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World Court Orders Israel to Allow More Aid into Gaza; Former State Department "Shocked" by U.S. Support of Israel; Gazans Struggle to Find Food Amid Looming Famine; Oscar-Winning Star Louis Gossett Jr. Has Died at 87; Evan Gershkovich Spends One Year in Russian Detention; Turkey's President Erdogan Aims to Reclaim Istanbul. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 29, 2024 - 10:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome to our second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi.

This hour, we'll be bringing you a detailed look at the deadly and daily struggle to find food in Gaza. But first your headlines this hour. Efforts

continue to recover the bodies of 45 people killed in South Africa after a bus fell off a 50-meter cliff. The "Wall Street Journal" marks a grim

anniversary exactly one year since its reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. And in Baltimore, the largest floating crane on the

East Coast is brought in to help clear up after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

There are new warnings today of a potential catastrophe if Israel goes ahead with its planned ground operation in Rafah. But airstrikes have been

happening there repeatedly through the war. And I want to warn you the images that you're about to see of the latest strikes are disturbing.

Now these are pictures of the aftermath of airstrikes today and a hospital official in Rafah reports 12 Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on a

house on Thursday. Women and children, among the dead. Dozens more Palestinians have been reported killed in Gaza over the past day with a

death toll now topping 32,000 since the start of the war, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

This, as Israel responds to a new order from the International Court of Justice to allow more aid into Gaza. The court warns famine is setting in.

Israel calls the ruling cynical and says Hamas is to blame for conditions in the enclave.

Senior international correspondent Melissa Bell joins us now from Tel Aviv.

Melissa, great to have you on. I want to talk about this new ICJ provisional measures that they've put in place. What that means

realistically, whether Israel has legal responsibilities to adhere to these additional measures.

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In theory, it has an, Eleni, but I think it's important to remember how tightly focused Israel is

as a country now on its particular view of what's happening in Gaza. It has repeatedly dismissed South Africa's claim and pushed back on the

suggestions it was doing -- carrying out in Gaza constitutes genocide in any way. No doubt will continue to do so.

I'm here at a rally on this Friday night to mark a remembrance vigil for those still -- hostages still held in Gaza. Shabbat table has been laid and

it gives you an indication of what the mood is here in Israel. This is a war from this country's point of view that is really all about bringing its

own home. Meanwhile, of course, across the border, as you say, it has continued that relentless campaign inside Gaza with its terrible toll on


First of all, in the north of the Gaza Strip, Eleni, where the siege in and around Rafah is now in its 12th day with a horrendous toll for civilians.

What the IDF says is that it is carrying out precise operational activity both there and further south at the Al Amal Hospital complex where it says

it is seeking to root out terrorists. It speaks of hundreds having been either killed or arrested as a result of those sieges these last few days.

From the point of view of the Palestinian civilians that were able to speak to and were speaking here through medical sources, and ordinary civilians

who tell us of the terrible damage that the sieges of the last few days has done, Gaza's civil defense is calling for urgent help from the outside

world to try and help it recover from the rubble, either the bodies of those who've been killed in airstrikes these last few days, there's also,

by the way, been fierce close combat fighting, or indeed to help them retrieve those they believe might still be alive.

Further to the south, all eyes very much of course on Rafah and what Israel plans to hit next. We heard from Benjamin Netanyahu just a couple of days

ago, who said that he believed that victory was within weeks, would happen within weeks, and that Israel had no choice but to carry out that ground

invasion of Rafah, that the United States is so keen on getting it to avoid. That will be at the heart of further negotiations next week when the

delegation makes it to Washington.


In the meantime, the toll on the civilians still and already appalling. We're hearing from the ground that 12 people have been killed in the latest

airstrikes in Rafah, including women and children -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Melissa Bell, thank you so much for that update.

Protesters rallied for a ceasefire outside Joe Biden's high-profile fundraiser Thursday night. Inside Radio City Music Hall, they interrupted

the event several times. And the Biden administration is said to be facing criticism from within. A former State Department employee tells CNN that

many government workers say they are shocked and appalled by U.S. support of Israel's actions in Gaza. Take a listen


ANNELLE SHELINE, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICER: Hamas is a terrorist organization. I just think that the way Israel and as

well as the United States have been involved in conducting this war, it could have been done in a very different manner. The levels of the

casualties that we're seeing, the use of starvation as a weapon of war. The fact that the United States isn't using its leverage to insist that aid get

in and that a ceasefire be put in place.


