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Ukraine Denies Involvement in Alleged Kremlin Drone Attack; Nine People Killed in Belgrade School Attack; Iranian President Raisi in Syria for Talks with Assad; New Reports of Fighting in and Around Khartoum; Press Freedom is "Very Serious" in 31 Countries; Russia Claims Drone Attack on Kremlin: Unverified Videos Purport to Show Attack. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 03, 2023 - 11:00   ET




ELENI GIOKOS, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Welcome back to our second hour of "Connect the World". I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi filling in for my

colleague Becky Anderson, great to have you with us today.

Our top story right now Moscow is claiming that Ukraine tried to assassinate President Vladimir Putin with drone strikes on the Kremlin last

night. Videos are circulating purporting to show the alleged attacks but at this stage, we cannot verify them. Here they are. Take a look at that


Moscow is calling the alleged strikes a terrorist act and says it reserves the right to take retaliatory measures. Ukraine denies any involvement

saying it does not attack other countries. We've got team coverage on our story standing by for us. I'd like -- we've got -- I've just got

confirmation that Matthew Chance with us from London, and we've got Nic Robertson as well in Eastern Ukraine.

Great to have you both with me today! Nic, I want to start with what we've been hearing from Ukraine in particular distancing them from this attack.

But I want to sort of take a step back here and talk about the potential impact of these accusations and the information that we're getting through

from the Kremlin at this stage.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Typically, in the past, the Kremlin has said things that are then used to act upon things that have

proven not to be true, but have given them the pretext for an attack a false flag operation.

Ukraine appears concerned that this may be such an instance, they feel that perhaps the Kremlin will use what happened over the Kremlin, where these

two alleged incidents were drone 16 minutes apart over the Kremlin last night, to use that as a pretext for some sort of attack on Ukraine.

They're concerned because Russia has a track record of doing that. Ukraine says it is not connected to these drone incidents. It says it will use all

means to diff on its own territory to defend its own territory. It describes the Russia's claims that this was an assassination attempt on

President Putin as part of Russian trickery that they suggest is the Kremlin trying to drive up support for the war in Ukraine ahead of the very

important Mayday celebrations outside the Kremlin on Red Square.

Very big annual celebrations on the 9th of May they celebrate and commemorate the huge loss of life 10 million -- tens of millions of

Russians who lost their lives during the Second World War. This is the Kremlin President Putin trying to sort of build up support for that parade

for the war in Ukraine.

But I think when you do step back and try and analyze the situation, it is a particularly tense situation because Russia is expecting the possibility

of Ukrainian counter offensive. And there have been over the past couple of weeks, a noticeable uptick in the number of incidents that have targeted

Russia's supply lines and ammunition and fuel depots inside of Russia, but near the borders with Ukraine.

So when you take that picture in its totality, Ukraine, whether or not it was involved, the fact that the Kremlin escalates whatever it was to the

level of an attempted assassination of President Putin, Russia has taken this up to the maximum level that it can, and that's what would cause the

concern of how Russia may then use this incident for its own purposes.

GIOKOS: Matthew, you know, we're looking at potential scenarios here. Well, here's what we do have. We have a video that we haven't been able to verify

but this is what Russian media is using right now. The Kremlin saying there was an assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin, the Ukrainian saying we're

distancing ourselves from this. But the messaging I guess the underlying message to Russians is that the war has come to Russia. It has breached the


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And that's why it's so extraordinary that if this is an operation, a sort of false flag

operations been set up by the Russians, it's an extraordinary risky one, because it is reminding Russians that this war is very real, and that it is

coming back to bite them as it were right in the center of the capital.


And the fact that this imagery is now on Russian television being watched by millions of people around the country is a remarkable sign of

vulnerability and weakness on the part of the Kremlin The fact that a drone, or two drones could strike at the symbolic and political and

geographical heart of the Russian state is, is an extraordinary moment. I think that that will really ram home to people around the country in Russia

that this war is in a desperate, desperate situation.

Now, in terms of what the Russian response will be? Well, I mean, clearly the Russians are characterizing this as an assassination attempt against

the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And if it is real, by the way, then you know, they have every right I think, to take this extremely seriously, this is the presidential palace.

This is where Vladimir Putin has an apartment, although he wasn't said to be there at the time.

