligence in general, because Western special services have traditionally been very
active in relation to Russia. And now, they have put in additional personnel, technical and other resources against us. We need to respond
PLEITGEN: The Russian leader yet again casting this conflict as an existential battle for Russia against those allegedly plotting to destroy
it -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.
ANDERSON: Well, another U.S. federal agency is sharing its assessment on the origins of the coronavirus.
FBI director Christopher Wray has acknowledged that the bureau believes that COVID-19 most likely originated from an accident out of a Chinese lab.
That is the same conclusion the U.S. Department of Energy came to in what they call a low confidence assessment. Here's what the FBI director said to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab
incident in Wuhan. So here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans. And
that's precisely what that capability was designed for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, China has hit back at the FBI director's lab leak theory, saying it has no credibility and the U.S. is politicizing the origin
tracing of COVID-19. Natasha Bertrand joins us live from the Pentagon.
How significant are these findings?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, so the FBI, of course, has joined the Department of Energy in being the two
intelligence agencies who believe that this virus did leak from a lab in Wuhan.
But we should note that is still the minority view. Just backing up a bit, the FBI did conclude in 2021 with moderate confidence, according to our
sources, that the virus did leak from a lab.
But this is significant because it is the first time we are hearing Chris Wray, the FBI director, actually come out and confirm that. It had been
reported previously. But he has not spoken about it really since that assessment in 2021.
So that indicates that, you know, the FBI clearly is becoming a little bit bolder and they have not changed their assessment over the past nearly two
years as to what actually caused this pandemic.
Chris Wray, the FBI director, is really doubling down, really doubling down yesterday and saying that the FBI's assessment is that this was, you, know
this came from a lab. Now this was again a minority view among the intelligence community, which still writ large cannot agree on how this
pandemic actually began.
In fact, the majority of the eight intelligence agencies that reviewed this data and came to an assessment said that they do believe still that it was
-- it was -- came from nature and that it was -- came from the wild rather than that it started in a lab.
So we are seeing now that there is a continued divide within the intelligence community. But they all agree on two things, the first being
that this was not genetically engineered as a bioweapon. China did not mean for this to be leaked.
And Chinese officials did not appear to have any foreknowledge that this would leak, if that is, in fact, what happened. And the other thing they
agree on is that this is going to be very difficult to determine conclusively, the origins of this pandemic, without the full cooperation of
Beijing into an investigation into how this pandemic began.
And there is no real confidence here in the U.S. that the Chinese are going to be participating in any kind of serious inquiry into how the pandemic
began. So right now, officials saying we just really may never know how this pandemic actually started -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Natasha, thank you.
You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.
Ahead in sports, an unwanted accomplishment for the Roma manager. More on that after the break.
ANDERSON: How about this for the flight of a lifetime?
On Monday, en route from Iceland's Reykjavik to Manchester, England, the pilot of one flight made a special effort and flew in a circle to give
everybody on board his flight view of the northern lights. One passenger said the flight crew also turned off the cabin lights to enhance
You can see why from these images shot within that flight. easyJet applauding its crew, saying they went, quote, "above and beyond for their