Return to Transcripts main page
Isa Soares Tonight
Russia's Annexation Votes Underway In Occupied Ukraine; Dow Takes A Tumble And British Pound Sinks To A 3 Decade Low; Roger Federer Set To Take His Last Swing As A Professional Tennis Player; War In Ukraine Tops World Leaders' Agenda; Thousands Flee Russia After Partial Military Mobilization; Iranian Army Vows To "Confront Enemies" As Protests Rage. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 23, 2022 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, Russia launches its referendum to annex
Ukraine's occupied territories and move that most of the world deems dangerously illegal. The Dow takes a tumble, and the British pound sinks to
a three-decade low.
We look at the members in the red, as you can see there. Plus, serving it out, Roger Federer is about to take his last swing as a professional tennis
player. But first, voting has begun in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. In referendum, there are illegal under international law.
Over the next five days, residents in occupied territories will vote on whether to join Russia. The British ambassador to Ukraine says the outcome
is almost certainly already decided to go the way, well, Moscow wants it to go. Ukraine is urging people not to vote and says many are refraining.
But they say Russian officials are using coercion to force people to cast ballots. In some cases, going door-to-door with armed men, forcing people
to vote, quote, "into the barrel of a gun". Well, the sham referenda are happening in occupied regions of Zaporizhzhia and in Kherson, as you can
see in the map, in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, controlled by Russian- backed separatists.
And that is what you're looking at on your map. That is 15 percent -- or 15 percent of Ukraine's territory. Now, NATO's chief says the world should
prepare for Russia to use the election to say Russian territory is being attacked, and then to escalate the war. Nick Paton Walsh filed this report
in Donetsk where the war is already hard enough of course on civilians.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): As Russia forces a fake choice in a sham vote, unoccupied Ukrainians
elsewhere, Igor(ph) and Zina(ph) make the daily, deadly choice of their own. They must brave the shelling to go and get food. "We have nowhere to
go, no relatives", she says. "We don't have much", he says, "we just want it to stop".
(on camera): Why you need that money?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, don't worry --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, thank you.
WALSH (voice-over): They've heard of Russia's staged referendums here in Bakhmut, but Moscow makes itself felt here with artillery rather than
imposing a ballot, likely having entered the city's east. Streets in a strange quiet as if in the eye of a storm where nobody is in control. They
will still have to fight their way in.
(on camera): A sign of how things are changing fast here, Ukrainian forces have blown the bridge in the middle of the city in the last day or so.
Russian forces getting close.
(voice-over): The people left asked us not to film the outside of shelters, as the Russians will target them and they've already gone
underground as much as they can.
(on camera): Saying some of these things are taken from buildings that are being bombed and brought to here, a lot of people want the back of their
head filmed, possibly because they're concerned that in the days ahead, they may be under Russian control.
(voice-over): He tells me perhaps 20,000 people are still hiding out here, but there's no real way to know. So many seem abandoned here. Along with
pets, this door saying people come to buy food for 10 to 15 animals at a time.
"Go to the basements and see how many are hiding", she says. The choice Russia imposes on Ukrainians here is spending nights underground and
scurrying between shelters. Days of hot words from Putin haven't cooled Ukraine's advance though.
The threats of nuclear annihilation carries slightly less horror here, on the road to liberated Izium, where it looks like the apocalypse has already
come by the radiation. Ten days ago, Russia was kicked out of here after heavy fighting. Even the Russian orthodox church has collapsed. The
devastation seems to almost spur the moment.
(on camera): Announcements in Moscow about partial mobilization haven't really changed the dynamic here of an army that feels it's moving forward
(voice-over): They've heard about Russia's mobilization and nuclear bomb- bust here too. "It will have a role", he says, "but you need to train and supply people so it won't make much difference as we've destroyed most of
"There's nothing worse than nuclear war", another says. But you must understand, these decisions aren't taken by one person, and we see in
Russia, not everyone supports these moves.
This liberated road is where Donetsk region begins, Ukraine already taken back the places Putin made central to his goals. And where faked ballot
boxes and absurd claims of official Russian sovereignty cannot change who owns and who scarred the land.
SOARES: And that was Nick Paton Walsh reporting. Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine. And Nick, I mean, let's start on
this referenda you were talking about. We have heard that it's being called a sham, illegitimate by the West. But critically, in your view, how does it
change, Nick, Russia's strategy. Does it potentially escalate this war?
WALSH: Potentially, that, the clear goal here from forcing people at gun- point or bringing ballot boxes to their home in occupied areas, is to symphonize some sort of mandate for Russia, claiming these areas as part of
its own territory. What could it subsequently then do, well, there are some who say on a lesser scale, that could enable them to then deploy conscripts
in the Russian army who effectively aren't supposed to work in foreign countries.
