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Isa Soares Tonight

Putin to Begin Annexing Occupied Parts of Ukraine Friday; Crowds of Russians Flee Country Since Putin Declared Partial Mobilization; Ukrainian Forces Closes in on Key Donetsk Town; Fourth Leak Discovered in Nord Stream Pipelines; U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss Defends Mini-Budget; Amnesty International Says Iran Death Toll Is Undercounted; Tropical Storm Ian Moves Offshore after Battering Florida. Aired 2:25-3p ET

Aired September 29, 2022 - 14:25:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: Well, you've been looking at truly remarkable scenes there in the U.S. And you've been watching our continuing

coverage of course of Hurricane Ian. We'll of course be monitoring that and we'll have any developments as they happen. For now, though, I want to

bring you up to date some of the other major stories that we are following this hour right around the world.

And I want to start really in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin the process of annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine on Friday.

According to the Kremlin's spokesman, he will deliver a speech and meet with the separatists leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the Russians told

leaders of occupied Zaporizhzhia as well as Kherson, Mr. Putin isn't wasting any time, though, after the cessation referenda that the U.N., U.S.

as well as countless other nations call a sham and a blatant violation of international law.

Meanwhile, crowds of Russians are still, as you can see there, flocking to the borders to avoid being called up to fight in Ukraine. At least, 200,000

people have fled the country since Mr. Putin announced the partial mobilization and the window to leave may be starting to close starting

midnight, Friday.

Finland is closing its borders to Russian tourists. All of this, of course, as the war on the frontline is not going really Russia's way. Ukrainian

forces are making gains in parts of the Donetsk region, including around the town of Lyman. One pro-Russian militia is calling their situation there

difficult. Well, Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

And Nick, we have heard in the last few hours, in fact, from the U.N. Secretary-General, who said that the annexation of these four regions in

Ukraine would be, quote, "a dangerous escalation" and must not be accepted yet. Putin, as we've been saying is going ahead with a rally and a speech.

How dangerous, Nick, is this new phase given Putin's narrative?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Very much a predictable situation that we are in. And the fact that Putin is using this

public show in Moscow, likely crowds will be corralled into areas in central Moscow as they support openly or Moscow asks them to openly support

the signing -- essentially meaningless piece of paper which will internationally have no merit, and not be recognized it seems by anybody at

this particular stage.

Certainly, the United States, the European Union, already coming forward with what we've long expected to be their condemnation of essential land

grab of parts of Ukraine. Does it actually change the battlefield on the ground here?

That is the ultimate question. And certainly, as this very much expected series of sham referendum result come forward, and Moscow-appointed

officials from these occupied areas head to Moscow and begin this process of formalizing what Russia thinks is annexing these parts of territory into

mainland Russia proper, Ukraine is answering that on the battlefield with a series of gains that began initially to look incremental.

But are now showing a sense of momentum often towards the very areas, in fact, that Moscow is about to claim it controls. And they don't control all

of them at all. In fact, they find themselves losing bits day-by-day. And as we saw ourselves, some of the advances Ukraine have been making have not

exactly been heralded publicly, but have been quite significant and will massively dent the Kremlin's bid to claim they've achieved their goals here

in Ukraine.


WALSH (voice-over): Hidden but unstoppable, Ukraine's not bragged much about its march south from Kharkiv towards the price of Donetsk. But every

rooftop or tree-line suggests they have just been too busy advancing day- by-day, reducing how much of occupied Ukraine, Moscow is about to falsely declare Russian territory.

With the ultimate goal encircling the vital railway town of Lyman, close, no quarter given, all the way through the forest to the monastery town of


(on camera): The drive to this point, probably the most depressing two hours we spent on the road through the whole six months of this war, just

laying bare the utter ferocity of the fighting and also, too, the speed of Ukraine's advance to this town, which itself, is shocking.

Eight years ago at the start of the conflict, I lived on-off here for six months and just learned to appreciate its normality, its peace, amid all

the pines here. And that's just gone.

It is the most fragile who remained when Russia moved in. Anna is one of nine people left in her block. She almost didn't make it.

ANNA, SVIATOHIRSK RESIDENT (through translator): The scariest was when the Russians one night were in a firefight in my courtyard, I was in the

doorway and trying to hold the steel door shut. But a soldier pulled at the door, so I jumped down and fell in the basement. He tore open the door,

shot his gun into the darkness and missed me.

WALSH: Some seek survival in their gods here, whose monastery looks down on the mess. Luba (ph) asked me if they will come back. The Russians, they

made such a mess of their new post office, she says.

On her shirt, a lock of hair from her local beloved priest, killed by shelling in June.

"I attached it as a protective amulet," she says.