GIOKOS: All right. CNN's Kylie Atwood is in Washington where she has a lot more on what this ex-employee said.

Kylie, great to have you on. You know, calls for some alleviation on the aid scenario is playing out in Gaza, really seemed to be ramping up whether

it's the protest action that we've seen or now from ex-employees. Give me a sense of the mood right now.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. So in this interview and also in an op-ed for CNN, this State Department

employee, she was only at the State Department for a year, but she really painted the picture of her efforts to try and push the Biden

administration, push the U.S. government to change their approach to the Israel-Gaza-Hamas war by doing so from inside the building.

But she said that eventually after trying to talk to her supervisors, talk to her peers, put forward dissent cables, she really just wasn't able to do

that. And so she felt that stepping down from her position was the way to actually make a powerful statement about her perception that the U.S.

credibility when it comes to defending human rights in her words has almost entirely vanished since the war began.

Now one interesting thing that she told Christiane Amanpour is that there are other State Department officials who agree with her. They are

frustrated by the fact that the U.S. isn't using their leverage to push for humanitarian support, that necessary critical humanitarian support to get

into Gaza. And that there isn't more that is being done by the U.S. government to demonstrate a willingness to withhold those offensive weapons

from Israel to try and bring down the conflict that we're seeing in Gaza right now.

But those other folks who agree with her at the State Department, she said many of them have been there for their entire career. Because she had only

been there for a year, it was a little bit easier for her to step out. So it's interesting to hear her talk about that. We'll have to watch and see

if there are any other State Department officials, U.S. government officials who step away from their jobs in objection to this policy.

But for now, we have seen a bit of a change of tone from the Biden administration in, you know, recent months talking about pushing Israel

towards allowing in this humanitarian aid, and we'll have to watch and see what kind of leverage they're willing to use to push Israel against going

forward with this ground operation that they say they're going to go forward with in Rafah.

GIOKOS: All right, Kylie Atwood for us, thank you.

The U.N. Humanitarian Office is calling on Israel to expand supply routes into Gaza so that large-scale aid can be delivered to people who are


CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has more on the daily struggle to find food, and a warning that some of you may find the images in this report disturbing.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video filmed 11 days ago at a Northern Gaza hospital captured little Mohammad's final days. His

labored breaths and all that staff tried to do to keep him alive. On Thursday, 6-year-old Mohammad became the 24th Palestinian child to die of

malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza. And the fear is many more vulnerable lives could be lost.

Hunger is in every corner of this besieged territory. The pain visible in the eyes of mothers like Nijlat (ph), who's helplessly watched her children

go hungry for months. Her husband, Madan (ph), has thought the unthinkable, throwing his children in the sea, he says, to spare them this torture of an


Bantai's (ph) family endured months of bombardment in Northern Gaza. But it's the looming famine there that's pushed them out of their home.


If you grab a bag of flour, someone can kill you to take it, Mahdan (ph) says. Our daily meal for our children became things we hadn't heard of

before, like ground soybeans and a wild plant that we'd never tasted before. Food that animals refused to eat we ate.

What they'll do, where they'll go, they don't know. All they want right now is to feed their little ones.

My children were crying every night, asking for a piece of bread, Nijlat (ph) says. We were dreaming of white bread. We were eating animal feed.

For the first time in five months, they say, the children are having real food, even if only plain bread.

This is what Bantai's (ph) family left behind in the north. Scenes that tell of the desperation of so many, who also just want to feed their

children, as they rush the little aid that's made it into this part of Gaza.

More than a million Palestinians are now facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to a U.N.-backed report, with famine projected to arrive

in the north any day now in this man-made crisis, where Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, something it denies. People

every day find themselves scavenging for food, forced to pick wild plants to boil and eat.

This grandmother can't hold back her tears as she washes weeds and leaves. It's today's meal. What else can we do, she says. It's the indignity of

hunger, avoidable suffering as the world watches on.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


GIOKOS: Really heartbreaking story there. Our next guess says the U.S. should use its leverage to get Israel to allow more food into Gaza.

Samah Hadid is the head of advocacy in the Middle East for the Norwegian Refugee Council Summit.