But it seems like all those rules have been chopped out of the window, frankly, by this partial mobilization. So, there are others more concerned
that potentially Russia might say now, if you attack these occupied areas, you're attacking sovereign Russia, and that enables us to move into more
terrifying parts of their military doctrine, specifically closer towards the nuclear threats we've been hearing from Vladimir Putin.
But really, this is part of the process, Russia often feels it has to enact or act frankly, given the theater we've been seeing today to justify the
fact that there are some sort of popular will behind there, very clear military invasions of a neighboring country. We've seen it in other -- in
Chechnya, in Crimea in the past, no change here at all. It's about trying to pretend that the people they're occupying and invading want them there.
SOARES: And you're now in Kramatorsk, Nick, but you know Russia well, you've covered Russia for us for some time, I want really to get your
thoughts by, you know, what we've been seeing. The scenes we've been seeing there out of Russia, the fear, the panic, the exodus of course. How do you
see the last few images of the last few days, and is this enough, Nick, in your view to kind of unseat Putin at this stage?
WALSH: Nobody knows what will finally unseat Putin. Natural causes? It's been impossible to tell when the centers emerged in Russia over the past 20
years since I first went to live there, that when state propaganda is so pervasive and the state security services seem to find their way into
anybody's home, it's hard to know when that critical mass finally emerges.
But this is, I think probably the most consequential decision Putin has made in the 20 years in which he's effectively been -- 22 years, in which
he's effectively been the head of state of Russia. it's a startling miscalculation, frankly, I think most analysts suggest because the volume
of people they're trying to put together here simply cannot be equipped, trained or supplied on the frontline in an effective fashion when they're
fighting a 21st century war here against well equipped, very high in morale Ukrainian soldiers, who have at times state of the art -- not even state of
the art, but pretty good NATO weaponry.
These are the reasons why Russia has been losing, and the fact that they can suddenly throw this wave of sort of World War II, volume of ill-
equipped, ill-trained, forced conscripted people to send to the front line isn't going to change the dynamic here. And it's not going to change with
the speed that they so urgently need.
They need to turn around, Ukrainian momentum in a matter of moments before Winter sets in, or frankly before Ukraine takes so much territory back off
Russia that they're what they call special military operation here, begins to look like it's completely falling apart or inconsequential.
So, I think this is an enormous gamble by Putin, we will probably never know until it's over at what point this became the critical mass that
Russia turned against him or his inner circle turned against him. But I should warn too, there is a real risk here too that whoever replaces Putin
does not decide to sue for peace and calm everything down and focus on rebuilding the economy.
But instead, to prove their metal, try something yet more hard-line and haphazard than we've seen over the past six or seven months. So it's
extraordinary roll of dice Putin's made, but it's one that will have geo- political consequences for the years ahead, and lead us into a very dangerous few months here. Isa?
SOARES: Such an important point you make and the context there from our Nick Paton Walsh and team in Kramatorsk, thanks very much, Nick. We want to
discuss really all the week's developments with our next guest. A former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk who joins us from Kyiv.
And I want to start really by looking at the map of the battlefield, and as you can see there, they're overlaid with the four regions where we are
seeing these referendums beginning that Nick was talking about.
it's an area just in terms of size, roughly the size of my country of Portugal, and as you can see some of it at least in Donetsk and in
Zaporizhzhia, it's still held in Ukraine. Mr. Zagorodnyuk, thank you very much for joining us, really appreciate you taking the time to talk us
through what has been happening, and it's been a busy week or so.
Let's start where really our correspondent let off -- finished off there, and that's on this sham referenda we've been seeing in the four occupied
regions in Ukraine. It's clear from what we've heard from our teams on the ground that people are being coerced. What are you hearing from Ukrainians
on the ground?
ANDRIY ZAGORODNYUK, FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER OF UKRAINE: We're hearing the same, we're hearing that they've been coerced, we're hearing that many
people don't go, but Russians don't care. Essentially if this is a -- this is not even a referendum, this is not even -- this is basically, they try
to get some people in order to show this on TV, but there is a room where most of the ballot are already done, and essentially, this is already sort
of voted and it's all made up process which has nothing to do with reality or with law, with the proper order how we would do the referendum.
So, it's just a -- it's just an exercise to show this on Russian TV, and then -- and then Putin will proclaim that it's done, and he will not care
what the West or Ukraine says about that. So --
SOARES: But people not opening doors, people refusing to vote, is that what you're saying?
