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Biden Calls for World to Stand Up to Russia; Deadly Drone Attack on Lviv in Western Ukraine; Americans Released from Iran Back on U.S. Soil; . Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 11:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to Connect the World. I'm Lynda Kinkade coming to you from CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Coming up, U.S. President Joe Biden calls for world leaders to stand up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the U.N. General Assembly.

The five Americans released from Iran are now safely back on U.S. soil.

And later in the show, a first look inside the Wagner heartland in Africa following the death of Yevgeny Prigozin.

Don't give up on Ukraine, that was the U.S. president's message on the world stage. You heard Joe Biden speak just moments ago making the case

that if Russia wins, the territorial integrity of no country is safe. Mr. Biden called this an inflection point in history.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I respectfully suggest the answer is no.

We have to stand up to this aggression today and deter other would be aggressors tomorrow.


KINKADE: As you saw Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listening. We will hear from him shortly.

Well, meantime, a Russian strike has taken a horrible toll in Ukraine.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is on the ground in Ukraine and Richard Roth is at the U.N. Good to have you both with us.

I want to start with you, Richard, because the U.S. president we just heard from speaking to the U.N. General Assembly last hour. Speak about his

understanding, to be a leader for good in the world, about working together, using democracy as the best tool to meet the challenges of the

world. And, of course, he covered a myriad of issues, including the war in Ukraine, but what were the key takeaways overall of what he spoke about


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, not unexpectedly ending the speech with about ten minutes on Ukraine, the country has been invaded

by a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and there is just a limit on how much the U.N. itself can do. It is a bedrock U.N. Charter was

not set up for one country to invade its neighbor.

Yes, we know about Iraq and Kuwait but this involves a country with veto power on the Security Council. And that body has had over 71 meetings since

the war began on Ukraine.

The other issues, he talked about China. Mr. Biden saying we're not, in effect, going after them. We want them with us, but he keeps having to

respond to Chinese aggressive actions in different places. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes. So, obviously, the war in Ukraine but also climate change and artificial intelligence, quite a range of issues he covered. Thanks so

much, Richard.

I want to go to Fred for more on what the U.S. president, Fred, was referring to, Russia's illegal war of conquest in Ukraine. We are expected

to hear from the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, addressing the U.N. later today. What did you make of President Biden's comments with regard to the

war and what can we expect when president Zelenskyy speaks later?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think first of all, Lynda, that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he

certainly, like most of what he heard from -- pretty much all of what he heard from President Biden.

And I think there were several factors or points that President Biden makes that we expect Volodymyr Zelenskyy to possibly make as well. One of them

was with Russia's war in Ukraine, that a lot of the fundamental principles of the United Nations are being violated, are being put to question by that

war. Territorial integrity, the sovereignty of nation, respect for sovereignty of nations as well, those we expect will all be points that the

Ukrainian president will make as well.

And there was one very important point that President Biden made. He actually raised his voice as he was making that point, and it's one that

Richard was alluding to as well, where he said, if these principles are now being undercut, what does that mean for the security of nations in the


And that is one of the points that we've heard the Ukrainians make over the past couple of days, as Volodymyr Zelenskyy was set to travel to the UNGA,

where they also said that the war in Ukraine, as they put it, Russia's aggression against Ukraine, is something that threatens global security.

And that is certainly something that we expect to hear from Volodymyr Zelenskyy as well.

One of the other things that could possibly happen is he might not directly address some of the nations that are still close to Russia or doing

business with Russia, like, for instance, China and India, and try to make that point once again saying, look, the Ukrainians need all countries to

condemn Russia for the war against Ukraine. It is something that we have heard from the Ukrainians in the past.

It was quite interesting also, Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his way to New York and in the past couple of days and certainly some of the advisers around

him as well have really sort of poured cold water on the idea of any sort of negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine. They say right now, at this

point in time, they don't believe that Russia would negotiate in good faith.

One of the things that we have heard from Ukrainian officials is they say the way to peace in Ukraine, the way to ending the war is for Ukraine to

win the war.