"Tell me, can I leave here now?"

Even the carcasses here still rocked by shelling. But the church bells finally rang again two days ago. They brought the miller to tears.

"It rang and I heard it," she says, "and I listened and it got louder."

They are now out of the church basement, where they hid from the bombs and still tried to live.

(INAUDIBLE) it's cold down here and you can feel that seven months underground. Anxious to not show their faces, their plight down here is

their private tragedy, one says, whose disabled son was injured in the shelling and taken to hospital, she tells me. She last saw him alive but

that is all she knows down here.

There is little salvation here, only ruins turning to rust. There is no letup in Ukraine's advances or of Moscow's imminent annexation -- the

absurd claim this land is now actually Russian territory.

The land here testimony to how the collision between this right and that wrong shreds the very thing both covet.


WALSH: Moscow has made some desperate efforts to gain control of the narrative. The annexation they will declare tomorrow is one of them. That's

getting international condemnation. The partial mobilization seeing some records, just 2,000 people leave Russia since it was begun.

Some of the nuclear threats Putin has made and they are certainly getting reasonably forceful responses from Western powers.

The question is, when tomorrow 's pageantry is done, does the situation on the battlefield here change?

Or does Ukraine continue to take back places that Russia is forcefully claiming are now their territory?


Now a very strong indication of sabotage. Those words Germany's ambassador to the U.K. as a fourth leak has been detected in the Nord Stream pipelines

connecting Russia to Germany. You are looking at new images from the Swedish coast guard which is monitoring the gas leaks. Nic Robertson has

more on what or who could be behind them.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There are a few new details about the gas leaks. We still don't know who was responsible. We

still don't know how the leaks actually happened, although the supposition is still firmly pointing toward Russia and pointing toward explosions on

the seabed, close to these reinforced pipelines.

The manufacturers of the pipelines say they are approximately an inch thick steel in the pipe, enclosed in places by approximately four inches of

concrete, a very hard and toughened surface.

What Swedish investigators are saying is they've discovered now a fourth leak. They say that two are in Swedish areas, two leaks are in Danish

waters. They've given us some indications of how close the leaks are.

Again, they point to the fact that this looks more like sabotage than accident. In the Swedish borders, the two leaks there, approximately 1.8

kilometers apart and the distance between where the Swedish leaks are, the leaks in Danish waters, about five kilometers there.

Russia saying it has nothing to do with it. They are saying that they are starting an investigation.



ROBERTSON (voice-over): They are saying that leaks, for them, are toward international terrorism, because of the unexplained nature of these events.

But NATO making very clear through the North Atlantic Council a very clear warning.

Clearly, designed to be heard and read in Moscow, that if there is any deliberate messing, damage to NATO allies' energy infrastructure, then

there will be a united and determined response, The Atlantic Council, calling this damage irresponsible and reckless.

But the investigation going on, it could be up to a week before investigators get down to the seabed and get a look at those pipes

carefully. Until that happens, it seems the gas coming out is contributing to the greenhouse effect and damaging the climate at this time.

So the investigation is ongoing; repairs still some ways off -- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


SOARES: Still to come tonight, a prime minister on the defensive. An economy in peril. A rather awkward interview. We look at why the British

leader is sticking to her guns despite a fierce criticism. That's next.




SOARES: Welcome back,. Everyone

In the U.K., despite a wave of fierce criticism, prime minister Liz Truss is refusing to reverse huge tax cuts that caused the pound to crash and

prompted the Bank of England to intervene Wednesday to rescue the bond markets. Here's what she told the BBC earlier. Have a listen.


LIZ TRUSS, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Too often, tax policy is just being seen as being about distribution. It's not. It's also about how we grow the size

of the pie so that everyone can benefit.

QUESTION: By borrowing more and putting our mortgages up?

TRUSS: We need to borrow more this winter for the energy crisis that we are facing. And I think that was the right thing to do.


QUESTION: We are paying more in mortgage.



QUESTION: We're going to spend more in mortgage fees under what you've done, based on the predictions than we would have saved with energy.

TRUSS: I don't think anybody's arguing that we shouldn't have acted on energy, which is what the majority of the package that we have done is all



SOARES: But far from instilling confidence, Truss' awkward pauses in that interview suggest trouble to defend her new budget. That interview, many

other interviews throughout the day, she maintains it's the right plan for the country. The government's next budget isn't due until the end of


Let's bring in the director of The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, Jagjit Chadha.

Great to have you on the show. Look, as we heard from the prime minister there, she sticking to her guns. The lady's not for turning. She argues

that what we see is not a result of a mini budget but a result of Putin's war and the global crisis.

Is it?