And it is where he works in the daytime; it's where his official offices are, for the most part of the week. And so if it is a real attack and the

pictures look real to me, I have to say, and then it is a huge coup on the part of whoever carried it out at striking the Russian state.

Now in terms of who carried out, the Ukrainians have distanced themselves from this. They often do distance themselves from attacks that take place

inside the territory of the Russian Federation. There are partisans, partisan groups, Russians, who are active increasingly inside the country.

And as Nic Robertson was, you know, kind of listing there, there have been a number of attacks in the past week against railway infrastructure targets

against an oil storage facility in the south of the country as well, which are inside Russian territory.

Now, some of these could have been carried out by Ukrainian secret services, presumably, others could have been carried out by these parties

and groups who are increasingly active and who are striking at various targets inside the Russian Federation.

Sometimes potentially, with the assistance of elements of the Ukrainian state as well as the Ukrainians has been at pains to deny any involvement

in any of these kinds of instance. One of the reasons the Ukrainians are denying it so ferociously is that there has been an absolute red line drawn

by its main sponsors in the West, particularly United States.

That it doesn't want to see Ukrainian attacks taking place inside the Russian Federation inside the territory of Russia, in case that elicits a

much more dramatic response from the Kremlin. Now, it was interesting to hear what Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State said a few moments

ago when he was asked about the possibility of Russia -- sorry, of Ukraine, striking targets inside of Russia.

He had a much more soft attitude towards that possibility, saying he was going to leave it up to the Ukrainians to decide how best to fight the war.

That's a significant departure from ruling out any weapons being used to strike inside the Russian Federation.

So it just looks like all these ways of sort of putting additional pressure on Russia, as Ukraine prepares what is meant to be a spring offensive, but

it's quickly turning into a summer offensive to retake Ukrainian land inside their country from Russian occupation forces.

And this drone strikes on the Kremlin if it's real. And if it's not made up by the Russians to kind of provide justification for some kind of attack

inside Ukraine then that's a further example of how that pressure was building.

GIOKOS: Matthew Chance and Nic Robertson, thank you so much. I want to bring in CNN Military Analyst Cedric Leighton with more. We've seen the

video. We've heard what the Kremlin has said. We know the Ukrainians are distancing themselves.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that, look, it's up to the Ukrainians to choose how they want to fight this war. And as Matthew Chance

just said, significant departure from what we've been hearing in the past. So what is your assessment based on the information we have right now?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes Eleni, my assessment at the moment is about 60 percent chance that this is a false flag operation and

about 40 percent chance that it is attack mounted by Ukraine or Ukrainian allies in Russia. So that's a preliminary assessment.

It's very much subject to change. But it is very interesting that this kind of an attack, if it is an attack was made you know, so close to the 8th of

May, which is the Victory Day celebration, set for the Kremlin in Moscow that shows that if it is an attack they were definitely trying to showcase

Russia's vulnerabilities at this particular point.

If it is, you know, a false flag operation then it also shows the vulnerabilities that Russia has, but it is also possibly a pretext for

Russia to do more against Ukraine it'd be much more severe in their attacks on Ukraine and possibly use other weapons.


GIOKOS: We're watching the video. We still have not verified it independently at CNN. But Nic Robertson earlier said that these two drones

16 minutes apart and then the question becomes does Ukraine have access to these unmanned drones?

And they would, would they be able to carry out this attack? Matthew Chance was saying, you know, the other option could have been partisan groups

inside of Russia that, you know, that could be one option.

LEIGHTON: Yes, it could. Absolutely and both Matthew and Nic are correct in the possibility. You know, the Ukrainians do have drones that are based on

old Soviet models, that the drone weaponized, but they in essence, move them into a much of more sophisticated realm technologically.

They use these drones and attacks against angles to airfield, for example and that's a bomber airfield in southern Russia, that a base where the

Russians have for use to mount attacks against Ukraine from. So it is certainly technically possible for the Ukrainians to do this.

The Russians also have these drones, and they could very well be masquerading them as Ukrainian drones, even if they are in fact Russian. So

there are a myriad of possibilities here. But the Ukrainians are definitely capable of doing this either from inside their territory, which is a bit of

a distance about 600 kilometers at the closest point to Moscow, and then also, of course, they could be using a sympathetic forces with Russia,

which probably getting to be a bit more numerous now than was previously thought.