And that is, of course, where we get to weapons deliveries and possible new weapons aid packages, military aid packages that right now are being


And, certainly, we heard from President Biden also saying that the U.S. and its partners will not waiver in their support, including military support

for Ukraine, Lynda.

KINKADE: And in the midst of all these speeches going on, we know there have been more attacks in Ukraine, some industrial warehouses struck by a

drone in Lviv. What are the details, Fred?

PLEITGEN: Yes. It is one of the things that are really important that we always need to point out, is that, obviously, as all of this is going on,

as we see the world leaders at the United Nations, the war, of course, continues full speed, continues unabated. That goes for the offensive that

are taking part in the south of the country, in the east of the country, but, of course, a lot of those rocket strikes that we are seeing on a

pretty much daily basis as well.

In this case it was actually a drone strike that took place in the western city of Lviv, so pretty much away from the frontlines and pretty much in

the rear echelon, if you will, pretty close to the borders of NATO, though, NATO's eastern flank, if you will.

What the Ukrainians were saying that these were 18 drones that were launched towards Lviv. They say that they managed to down 15 of them, a lot

of them or most of them actually in the area of Lviv. So, they had already flown across large territories of Ukraine.

One person was killed and there was some pretty dramatic footage that came out of those warehouses on fire. The mayor of Lviv later in front of those

warehouses giving you a statement as well. They say that it was mostly humanitarian aid and humanitarian vehicles that were destroyed. They also

say it is going to take you awhile obviously for them to sort of take stock and see how bad the damage really was.

But it certainly shows that as the U.N. meets and as this important global body speaks about the ongoing war in Ukraine, the war itself is going on at

a very deadly pace and at a very high pace as well, Lynda.

KINKADE: Exactly. And, of course, back to those speeches at the U.N., Richard, we did hear the U.S. president speak about relations with China.

He does want to improve relations with China. He doesn't want to see any other region move into conflict. And he said that we stand ready to work

with China. Tell us more.

ROTH: Yes. A European Security Council diplomat last week told me that the tensions between these two big rivals, the U.S. and China, is getting more

evident inside private Security Council discussions, China and the U.S., two of the five countries with veto power and other rights as permanent


In his speech, President Joe Biden tried to make the case that the U.S. does not want to be is constantly attacking China and vice-versa. Here is a



BIDEN: When it comes to China, I want to be clear and consistent. We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not

tip into conflict. I've said we are for de-risking, not decoupling with China.


ROTH: And the first speaker of the day among the countries, Brazil's President Lula, who said Brazil is back, which echoes Joe Biden's thoughts

two or three years ago after he defeated President Donald Trump and then appeared at the General Assembly.

KINKADE: All right. We'll leave it will there for now. Good to have you both with us at the top of this hour, Richard Roth for us and Frederik

Pleitgen, thanks so much.

Well, relations between India and China are going from bad to worse. We have Canada expelling a senior Indian diplomat and then India doing the

same, kicking out a senior Canadian envoy. That comes after Canada's prime minister said India could be behind an assassination carried out in Canada.

Justin Trudeau says credible allegations link the Indian government to the deadly shooting of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia. To Canada,

he was a citizen. To India, he was a terrorist.

CNN's Paula Newton explains.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a startling accusation, Canadian officials say the killing of a prominent Canadian Sikh leader in

the province of British Columbia in June may have been an assassination carried out op the orders of the Indian government.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations

of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

NEWTON: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he confronted India's prime minister with the allegations in a face-to-face meeting just last

week as Narendra Modi posted the G20 summit.

TRUDEAU: Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government. Last week at the G20, I

brought them personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in no uncertain terms.


Any involvement of foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is

contrary to the fundamental roles by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.

NEWTON: The killing of Hardeep Singh Najjir remains unresolved. Royal Canadian Mounted Police say Najjir suffered multiple gunshot wounds while

sitting in a vehicle outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. Homicide investigators say two masked suspects described as heavier set

males fled on foot and then possibly in this 2008 silver Toyota Camry.

In the earliest days after the homicide, protesters demanded justice, saying the killing was politically motivated and chilling retribution for

Najjir's activism and support for Sikh independence in India. At the time RCMP would not comment on a possible motive. But now, Canadian officials

are speaking loud and clear about their suspicions.