Thank you so much for joining us, and I know you were listening into Jomana Karadsheh's story there. It's frankly the images that are really

heartbreaking and very difficult to watch, especially of these children that are dying of malnourishment, of dehydration, and the numbers are

really shocking. The 30 people have died of hunger in Gaza, and that includes 24 children.

What are your teams on the ground telling you about what they're seeing?

SAMAH HADID, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: Well, our teams are telling us that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is just getting worse and worse by the

day. They tell us that children are visibly hungry and malnourished. They'd have to search the streets for food and assistance, which is not coming

fast enough into Gaza. And they're appalled that an entire population in Gaza is left to starve while vast amounts of aid trucks sit waiting just a

few miles away across the border but those aid trucks have been denied entry by Israel.

And, you know, civilians, women, children, families are dying of malnutrition and dehydration, suffer from thirst and hunger because of

Israel's aid restrictions and the denial of aid. I mean, civilians are being starved and through the deliberate restrictions and denial of aid,

Israel is using starvation as a method of warfare, which is prohibited under international law.

GIOKOS: I just want to show our audience as well this map that a U.N. agency released showing the pathways of aid that are available to enter

Gaza and the way that Israel is constraining this aid going into Gaza. And it's pretty indicative of, you know, what little options exist right now.

You mentioned something really pertinent. You talk about aid trucks that are waiting to go in. What is the holdup in your mind right now?

Is it a decision essentially by Israel to say we will allow this aid in? Is it as simple as that?

HADID: Well, we've seen over the past few months in this conflict that aid trucks are sitting, waiting along the border of Rafah and Kerem Shalom

waiting to enter. But yet they get denied entry because Israel decides arbitrarily that certain items cannot enter through Gaza. It's our

experience that aid trucks coming in have been too little and too slow to enter, and we're planning to send more aid trucks in because the conditions

are absolutely catastrophic and the population is in dire need of aid to survive.

And yet we're not seeing that aid trucks are allowed to enter into -- the volume that's needed and also the speed that's needed right now.


I mean, before the conflict, at least 500 trucks were allowed to enter Gaza per day. And we haven't seen that since October.

GIOKOS: Samah, I want to talk about this ICJ provisional measures that was released today and the ICJ said famine is setting in. The provisional

measures basically saying that Israel needs to find a way to get more aid into Gaza among other things. But here's the question, in terms of

implementation, are there legal ramifications if Israel does not adhere to what has just come through from the ICJ?

HADID: There are legal ramifications because Israel has a legal duty to implement the ICJ provisional measures. And if it doesn't do so, then the

U.N. Security Council must enforce implementation. And this is urgent because famine is looming especially in the northern Gaza where civilians

are suffering and now dying from starvation and malnutrition and dehydration. So if action isn't taken more children, more civilians will

die from starvation and dehydration.

In addition to the tens of thousands who've already been killed during the bombardment. So enough is enough. We need to see stronger action from

Israel, from the U.N. Security Council and from allies of the Israeli government, including the U.S. government.

GIOKOS: And --

HADID: That needs to increase its pressure.

GIOKOS: And with urgency because we're talking about children starving today. Look, Rafah is a big point of conversation right now. The U.S. has

basically said, look, we don't want to see you going into Rafah. You've got, you know, over one million people that are displaced there, but you've

got teams in Rafah right now that describe a very harrowing reality of the fear that exists right now, despite the fact that the U.S. has changed its


I mean, it allowed the U.N. Security Council resolution to pass just this week calling for a ceasefire. But what are the realities in terms of what

people are expecting in Rafah in particular?

HADID: Well, people in Rafah are terrified. They are living in constant fear of an Israeli military offensive. They tell us they feel they're stuck

between Israeli military tanks and the Egyptian border with nowhere to flee to for safety. There's nowhere left for them to go to seek shelter and

safety. There's almost 1.5 million people who are displaced in Rafah at the moment, who have gone there for their last refuge and option for safety,

but they've lost hope in the international community. And this is why, as aid agencies, we are pleading with the international

community, especially the U.S. government, to put a stop to this offensive because it would be absolutely catastrophic for the civilian population and

would lead to more killings of civilians and mass casualties. This would be a complete disaster for the aid response as well because aid comes through

Rafah, and that would come to a complete halt.