GIOKOS: What about the tone of the Kremlin's response, right? We wanted to destroy the Kyiv. Regime, we are going to retaliate, we have the right to

retaliate, in terms of what the consequences are going to be here. What are you thinking?

LEIGHTON: They could be very serious consequences. And whether it's a false flag operation or an actual Ukrainian attack, you know, it could definitely

be used as a pretext for a much more serious development in terms of the escalation in terms of the weapons.

So one of the possibilities and this is the one that we really don't want to see, is a nuclear response using the tactical nuclear weapon. We haven't

really discussed that in the last few months. But at the beginning of the war, and kind of in the middle of this latest phase of the war, we did talk

about the possibility that Russia would use these kinds of weapons.

And the idea, of course, is that other countries will need to make sure that they influence Russia enough that they don't use this and other

countries would include countries like China and India--

GIOKOS: Possibility that you think that nuclear retaliation could be an option here for the Russians.

LEIGHTON: Yes, I do think that's a possibility. I think. I don't think it has the highest chance of happening, but it is certainly a possibility that

cannot unfortunately, we discounted.

GIOKOS: Colonel, thank you very much for joining us. Cedric Leighton right thank you!

LEIGHTON: Thank you!

GIOKOS: So a teenage suspect is being held by police after school shooting in the Serbian Capital Belgrade kills nine people, eight of them children.

Serbia, has declared a three day mourning period starting on Friday.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us now live from London. Absolutely tragic, horrific story what makes it more hair raising Salma is, here's a 14 year

old boy with a target list walking into a school. Take us through what we know right now.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Eleni, I mean a very truly shocking incident and one that as you mentioned, is perhaps even more

shocking because of the attacker. The attacker being allegedly this 14- year-old or 13-year-old boy a student at the school who had been planning this according to police for about a month.

He had drawn images maps of the school. He had a list according again to the police and the details given again by the Chief of Police of how this

attack took place. The minute by minute of it is just chilling. According to Belgrade's Police Chief this 14 year old who's only been identified as

KK for now entered that school immediately shot the security guard.

He then shot two other children that were hall monitors one was playing a piano. The other was a young girl just sitting at her desk. He then entered

the history classroom, which was near the front of the school immediately shot the teacher and then shot several students inside before he left the



Again he was carrying two pistols In for Molotov cocktails according to the police left the classroom after that rampage sat in the school yard and

called the police on himself and waited to be arrested.

We do have those images, I know you've just played them of that young suspect, again, walking out of the school jeans, he had a coat over his

face his police escort him out. And then you see, of course, the images of those children Eleni getting out of that school, you can just see the shock

and terror on their face being reunited with their families.

This, of course, caused panic in Belgrade. Parents rushing to this elite school as quickly as they could to try to find out the fate of their

children at one parent telling our local affiliate that their child was just hysterical.

They could not be calm down. There are serious questions now of course for the police. Why did the shooting take place? What motivated this child the

father of the suspect has been arrested as well. We do understand those two pistols belonged to the father of the child that they were locked in the

safe, but the boy clearly had access to them somehow knew the code to the safe somehow.

And again, I just have to emphasize nothing like this has happened before in Serbia. Yes, this is a country with a high level of gun ownership, I

believe the fifth highest level of gun ownership, but there are strict gun rules in place. So this is not unfortunately, like the United States where

images like this are common. This is shocking for this community.

GIOKOS: It is absolutely shocking. We're covering so many of these school shootings, specifically in the U.S. and now in Serbia. And it's

heartbreaking every single time Salma. Thank you so much.

Well, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is now in Syria to meet with Bashar al-Assad we'll have more on this visit. The first one by an Iranian head of

states and war broke out in Syria. And more attacks reported in Sudan's capital ahead of what is it an ever announced ceasefire? Will the new truce

hold? We'll answer that shortly.


GIOKOS: Iran's President is now in Syria for talks with President Bashar al-Assad Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Damascus earlier today to begin his two

day trip. Iran has been a key financial and military ally to President Assad during the conflict. Our Becky Anderson explains how Raisi's visit is

part of a new era of diplomacy in the region.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice over): An historic visit 13 years in the making. Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi meeting with the Syrian President

Bashar al-Assad in Damascus despite Tehran's ongoing financial and military support for Assad it is the first state visit of its kind since Syria's

brutal civil war began in 2011.