MELANIE JOLY, CANADIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: The allegations that a representative of a foreign government may have been involved in the

killing of a Canadian citizen here in Canada, on Canadian soil, is not only troubling but it is completely unacceptable. If proven true, this would be

a grave violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other.

NEWTON: That stern rebuke was followed by swift action. Canada expelled the head of India's spy agency in Canada, one of India's top diplomats in

the country. In a statement, the Indian government responded saying the allegations are unsubstantiated and accused Canada of sheltering


Trudeau considers the intelligence so credible that his foreign minister says he raised the issue with both U.S. President Joe Biden and Britain's

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The killing of Nijjar and its fallout is now a potential powder keg in both India and Canada, home to one of the largest Indian Diaspora anywhere in

the world. Sikh independence has long been a dangerous fault line in Indian politics. Canada now fears that conflict may have been brought to its

shores with deadly consequences.

Paula Newton. CNN.


KINKADE: Well, still to come on connect the world --


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are the first images of Wagner fighters in the country since Prigozhin's death.

So, there clearly still very much presence here.


KINKADE: A look at Wagner's dominance in a remote area of Africa one month after the death of the group's leader.

And a joyous reunion for five former American prisoners finally back on home soil.



KINKADE: Welcome back. Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain in pretrial detention until November 30th. A Moscow court rejected

his latest appeal just a few hours ago. The American had been in Russian custody since March accused of spying on the Russian military. The U.S.

claims that the charges are bogus.

CNN's Matthew Chance was in the courtroom with Gershkovich earlier and tried to speak with him. Take a look.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Okay. We've been let -- okay, we've been into the courthouse where you can see Evan

Gershkovich is in there. Hi, Matthew from CNN. Are you holding up all right? No, no questions. Okay, understood.

Okay, well, there is he standing, and you can see him looking relaxed, all the cameras being allowed in to take a close-up look at him.

The security is very tight here. What is the problem?

What do you want us to do?

Okay. What do you want us to do? It's okay. What do you want us to do? Okay.

What happened?


KINKADE: We don't know if Gershkovich heard Matthew's question or not. Well, the U.N. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, was there and spoke to

reporters outside the courthouse saying the charges against Evan are baseless. The Russian government locked Evan up for simply doing his job.

Journalism is not a crime.

Well, Evan Gershkovich remains detained in Russia. There is a very different scene playing outside Washington today.

Applause ringing out as five American prisoners freed from Iran arrived back on U.S. soil after an overnight flight from Qatar. They were greeted

with hugs, smiles and tears of joy.

Their release part of a complex deal that include the U.S. releasing five Iranian prisoners and unfreezing some $6 billion in Iranian funds.

Siamak Namazi, who was imprisoned for eight years, spoke to CNN about his nephew's ordeal.


HUSHANG NAMAZI, UNCLE OF FREED AMERICAN SIAMAK NAMAZI: Well, the whole family went through such a lot of ups and downs, knowing what he is going

through in prison, eight years, subject to torture in the first two years. And then to finally see him come down the plane, it was -- I mean, no words

can describe it, because, really, the whole family has been through hell and praying for this moment and finally it has arrived. And they were all

so jubilant that the moment has come.

When he was in prison, he would telephone all the uncles and aunts and siblings and he was so resilient. Instead of us trying to cheer him up, he

was cheering us up.


NAMAZI: Knowing what we are going through for him, he wanted to show that, look, don't worry, I'm good, I'm doing good.

HARLOW: Selfless?

NAMAZI: So, you can just imagine how resilient he is.


KINKADE: Well, Connect the World Anchor Becky Anderson was in Doha when the freed Americans first landed on Monday. She has more on Namazi and the

other Americans whose identities are not publicly known.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Siamak Namazi, he was arrested in 2015 while on a business trip to Iran and charged with having relations

with a hostile state. After nearly eight years in prison, Namazi was Iran's longest-held American prisoner.

Feeling abandoned by the U.S., earlier this year, he appealed directly to President Biden in an unprecedented interview with CNN from the inside the

notorious Evin Prison.