You know, Israel must not be allowed to conduct a brutal war in one of the world's largest displacement sites. This military offensive cannot take


GIOKOS: Samah Hadid, thank you very much. It was really good to speak to you and get a bit of understanding of what is going on on the ground in

Gaza. Much appreciated.

And you can follow the latest developments in Gaza and throughout the region in our "Meanwhile in the Middle East" newsletter. It drops three

times a week and you can access the newsletter by scanning the QR code. It's at the bottom of your screen.

And still to come, a bus crash in South Africa has left 45 dead, and we'll tell you why the recovery operation is proving difficult.

And an American journalist detained in Russia marks a full year behind bars. His newspaper is reminding the world about the work he's unable to




GIOKOS: Welcome back. Efforts continue to recover the bodies of 45 people who were killed in South Africa after a bus heading to an Easter conference

fell off a 50-meter cliff and caught on fire on Thursday. A local official says 12 bodies have been retrieved, but others were burned so badly they

were burned beyond recognition. The sole survivor, an 8-year-old girl, is in hospital.

In Baltimore, the largest floating crane on the East Coast of the U.S. is being brought in to help clear the wreckage left when the Key Bridge

collapse on Tuesday. Other larger equipment is being hauled into the area as well. And the goal is to remove twisted heavy debris from the river and

to help clear the water so that the Port of Baltimore can reopen. Maryland's governor says another top priority is to continue recovery

efforts for the missing victims in the waters so that families can have a sense of closure.

I want to get you up to speed now on some other stories that are on our radar right now. France will get security help from 46 different countries

for the 2024 Summer Olympics. The Interior Ministry told CNN it asked international partners to supply more than 2,000 extra security personnel

ahead of one of the biggest sporting events on earth. The games open on July 26th.

Overnight there was a fresh onslaught on Ukraine's energy networks mirroring similar attacks last week. Now at least three regions were

targeted with drones and missiles hitting power generation centers. Kyiv says private homes and civilian facilities were also hit.

The leader of one of Northern Ireland's main political parties is stepping down following police charges. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was leader of the

Democratic Unionist Party which draws support from the partisan community and backs Northern Ireland remaining a part of the U.K. The party said he

resigned after being charged with offenses of a historical nature.

This just into CNN, Luis Gossett, Junior who won an Oscar for his role in "An Officer and Gentleman" has died at the age of 87, according to a

statement from his family.

CNN's Stephanie Elam takes a look back at his legacy both on and off the screen.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Louis Gossett, Jr. played some of TV, stage and film's most recognized characters. But behind the

scenes, he was an activist with an audacious goal -- ending racism.

Gossett debuted on stage as a teenager. A basketball injury had knocked him off the court. He signed up for an acting class and found his calling.

LOUIS GOSSETT JUNIOR, ACTOR: I grew up with this ability to seek anything without the shadows of my mind.

ELAM: That first Broadway role was in a play aptly named "Take a Giant Step." Other parts followed like "The Blacks" and "A Raisin in the Sun."

Gossett continued to hone his craft with an eye toward Hollywood, taking classes alongside Marilyn Monroe and Martin Landau. But as a black actor,

it wasn't easy.

GOSSETT: I had to really learned the importance of what it takes to survive in this town. And I had to act as if I was second class. I had to ingest

the oldest of being an African-American person in America.

ELAM: In 1961, Gossett made his silver screen premiere in the film version of "A Raisin in the Sun." During the '70s, he appeared in several

blaxploitation films, but struggled to land significant and good paying roles. That all changed in 1977 when he played Fiddler in the

groundbreaking TV mini-series, "Roots."


GOSSETT: Play me a song I wants to hear.

ELAM: Gossett initially didn't want the part. He explained in this television Academy Foundation interview.

GOSSETT: I started doing the research, and I realized there's no such thing as an Uncle Tom. and those particular people, those Stepin Fetchit, those

particular people, if they had not survived, I wouldn't be sitting here.

ELAM: He earned an Emmy for his breakout performance in "Roots." But it was his 1982 portrayal of a Marine drill instructor --

GOSSETT: You said you wanted to meet me in private?

ELAM: -- in "An Officer and a Gentleman" that thrust Gossett into bona fide stardom.

GOSSETT: I was the only black actor that went up for "The Officer and Gentlemen" part. And I got it.

ELAM: Gossett won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

GOSSETT: Look at me when I talk to you.