JAGJIT CHADHA, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH: The deep cause of the economic crisis we are living through is

much more complicated than even the war Putin started in Ukraine. We haven't got enough time to go through all that.

I will focus on the events we've been living through in the last week or so. The main event in the U.K. was the mini budget, the mini budget that

had a large quantity of unfunded tax cuts that added some 45 billion pounds to demand at a time when there was considerable inflation and pressure on

the economy that was likely to lead to inflation, not only going to 10 percent, but staying there for some time.

But as well as that and even more importantly what we've had over the summer in the Conservative leadership campaign and once Liz Truss became

prime minister and Kwasi Kwarteng became chancellor, there's been an attempt to undermine our economic institutions by challenging their


We very quickly had the sacking of the head of the treasury during the last part of the summer. We've had various brickbats thrown at the Bank of

England for seemingly not doing its job in some very difficult times.

Rightly, it has chosen to smooth interest rate increases rather than raising them very quickly and bringing about the specter of a deeper

recession, which we are now looking at.

But when the budget or the mini budget was announced last Friday, it was decided to not call it a budget; call it a mini budget. We've been calling

it a special fiscal operation, because in fact it was a budget. It was a large fiscal event, one which made some important statements about

expenditure in taxes.

But since 2010, they have been accompanied by an office budget responsibility (ph) in the forecast. That's an independently derived

forecast that helps us understand broadly in the economy but also experts trying to understand what the implications are for funding the debt.

How large the economy will be as a result of the interventions, what this scale of the interventions will be and the extent to which these

intervention are going to be problematic for the financial and fiscal position of the economy in the medium run.

When became clear in the last few days is that the office budget was going to -- the Office of Budget Responsibility was able to present a forecast to

the chancellor. But they were told it wasn't required.

So what we need to do is add up all these events, which is to say that this government didn't seem to want to involve experts in developing this policy

making, that perversely would have given them more space to do the things that they wanted to do.

By denying them the opportunity to do that, what they found was they didn't have the space that they wanted to implement the tax cuts that they thought

were priority for growth in the economy.

SOARES: And in the meantime, we are seeing sterling drop; we're seeing rising bond yields, the Bank of England having to step in; mortgage deals -



SOARES: -- as well as a stinging rebuke from the IMF.

How do you see this playing out if there is no U-turn?

Do you think that perhaps -- if the Office for Budget Responsibility is involved and there is more transparency, that the stock markets, that

investors will be somewhat calmer, there will be more stability, do you think?

CHADHA: Yes. Interesting discussion this morning about whether the fall in sterling, the fallen equity prices were a buy signal. A lot of people in

financial markets who say that. It can be a buy signal but as you were interviewing (ph), it's actually suggestive of a country that's riskier

than it was before.

A country that actually you don't necessarily want to invest in. It's a country that you have to wait and see exactly what's going to happen. And

that risk is driven by a large amount of uncertainty as to what will happen next for the policymakers that we have in place.

So any steps that can be adopted to bring forward an assessment by the Office Budget of Responsibility prior to the next Bank of England meeting

in early November, would help this government achieve its aims.

We had an announcement on Monday that there would indeed be an medium term growth plan accompanied by (INAUDIBLE) forecast on November the 23rd.


CHADHA: I see no reason why that can't be brought forward at least a month. The OBR is ready.


SOARES: Does it need to be brought forward?

Does it need to be brought forward, given the, really, the instability at the moment, the lack of clarity that we are seeing in the markets?

CHADHA: Well, if it's not brought forward, we will be having these kinds of conversations every day about whether there is going to be a U-turn or

indeed whether the government will cut expenditure elsewhere in order to reduce the size of the underfunded deficit.

And there's a real problem there if it goes into that territory. The public sector, public investment, the kinds of things that matter to us in terms

of roads, schools, hospitals, broadband infrastructure, have been underinvested in this country for some 40 years.

And if the government chose to fund the tax cuts by reducing public investment, that would, in fact, further undermine our growth prospects in

the medium term and not help them.

So it's incredibly important that we have some clarity as to exactly how the government will bring about growth and be a bit more honest about just

how long it will take. You can't quickly go from an economy with a potential growth rate of around 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent, with an

announcement on a Friday morning that there will be some tax cuts.


CHADHA: This requires nurturing of the medium and long run. And that's why you need a statement earlier (INAUDIBLE) brought about -- forgive me --

(CROSSTALK) SOARES: No, no, I mean, if there's a growth plan, then I think what the

markets have been saying, what sterling has been saying, we need to see the details of that growth plan. I think that perhaps will provide some more


Whether of course we will see any sort of U-turn, at least what we heard today from the prime minister, doesn't seem very much likely, as well as

from the chancellor.