Raisi's two day trip is taking place against the backdrop of wider regional efforts to bring Assad back into the fold. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister

making a similar trip to Damascus just a few weeks ago.

FAHAD NAZER, SPOKESMAN, SAUDI EMBASSY IN THE U.S.: We are working closely and towards advancing a political solution to the crisis in Syria that

preserves its sovereignty, its territorial integrity and make sure it's part of the Arab fold.

ANDERSON (voice over): And earlier this week, Jordan hosted a rare meeting between Syria and its Arab neighbors. The tangible outcome of that was

Syria agreeing to curb trafficking of the highly addictive Amphetamine Captagon. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are its primary market.

The agreement is seen by many as a confidence building exercise. The push for normalization, gaining momentum after a devastating earthquake hit

Syria and Turkey in February. Nearly 6000 people in Syria died, and many Gulf Arab countries rushed to provide humanitarian assistance.

Earthquake diplomacy is seemingly shaking the Syrian stalemate. Saudi Arabia hopes to invite Syria to an Arab League summit in Riyadh later this

month. But some Arab states oppose serious return without a political solution to the conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to impose solutions on the Syrian people. The people need to reach them. There must be a political solution for the

Syrian crisis.

ANDERSON (voice over): After the millions of Syrian refugees brutalized by Assad's war.

MOUAZ MOUSTAFA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SYRIAN EMERGENCY TASK FORCE: It is a betrayal of the Syrian people, I think, for any government to normalize

with the Assad regime, to do business with the Assad regime, the person that's responsible for, for displacing and killing his own people. For the

Syrian people themselves it's a stab in the back. It's a huge betrayal.

ANDERSON (voice over): Syrian refugees and citizens caught between shifting politics facing an uncertain future. Becky Anderson, CNN.


GIOKOS: Well, let's go to Fawaz Gerges, Author of Making the Arab World and a Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics,

sir, great to have you on, thank you so very much. Look, this trip has been described as a strategic victory. How would you define what this means for

the region's power axis?


historical. Historical, because as your reporter, as Becky just said, it's the first time that an Iranian president visited Syria in the past 12 years

since the outbreak of Syria's revolution or Syria's war.

Strategic because I think what the Iranian president is trying to say, I think he wants to reaffirm the strategic relationship between Syria and

Iran. Iran played a decisive role in the survival of asset, it shed blood and treasure in the past 12 years.

And following the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and following the normalization between Syria and other Arab states, what

the Iranian leadership is trying to say it's time to cash in on our investments in Syria. And that's why the key variable, I would say, it's

not political, it's really more economic. Iran is trying to cash in on its investment in blood and treasure in Syria and the past 12 years.

GIOKOS: Fascinating. I mean, look, Iran, of course, as we've ascertained, has backed the Assad regime. And we know Saudi Arabia is taking the lead on

trying to bring Syria back into the Arab fold right to bring it back into the Arab League. With the Saudi Iran relations now that have been mended,

how does this trip signify or signal perhaps, in terms of Syria, getting back into the fold? Do you think that it holds any weight and Credence?

GERGES: Well, I think this has been going on long before the earthquake in Turkey and Syria that quite a few Arab states have been trying to bring in

Assad from the wilderness, bring them into the Arab fall. The earthquake has speeded up the process, because more and more Arab states are realizing

that Assad is here to stay.

That despite all the money and resources invested in trying to get rid of them, he has survived even though he has not won, but they're still in

power. So really it's the Arab state are saying, well look, we have no other option, but to see whether we can really find a solution.


And Jordan now and that's Saudi Arabia, Jordan really is leading the way in trying to construct a solution that is to bring Assad into the Arab hold in

return for concessions on the part of Syria, in terms of really refugees in terms of integrating the opposition. But again, about Saudi Arabia, Yemen

is more important for Saudi Arabia than Syria.

So we should not really exaggerate the significance of Syria for Saudi Arabia. But what we are seeing as a whole, in the past year or so, we're

seeing de-escalation. We're seeing more and more regional leaders are climbing down from the tree, prioritizing diplomacy, prioritizing bilateral

economic and financial interests.