SIAMAK NAMAZI, EVIN PRISON, IRAN: Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally hear

our cry for help to bring us home.

ANDERSON: Also freed, dual Iranian-American citizens Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi.


Tahbaz, an environmentalist, was arrested while on a trip to Iran in 2018. Shargi, a businessman who moved with his wife to Iran from the U.S. in

2017, was also detained in 2018 on similar charges to that of Namazi.

For years, their fate tied to tensions between the two countries. But with the help of a common friend in Qatar, breakthrough diplomacy brought us to

this very moment.

Iran freed the dual citizens in a deal to release five Iranians held in U.S. prisons and to unblock $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds from South

Korea. That cash moving from Seoul to Switzerland before being transferred to Doha after the Biden administration last week issued a sanctions waiver

clearing the way for the money to move.

The role of Qatar now changing from mediator to guarantor, ensuring Washington's demands that Iran's billions are strictly controlled and spent

only on humanitarian goods, like food and medicine.

But critics worry even with Doha's oversight, the monies could be spent, however, Tehran decides. There's also concern this latest deal enables what

many critics have dubbed Tehran's hostage diplomacy. But for the freed Americans, today at least, politics will likely be a secondary concern as

they finally get to go home after years of mental and physical anguish.

Becky Anderson, CNN, Doha.


KINKADE: Well, U.S. Republicans are criticizing the deal to free those U.S. prisoners. Some warn that Iran will defy the requirement to use the

unfrozen funds via humanitarian purposes and funnel the money into its nuclear program.

One Republican presidential candidate says unfreezing the $6 billion is akin to paying a ransom. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans are now more of a target for Iran than they were before because they took five this

time, maybe they will take ten next time, and then they will be looking for $12 billion or $15 billion. This never ends. It is a slippery slope that

you slide down as. As a leader, you have to say no to that type of thing.


KINKADE: Meanwhile in America newsletter, CNN's Stephen Collinson writes of the freed Americans that their return is an example of the kind of

agonizing dilemma only presidents face in their lonely Oval Office perch. In a way, they often have to juggle humanitarian concerns with geopolitics

and domestic considerations where no easy answer exists.

Well, Stephen joins me now live to discuss this further. Stephen, the White House says that every American should be celebrating the fact that five

citizens were brought home to the U.S. today. But, of course, there are critics, as always. You write about the juggle the commander-in-chief faces

when dealing with this. Take us through that dilemma.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Well, I think this shows the difference between being a president and being a presidential

candidate. It's easy for some one that is running for office to criticize. They don't have the burden of office, the duty to try to free Americans who

are at abroad, at the same time while protecting U.S. geopolitical priorities.

If you are the president you have to decide the extent to which your responsibilities to Americans who are incarcerated in Evin Prison, do you

stand firm and send the message that, no, we're not going to deal with what we regard as hostage takers? If you do that, those people probably aren't

going to get out. Or do you take a political hit, which is what Biden is taking from all these Republican presidential candidates and go ahead and

do a deal which, by definition, with a U.S. enemy, will be pretty unsatisfactory in many ways.

But at the end of the day, you see these pictures of these prisoners coming home. I think Biden, as President Trump, as President Obama did during

their presidencies, ultimately chose the path of humanity and to do what it takes to get Americans back on U.S. soil.

KINKADE: Yes. And you can hear the criticism obviously in terms of five Iranian prisoners in exchange for the five American prisoners, but the fact

that Iran also got $6 billion in unfrozen funds raises that criticism, but it has been done time and time again.

Turning to the fact that the U.N. General Assembly is under way right now in New York City, we know the Iranian president is there, as is the U.S.

president, who spoke last hour.


It's unlikely they will face each other face to face or they will speak face to face, but should they?

COLLINSON: Well, I guess in the cause of global peace and reduction of tensions in the Middle East, it would be great in the U.S. and Iranian

presidents spoke, but it would also be an extraordinary twist in international relations. And there is no real indication that there is any

real realistic diplomacy outside this deal going on between the U.S. and Iran, efforts to revive that nuclear deal that was agreed in the Obama

administration that was shelved by Trump, they haven't been going anywhere. And with, what, nearly three years in to the Biden presidency, there are

big concerns outside of that in terms of security, tensions between U.S. and Iranian ships in the gulf.