ZAGORODNYUK: Some people refused to vote, some people vote under duress, some people -- some people just don't comment because they're scared. You
know, what they do in every city, they have this presence, they bring people, in, they torture them, they kill them, every time when we gain back
the land and when we gain back the settlements, we found the graves, we found them in many places already.
So, people are just scared. They're scared of everything. And so, this is absolutely nothing to do with how you normally would do voting, you know,
because voting resumes the democracy, and this is like a military dictatorship in a worst possible way right now.
SOARES: But with this referenda -- and then we heard Nick talking about this just before we came to you, you know, that Russia can potentially, you
know, claim this 15 percent as its own territory, then of course treat Ukrainian attacks on these areas, attacks on Russia. Do you see Putin using
this as a justification for an escalation here?
ZAGORODNYUK: Yes, absolutely. This is the -- this is the whole idea. So, Putin wants to scare the world, he will -- well, I mean, we assume that
this is his plan because that -- the only logical explanation of what's happening, is that he announces that to Russia, then we attack, of course,
we will gain some territory back because we've been doing this every day now.
Every day, we're gaining some territories back. This is ongoing counteroffensive which is nonstop. And then he claims that this is -- we
are invading part of Russia, so-called,, And then he will start to -- he will start to threaten the world some, you know, some escalations, possibly
nuclear escalations, I don't think it's in his interest to actually engage nuclear bombs, but he will certainly threaten.
But also, he will attract a lot of -- a large part of the Russian society by re-formatting that war from aggressive so-called special operations
against the other country to a defensive war of defending Russia against the aggressor. So --
SOARES: Yes --
ZAGORODNYUK: He will try to -- this war into a defensive one.
SOARES: And on that, I mean, he said, he reused it, and I'm quoting him here, quoting Putin here. "All the means are at our disposal, if he
deemed", the quote, "territorial integrity of Russia was to be jeopardized." He said he wasn't bluffing, what do you think?
ZAGORODNYUK: Well, he normally don't say you're not bluffing, right? If you're not bluffing. it's just --for you to keep confidence. So, I mean,
people have been wondering why he said he's not bluffing. So that was like subject to a lot of jokes already. But we are, to be honest, I mean, he's
bluffing in some way for sure.
But at the same time, he will certainly use that for the escalation. Because the escalation is the only way for him to at least attempt to
gain some kind of control. Because he's losing --
SOARES: Yes --
ZAGORODNYUK: Initiative in this war, he lost control in this war, and now he's in a way desperate. But that's his problem to be, honest, because what
we're doing, we are fighting our land back, we are fighting our country back, and so on. He shouldn't have started that war to be honest. I mean,
from the beginning.
SOARES: Does this referendum change at all the movement, the counteroffensive by Ukraine, you think?
ZAGORODNYUK: No, why should it? No, of course not --
SOARES: No, just --
ZAGORODNYUK: That referendum has nothing to do with common sense, with reality, and with our law. So this is our territory, these are our
people, they wait for us to go back there.
They wait for us to liberate them. So, we will continue doing that. There's absolutely no way we're going to hesitate even for a second.
SOARES: The reason I ask because experts have noted that claiming this territory through this, you know, sham referendum, as we've been talking
about would potentially perhaps allow Putin to deploy more troops to these regions. So, how do you think then that will translate in the
ZAGORODNYUK: Well, the conventional escalation as we call it, meaning an escalation was the standard military means, is already happening. So, he's
doing this anyway, and he's tried -- because he's trying desperately to win this war, and he cannot. So what limits him, it's not some legal ground,
but actually his scope of his capabilities. Available capabilities.
He simply cannot -- he doesn't have enough weapons, he doesn't have enough people, now he's bringing mobilized personnel, he needs still to train
them, to put them in a collective training and so on, which is -- which is not that easy. So he misses lots of components of what is -- what is -- of
what capability consists. And so, simply, the lack of capability, that's a real problem why he cannot win it or you can't even progress. Not some
legal explanation of what he's doing.
SOARES: Mr. Zagorodnyuk, really appreciate you taking the time and talking us through everything that's really been unfolding in the last few weeks.
Thank you very much there, appreciate it.
SOARES: Now, we are learning more about Russia's tactics from a U.N. Commission. Experts say includes war crimes. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK MOSE, CHAIRMAN, U.N. INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON UKRAINE: These acts amounted to different types of violations of rights, including
sexual violence, torture, and cruel and inhumane treatment. There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes. In the
cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gender-based violence range from 4 to 82 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, back inside Russia, there has been yet another mysterious death of a senior Russian business figure, aviation expert, Anatoly
Gerashchenko died on Wednesday after he quote, fell from a great height, flying down several flights of stairs." That's a direct quote, at least,
that is according to Moscow's Aviation Institute where he was once in charge.