Jagjit, always great to have you on the show. Thank you very much for your time.


SOARES: Germany says it will push for E.U. sanctions on Iran over its crackdown on protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini. Images of

protests have been emerging. But it's impossible to get a full picture because of Iran's internet restrictions.

Amnesty International believes dozens of men, women and children have been killed. People around the world are sharing support for that demonstration.

This is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, if you remember the British Iranian national, who spent six years in jail in Iran, cutting her hair in


Aida Ghajar was one of the first people to report on this story. She joins us now.

Great to have you on the show. As we said, you were among the first reporters to tell Mahsa Amini's story.

You spoke to her brother, I believe, while she was still in a coma. Explain to our viewers around the world those early conversations with her family

and the state of, I imagine, shock and disbelief.

AIDA GHAJAR, IRANWIRE: Of course, of course. I start with what her brother told me at the first when he answered my phone, he insisted to -- I

mentioned his name, that he was a witness of what happened to Mahsa.

He told me, I'm going to announce the name of Mahsa all around Iran. He had not any imagination that it's going to happen around all the world. But the

latest news I can give you, the family has a lawyer. They were under pressure for accepting the scenario that the propaganda regime announced.

That Mahsa was sick before this happened. And he has a brain surgery. But the family resist for accepting this scenario. And it's two days, before

two days, the lawyer he spoke to the Kurdish media and he told everyone that it's a lie.

And if Mahsa was this -- if this killed Mahsa in Kazakhstan, it wasn't like this, that all the world is going to know about her.

SOARES: What we've been looking at two weeks in, we've seen anti government protests across Iran, women continuing to be very defiant and


What are you hearing from the women on the ground?

How long will they continue to come out on the streets, from what you are hearing?

GHAJAR: Right now, as I'm on the show, we confirm there is a one hour, we confirm there is a protesters there on the street. It continue to come up,

maybe not as the first week but they are continuing to coming up on the street.


GHAJAR (voice-over): We have so many prison here (ph) right now become (INAUDIBLE) that media that I work, we confirmed that more than 300

activists, women rights activists, human rights activists and singers, artists.


GHAJAR (voice-over): Anyone talking about Mahsa, anyone talk about these protesters and protests there inside of Iran, they are arrested. But these

are the people that we know them. There is more than thousands people who are arrested around Iran, that we know -- we don't know them.

And in juridical (ph) system on Iran, it's not independent. We have so many unhuman (sic) sentences for the people on the prison. We don't have any

access to them. And there is also real concern about what's going on, what's going to happen to them.

Because if you remember, after November 2009, the government executed two protesters --


GHAJAR (voice-over): -- so right now, in this hour that we are talking, there are people who are arresting. Today, the journalists, women

journalists who covered the story of Mahsa after the funeral, they arrested him.

He have 23 names of journalists who are arrested in these two weeks. So we are in a historical moment that happened on Iran, started by women,

continued with others. Everyone support them. But we have a -- we are on the huge suppression on Iran. So many prisoners that we hope they are going

to make -- they resist.



SOARES: A movement started by women, continuing to be led by women. Aida Ghajar, really appreciate you taking the time to keep us posted on what you

are hearing on the ground. Appreciate it.

We will take a break. We are back in a few minutes.




SOARES: Tropical storm Ian is now moving offshore just north of Cape Canaveral in Florida. Before crossing into the Atlantic it ripped through

the state, leaving a trail of destruction, massive flooding in some areas.

More than 2.6 million people don't have power across Florida. In the area where this storm made landfall as a powerful category 4 hurricane, some

homes have completely washed away with debris everywhere and boats upside down.


SOARES: It's unclear how many people are unaccounted for. Many people decided to leave ahead of the storm. But some didn't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you weren't here during (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were going to stay. But then all of our family members were calling us and telling us it wouldn't have been a good idea.

And we are actually glad we didn't stay. There's other people that did and they're saying it's just as bad as ours but they can't do much about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the only home they have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are in there right now and they won't leave until they find another home, another chance --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- so we're stuck (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw you were really emotional.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me -- what is that about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's about her working so hard for everything, what she earned. Being so hardworking honestly doesn't matter. It's just

destroyed and it's ruined. And then you have to start all over again.

And honestly, where do you start?

How do you start in this?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just tried to keep everyone calm the whole time. It was very scary to have the water and the river flowing underneath us all

night long. We tried to -- I just tried to keep morale up. We played games when we knew that we were stuck.

I wanted to make sure no one panicked. I was able to get water and food downstairs before the windows broke in from the river.


SOARES: The tropical storm is now moving north toward Georgia and South Carolina. We will keep you abreast of all the developments.

Thank you very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next with Richard Quest. I'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye.