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Isa Soares Tonight

Putin Announces Martial Law In Four Regions Of Ukraine; Iranian Climber Receives A Hero's Welcome Back In Tehran; Political Turmoil Mounts For British Prime Minister Liz Truss; U.S. Tells Venezuelan Migrants They Will Be Sent To Mexico; Iran Sending Trainers To Russian-Occupied Crimea; Biden Announces Ideas To Lower Gas Prices, Releasing Another 15 Million Barrels From Strategic Petroleum Reserve; Schoolgirl's Killing Shocks France And Fuels Right-Wing Fury; China Promising Reunification With Self- Ruled Taiwan. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired October 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa soares. Tonight, Vladimir Putin declares martial law in

the four regions of Ukraine he claims to have annexed. We'll explore what that means for the people there. Then Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi gets a

hero's welcome back in Tehran after competing without the hijab.

But fears grow for her safety. And a new blow for British Prime Minister Liz Truss as she deals with a shock cabinet resignation. We'll have the

latest on the leaders rocky premiership. But first tonight -- but first tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin has just declared martial law in

the four Ukrainian regions he claims to have annexed.

Mr. Putin says it'll come into effect on Thursday in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia claims sovereignty over these territories,

which the U.N. General Assembly, if you remember, has overwhelmingly condemned. But Russia does not control the entire region. Right now, its

troops are retreating in Kherson as Ukrainian forces gain more ground.

The top Russian allied official in the region says his administration will help Moscow carry out the new martial law. Matthew Chance joins me this

hour live from Moscow. And Matthew, good to see you, just talk us through Putin's decision here or thinking. What is the aim?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a good question. I think it's probably to stamp his authority on this country and

on these areas as much as he can. And to show that, you know, despite the setbacks on the battlefield, he's not going to back down, he's going to

double down.

And that's what Vladimir Putin seems to have done in those areas of Ukraine that Russia annexed within the past month. He has declared martial law.

What it means in effect, it's unclear because much of the territory as we've been reporting is not actually under Russian control. But for the

areas that are under Russian control, then that's going to mean you have military restrictions.

The military will essentially run the region hand-in-hand with the civilian authorities in a way that they didn't, you know, beforehand. But I think

more significantly are the security announcements for what will take place now inside of Russia. Right, for instance, on the border territories of

Russia and Ukraine.

There's been a heightened security situation announced in which there will be travel restrictions, in which there will be kind of more military

checks, a much greater degree of control. There have been lots of attacks of course, emanating from Ukraine into those areas. Just inside Russia, and

this I think is a response to that.

But also there have been heightened security measures announced elsewhere in the country as well with regional governors being given authority to

impose similar restrictions to elsewhere in the country, but perhaps to a lesser degree. It's not quite clear what measures will be imposed. But for

instance, the mayor of Moscow whose region falls under that category says that he doesn't think it's going to interfere necessarily with the rhythm

of ordinary life of every day Russians.

But I suppose we'll see. But certainly, Vladimir Putin, you know, tightening his grip on what has been a relatively critical country over the

course of the past several weeks in particular as criticism has risen over how what Russia calls a special military operation has been conducted. And

you know, in the backdrop against the backdrop of the, you know, succession of military defeats that Russia has suffered on the battlefield. Isa.

SOARES: Matthew Chance this hour for us in Moscow, thanks very much, Matthew, really appreciate it. Well, Ukrainian officials say Russia is

carrying out deportations as in Soviet times, saying it's announced evacuation of civilians in Kherson. It's meant to intimidate as well as

create panic while Russian-installed leaders are drastically ramping up the relocation for as many as 60,000 people.

And they began sending text messages to Kherson residents this morning, ordering them to leave, warning that Ukraine's army is planning to shell

residential areas. Ukraine calls that fake propaganda. Well, Kherson is vitally strategic to Russia's war effort, and Ukraine is determined to take

it back. It is a gateway to both the Black Sea as you can see there and the Russian-controlled Crimea peninsula.


Let's go live now to Ukraine, our Nic Robertson is following developments from Kyiv. And Nic, what will this martial law declaration that we heard

today mean for the people in these regions? I mean, as we have been saying, they're not fully under Russian control here.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They're not, and Kherson is a good example to look at because the authorities there this

morning, the civilian authorities, the Russian-imposed governor on the region of Kherson, although, they don't control the whole area of

Kherson. But importantly for Russia, he controls at the moment the city of Kherson.