His death, if you remember, comes amid a recent string of mysterious deaths among Kremlin-linked businessmen. These are just some of those who have
died in an outside of Russia's borders in the past six months. Prior Gerashchenko's death, at least eight Russian businessmen have died in kind
of unexplained accidents or suicides.
And still to come on the show tonight, U.S. markets are falling, the Dow Jones Industrials have dipped below 30,000 points today, and it's still
dropping, not almost 2.5 percent. We'll have more after this short break.
SOARES: Well, U.S. stock markets as you can see there are dropping sharply today. You're looking at the Dow right now, 2.5 percent, 759 points lower.
It's on track for its lowest close since June, losing well over 2 percent, 2.5 percent so far. The two other major indices are also deep in the red as
you can see.
This week, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates aggressively, and it did so for the third time since June. So, you can see the Nasdaq down
almost 3 percent. It's a very similar picture with the S&P 500. Well, on top of that, the price of oil hasn't been this low, well, since January --
sorry, we don't have -- we've got a very gloomy picture today.
Investors are concerned the global economy is heading towards a recession. And that's in the U.S., right here in the U.K., let's look at really the
numbers here. The pound is tumbling against the dollar, as the government takes an economic gamble. It's just revealed its plans for sweeping tax
cuts and a big increase in borrowing. That's why you're seeing the pound, the dollar versus Sterling right now.
Anna Stewart standing by here with me to talk us through. Anna, these are kind of the biggest tax cuts in 50 years. Talk us through the plans here by
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, this was the plan that everyone was expecting and it's not been called a budget, which is not what you normally
get from a government, and that's because the office of budget responsibility weren't given a look at it beforehand.
So they can't tell us at this stage what the impact will be on the U.K. economy, hence why everyone is saying, this is a gamble. This is the
biggest tax-cutting plan for 50 years, combined with a huge spending splurge. So we are talking about --
SOARES: Yes --
STEWART: In terms of tax cuts, 45 billion pounds between now and 2027, that will cost the U.K. government, plus, an energy price freeze which was
of course expected -- just in the next six months, that would cost 60 billion pounds.
SOARES: Max spurring cost --
STEWART: I can conclude a reaction --
SOARES: Costs just going through the roof.
STEWART: Yes, the U.K. GILDS(ph) which is the U.K. government bonds are going higher in terms of the yields, and you see the pound crashing into a
new low. Hence, why economists today are saying, the U.K. economy right now is looking a little bit like an emerging market.
SOARES: How are they selling this then? How is Kwesi Kwarteng selling this? We have to suffer in the long term in order to get the economy to
continue growing? Is that -- well, how is he actually spinning this?
STEWART: Go for growth.
SOARES: This is the plan.
STEWART: Go for growth, that's a slogan, is it? This is the slogan I would give it.
SOARES: OK --
STEWART: Go for growth. I mean, go for growth. Go for growth. This is -- you can use --
SOARES: OK --
STEWART: Plan to essentially try and eke out 2.5 percent average GDP growth. At the moment, the U.K. economy is flat-lining. The idea is -- and
the Labor Party, opposition party calls it trickledown economics --
SOARES: Yes --
STEWART: Is that if you encourage businesses to invest, to employ people, if everyone gets wealthier, then you can perhaps stave off the recession,
or at least get yourself out of it. The problem is it could be more inflationary --
SOARES: Yes, I was going to say --
STEWART: And always borrowing could be unsustainable
SOARES: Right, and we are seeing similar fears, not maybe at that level, but in the U.S. If we can bring up -- I want to ask my producer, Lord(ph)
to bring up the numbers and U.S. Dow Jones. You saw those numbers. Fears of recession, you know, the Fed said this week, they have tools and resilience
attack on inflation, strong words from Jerome Powell. But look, the markets, they don't seem to be buying this, Anna.
So, third rate hike, are we looking at potentially more rate hikes here?
STEWART: Without a doubt. This is the fact that the Fed is going to have to be even more aggressive at this stage. Essentially, when we were talking
a few months ago -- oh, could we avoid a hard landing, could there be a soft landing --
SOARES: Yes --
STEWART: A little dip into a recession, increasingly, I think economists are looking at this is going to be a hard landing, and how long will this
go on for. And I think until people start seeing economic indicators point back up, we're going to see market reaction go back down.