There was one occasion when President Barack Obama back in 2013, I believe it was, actually called up the Iranian president, Rouhani, at that point,

when he was leaving the U.N. and going back to the airport in New York. I don't think that the conditions between the two countries are anything like

they were then. So, I doubt there is very much hope of a meeting at all. And, indeed, I think you would have to question whether either of the

current Iranian president or the current U.S. president, President Biden, have the political cover back home in their own political situations to

meet each other. That would be a huge consideration as well.

Biden is getting a lot of stink from the Republicans on issuing a visa to allow the Iranian delegation to actually come to the U.N. So, there is no

political bandwidth for anything like that and, really, the state of U.S.- Iran rap relations, at least in the open, is very difficult right now.

KINKADE: Yes. Stephen Collinson, as always, good to get your perspective, thanks so much.

And, of course, for our viewers, you can read more from Stephen in his Meanwhile in America newsletter, in addition to his essay on the U.S.-Iran

prisoner release deal. Stephen has analysis on the big stories driving both American and international politics. You can find the newsletter by

scanning the Q.R. code on the bottom of your screen.

In Libya, demonstrators, they're demanding action from officials in the wake of that disaster.

Coming up, we'll take a look at the role climate change is having on the extreme weather events like those devastating floods in Libya.



KINKADE: Welcome back to Connect the World. I'm Lynda Kincade in Atlanta in from my colleague, Becky Anderson. Good to have you with us.

Well, anger is running high in Derna, Libya, over the deadly flooding that destroyed much of that coastal city last week. Hundreds of people turned

out to protest on Monday. The crowds chanting anti-government slogans and accusing officials of neglect, which many say is to blame for the scale of

the tragedy. Also on Monday, the European Union announced that it was sending $5.5 million in humanitarian aid.

Thousands died in that catastrophic flooding and a new scientific study shows the flooding was made up to 50 times more likely and 50 percent worse

because of human-induced climate change. Those findings are from the World Weather Attribution Initiative, which analyzes the role of climate change

in extreme weather events.

Let's take a deeper dive at how climate change is affecting disasters like this. Climatologist Friederike Otto joins us now from London. Thanks so

much for joining us today.


KINKADE: So, right now, we are seeing journalists in Derna being asked to leave because they're reporting on the angry protesters who are blaming the

government for the scale of the disaster. But the report you've put out today also blames human-induced climate change. Take us through your


OTTO: So, yes, we have looked at the role of human-induced climate change in the heavy rainfall that was the original cause of the flooding and found

that climate change did indeed made the rainfall up to 50 percent more intense. But that also means there would have been catastrophic rainfall

events without climate change. So, while climate change did play a role, it's definitely not the only cause.

And we also looked at the role of the dams and found that they have not been maintained for a very long time. And while investigations in their --

yes, their exact specs, how they were built, if they ever were built to withstand rainfall like this, are still ongoing. There is definitely a big

role of the conflict in the region and therefore the inability of the government to -- yes, to maintain the dams and to warn people in time that

also led to part of the catastrophe.

KINKADE: And if you can break down how you got to those figures. So, you said climate change made the extreme rainfall 50 times more likely in Libya

and 50 percent more intense. How did you ascertain that data?

OTTO: So, what we do in every study is we look at, okay, what aspects of the weather have actually caused the impact on the ground. And in this

case, it was the rainfall associated with the storm, Daniel, that fell in, yes, on the 10th of September within a day.

And we looked at what kind of event is that in the world we live in today, by looking at observational data. And we found out it's about a 1 in 600-

year event in today's climate. And then we use climate models where we can remove the impact of human-induced climate change from these models because

we know very well how many greenhouse gases have been put into the atmosphere and can then can look in this world without climate change. What

kind of event is that?

And we found that without climate change, it would have been even more extreme and because the only difference between these two worlds of

possible extreme rainfall is climate change. We can then say that climate change made this event up to 50 times more likely. And the up to is

important here because the models are not perfect, the observations that we have are definitely not perfect. So, there is some uncertainty around this

result. But it's pretty clear that climate change did play a role.