So in this particular sense, the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is really an integral part of the region wide process. But

we should not really exaggerate the importance of Syria, because for Saudi Arabia. Yemen, as if they want to get really they want to get out of the

quagmire of Yemen and Iran could really help the Saudis find a way after the deadly streets and alleys and mountains in Yemen.

GIOKOS: So this is looking to the future. And I'm glad that you, you've said this and delineated and the fact that economics and economic

prosperity is going to trump tension and conflict that has plagued the region for far too long. So how would you describe relations between

countries in the next, say, few years or even months? Because I frankly, think things are moving really quickly. And it seems that Saudi Arabia is

basically at the center of pushing renewed relations and mending relations.

GERGES: And it's not just Saudi Arabia and Iran, think about it, Turkey. Turkey has normalized relations with the Saudis with the United Arab

Emirates, which was Egypt and even with Syria. I mean, the most fascinating really story is about this, I mean, existential conflict between the

Turkish President Erdogan and Assad.

Now, we might put in as a presidential meeting between the two in the next few weeks, if Erdogan wins the President's. So Saudi Arabia and Iran are

really these are the two heavyweights that have been waging proxy wars, in Syria, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in other places. On the whole, I think we are

not really seeing any transformation, we're not seeing a paradigm shift.

What we are seeing is that more and more regional powers are prioritizing their own security, the security of their regimes, the economic well-being

of their people, because the economic pressure following COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

So in the next one or two years, we're going to see more de-escalation and more diplomacy and more bilateral interest in prioritizing economic and

financial interests. But sadly, I don't think we're going to see a transformation. That is peace and prosperity in the region. I think we're

far, far away from this particular dream.

GIOKOS: That's a pity because I'm an optimist and I always hope for that. Look, in terms with from within Syria, what about the rebel held

territories? And what we're seeing in terms of dynamics happening within Syria? What is your outlook on that?

GERGES: Well, I think I mean, what when we talk about Syria, even though the conflict, the escalations have decreased. But a large part of Syria is

outside of Assad's control; it's not just about Idlib, where Islamist rebels still exist. You're talking about 20, 30,000 Islamist rebels.

How about the Kurdish areas that have a very strategic relationship with the United States? I think in terms of the Islamist rebels, this has to do

with the relationship between Turkey and Syria. And I think the big question is how Turkey and Syria deal with the 20,000 will or so Islamist

rebels in Idlib?

And how will the Kurds, the relationship between the United States and the Kurds? And keep in mind that the United States has very severe sanctions

against Syria and the United States is opposed to any kind of normalization with Assad. So Syria has a long way to go.

What we are seeing now is the beginning of a process that could really make some gradual changes. You know baby, baby steps that we have a long way to

go in terms of 6 million refugees. 80 percent of the Syrian population lives in poverty or below the poverty line.


GIOKOS: Thank you, Fawaz.

GERGES: But Syria now is an economic --

GIOKOS: We have to go. But I appreciate your insights. A conversation, I'd love to continue with you, Fawaz Gerges for us. Alright, so for more

analysis on the shifting political environment in the Middle East, not least Saudi Arabia's growing influence and focus on diplomacy, you can

subscribe to CNN's Meanwhile in the Middle East Newsletter.

It is then three times a week curated by experts across the region. You can sign up at You're watching "Connect the World"

live from Abu Dhabi. And ahead this hour, we'll be bringing you the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator arriving in Sudan. The urgent message he's

giving to warring sides to get civilians desperately that need help. We'll be bringing you that update shortly.


GIOKOS: Welcome back to "Connect the World", your headlines this hour, a stunning allegation from the Russian government. Moscow says Ukraine sent

two drones to attack the Kremlin, calling it an assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin. For its part Ukraine says it knows nothing about the drones

and says it thinks the attack may be a trick by Russia to justify more attacks in Ukraine.

The Serbian government has declared three days of mourning starting this Friday after a school shooting in the capital Belgrade. Nine people are

dead, eight of them children, a teenager is a suspect, is in police custody. Officials from across Europe are offering their condolences after

Wednesday's mass shooting.