Just in the last few hours, Goldman Sachs have just said that the outlook is unusually murky, and they've taken an ax to their stock market forecast,
they have now slashed their year-in target for the S&P 500 from 4,300 to 3,600. And I -- they think it's another 2 percent drop --
SOARES: Wow --
STEWART: Basically of the S&P.
SOARES: OK, so let's see what Jerome Powell has really for how much longer he can continue, of course, with these rate hikes. But it's clear that the
markets are not buying the move so far. But I know, you and I were speaking for the break, here's something we're seeing right across, you know, Europe
STEWART: It's high, don't let -- OK, let's hope for a nice weekend --
SOARES: Let's try, right. Anna, thank you so much.
Well, Italy may be about to make political history. It's the last day of campaigning before the country's general election, one that could see Italy
vote in its first female Prime Minister and its first far-right government since the era of Mussolini. Our Barbie Nadeau has more from Rome for you.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Italian elections are never dull, and Sunday's vote could be the most colorful in decades. Thanks to
the cast of characters we feed in the drama that let the country to where it is. After the sensational collapse of Mario Draghi's government in July.
Leading the race is hard-hitting Giorgia Meloni, with her far-right brothers of Italy Party. The Roman native started her political career in a
neo-fascist party. Meloni was raised by a single mother in this greedy working class Roman neighborhood. She campaigned on traditional family
values, against migration, often publishing videos purporting to show migrants committing crimes.
Twitter even removed a video last month of a migrant allegedly raping a woman on an Italian street. Her closest consultants includes Steve Bannon,
former chief strategist for Donald Trump, who has headlined her conservative conferences in Italy. In the 2018 election, she barely
scratched the surface, but her social media campaign has vaulted her party into the lead in the latest polls.
And analysts say, she is expected to win the highest number of votes. Her coalition partners include Matteo Salvini, the Trump-loving Italy first
leader of the Lega Party. In 2019, during his stint as Interior Minister in the last government, he was charged with kidnapping for prohibiting
migrants to dock in an Italian port. He is still fighting the case in court and calls the charges an attack by political rivals.
The kingmaker wheeler(ph) imagined, is the legendary Silvio Berlusconi who at 85 is returning to politics as a center party of the center-right
coalition. He missed the last vote due to a tax conviction, that prohibited him from running for public office.
SILVIO BERLUSCONI, ITALIAN POLITICIAN: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
NADEAU: His TikTok channel is a hit with young voters, and a favorite of his fiancee, more than 50 years his junior. This trio is every book-makers
favorite, and their opposition is fractured, which is common in Italian politics.
DARIO FABBRI, EDITOR, DOMINO POLITICAL MAGAZINE: I think that's because of our -- it's such a short regime, but also because our society is very
polarized on many issues. And sometimes it's very difficult to find a balance, a compromise.
NADEAU: If this coalition crosses the finished line first, it's expected to make Meloni the first female prime minister in Italy, something many
Italian women might appreciate.
EMILIANO DE BLASIO, DIVERSITY ADVISER, LUISS UNIVERSITY: We need to reflect on the fact that Giorgia Meloni is not a rising galpadol(ph),
questions on women's right empowerment in general.
NADEAU: But if history is a guide and the next government falls as fast as the previous administrations, it won't last long. Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN,
SOARES: Well, Russia's war on Ukraine is bringing calls to fundamentally change the United Nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MARTIN, PRIME MINISTER, IRELAND: That does raise fundamental questions about the structures of the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: My conversation with Irish leader Michael Martin about Russia's invasion, growing calls for U.N. reform and taking away Russia's veto
power. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Right now in New York, World leaders are gathering for the final day of the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been at the center of this year's talks. In an impassioned address, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded
Russia to be stripped off its veto powers the privilege granted to permanent members of the Security Council while Ireland is currently
serving as an elected member of the Security Council. I spoke earlier with Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin. I started by asking him whether he thinks
reforms are likely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEAL MARTIN, IRISH TAOISEACH: Two points there, I visited Kyiv in July, met with President Zelenskyy, I also visited towns outside of Kyiv, Bucha,
Irpin, Horenka, and saw firsthand the crimes that were committed, innocent civilians murdered, civilian residential blocks bombed, and so forth. So
there -- let no one be in any doubt in terms of the atrocities that have been committed by Russia against the people of Ukraine.
There is a fundamental issue that President Zelenskyy has raised, and that we all need to reflect on as members of the U.N., and Ireland is a member
of the Security Council over the last two years, and there is something untenable and unacceptable about the fact that a permanent member of the
Security Council has essentially undermined the most fundamental way the principles of the U.N. Charter has been the aggressor here, no question
about that, an unprovoked war, the scale of which was completely unnecessary, and without any moral basis.