KINKADE: And it wasn't just Libya that you focused on. Your report also looked at the extreme rainfall in Greece, in Turkey, in Bulgaria, which you

said was up to ten times more likely. Explain those figures.

OTTO: So, the method is exactly the same, only that the two events were slightly different. While they were both associated with this -- with Storm

Daniel over Greece and Turkey, the storm hang around for four whole days and it's a much larger region.


But if you look at the rainfall amounts over these five days, they were not so extreme, in the sense they were not as much as the amount of rainfall

amounts over these five days, they were not so extreme in the sense they were not that rare even though they also caused lots of impacts. And so,

therefore -- but then we did the same thing, look at the observations and also look at the models and compare what kind of events are we dealing

with. And there we found that it was made up to ten times more likely.

KINKADE: And so when you consider all this data that you have and the extreme climate events we've seen in the past 12 months, what are you

forecasting for the year ahead and for the next five years? Is it just going to get worse?

KINKADE: Unfortunately, yes. Because, well, in Greece is a particular example of that. It has just come out of the worst wildfire season ever,

has had one of the first heat waves, and now these floods that my colleague in Greece has called a breaking point that will lead -- will force Greece

to really change how they deal with extreme weather and how they prepare their population.

Because while the climate change signal is not huge in these floods compared, for example, to heat waves, all these taken together and these

compounding of these different extreme events that have all gone worse because of climate change. And as long as we keep burning fossil fuels, we

will see more and more of these events happening.

KINKADE: Friederike Otto, a climatologist, we appreciate your insight on all of this. Thanks so much for your time.

OTTO: You're welcome.

KINKADE: Well, Russia is urging Azerbaijan and Armenia to, quote, stop the bloodshed. Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry has begun what it's calling an

anti-terrorist campaign in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. You can hear the sirens and the small arms fire there.

Well, two people, including a child, were killed and more than 20 others were wounded in the Armenian-controlled territory. And this is a

complicated region.

I want to bring in CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson, to explain. So, Nic, this region has been the cause of two wars between these

neighboring countries in the past three decades, the most recent in 2020, why are tensions there on the uptick right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Since they both separated out of the former Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakhs are an

enclave of about 120,000 people. They're mostly Armenians. And the wars have been fought over territory. It's an enclave that's within Azerbaijan.

At the end of the last round of conflict, it was agreed that a corridor, a road, corridor, the Lachin corridor would be the vital link between

Armenian territory and this territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. So, the Armenian populations could have this connection.

These are historic ties that both sides say they have to the land. The Russian peacekeepers were there to make sure that this corridor linking

could give the Armenians access to Nagorno-Karabakh, to these 120,000 people.

What has happened over the past few months is Azerbaijan has blocked any humanitarian aid going down that corridor. So, food hasn't been getting

into the people there, fuel hasn't been getting into the people there. The situation has been deteriorating.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, an esteemed international lawyer, wrote an opinion paper recently saying what, in effect, the Azerbaijanis were doing was

affecting a potential genocide on the population there. The Aziris, for their part, released another paper from another respected international

lawyer saying that wasn't the case.

But the ground reality has changed today. It's not a case of a blockade on a road and a humanitarian blockade for 120,000 people. Now, there has been

military firings. And the Azerbaijanis say they're firing on Armenian gun positions and they're saying that the Armenian military has to entirely

evacuate from Nagorno-Karabakh, perhaps in the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Forces. They say that the government in Nagorno-Karabakh has to collapse


And what Armenian officials have been talking about publicly and have been very concerned and trying to raise the profile on this recently, they've

seen this coming. They've seen the Aziris, they say, stockpiling weapons around the border of this enclave. And they've been very concerned that the

Azerbaijanis would try to continue to do what they did in 2020, which was take more territory, essentially starve, force the population of Nagorno-

Karabakh to flee and thereby take the territory.

And the concerns are that this military phase has taken that escalation up.


And that's why we're hearing from the E.U., that's why we're hearing from the U.S., that's why we're hearing from the German Foreign Minister today,

and even the Russians as well saying they're concerned about this escalation. And they want dialogue, not conflict.