He said that the martial law is going to mean that the military authority is going to have the control responsibilities passed to them from his, the

civilian military infrastructure as he calls it. So, it's clear that the regional administrators under -- that Russia has put inside these Ukrainian

areas are handing off control to the Russian military.

So, what does that mean about the text message these residents in Kherson for example got this morning. Telling them that they needed to evacuate the

city of Kherson and some of the surrounding towns. We don't know what the military will do if these citizens don't complain. The military is now in

charge of the law.

Will they lock them up or under martial law, are there even higher penalties that they could face? Certainly, this would give the military

much greater powers to enforce what they want and things like moving out of Kherson a less likely to sound and be requests as they will become demands.

Interestingly, both the military commander in Kherson and the civilian commander in Kherson are both talking in terms of losing territory.

Moving their command structure east of the river, the important north-south Dnipro River, Kherson, of course, the only big Russian-controlled town in

Ukrainian territory west of the river. They're indicating that they may be falling back across the river. And I think interestingly, of course, no

surprise here.

The Ukrainian authorities are saying that this new martial law is null and void and has no consequence, no authority over Ukrainian citizens. Of

course, those facing a barrel of a gun in Kherson for example, Ukrainian civilians, you know, will undoubtedly feel the pressure to act under this

new military command.

SOARES: And away from Kherson, really across Ukraine, it seems, Nic, to be completely honest with you and you've seen it today, everything is a target

as infrastructure continues to be hit. On this show yesterday, an adviser to President Zelenskyy actually came on just before you were live

yesterday, told me the Ukrainians are preparing for what could be a cold as well as bleak Winter. Is this having from what you've seen on the ground

any sort of demoralizing effect, Nic?

ROBERTSON: I wouldn't say demoralizing. And I think President Zelenskyy today, well, he had a crisis meeting to head off how the infrastructure -

- you know, vital infrastructure and vital government roles functions, facilities. You know, the emergency services, everything else is important

to running the country. I think President Zelenskyy was sort of trying to get ahead of that.

There is a recognition as he has said, 30 percent of the country power taken down, the official you talked to yesterday saying, yes, we can repair

some bits quickly. But the big generators in the power plants, if they're hit, that's going to take much longer to repair. So the government is

sort of laying out a pathway forward.

Of making sure that the emergency and core functions of government, it can be kept in power online up and running. And i think rather than being cowed

and afraid by what's happening, the evidence around us is that Ukrainians are listening to the government, listening to the mayor here and advice

elsewhere in the country.

And turning off electricity where they're not using it. Turning off the lights, turning off the heating. There is an indication the government may

bring forward the actual gas heating for the country earlier than -- a little earlier, and perhaps, and they might have been planning, so people

don't use as much electricity.

People are doing what the government is asking to save electricity. This really is reinforcing unity at the moment. Everyone facing a threat, and

everyone trying to work together to stave off that threat.

SOARES: Nic Robertson for us in Kyiv tonight, thanks very much, Nic. And let's get back now to Russia's declaration of martial law in Ukrainian

areas it doesn't fully control. Let's discuss what that will look like. Melinda Haring; deputy Director for the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic

Council joins me now from Washington.

Melinda, great to have you on the show. What do you make then of that decision to declare martial law? What is Putin trying to do here?


MELINDA HARING, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EURASIA CENTER, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: Hi, Isa, great to be with you. He's trying to maintain control of Ukraine, and

the irony is, he's declared martial law in four provinces that he doesn't fully control. So this means that Putin has a very weak hand. The

declaration to the number of things it imposes curfews. It allows the Russians to seize property.

They can forcibly resettle residents to other regions. They can imprison people. And they can establish checkpoints. But one of the scary things it

does is it establishes the creation of territorial defense forces. What this means is Russia's going to take Ukrainians who live in these four

Oblast and force them to fight other Ukrainians. That, to me, is one of the scariest parts of this declaration.

SOARES: You think that's what his long-term plan is to, put Ukrainians -- putting Ukrainian facing off against Ukrainians?

HARING: I think that's a piece of it. Another piece of the --

SOARES: Yes --

HARING: Declaration was pretty complicated. So, it had a number of provisions that apply to the four provinces that he tried to annex. That he

illegally annexed. And then there was a second piece of this, and it expanded his -- the powers of regional leaders in Russia. And in Russia,

the Kremlin was very quick to clarify that there is no immediate curfews and no border crossings. People are getting very nervous in Russia as a

result of this declaration.

SOARES: Well, what we have seen as well today, I think we have heard today from some of the leaders. One of the commanders actually, the new Russian

commander, he said that the situation in Kherson was quote "far from simple and very difficult." I mean, that is a pretty rare admission, wouldn't you

say? That things simply are not going well.

We knew it wasn't going well. We've been seeing it, but hearing it from the commander, this is very rare.

HARING: Isa, I think the cat is out of the bag in Russia. Something has really changed in the last couple of weeks. There is open criticism of the

war. It's not been called a war, it's still being called a special military operation. But Putin's inner circle is criticizing him. We see mothers and

girlfriends making a video and more people are being open about the conditions.

The word is out. Russian soldiers do not want -- Russian citizens do not want to fight in Ukraine. They do not want to die. They are not prepared.

So, that's how I read the generals critique. And also people know how bad it is in Kherson. So there's no reason to lie.

SOARES: So, in the meantime, just help us make sense of this, Melinda. You know, we have Russia attacking infrastructure as you heard there from Nic

Robertson. Failing when it comes to kind of breaking down Ukraine's morale. In anything, Nic was saying there is unity, even more unity. And failing

like you say to gain territory in the east and in the south. So what are Putin's options right now?

HARING: Putin has no good options at this point. We know his strategy. He wants to make Ukraine the coldest and darkest Winter that the country has

seen in its independent history. So that's the plan. And he's using these kamikaze drones now to strike terror into the hearts of people. Nic is

absolutely right, but he's also tried -- Putin is also trying to do something else.

He wants to unnerve Ukrainians and it's failing. He wants to cause so many Ukrainians to panic and pack their bags and move to Europe and cause

another refugee crisis. I don't think it's going to happen. When he unleashed all these missiles a week ago, people got nervous and they went

to the gas station and filled their cars.

But we don't see millions of people streaming into Europe now. The other option, the scarier option that he has, is to use nuclear weapons. I don't

think he's going to do it for a number of reasons. And if you're going to force me, I would say there's a 5 percent chance that he'll use nuclear


SOARES: So 5 percent chance. What about small nuclear weapons in the frontlines, where do you stand on that?

HARING: That's where I put 5 percent. So there is a big difference between -- you know, when we say nuclear weapons, we generally think -- non-

specialists think Hiroshima, that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about small tactical nuclear weapons. And Putin would most likely

use them on the battlefield on the frontlines to try to change the course of the war.

I think it's very unlikely he'll do it because he knows what will happen. The United States has said if you do X, we will do Y --

SOARES: Yes --

HARING: And we have told him with precision, I don't know what we told him, I can speculate. But we know that the United States will hit

conventional Russian targets, and we will also throttle his economy. I don't think it's in his advantage to use nuclear weapons. And he's also

being told by the Indians and the Chinese not to do it. No one wants him to use nuclear weapons. It's a last resort.

SOARES: Melinda Haring, always great to get your perspective. Thanks very much, Melinda, appreciate it.

HARING: My pleasure.

SOARES: Well, here in the U.K., British Prime Minister Liz Truss is fighting for her political life as the government plunges deeper into

turmoil. In the past few hours, Suella Braverman abruptly quit as Home Secretary just weeks after taking the job. But in parliament, earlier

Wednesday, Truss had fight calls to resign amid the political as well as economic chaos. Have a listen.


LIZ TRUSS, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Mr. Speaker, I am a fighter and not a quitter.


I have acted in the national interest to make sure that we have economic stability.


SOARES: Bianca Nobilo is monitoring all this for us and joins me now. So B, how should we interpret this departure? I mean, I'm a bit of a cynic I

might think in the timing of this. What does this tell us, perhaps?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right to be a cynic this evening, Isa, because we need to raise an eyebrow at this departure.

Yes, she was acknowledging a technical infringement which she was guilty of, which was to essentially CC or send somebody an official document from

her personal e-mail.

She said that she saw that mistake, she acknowledged it immediately through the proper channels and then she resigned which was the right thing to do.

But then we enter into -- and the resignation letter. And not so thinly veiled criticism of the prime minister. The Home Secretary -- former Home

Secretary saying, when I knew I made a mistake, i resigned.

Because we can't ignore when people recognize our mistakes to continue and to pretend as though we haven't made them is just magical thinking

essentially and not serious politics. Paraphrasing slightly, but then Suella Braverman went on to say that she had deep concerns about the way

that this government is conducting itself and about its commitment to the 2019 manifesto pledges.

So even though she's resigning for a technical reason, she definitely took this opportunity to criticize Liz Truss' current government trajectory.

Now, we know Braverman is a member of the libertarian right of the Conservative Party. And now with the appearance of the new chancellor,

Jeremy Hunt, there's sort of center, center-left part of the conservative party is becoming more influential, and we knew that, that was sitting very

badly with the former Home Secretary.

Now, Grant Shapps will be assuming the role. But this just underscores, Isa, the political whiplash of what's going on. A senior adviser of the

prime minister earlier this morning was suspended, pending an investigation. Then she had this make-or-break PMQs performance. Then her

Home Secretary resigned. She gets another one. That's two great officers of state replaced in a week. It is genuinely hard to keep track.

SOARES: So given what you've just relayed out for us, Bianca, I mean, do you think this is -- is the ship sinking here?

NOBILO: We need to be on watch for the wave of resignations because we've had the first one now. And yes, it's slightly complicated by the fact that

it was done technically for official reasons and a matter of process. But we are starting to hear more from back-benchers who are unhappy.

In private, most conservative MPs will tell you that they are just -- they're wringing their hands, their heads are in their hands, they're

embarrassed, they're depressed, they're concerned about the state of things. But we've now had six conservative MPs come out saying that the

prime minister should resign.

In the House of Commons today, the vice chairman of that powerful group of MPs that can determine the rules around ousting prime ministers stood up

there in the green benches and said that he could no longer look his voters in the eye, and said that he'd submitted a letter of no confidence, and

that the prime minister should resign.

So, she's already in that dangerous territory which Isa, I know you'll recognize because we saw it recently with Boris Johnson. But first comes

the public criticism, then comes --

SOARES: Yes --

NOBILO: The letters of no confidence. Then the big -- these resignations. Then you get this wave that you can't control, and the prime minister is

forced out. We could be on that path --

SOARES: And we all -- and we all remember that because it wasn't that long ago, was it, Bianca?


SOARES: They will have -- they will have another headache, and that's the reality, and that's obviously the cost of living crisis. The economic

policy impacted by Liz Truss' mini-budget. And now, inflation figures, the -- it's just high soaring.

NOBILO: Oh, absolutely. So inflation now last month up to 10.1 percent after dipping slightly in July to 9.9 percent. We're told that food prices

are surging at the fastest rates in 42 years. And that nine and ten people are having to delay using their heating because they're so worried about

paying their bills.

I mean, this is an acute cost of living crisis that the country is facing. And as we can see outlined there, it's particularly affecting food and

heating. Now, the prime minister in PMQs today said that she was taking action on some of this and on energy prices. But that does ring a little

hollow now that the chancellor is undoing some of the guarantees on that.

And it appears she's no longer in full control of it. And that's why the narrative that was launched today by the leader of the opposition Keir

Starmer is resonating. Because Liz Truss has back-tracked. She's extensively supported the rich and bank at a moment when the U.K. is

grappling with this cost of living crisis, and now she's U-turning. So that doesn't add to the stability that the markets desperately need.

SOARES: Bianca Nobilo, right, thanks very much, B. And still to come tonight, how a new U.S. policy on Venezuelan migrants is causing

uncertainty for thousands of families. We'll bring you that story next.



SOARES: Well, yesterday, we introduced you to a mother desperate to give her children a better chance at life. Alahidi Somorri(ph) is even

struggling to feed her family from one day to the next. Their painful journey started in their home country of Venezuela where Somorri(ph) says

there's nothing left for them.

So she picked up and moved to neighboring Colombia where things were better for a time. But the global challenges of inflation as well as cost of

living are now pushing her family out of Colombia too. Somorri(ph) developed a new plan. One that will suddenly cut short when the White House

announced a new policy to limit the flow of Venezuelan migrants. Among other criteria, it requires migrants to have a sponsor in the U.S. as well

as arriving by air. Our Stefano Pozzebon explains.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Like tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants this Summer, she had decided she would try to reach

the United States. And started planning a journey that would have taken her from Colombia to Panama, Central America, Mexico, up to the U.S. southern


Her children show us the drawings they made for their grandmother in preparation for their upcoming departure. They were due to travel this

week, but a new policy from the Biden administration halted their plans. Last Wednesday, the White House launched a new plan to welcome some

Venezuelans who fly in to the United States with the help of a sponsor and officially turned away those who attempt to enter without one.

While up to 24,000 will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. If they qualify for Temporary Protected Status. Anyone entering the country without

authorization will be eligible for deportation.


SOARES: Well, let's get more on this story. I want to bring in Carlos Vecchio in Washington D.C., he's the official representative of the

Venezuelan Opposition in the U.S. Mr. Vecchio Carlos, very good to see you.

Thank you very much for taking time to speak to us here on the show. What do you make then of what we just laid out of the Biden policy vis-a-vis

Venezuelan migrants. The opposition in Caracas, one of the voices of opposition in Caracas, Henrique Capriles said that this was a cruel

migration policy. Is it, in your view?

CARLOS VECCHIO, OFFICIAL REPRSENTATIVE, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION IN THE U.S.: Yes, I would say, in general terms, yes. But before going to that question,

I think it's important to know why are they coming to the United States? I mean, why are they walking from Caracas to Mexico?


You know, crossing seven countries and putting their life at risk in order to get to the United States. And the simple answer to that, is that they

are not here in the U.S., because they want. They have been forced to leave Venezuela because they are facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the last

100 years in Latin America and a massive violation of human rights.

And this has been created by Maduro. This is a man-made disaster. And that's why they are just living Venezuela looking for a better future. So

unlike Ukraine or Syria, this is a man-made disaster. It's not created by the war. It's not created by a natural disaster. But for a regime which has

created these -- the magnitude of this crisis.

And also unfortunately, the Venezuelan refugee crisis has become the largest in the world above the Ukrainian and the Syrian crisis, 7.1 million

Venezuelans have left Venezuela looking for a better future. So this is the magnitude of the crisis, and the root cause --and this is important to

know. The root cause as I said is Maduro.

if we would like to stop the migration coming out of Venezuela, the only way to do it is looking for a political solution, putting pressure on

Maduro to have a free and fair presidential election as soon as possible, otherwise, if you can't close the border, if you put limitations or

prohibitions, I mean, that wouldn't stop the people just leaving our country unfortunately.

SOARES: So on that point, on going to the heart of the migration policy, do you feel then that the United States isn't really going to the heart of

the policy and the heart of the reason these people are leaving here, Carlos?

VECCHIO: Yes, what I'm saying is the following. Just pay attention to the root cause, which is Maduro. Let's work together with international

community to find a political solution as soon as possible, as the only way to stop the migration. The second point, let's see the magnitude of this

crisis and let's express our solidarity.

I have to say that we are so grateful with the United States. They have become the largest donor to support the migration across the region. And

also, they have granted a TPS for the Venezuelans here. And more than 400,000 Venezuelans are applying for that TPS, we would like to extend it

for another 200,000 Venezuelans.

SOARES: Got --

VECCHIO: And now we have this measure. And the key part of this, you know, in this humanitarian parole, I would say, it is not enough to address the

magnitude of the crisis, but also it is important to support the people who are now stuck between Costa Rica and Mexico. They are not receiving any

support. They are not --

SOARES: Yes --

VECCHIO: Having any solidarity. And that's in our view our key point in this moment.

SOARES: So it's not enough, is your point. Others -- other voices inside Venezuela say it's cruel. But what is clear from what we've just played out

in that little clip there from Stefano Pozzebon is that the U.S. is trying to dissuade Venezuelans from attempting to enter legally. But it's not a

realistic policy because many would argue, Carlos, that it favors the wealthy, it favors the well-connected. Not many can afford a flight

northward. Not many have a U.S. sponsor. What do you say to that?

VECCHIO: That's our point. I mean, I just explained the magnitude of the crisis. Again, this is the largest refugee crisis in the world. So when you

have a humanitarian parole -- and I'm grateful that the United States is looking for alternatives. This only will reach, you know, a small people.

As you said, it's not that easy to find sponsors. It's not that easy to find people to help you to put you here in the United States. These are

vulnerable people that need support and need solidarity. So it's not enough. You have only 44,000 visas. I mean, when you are talking about 7.1

million, clearly, it's --

SOARES: Yes --

VECCHIO: Not enough. The last month, we had 33,000 Venezuelans crossing the border between, you know, Mexico and the United States. So it clearly

is one step, but it's not enough. And I think we need to address this in a different -- with different approaches. To give you one example, instead --

SOARES: Yes --

VECCHIO: Of seeing migration as a problem, we need to see it as a solution. We will see a shortage, labor shortage in the next -- in the next

10 days -- 10 years, sorry, in the United States. So you can use migration to help the U.S. economy in order to avoid any recession and at the same

time keep an equilibrium in inflation.

So migrants could be a solution for the labor shortage that you will see in --

SOARES: Yes --

VECCHIO: The next year in the United States, and Venezuelans could help towards that direction.

SOARES: Let me ask you finally, one question. There are reports out there that as migration, of course, continues to surge and the world's biggest

oil producers, as you've seen from OPEC Plus, cut production that the U.S. may be considering here easing sanctions on Venezuela.


How likely is this likely to happen?

How likely is this?

VECCHIO: You know, we have been very clear of this. Normalization with (INAUDIBLE) have been (INAUDIBLE). Lifting sanctions without getting

anything from the Maduro regime in democratic terms, it would be a big mistake.

We are willing to work toward a declaration and use sanctions as a way to leverage in a negotiation table. But with a clear objective to have

democratization, Venezuela to have free and fair presidential election as soon as possible.

And sanctions is a tool to help us to achieve that objective. So the normalization with Maduro, putting resources in the hands of Maduro, it's

not the solution. That money will go to the kleptocracy and also to the machinery of repression against the Venezuelan people.

SOARES: Carlos, always good to get your insight. Really appreciate it, joining us from Washington, D.C.

Still to come tonight. Back in Tehran, what Iranian Elnaz Rekabi is saying about why she wasn't wearing a hijab during an international competition.

That is next.




SOARES: Iranian made drones are a vital part of Russia's playbook as it tries to bomb Ukraine into submission. For weeks Iran has denied supplying

Russia with these weapons, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Now sources tell CNN that Iran has taken a further step, sending military trainers into Russian occupied Crimea to work with Russian forces. CNN's

Natasha Bertrand is joining me now from Washington.

Natasha, we've heard the claims of the Iranian drones are in teams on the ground, have seen that.

What more do we know about Iran's role here?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Isa, really an escalation of its role.


We are learning that Iranian military personnel have actually been sent to Crimea in recent weeks in order to help the Russians learn how to operate

the drones, how to launch of drones. As we have been told, they are being launched in large numbers from Crimea.

Originally, the Russians were actually going to Iran to engage in training on these systems. But the training really wasn't working that they were

getting in Iran because a lot of these that they were getting and launching were actually failing. There were a lot of issues initially with these


So the Iranians figured that it would be more effective for them to actually send personnel to the peninsula to train the Russians on those

directly. This signifies really just how deep the relationship is between Russia and Iran and how necessary Iranian products are to Russia's ongoing

efforts in Ukraine.

The State Department has warned that this is a very deepening and concerning relationship. As we have seen from many reports, the

relationship really is only continuing as Russia really runs out of supplies and equipment due to crushing Western sanctions.

SOARES: Natasha Bertrand there for us, thank you very much, Natasha.

Cheers, chanting and a hug for Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi as she arrived back in Tehran Wednesday morning. Rekabi caught the world's attention by

competing without wearing a hijab, something Iran requires of its female athletes. Our Nada Bashir has more on the controversy.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hero's welcome amid a storm of controversy. Elnaz Rekabi's return to Tehran may have drawn crowds of

supporters but it was her appearance without a hijab or head covering at a climbing competition in South Korea which drew the spotlight.

ELNAZ REKABI, IRANIAN CLIMBER (through translator): The situation happened entirely accidentally. The struggle that I had with wearing my shoes and

preparing my gear made me forget about the proper hijab that I should have had. I apologize to the people of Iran and for the turbulence and worry

that I created for them.

BASHIR (voice-over): The pro athlete's words reiterating an earlier apology shared on her Instagram page. Though some human rights

organizations have expressed concern that Rekabi may have been speaking under duress and could still face repercussions at home.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing, however, says it has received clear assurances that Rekabi will not suffer any consequences and

will continue to train and compete.

Rekabi's return from Seoul comes amid ongoing protests across the country, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in the custody of

Iran's notorious morality police after she was detained for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

Women and young girls have been openly defying the regime's conservative dress code. The Iranian rock climber has so far refrained from publicly

voicing her support for the movement.

But she has become yet another symbol of defiance for those protesting for change, prompting fears that Rekabi could be used by the regime to set an

example to other women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just can't let it go. They know how crucial it is to maintain this barrier of fear among people.

BASHIR (voice-over): While the Iranian authorities have claimed the reports of her impending arrests are, quote, fake news, there continues to

be concern over her future and her safety in Iran -- Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


SOARES: U.S. President Joe Biden just addressed the nation about prices at the pump in the last 45 minutes or so. He says he's releasing 15 million

barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and that the sale will happen in December.

The White House is trying to balance global markets and get a grip really on soaring petrol prices by releasing a total of 180 million barrels over

the course of several months. Mr. Biden also announced a plan to refill the reserve. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: United States government is going to purchase oil to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices

fall to $70 a barrel. And that means oil companies can invest to ramp up production now with confidence they'll be able to sell their oil to us at

that price in the future.