An intense four day man hunts in the U.S. state of Texas are over. Authorities arrested a man accused of shooting and killing five of his

neighbors including a woman and her nine year old son. Francisco Oropesa was found hiding in a closet just a few kilometers from the scene. Now at

least one other person has been arrested for allegedly helping him evade capture.

A new week long ceasefire for Sudan's warring sides is supposed to start tomorrow whether it takes effect or is violated, like previous temporary

truces is an open question right now. Residents in Khartoum report more airstrikes today. This video shows destruction in the capital. Now many

people are fleeing the fighting spiking a refugee crisis.

Some 100,000 people have crossed into neighboring countries, and more than three times as many are internally displaced. David McKenzie is following

all the developments for us from Johannesburg, David Great to have you. Look, the U.N.'s Emergency Relief Coordinator arrived in Port Sudan today

importantly, while so much is playing out over the last few days. You have more looting of grain on its way to Darfur, take us through what's the

latest lines are?


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Eleni, the big issue now, other than of course trying to stop the fighting is getting

much needed humanitarian aid into the country, both to Khartoum and to Darfur and other parts of Sudan that has been wracked by fighting for many

days now.

There's a need for food, there's a need for water, medical supplies, all the kind of things that you would normally have. U.N. agencies and

international organizations are rushing in where they can even into dangerous situations to try and get those to the people. Well, many of the

U.N. officials left Khartoum because of the fighting there.

Some of them have ended up in Port Sudan; the U.N. said it's not going to abandon the country. And in the sign of that, the U.N. Under-Secretary-

General Martin Griffiths arrived in Port Sudan. He says all of the things I mentioned are critical to get to the people. But what they really need is

assurances that their staff members will be safe, and that the goods won't be lifted.


MARTIN GRIFFITHS, UNITED NATIONS EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR: We will still require agreements and arrangements to allow for movement of staff

and supplies. We will need to have agreement at the highest level. And very publicly, and we will need to deliver those commitments into local

arrangements that can be depended on.


MCKENZIE: To illustrate that, he said at least six both food program tracks on their way to Darfur were looted of their food supply, as you alluded to,

it shows you just how challenging the environment is to get food to those who need it most. And it's really worth noting what will happen if that aid

doesn't get in, in particularly when it comes to medical supply, which he described as often the forefront of an emergency humanitarian response.

You know, many hospitals are closed in the capital. We've been speaking to doctors who describe dire, a dire need for oxygen, for bandages, for

medicine, there in the western part of the country in Darfur. And there are some pictures of that, there has been ongoing fighting both of the RSF that

paramilitary group and other tribal groups eyewitnesses telling us they have been targeted multiple times.

There are no hospitals running in El Geneina that city close to the Chadian border. And this really speaks to the desperate need for some kind of

agreement for the other two sides to allow safe passage for humanitarian supplies to get it, Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes, David McKenzie, thank you so much. All right, right now, Ukraine's president is visiting Finland, NATO's newest member sharing a

border with Russia. He's just been speaking in the wake of those accusations from Russia of a drone strike on the Kremlin. Let's hear what

he has to say.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We don't attack Putin, where Moscow, we fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and

cities. We don't have you know, enough weapon for this. That's why we don't use it anywhere. For us that the deficit that we can't spend it, and we

didn't attack Putin. We'll leave it to tribunal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then we have Lisa Rennerstedt from--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm Lisa Rennerstedt, from the Swedish public broadcaster. And my question is also to President Zelenskyy. Just a little

follow up on what you just said. Why do you think it is in the interest of President Putin to accuse Ukraine of trying to assassinate him? Thank you.

ZELENSKYY: Yes, well, let me explain it to you, -- the Russia has no victories to report. He can no longer motivate his public. He cannot sense

his sense of smell to die just letting you -- nothing happens. He has no victories on the battlefield. The second -- means the world is lost. They

find themselves and capital also occupying Ukraine.

They've got fired from us and now he has to motivate somehow those people he has to kill them going forward like burglarize, ex-convicts who cannot

go back because they will be shocked by the blocking squats. This is their current position. This is what is happening in reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I repeat this question and I think it will, at least will be --



GIOKOS: Right, that President Zelenskyy in Helsinki, answering questions about the attack on the Kremlin. Of course, the Kremlin saying that there

was an attack to assassinate Vladimir Putin and President Zelenskyy categorically denying it saying we do not have the weaponry to be able to

conduct such an attack. CNN will be covering those news lines throughout the day.