So that does raise fundamental questions about the structures of the United Nations, and the need for reform, particularly around the abuse of the
veto. And the manner in which the -- that whole structure is outdated now, quite frankly, and that there needs to be a fundamental reform of the
institution in that respect, and also, where someone as significant on the Security Council, as Russia, for example, behaves in such a -- an appalling
manner that there has to be consequences for that, too. Now, the resolution of that is much more difficult to bring about. But I am in sympathy with
the general view that this is really a step too far, and really illustrates the absurdity of what's now going on.
SOARES: Yes, the absurdity you say is so well. I mean, the question of reform, is it even being discussed, though? Because we've heard obviously,
from Secretary Blinken talking saying that Putin is showing contempt for the U.N. and the international order.
MARTIN: Up to now, there has been rumblings about reform, as you know, and various processes and so on, which no one ever really had much faith in or
had the anticipation that they would get anywhere. I do detect, though, because of this war, fundamental attitudes have changed in terms of how the
-- in terms of the need for countries to stand up for the rule of law for very basic principles intended. So, I actually would see an acceleration of
those conversations and discussions into time ahead.
SOARES: Let's talk about what we have been seeing in Russia, Taoiseach.
Because, you know, we've seen protests, we're seeing arrests, and we have seen the mobilization, of course, calling out mobilization 300,000 or so
reservists. What does this suggest to you?
MARTIN: Well, the two dynamics really, one gets the sense that many people have left Russia. Many people object to the way Russia has been governed,
keep their heads down. There's huge fear. I mean, it seems to be a rule on the basis of fear, but if you put your head above the parapet, you -- there
will be consequences. So it's very, very difficult for Russian citizens to challenge even from an ideas perspective, what is going on. I think from
the President Putin, it's very clear that he is endeavoring, I believe, to escalate.
He is conscious that mass conscription would be a huge problem. So therefore, you're looking at a more limited conscription, it seems from
what we can see. And there's a veiled threat in his statement in terms of nuclear deployment and so forth. And the situation is grave and serious.
And we have to stand up for basic principles. We have to support the people of Ukraine, as we're doing on humanitarian levels, and a whole range of
other levels. And the sanctions regime has to be maintained.
SOARES: You mentioned being tough and being resilient, I'm guessing you also have to be united. What do we have in terms of the E.U.'s disposal,
Taoiseach, to try and squeeze Putin? We've seen seven packages of sanctions, fearing there'll be an eighth package, what form will that take?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, I think the unity, from the very beginning from the European Union, has been something that nobody anticipated. And it has
been strong, and I think that would be maintained. And secondly, the sanctions are impactful, perhaps more over time than immediately, but are
impactful, and will impair Russia's capacity to grow the economy and so on. And, you know, we don't want to, in any way, undermine the quality of life
of Russian citizens, but its government really has to call a ceasefire immediately in the war.
And the further sanctions will be, again, looking more specifically, and the more sanction rounds you have, the tougher they get in terms of getting
agreement and so on, but the more specific they become as well, in terms of certain sectors. But I think the unity issue is the key issue and there
will be a lot of focus on that in the coming months at European Union level.
SOARES: And just talk to us, Taoiseach, in terms of the impact, of course, that it's had the energy prices, the energy squeeze we're seeing across
Europe, back in Ireland, what have you been seeing?
MARTIN: We have not been as reliant on Russian gas as others in Europe. We import our gas from the U.K. and Norway. But the impact has been on the
price levels, and they have been very significant, and future pricing for the Ottoman for early spring are very worrying in terms of the sheer scale
of this. I do not believe we've experienced anything like this, not even in the late 1970's, if you recall that that was a big crisis at the time.
But now, the price levels are at a level that are very, very worrying, but therefore the government will intervene. This will be challenging. But we
did come through COVID-19 with unprecedented interventions, which worked in terms of -- economically, this is different, and the interventions will be
of a different kind. But we are determined to protect jobs, and to protect households and families with children in particular right throughout this
SOARES: Let me turn our attention, if I may, to Brexit because U.K. officials, Taoiseach, seem to be looking to settle the Northern Ireland
protocol impasse by next Easter. In your view, how realistic is this?
MARTIN: Well, I've always believed that it's realistic, if there's a will there to resolve it. And in fact, you know, I'm very conscious that the
timeline for the executive and the assembly in Northern Ireland to be up and running is running out. In other words, if it's not settled by October,
the British government has made it clear that there will be further and a second election in Northern Ireland around the assembly and executive, we
must avoid that. And I would appeal to all concerned to get the executive in the assembly restored.