ELAM: He went on to play more tough military roles in the "Iron Eagle" movies and the miniseries "Sadat," where he portrayed the late Egyptian

leader. In 1992, he won a Golden Globe playing in civil rights activists Sydney Williams in HBO's "The Josephine Baker Story." But then the actors

career fell flat. By the early 2000s, he was hooked on drugs and alcohol, addictions he said were fueled by racism experienced throughout his career.

By 2006 Gossett was sober and eager to deal with racism head on. He started Eracism, a non-profit foundation dedicated to ending racial prejudice

starting with youngsters. Early in 2010, Gossett announced he had prostate cancer, then went on to have a distinguished decade, mostly in TV shows

like "Madam Secretary" and HBO's "Watchmen." Through it all, he continued to fight racism and set an example as an actor, as an activist and as a



GIOKOS: And still to come, we speak to the colleague of an American journalist behind bars in Russia, who remembers the day of his arrest

exactly one year ago.

As Turkey heads to the polls, President Erdogan faces a challenge to reclaim Ankara and Istanbul from opposition. A live report on that story

just ahead. Stay with CNN.



GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos.

It's been exactly one year since American journalist Evan Gershkovich was detained in Russia. And this is how his employer is marking that grim

anniversary. The front page of today's "Wall Street Journal" is mostly blank, representing the articles that Gershkovich never got to write. The

headline says, in part, "His story should be here. The crime? Journalism." Meanwhile, the Kremlin says ongoing talks about his possible exchange must

be conducted in absolute silence, although be less likely to succeed.

Meantime, as Fred Pleitgen reports, Gershkovich remains defiant in his own way.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No media allowed at Evan Gershkovich's most recent court hearing in Moscow, just this short

clip by the court's press service. Despite a year in a Russian jail, a defiant smile from the "Wall Street Journal" reporter. No surprise his

detention was extended yet again through June 30th. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, ripping into the verdict.

LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue. They are not a different interpretation of

circumstances. They are fiction.

PLEITGEN: Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged with espionage a year ago while on assignment in Yekaterinburg, Central Russia.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, SPOKESWOMAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): I do not know if there are any other cases but the allegations

made by our intelligence services were not related to his journalism.

PLEITGEN: The "Wall Street Journal" and Gershkovich's family strongly denied the allegations. Polina Ivanovo of the "Financial Times" is one of

Evan's best friends and still keeps in regular contact with him, writing letters.

POLINA IVANOVA, FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTER, FRIEND OF GERSHKOVICH: He's doing remarkably well. He's absolutely staying strong. He's not allowing himself

to, you know, to wallow, to get too upset by everything. In fact, he spends most of his time in letters to us trying to make us feel better.

PLEITGEN: Gershkovich faces a jail sentence of up to 20 years if convicted. But CNN has reported that Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan

were part of a proposed prisoner swap with a now dead opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Russian president taunted on his reelection day that he

approved a swap on the condition he'd get back a high-profile Russian intelligence officer in prison for murder in Germany, Vadim Krasikov.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet. I said I agree, but

unfortunately, what happened happened.

PLEITGEN: For those close to Evan, that means the waiting continues, outcome uncertain.

IVANOVA: When you see Putin talk about it and in, you know, very clear terms that this is what they want to see happen, that they are looking for

a deal, you know, it just gives you hope that at some point this will -- you know, that he will be home. He needs to be home, he needs to be back

with his family, with his friends.

PLEITGEN: Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


GIOKOS: Thomas Grove is a colleague of Evan Gershkovich at the "Wall Street Journal" and has covered Russia for more than a decade. He says he reached

out to Gershkovich the day he was detained but a reply never came. And he told NPR, "Early evening came around and I hadn't heard from him. Of

course, I had a strong feeling that something had gone wrong and reached out to him, reached out to our security folks, and we started getting the

search going then."

Well, "Wall Street Journal" correspondent Thomas Grove joins us now on this day as we remember the day that, you know, Evan was detained.

So, Thomas, for you, remembering a year ago, reaching out to Evan, not getting a response, what memories sort of flood back and how do you feel


THOMAS GROVE, CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think looking back at that day, it was a day that you just wish never had happened. You know, it

was -- I was on assignment and I had been exchanging messages with him earlier in the day. I knew he had a very busy day themselves, you know,

lots of interviews and reporting to do. And we had made plans that after the day was over, we'd get back together and talk about story ideas,

reporting plans, and the kind of stuff that people who work together talk about.