KINKADE: All right. We will stay across this story. Good to have you on it for us. Nic Robertson for us in London, thank you.

Well, you are watching Connect the World. Still ahead, into the heart of the Wagner Empire. We'll take you inside the Central African Republic

almost a month after the Wagner leader was killed to see what's changing for his militia and what's not.


KINKADE: Welcome back. After a month -- almost a month, rather, after the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a plane crash, Russia has been

moving to consolidate Wagner's operations across Africa.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled to the Central African Republic. This is one of the world's poorest nations and

one of Wagner's first operational sites on the continent. Clarissa shows us how Wagner's work and Russia's influence might be changing.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the Central African Republic, the message from Wagner is clear. It's business

as usual. Less than one month after their boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a plane crash, mass mercenaries still guard the president and cut

an intimidating figure on the streets of the capital.

Faces covered as Wagner protocol dictates they are unapproachable and untouchable. These are the first images of Wagner fighters in the country

since Prigozhin's death.

So, they're clearly still very much a presence here in Bangui.

That presence runs deep. The markets are full of cheap sachets of vodka and beer made by a Wagner-owned company, and the locals seem to like it.

They say they don't drink French beer, only Russian beer.

We've come back to the center of Prigozhin's empire in Africa, right as his death raises questions for the regimes he protected and the mercenaries

whose loyalty he inspired.

Our last visit was in Wagner's early days here, ran like the mafia, providing guns and fighters and propaganda in return for gold, diamonds and

timber, using intimidation and brutality along the way.

That car full of Russians has been following us for quite some time. We don't know why, we don't know what they want.

But in this lawless, war-scarred country, one of the poorest in the world, that ruthlessness and the security it brought is celebrated by many.



WARD: Wow, that is quite the T-shirt.

GOUANDJIKA: Yes, beautiful T-shirt.

WARD: Presidential Adviser Fidele Gouandjika says the nation is in mourning for Wagner's dead leader.

GOUANDJIKA: He was my friend. He was my friend, Best friend, A friend of all Central African people.

WARD: Why exactly was Mr. Prigozhin so popular here, in your mind?

GOUANDJIKA: Because our country was in war. So, Mr. Putin gave us soldiers with the Prigozhin.

WARD: So, aren't you nervous now that he's dead that things might change?

GOUANDJIKA: Mr. Putin called our president. He told him that everything will be like yesterday. Nothing will be changed, nothing.

WARD: But according to a diplomatic source here, hundreds of Wagner fighters left the Central African Republic in July after Prigozhin's failed

mutiny. Those who remain, including his top lieutenants, have agreed to work for the Russian Ministry of Defense. Fighters have already been pulled

back from frontline outposts to population centers in an effort to cut costs, the source says.

What's less clear is what becomes of Wagner's civilian presence here. This is one of the last places that Prigozhin was seen alive during his final

tour across Africa. It's called the Russian Cultural Center, only it has no connection to Russia's official cultural agency and was run until recently

by Prigozhin's closest associate here.

Photographs taken on that visit show a new face, a woman known as Nafisa Kiryanova.

After days of asking for permission to visit, After days of asking for permission to visit, we decide to film covertly.

So, but you were here then when Yevgeny Prigozhin, when he was here, in the photographs? There's the photographs of you with Prigozhin together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, can you show me that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. I think it was just over in that corner.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay, that's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is Mr. Prigozhin, no?




WARD: Do you think he knew they were going to kill him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My gosh, what is the question there? Who knows such things?

WARD: What does it mean for your work here? Does it change anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it change anything if, I don't know, the president of the country dies? Does it mean that country stops to exist?

WARD: She shows us one of their daily Russian classes. As we step back outside, we see a Wagner fighter.

Hi. Who are you?

You can just make him out retreating to the back of the center, where, according to the investigative group, The Sentry, Wagner sells its gold and

diamonds to VIPs and manages its timber and alcohol operations.

WARD: Who is that?


WARD: A person?


WARD: Can we see what's there? That's weird.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Actually, well, what are you going to see there?