SOARES: Mr. Biden's action comes after OPEC+ agreed to a massive cut in oil production. For more on this. I want to bring in CNN's Matt Egan in New

York. And CNN's Stephen Collinson in Washington.

Matt, first to you on the president's oil announcement.

How much of an impact does this -- will have on consumers?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Probably not that much; 24 hours ago. It looks like the impact might be a bit larger because oil prices were

actually down very sharply on this news.

But prices have come right back, recapturing all their losses from yesterday. And I think there's been some confusion. Even in the energy

market. About exactly what the president is announcing.


Remember back in late March, President Biden vowed to release 180 million barrels of oil from the reserve by the end of October. We're almost at the

end of October. And they have released 165 million barrels. So really he's just announcing that he's going to do the last 15 million barrels that he

said he would.

It would be like if you tell me you are going to run five miles. You run four miles. Hold a press conference and tell me that you are going to run

that last mile, you're not doing a longer run. You really are just doing what you said you were.

So I think that the impact could be somewhat limited. I think if you zoom out, President Biden has been more aggressive than really any of his

predecessors using this reserve to try to cushion the blow from inflation and high gas prices.

The experts that I talked to, they say that it's been somewhat effective. Things could be worse in terms of energy prices if he didn't act. I do

think, at the end of the day, presidents can't make gas prices cheap. And I think the bigger impact for where prices go from here is not necessarily

going to be anything with the reserve.

It's going to be more what happens with the economy. There is a recession. We will get gas prices a lot cheaper but there's going to be a lot of other

problems with that, too.

SOARES: Stephen, it begs the question.

How much is this move by President Biden a political move, given that really we are so close three weeks away to the midterm elections here?

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Biden, of course, was sending messages to the oil markets, to the Saudis, to the Russians. But

everything is political in Washington.

As you say, we're less than three weeks before an election in which the major issue is rising inflation, the cost of food. And gas prices are a

visceral thing for voters. You ride along the street and you see that gas prices going up every day.

That crystallizes the feeling of people about their economic situation. And although a lot of these issues -- gas prices, inflation, their global

issues -- there is not a lot that Biden can do. Some people say that he didn't cause them. There are a lot of outside factors, including the war in

Ukraine for example; supply chain problems in Asia.

But presidents tend to get the blame in U.S. elections when the economy is going badly. We've seen that time and time again. So what you're seeing is

a clear political effort by the White House to show that the president understands the problems that people are facing, that he's actually being

aggressive and doing something about it.

After he got rebuffed, after the trip to Saudi Arabia with the OPEC production cuts, the White House is clearly trying to make a political

point even though the president acted quite angrily when he was asked if he was being political three weeks before the election.

It's very debatable, however, this will have a big impact on how people are casting their votes.

SOARES: Especially because 2.5 million Americans have already cast their ballots in the midterms from what I saw. But it's critical what you just

outlined, both of you, how much inflation the economy matters in this election, like in many others.

Really appreciate it. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

And still to come tonight. The murder case that's gripping France and galvanizing the far right. We'll explain next.





SOARES: Now France is in shock after a gruesome murder case involving a 12-year-old girl. Lola's body was found on Friday mutilated and stuffed

into a plastic trunk hours after she went missing.

Authorities have arrested a 24 year-old woman who was with Lola the last time she was seen alive in the building where her family lives. The woman

is their main suspect. And the far right as well as some conservatives are now using her status as an illegal immigrant to call for tougher

immigration policies.

Our Paris correspondent is standing by for us with the very latest.

Melissa, let's first talk about Lola and this 24-year-old woman.

Behind it, what more do we know here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the reason, Isa, this story captured the minds of people when it began to emerge after these horrible

events of last Friday, you are talking about a 12-year-old girl who had gone to school that morning, the daughter of the man, the concierge around

the building where she lived, who after a few hours (INAUDIBLE) not to see her come home.

The parents put out a desperate plea for her. And it was because he was a guardian of the building that he was able to get the camera footage. The

young girl had arrived exactly when she was meant to at the appointed time after school, was then seen entering the building with a woman.

The woman was seen later exiting on that video footage carrying the suitcase. It's understood that big box in which Lola's body was then found.

It is that particularly gruesome tale of what a family has been through that has, of course, fed into that narrative here in France about the

insecurity of some of Paris' less well off neighborhoods but also the outskirts of Paris and the criminality there.