And, you know, by the time, around 6:00 p.m. Warsaw time, it was already quite late in Russia and I started having a very sinking feeling that

something wasn't right, and sadly, to this day, that's exactly what I remember of that day, that first inkling of suspicion that something had

gone very wrong.

GIOKOS: I can imagine after, you know, what people normally talk about when you're working on a big story is what happens after the deadline is met and

how, you know, you will live your life after that, and sort of go out and enjoy and celebrates in some way.


And I really love this article on "Wall Street Journal" today that not only talks about his incredible, you know, journalism but also about the year

that he lost from a personal perspective and all the things that he could have been doing with his family and friends as well, and also with his

colleagues. I'm sure you've read the story as well. You know, what can you add to this having worked with him so closely?

GROVE: I think we lost a lot this year. We not just all of the wonderful work that would be kind of on the front pages of the "Wall Street Journal"

regularly throughout the year and probably today as well, but also just the chance to learn from and spend time with a colleague who was just exemplary

in every way, from his sense of humor to his deep sense of humanity, his empathy for the people that he was writing about, and writing about Russia

and Russians.

He was very interested in their view of the world and how the war that had been unleashed was affecting them. And so I think, you know, we all miss

something by him not being around. A great colleague, a fun guy to talk to, a wonderful person to shoot ideas around with, and ultimately a fantastic


GIOKOS: Yes, I mean, his detention has been extended by three months, and he appeared in court, our reporter Fred Pleitgen saying, you know, that

smile basically showing defiance. What do you read into that when you see these images of him appearing in courts in these short stance, you know, in

terms of his health and his welfare?

GROVE: I see -- I do see the Evan that I know on the other side of the glass and that's a great comfort, I think, to me and to his friends, to his

family, to his colleague, and it's wonderful to see that spark of life that was so, you know, vital to him in such a part of who he was, and so it's a,

you know, it's great to see that he still has a sense of humor. He would never want to be ever seen as a victim in any story.

And I think, as I think Paulina mentioned earlier, he's trying to make other people feel better in his correspondence and trying to make other

people realized that he's doing OK. And I trust that he is. He's an extremely strong and resilient individual.

GIOKOS: Yes. Look, we just don't know the number of American journalists that are incarcerated in Russia. We just don't know how the number of

overall journalists that are currently detained in Russia. And it kind of brings up the question of whether foreign journalists want to go in and

report knowing the risks. Has that affected the way that your colleagues have formed a bond going in into that region?

GROVE: I mean, I think Evan's arrest redefined the way we understand reporting in Russia, you know, in the context of the war. The threats are

so great, and it's been very difficult because ultimately we have to be there. You know, we have to be anywhere where we went to tell the stories

of the people who live there, the people who experienced the day-to-day of these countries and then Russia is no different.

It's very important that we understand what is happening in Russia. It's crucial what we do, not only as journalist, but I think as a country and

foreign policymakers. And so I think unfortunately Evan's detention has very much curtailed our sense and I think my colleague's sense of what can

be done in the country.

GIOKOS: Yes. It raises so many questions and of course creates so many fears about the realities on the ground.

Thomas Grove, thank you so very much for joining us and for sharing some of Evan's stories and just what a great guy he seems to be. Look, we know that

there are so many campaigns to try and secure his release, and we hope for the very best.

Thomas Grove for us. Thank you.

Well, we're going to a very short break and I'll be back right after this. Stay with CNN.



GIOKOS: Throughout this week "Call to Earth" is turning the spotlight on the Bahamas and an organization working to advance ocean research and

conservation. Today we journey under the water with Dr. Austin Gallagher to learn how the Bahamas' natural assets hold endless promise for the island

nation and beyond.

Here's a clip from the full documentary airing this weekend on CNN.


ZAIN ASHER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Whether in the lab or in the field Beneath the Waves has focused much of its recent attention on the so-called

blue carbon ecosystems.

DR. AUSTIN GALLAGHER, FOUNDER AND CEO, BENEATH THE WAVES: Things like seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and through natural processes like

photosynthesis, these plants sequester and store massive amounts of carbon significantly more than their terrestrial counterparts.

ASHER: And it turns out that the Bahamas archipelago has one of the planet's most significant blue carbon spaces. A revelation that came to

light from their tiger shark research. The footage retrieved from their shark cams combined with satellite mapping and additional underwater

surveys led to what Austin calls a holy grail moment in animal science.