I met with the British Prime Minister at the weekend. We had a good initial constructive meeting. I know the British Prime Minister met with the
President of the Commission and with the President of the United States. We've always said there are legitimate issues around the operation of the
protocol. And what is important is that a negotiation process is started between the European Union and the United Kingdom. And that people really
knuckle down and get this issue resolved in the best interests of relationships between Britain and the European Union, between Britain and
Ireland, but more in a more focused way to make sure that we can get the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running and working
SOARES: And finally, Taoiseach, I saw new census out today that shows Catholics now outnumbering Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first
time in history.
What do you make of these numbers? And is this critically the beginning of a path to Irish unity here?
MARTIN: I think we need to be careful about, you know, the ball figures around religious denomination. Northern Ireland and the relationship
between Britain and Ireland is not about religion, to any great extent anymore, I would say. It's about identity, yes. it's about people's
allegiances to a united Ireland on the one hand, and to -- people wanting to remain within the United Kingdom on the other. I know that that was born
the Good Friday Agreement.
And within the Good Friday Agreement, there are mechanisms to evolve those three sets of relationships which underpin the spirit of the peace
settlement, and Good Friday -- and the Good Friday Agreement. There's a big center ground emerging. And I think we need to work on that. And we need to
get the institution's back up and running. I mean, we need to really focus on the here and now. And the people of Northern Ireland just faltered in an
election. There's a cost of living crisis that we have discussed. People want to see their politicians working in the assembly in Northern Ireland
and in the executive in Northern Ireland. And that's the first priority in my view, we need to get that up and running.
SOARES: Taoiseach, thank you very much for being so kind with your time. Really appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
MARTIN: You're more than welcome.
SOARES: Michael Martin there. And still to come tonight, anti-government protests sweep across Iran a week after a young woman's death in police
custody. But now, Iran's military is cracking down. We're bringing that story next.
SOARES: Iran's army now says it's ready to "confront enemies" to maintain security as protests spread across the country. We are seeing internet
shutdowns and state media aired a video of pro-government marches after Friday prayers, but thousands of others started taking to the streets
against the government about a week ago after a young woman died in police custody. A human rights group says at least 50 people have died so far
Jomana Karadsheh is following the story for us.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A week like no other Iran has seen in years. Protests ignited by the death of Mahsa Amini have snowballed into
much more than that. Women have been leading the calls for change and freedom, rising up for rights this generation has never had.
But even those who've seen it all joined in. This old woman waives her headscarf, softly chanting "death to the Supreme Leader." The threat of
punishment by jail or flogging hasn't stopped their remarkable acts of defiance. CNN can't verify the circumstances of this video or when it was
filmed. It shows a woman standing up to the morality police, the woman in black refusing to come down or to wear her headscarf, the hijab. Commotion
breaks out as they tried to grab her. She shouts that she is standing up for the sake of Mahsa Amini.
The government appears to be using all it's got to silence the voices of dissent. A female force deployed for the first time on the streets. It's
also been firing live rounds directly at protesters according to Amnesty International. Several people have so far been killed and many others
injured. President Ebrahim Raisi in New York on Thursday appeared to be dismissing the real grievances of the thousands who've taken to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Vis-A -vis what is occurring, having demonstrations be at unionized organizations, labor
organizations, or towards any specific issue or incidents, of course, these are normal and fully expected. But we must differentiate between
demonstrators and vandalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARADSHEH: On Friday, more ominous warnings from authorities. The army they say is ready to deal with conspiracies of so-called enemies. As the country
descends into darkness, with internet disruptions not seen since the 2019 protests, many now bracing for what the coming hours and days may bring.
Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul
SOARES: And, of course, we'll stay across that story for you.
Well, Syrian officials there at least 74 people died when a migrant boat sank Thursday near Syria's coasts. That number sadly includes children. In
total, only 20 people survived the journey. But an unknown number are still missing. Officials say the boat left Lebanon on Tuesday carrying migrants
from several nations. They estimate that between 120 to 130 people were on board the "very small boat."
And still to come tonight, international travel to Hong Kong just got easier. That's a big change, of course, in COVID protocols. We have that
story for you next.
Plus tennis champs in tuxedos. What's not to like. The sports world is sending off Roger Federer in style. We'll have a live report for you.