The fact that people simply don't feel safe. And that was, of course, before any of the story of the name started to come out, what the far-right

had begun to seize on. What then happened is very quickly, by Saturday, a hashtag came out, #forAlgerians.

Now the prosecutor has not named the suspect that you speak of. But what the French press has been speculating on as a result of some of that

reporting, some of the French press, is that she may be an Algerian woman who was under orders to leave France.

And the reason that is particularly flammable right now as a political story is that these orders to have -- often people who have entered France

legally but no longer have the right to be here, to get them out quickly, have been notoriously difficult to enforce.

And the ones most likely to have trouble respecting them, apparently, are Algerians when you look at the figures. This is been a source of some

contention between Paris and Algiers for about a year now.

That is exactly why the far-right has jumped on this terribly sad story to begin with. But one that is gathering even greater legs as a result of what

we now understand may be the origin of the woman who's in custody, Isa.

SOARES: A gruesome and horrific crime. Thoughts with Lola's family this hour. Thanks very much, Melissa, appreciate it.

We're back after this short break.





SOARES: In China, the country now boasts the world's largest navy. One military expert says that the buildup is bigger than pre-World War II

Germany and Japan. As China's Communist Party Congress opened over the weekend, Xi Jinping vowed to take control of the island of Taiwan. Our Will

Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The loudest applause at China's Communist Party Congress when leader Xi Jinping

promised reunification with Taiwan. The self-governing democracy claimed but never controlled by Beijing's Communist rulers.

XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): We insist on striving for the prospect of peaceful reunification. But we will never promise to

give up the use of force.

RIPLEY: Do you think Xi Jinping actually believes that peaceful reunification will happen?

IAN EASTON, AUTHOR, "THE CHINESE INVASION THREAT": No, absolutely not. If he did, he would not be engaging in the largest tailored offensive military

buildup that the world has witnessed in at least a century.

RIPLEY (voice-over): China's power bigger economically and militarily than the former Soviet Union says Ian Easton.

EASTON: Their biggest military strength is size, size of their missile force, size of their amphibious force, size of their air force, their navy,

their cyber capabilities, their space capabilities.

RIPLEY: Is there any doubt in your mind that Xi Jinping is going to try to make a move on Taiwan?

EASTON: Well, there's no doubt, the only question is how and when.

RIPLEY (voice-over): That burning question top of mind for Taiwan's government, the islands record defense spending, dwarfed by China's massive


SU TZU-YUN, DIRECTOR, TAIWAN INSTITUTION FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE & SECURITY RESEARCH: Actually Taiwan right now face the threat from China is very

huge and immediate.

RIPLEY: The threat from China is huge and immediate.

SU: Yes.

RIPLEY (voice-over): And getting bigger U.S. Intelligence says President Xi gave the order. China's military must be ready to take Taiwan by 2027.

But he's still deciding if he'll do it. President Joe Biden said repeatedly, the U.S. military would defend Taiwan.

He's authorized more than $1 billion in arms sales to Taipei, Taiwan taking cues from Ukraine, focusing on asymmetric unconventional warfare.

SU: That can give Taiwan more opportunity to defeat such a huge force.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Defending this democratic island from its nuclear armed nemesis will be the greatest military challenge of the 21st century,

Easton says.

EASTON: So if Taiwan falls and Xi Jinping is able to shatter the U.S. alliance system, democracy will cease to exist in our country.


Taiwan is the front line. It is the geostrategic nerve center of our world today and that is likely to remain true for decades to come.

RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S. and its allies must do more than sell weapons, he says; defending Taiwan is defending the free world -- Will Ripley, CNN,



SOARES: Finally tonight, Meghan has opened up about feeling objectified while working in the television industry. And in doing so, she's given us

pause for thought.

On her new podcast, the Duchess of Sussex said, "When I hear the word 'bimbo,' I have very negative connotations to it. I don't see that an

aspirational thing. She said an inspirational thing for a woman.

Meghan use that word to describe how she was treated during a stint as a briefcase girl on the American TV game show, "Deal or No Deal," in 2006.

And that was before she rose to fame as a character in the drama series, "Suits," which I was a big fan of. And before she raised her voice on

social issues.

The Duchess of Sussex says that while she was thankful for the job, she had to quit because she didn't feel the way -- she didn't like the way the part

made her feel. Looking back on that experience, Meghan says she hopes her daughter, Lilibet, will aspire to greater things.

Thanks very much for your company. Do stay right here with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good evening. 'Bye.