GALLAGHER: It actually ended up validating a prediction of up to 93,000 square kilometers, about 50,000 square miles, of seagrass ecosystem here in

the Bahamas, which makes it by far the largest on earth.

ASHER: For the Bahamas, the discovery is opening up new doors particularly in its fight against the increasing intensity of natural disasters.

ANTHONY FERGUSON, DIRECTOR, CARBON MANAGEMENT LIMITED: It's important because it's an opportunity for us to not the independent, but certainly

put us as a country in a position where we could monetize some of the asset, natural assets that we have to offset the impact of climate change

that we are not contributing to but yet we are on the frontline, taking the first impact from these hurricanes.

ASHER: Bahamian like Anthony Ferguson are working with Beneath the Waves under a private-private-public partnership to establish a science-based

marketplace where the Commonwealth of the Bahamas can develop and sell blue carbon credits. The potential buyers are companies, investors, and even

other countries looking to offset their carbon emissions. The aim is to have the project accredited by 2026. To do that, they'll need to

continually measure how much greenhouse gas the meadows are holding.


GALLAGHER: It's a great looking cord. And what I love about this is that you can see the actual flowering plant component of the seagrass here on

the top, as you move down into the core, and you can even see some of the root system. So that's really the technology that we're interested in here

that brings in that carbon dioxide.

BERVOETS: The sediment cores that we were able to collect in the field, they definitely do have a monetary value and it's actually quite high

because the carbon sequestration markets has the potential to be quite valuable for the small island developing states.

ASHER: That value, according to Anthony Ferguson, could be between a few hundred million to over $1 billion annually, money that would be critical

in the Bahamas meeting their sustainable development goals.


FERGUSON: Poverty alleviation, infrastructure resiliency, of course the ocean preservation, the environment preservation, education for youths.

GALLAGHER: Ultimate goal of the work that I'm doing is to create empathy for the ocean and to also preserve what we have for future generations, to

find ways to live harmoniously with sharks, to protect these ecosystems like seagrass. So it's creating marine protected areas. It's, you know,

enhancing existing conservation measures for threatened species like sharks. But it's really about making sure that the legacy of these

incredible ecosystems remains as intact as possible for as long as possible.


GIOKOS: Watch the spatial half-hour program "Call to Earth: Expedition Bahamas," and you can see it this Saturday and Sunday on CNN. I'll be back

with more news right after this break.


GIOKOS: On Sunday, Turkey will hold municipal elections across its 81 provinces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party aims to reclaim cities

that it lost in 2019, including Istanbul. Polls are currently giving the incumbent mayor a slight edge. Analysts are seeing this vote as a way to

measure Erdogan's support as well as the opposition's durability.

Scott McLean is following this story for us and he joins us now from Istanbul.

Look, Istanbul is Turkey's most populated city, 50 million people. It is important for Erdogan, but Erdogan's party lost control of the city in

2019. So what are we expecting on Sunday and is there still support for the opposition?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think broadly speaking, Eleni, we are expecting a very tight race in what could be a real watershed moment

for Turkish politics. And that is because a man who was widely viewed as one of the few, maybe even the only opposition figure strong enough and

popular enough to potentially defeat President Erdogan in a presidential race is running for reelection as the mayor of Istanbul.

His name is Ekrem Imamoglu. If he wins on Sunday undoubtedly that will weaken Erdogan's grip on power in this country, and provide a very

formidable opponent for him potentially in the next election race. If he loses the opposition really has some soul searching to do. And that is why

President Erdogan and his AK Party are really doing a full court press to try to defeat Imamoglu in this race on Sunday.

Erdogan himself was here last Sunday for a rally. He's here again today for two more. And there are all kinds of other issues that are making this

election especially meaningful. Of course in Istanbul, there's the constant threat of earthquakes. The city is frankly woefully unprepared for them.

And there's also the economy. You have the value of the lira plummeting, inflation surging and interest rates now at 50 percent.

And so with that in mind, we went out on the campaign trail to see the candidates up close and to talk to voters, and we found that undoubtedly

there were two things that were very clearly playing an outsized role in this election. One is obviously the economy, the other one is President

Erdogan himself.



MCLEAN (voice-over): If you don't hear the signs of local election season in Turkey, then surely you'll see them.