Alright, moving on, and a new report is out looking at Freedom of the press around the world. Just ahead, we'll be telling you how the UK and other

countries fared. And look at where journalism is most at threat, that's coming up.


GIOKOS: The New World Press Freedom Index is out; it takes a look at the state of journalism and the safety of journalists in countries around the

world. Now I want you to take a look at this. A group "Reporters Without Borders" assessed press freedom in 180 countries over the past decade.

The number of countries with a good situation for press freedom has dropped from 26 to eight over the past decade, while countries with a very serious

situation have risen from 20 countries to 31 countries over the past few years. The report also broke down press freedom by region.

Topping the overall list for the seventh straight year is Norway, while the United Kingdom came in at 26. And the United States at 45, down three

points from last year. So let's take a look at the results, the numbers and what it means for the future of freedom of the press. Joining me now, I

have Rebecca Vincent; she is the Director of International Campaigns for Reporters on Frontier.

Thank you very much for joining us, I have to say, quite disappointing if I look at the overall numbers. The shocking slide with 31 countries deemed to

be in very serious situation versus what we saw a few years ago. I want you to describe what we've seen in terms of the deteriorating environments what

has attributed to these dire numbers.

REBECCA VINCENT, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGNS, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Thank you, Eleni. In fact, it is a very dire look at global press

freedom as the index has shown again further deterioration year after a year. So this year, in fact, only seven out of 10 countries or seven out of

10 countries in total had poor environments for press freedom, with only three out of 10 is having even a satisfactory environment.

This is due to a number of factors. We've seen increased aggression on the part of authorities in many places, more blatant targeting of journalists.

And really an alarming rise in Disinformation and Propaganda campaigns, including through the use of AI. Really we're seeing a blurred line between

what is true and false.


And, you know, an increased difficulty in distinguishing quality, journalism from AI generated images and other disinformation that is now

more rapidly proliferating online.

GIOKOS: I think you know, many years ago, we would talk about there would be a direct correlation in terms of what we see on the democratic front in

various countries. And we wouldn't really be worried about AI so much or, you know, the notion of, of technology. But that is front and center right

now, the impact of that on the way politicians can use these technologies to push propaganda and their agendas as well. How much of a risk is the

technological atmosphere right now for press freedom?

VINCENT: The technology is developing in such a rapid way that can benefit journalism, but it's also creating new levels of risks. But this is in some

ways, also a continuance of trends that we've seen in previous years. Some of the countries that have long been at the very bottom of our World Press

Freedom Index, such as China and Russia, have been among the most active proponents of disinformation.

And so this is, in many ways, just another tool in that sort of battle for information that we're seeing globally. But this is only one of a number of

trends; we've seen some really alarming decreases in certain countries that are not just based on technology.

For example, in Turkey, which is down significantly stopped 16 places this year; we're seeing a severe crackdown in the run up to the elections, which

will take place in just 11 days. And in particular, a severe targeting of Kurdish journalists with 25 new arrests of Kurdish journalists last year

and active cases still continuing.

India is another one to watch, really, there's been a rise in sort of takeover of media by oligarchs close to Modi and that has had a detrimental

impact on the ability to --access independent information in India.

GIOKOS: One thing, you know, I guess for people to keep in mind is the importance of press freedom and how vital it is, in terms of lifting the

lid on so many things happening within authoritarian governments around the world. One thing that struck me, the U.N. awarded three Iranian

journalists, the World Press Day Award.

Of course, Iran has a dismal you know, rating these journalists were pivotal in terms of covering what happened to Mahsa Amini. Are you

concerned in terms of the numbers that we have seen that the ability of journalists to be able to do their work and hold governments to account is

currently at risk. Because it seems like journalists more so than many years before have now have to put their lives at risk to be able to do

their jobs.

VINCENT: Indeed, and it is it is indeed alarming. We welcome that prize being given to the three courageous Iranian women journalist, one of them

is Narges Mohammedi is the laureate of our own press freedom prize. Iran is also at the very bottom of the index at 177 out of 180 countries.