WARD: Like most of Wagner's activities here, it's clear there is still so much that is hidden from view. We've pushed the visit far enough. It's time

to go.

No matter who takes over here, western diplomats say they don't expect much to change. At the local Orthodox Church, the Greek lettering has been

painted over. Its allegiance now is to the Russian patriarchy. And even in the skies above the empire Prigozhin built, Russia's dominance lives on.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Bangui.


KINKADE: Well, the situation with Russia's dominance in the Central African Republic is a unique one. On you can read more about our

reporting from Wagner's first operational site in Africa and Russia's influence there.

We are going to take a quick break. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.



KINKADE: Well, so far, 2023 has been marked by a spike in food prices in several parts of the globe. For countries that rely on food imports, this

instability is a cause for concern.

The UAE imports around 90 percent of its food from abroad. And as the country seeks to diversify its food supply, entrepreneurs are seizing the

opportunity to set up agritech businesses in the capital. And that's today's story on Startup Trail.


BRONTE WEIR, CO-FOUNDER, BELOW FARM: They are wonderfully intricate and delicate and yet incredibly strong. I think it's good.

KINKADE (voice over): Entrepreneur Bronte Weir set up her agritech company, Below Farm, in 2021. From oyster to lion's mane, Below Farm

currently says it produces one ton of mushrooms per month right here in this facility in Abu Dhabi.

WEIR: So, we saw an opportunity for growing mushrooms here in an area where food security was really, really important and getting a lot of

attention. But really no one was looking into the mushroom space, especially specialty mushrooms.

KINKADE: Like many agritech startups, Bronte's business may find room for growth in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates has allocated over $130 million in

incentives for SMEs in this sector.

Today, about a third of the United Arab Emirates' GDP is dependent on the oil and gas industry. But the country wants to diversify the economy and is

investing in its non-oil sectors, helping boost entrepreneurship. It aims to give support to more than 8,000 startups and small and medium

enterprises by 2031.

CHRISTOPHER SCHROEDER, CO-FOUNDER, NEXT BILLION VENTURES: Abu Dhabi, of course, has a tremendous capability through the different funds and

sovereign wealth funds. to help fund funds and entrepreneurs. All of a sudden, smart and sophisticated ecosystems are looking at their area and

saying, I'm not limited by anything.

I can look at something like agritech because I can leapfrog the challenges of agriculture they were before. And, in a way, a nation like UAE and Abu

Dhabi, they're startup countries and startup cities leveraging these capabilities to be able to make a difference.

KINKADE: More than just a passion project, Below Farm hopes to quadruple output by the end of the year and secure over a million dollars in funding

in 2024.

WEIR: Yes, there is a lot of funding opportunities around. That said, there are plenty of challenges that we're dealing with, especially we're

quite a capex intensive business, so it's never easy raising money for capex. So, just you do the best that you can do, you know.

We have built something that I think is really wonderful. It's just, you know, doing everything that you can to maximize that.

KINKADE: As funding opportunities continue to grow, burgeoning startups in Abu Dhabi are seizing the moment to secure their own slice of success.


KINKADE (on camera): Well, today for our Parting Shots, adoring fans hailed world-famous football star Cristiano Ronaldo's first visit to Tehran

on Monday. You can see him departing the plane there in a hat and sunglasses. Iranian fans raised pictures and banners to welcome Ronaldo.

Crowds surrounded the buses carrying the team. And Ronaldo is the captain of the Saudi football team, Al-Nassr. They face Iran's Persepolis on

Tuesday night in Tehran. It's the first visit of a Saudi football team to Iran since 2016.

Supporters invaded the hotel lobby despite attempts by security to prevent them. And the Iranian football team gifted Al-Nassr two hand-woven Persian


One young Iranian fan wearing the Saudi football team's jersey was lucky enough to meet the star footballer.


It seems like these would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Only this year, Iran and Saudi Arabia restored ties in a major diplomatic

agreement. It's another sign of how the beautiful game is bridging divides between the two regional rivals.

It's a great way to end the show. Thanks so much for watching Connect the World. And you can join me next hour with much more news after a very quick

break. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.



KINKADE: Home at last. Here's what's coming up.