Everywhere you look, billboards, banners, and bunting. The many, many faces of the candidates and one prominent face who isn't on the ballot at all.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan's AK Party is aiming to win back Istanbul after losing it in 2019 in a bitterly contested and eventually

rerun election won by this man, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.

He's from the opposition CHP Party, and is now Erdogan's most powerful rival and pundits think will have the clout to challenge his party in the

next presidential race, especially if he can win back his job as mayor this weekend.

I promise you that in Istanbul there will be a whole new level of trust and accountability, he says.

Local elections come at a time when the economy is sputtering, inflation is out of control, and interest rates just hit 50 percent.

I voted for the AK Party twice, but I won't this time, this man says. What can a retired person do with a 10,000 lira pension? Rent is 15,000. I can't

pay the rent on my house.

There are dozens of candidates vying to be the mayor of Istanbul and the outcome of this election will depend heavily on what happens with the

smaller parties, from the left-wing pro-Kurdish Dem Party to the ultra- nationalist Victory Party. And trust me, there are plenty of others in between. And all of these smaller parties will be siphoning off support

from the main two, the incumbent mayor and the secular CHP Party and President Erdogan's more religious conservative AK Party.

(Voice-over): Across town, the former bureaucrat and minister Murat Kurum is rallying AK Party supporters. He has few personal ties to Istanbul, but

plenty of support from President Erdogan.

This is a Murat Kurum promise, he says. This is a Recep Tayyip Erdogan promise.

Do you feel like you're voting for Murat Kurum or really just voting for an extension of Tayyip Erdogan?

(Voice-over): Of course Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (INAUDIBLE) tell us. We love him with all our hearts.

AHMET KASIM HAN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, BEYKOZ UNIVERSITY: No mortal out there is comparable to him, but Imamoglu actually forced these sentiments.

MCLEAN: What happens if Imamoglu wins?

HAN: So Erdogan will feel probably compelled to run himself. He would be the only sort of political gladiator out there who would be able to win an

up-and-coming candidate like Imamoglu.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The next presidential election isn't until 2028 but if Imamoglu wins the unofficial campaign season may start this weekend.


MCLEAN (on-camera): So, Eleni, President Erdogan has said that this is his last election campaign because the constitution technically bars him from

running for another term in office. But there are some loopholes that could allow him to run again. Obviously, the constitution could be changed or if

there were early elections that may be another loophole that many pundits predict that he could exploit to have one more kick at the can in another

presidential race.

GIOKOS: You know, just back to the current mayor, Imamoglu, and that the fact that he is facing criminal charges specifically for corruption but

he's, you know, had other issues, charges that have been put up against him for, you know, being offensive to other party members, how is this going to

impact, you know, whatever happens on Sunday? And how this is going to sort of trail him?

MCLEAN: Yes. So these charges stem back from the aftermath of the last election actually, and they include insulting public officials, but many

have dismissed these charges as plainly politically motivated, and so the political scientist that we spoke to in our piece there said that they're

not playing a huge role in this election. They're not anything that anyone is perhaps voting on.

But they could come back to haunt the mayor further down the road, potentially sidelining him for some time from running for higher office.

But it's also important to keep in mind that history shows that Turks very clearly side or typically side with the victim in these cases and you only

have to look at the example of the Istanbul mayor back in the late '90s, who was actually jailed for four months for reading from a poem in a case

that was widely viewed as politically motivated.


It was years later that that mayor went on to become the prime minister and then the president of Turkey and of course we know that we're all talking

about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- Eleni.

GIOKOS: Yes. Interesting. Great context there for us. Scott McLean in Istanbul, thank you so much.

There's a lot of things that we've been watching today, of course. What we've been seeing coming through in Gaza, one of the biggest stories for us

as the ICJ says that famine is stepping in. And of course, we're also watching what's happening on the U.S. election front, those poll numbers

look really interesting in terms of the margins that currently stand right now.

And even though the three major issues on top of minds of American voters, which has immigration, economy as well as the status of democracy, the

issue of Gaza also seems to be seeping in, in terms of the mental repertoire of how Americans are thinking about their future.

So a lot of incredible news today as we head into the Easter weekend if you're celebrating, and fantastic time. And that is it for CONNECT THE

WORLD. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Stay with CNN. "NEWSROOM" is up next.