SOARES: Well, good news if you're planning a trip to Hong Kong, the government has finally scrapped the mandatory hotel quarantine for
international travelers after years. Kristie Lu Stout has more for you.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For than two and a half years, Hong Kong enforced one of the toughest quarantine regimes on the planet. And on
Friday, the city's top leader John Lee announced plans to end hotel quarantine for incoming travelers from Monday, September the 26th. Instead,
new arrivals must undergo three days of self-monitoring, with some restrictions on what public places they can enter. The government also
announced that a negative PCR test is no longer needed before boarding a plane to Hong Kong.
Tethered to China and its zero-COVID policy, Hong Kong has had tough border restrictions in place. At COVID-19's speak, people arriving in Hong Kong
were forced to pay for and spend 21 days in a designated hotel. Last month, hotel quarantine was eased from seven to three days, followed by four days
of self-monitoring. Hong Kong's strict zero COVID policy, along with a political crackdown, has prompted many to leave the city. Over the past
year, over 113,000 residents have left marking the city's sharpest annual drop in population on record since 1961.
The rules have also forced airlines to drop dozens of flight routes to and from Hong Kong, which used to be one of the busiest airports in the world.
The easing of quarantine restrictions comes ahead of plans to host the International Rugby Sevens and a global banking summit in November, both
seen as opportunities for Hong Kong to revive its status as a world city and financial hub. Especially as rival city Singapore has already opened up
and is enjoying a business boom.
But while many here in Hong Kong welcome the end of the city's dreaded hotel quarantine, many tough rules remain in place. Health codes are
checked when going to restaurants or entertainment venues, gatherings of more than four people are not allowed, and the mask mandate is in effect
even for children as young as two years old. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: Well, meantime, we are less than 13 minutes from the start of Roger Federer's final match of his professional career. The 20-time Grand Slam
champion will be competing in a doubles match alongside his friend and often court rival, let's say that, Rafael Nadal, it's part of the Lava Cup.
Alex Thomas is at the scene of the big match, London's O2 arena. And Alex, give us a sense of what kind of reception Roger is expected to get tonight
because this city, of course, is very close to his heart.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN WORLD SPORT: He'll get a loud and warm welcome, there's no doubt about that. We've seen thousands of fans streaming into this stadium
all day many of them wearing Roger Federer caps, T-shirts, banners, cut-out faces off him. There's definitely a bit of Roger mania as we've seen many
times on the other side of London in the leafy Southwestern suburbs where the All England Club is that hosts the Wimbledon Championships, one of
those Grand Slam tournaments that Federer dominated, having won there as singles champion on eight occasions.
Now although Federer has got almost a quarter of a century's worth of experience at the highest level, he hasn't played competitively since last
year's Wimbledon. He's just turning up to say farewell in his last competitive appearance, probably the reason why he put this tweet out
earlier that we're going to show you now where he said "I've done this thousands of times, but this one feels different. Thank you to everybody
who's coming tonight." With some photos of him coming out of his hotel room with his tennis bags and kits getting here and then sharing the car with
his doubles partner later, Rafa Nadal. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL NADAL, 22-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: We didn't probably have the preparation ever for this match, but I mean, going to be in some way funny,
but at the same time difficult to handle everything, but we're going to try our best as we always did and hopefully you're going to enjoy it and we're
going to need the support.
ROGER FEDERER, 20-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: Yes, we do need the support. So, anyway thanks for tuning in and always have been there every step of
the way. You can see we're in a good mood, but I think it's a nervous laugh we have going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
THOMAS: Still nerves these two wounded legends of the game preparing for one last battle. It's almost an exhibition field, this Laver Cup, Team
Europe and Team World but they won't want to lose in Roger Federer's final competitive appearance, I can guarantee that, Isa.
SOARES: So wonderful to see them together and relaxed in that car. And you're so kind for not correcting me. I said Lava Cup, it's Laver Cup.
Thank you very much.
Let's talk about really his legacy here. How will he -- of course, what will his legacy be, would you say, Alex?
THOMAS: I mean, it's huge. He's not just a tennis legend, but one of the greatest athletes from any sports of all time, completely changed the game
when he took over and led to this amazing rivalry, this unprecedented era of excellence in men's tennis alongside Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the
three most successful men's players of all time by a long stretch. But Federer, for the way he conducts himself, his friendliness, his openness,
he's had so many tributes, he will have a decent career post-tennis as well, I'm pretty sure of that.
SOARES: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. What a class act he is, isn't he? I know from interviews that CNN have done, he's always just been so kind with
his time and just so wonderful to interview. Alex Thomas, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
And don't forget, you can catch up with the interviews and analysis from the show online or my Instagram @IsaSoaresCNN, as well as my Twitter feed,
too. The details are on the screen. Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with Richard Quest is up next. Have
a wonderful weekend. I shall see you on Monday. Bye-bye.