We've seen 70 journalists in and out of detention for covering the protests. 25 remain detained today. But this is indeed a global trend.

There are many countries that have a number of journalists in prison, and even countries that don't. We're seeing a greater diversity in the range of

means that journalists are being targeted.

It all gets out that right to information. And that's important to note. Some viewers may think what does this have to do with me, this is just

about journalists. And of course, we've seen erosion and trust in media in many places. But the thing is, when journalism and media are targeted in

this way, it impacts our rights to know every one of us has the right to access information in the public interest.

And the more often we see journalist silence, the less we are able as the public to access independent quality information and hold our own

governments to account.

GIOKOS: Well, thank you so very much for your insights. And hopefully next year, we'll have some better numbers and better trends to report. But for

now, we have to ensure that we keep our rights in place and work hard to protect them. Thank you so much for joining us.

Well federal police in Brazil have raided the home of former President Jair Bolsonaro. It is part of a probe into the alleged fail, falsification

rather, of COVID-19 records and a government database while Bolsonaro was president. One of his closest aides was also arrested in a series of

related raids.

Police say vaccination records were altered in 2021 and 2022. Bolsonaro was a vocal skeptic of the COVID vaccine. But he told reporters today there was

no tampering with his vaccination card. Well, the jury in Ed Sheeran's copyright trial could start deliberating. Very soon the singer is accused

of copying Marvin Gaye's classic, Let's Get It On, which Sheeran denies, that's coming up next.



GIOKOS: Singer Ed Sheeran has arrived back in court for his copyright infringement trial in New York. Now the judge overseeing the civil case

says the jury could start deliberating as soon as today Sheeran is accused of copying Marvin Gaye's soul hits, Let's Get It On for his song Thinking

Out Loud. On Tuesday, a music expert called by the defense testified the gay song was not the first one to use the chord progression at the center

of the case.

Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas is standing by in New York. And he was just in court for us. What a drama? I mean, look, I have to be honest, I've

been watching what Ed Sheeran has been tweeting and he's saying, look, I'm going to quit music. And why would I be so stupid to even use the song on

stage and do a mash up? The plot thickens.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: I mean, look, I got to tell you, things are riveting in there. And we are all learning so much about music

theory for those of us that didn't play music growing up. Its Ed Sheeran took the stand earlier this week. And like you said, he was very passionate

in his conviction that he did not plagiarize from Let's Get It On.

And they have a musicologist who is -- Dr. Ferrara and he is currently being cross examined by the Townsend family's attorney. And they are really

putting him to the test. Because this musicologist says, look, there were about 80 songs that had the same basic four chord progression, as well as

something called anticipation in songs long before Thinking Out Loud.

So Ed could have been influenced perhaps by none of those songs or several songs outside of Let's Get It On, and that maybe there were about 30 songs

that he cites before. Let's Get It On, that use that same chord progression. I just got to say, it's all going to come down to the jury.

I've been looking at them. They seem very engaged.

You know, as early as today, there could be closing arguments and things could be turned over to the jury. Today, tomorrow, I think, you know, maybe

there's going to be a verdict pretty quickly. You know, but who knows, but again, Ed Sheeran took the stand now a couple of times.

And he has said loosely that he would perhaps not do music anymore if the Townsend family owned that four chord progression, because it's so common.

And therefore, how could he continue to make music if he can't use that for chord progression? So look, everyone's talking about this case, social

media is like hinging on every moment. And hopefully, we'll have some answers very, very soon.

GIOKOS: Yes, I studied music theory, and I was researching into the differences in definition, fascinating stuff. Chloe Melas, thank you so

very much for joining us. Right, before we go, I want to update you on our top story. Those accusations coming through from Russia that Ukraine tried

to attack the Kremlin with drones.

The U.S. is apparently questioning the claims that this was an attempt to assassinate Vladimir Putin. Sources say American analysts have been poring

over the evidence and did not see signs of any planning of such an attack. There's also doubt over how drones could get so close to such a secure

target as the Kremlin. Ukraine's president just moments ago, meanwhile again denied any involvement saying he suspects Russia is lying to motivate

the public to get behind an unpopular war.


We continue coverage of the story as we get more details. Well, thank you so very much for joining us on "Connect the World" CNN continues right

after this short break. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi.