Return to Transcripts main page
Isa Soares Tonight
Russia's Wagner Fighters Claim To Be Close To The Bakhmut City Center; Anger In Greece Following Deadly Train Crash; Israeli Minister Receives Backlash After Calling For A Palestinian Town To Be Erased; Rights Groups Urge U.S. To Deny Visa To Israeli Minister; China Slams Potential U.S. Arms Sale To Taiwan; Lufthansa Forced Landing. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 02, 2023 - 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's Wagner fighters claim to be
close to the Bakhmut city center, but Ukraine says it's not giving in yet. Then frustration rages across Greece after a deadly train crash. Officials
say human error is to blame.
And the fallout after an Israeli minister's incendiary comments calling for a Palestinian town to be erased. I speak to statesman Yair Neglin(ph), an
architect of the Oslo Accords in about 30 minutes. But first, after weeks of relentless fighting, Ukraine says Russian troops are advancing on the
city of Bakhmut.
Now, according to Ukrainian military officials, Russian forces are assaulting the city itself, suggesting that they no longer simply operating
on the outskirts. But Ukraine does not plan to withdraw yet, its defense forces are still holding on to their positions and are repelling Russian
attacks. Now, the boss of the mercenary Wagner Group says this video you're looking at here shows his fighters practically in the center of the city.
However, CNN has geo-located this video to be at the east of Bakhmut, around two kilometers or so from the city center. Meanwhile, Ukraine fears
that if Bakhmut falls, the town of Chasiv Yar as you can see there, will be the next on Russia's list. Our Alex Marquardt is there.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the road on the way to Bakhmut. Cars, military vehicles, bombing up
and down this road going to and from the front. You see this armored vehicle right here with the V sign for victory. There are still some people
here, not too many, but some of these hardy residents have stayed behind.
This is the shop of Seviuch(ph) who is here grilling meat, it's called Shashli(ph). He actually fled from Bakhmut two months ago, and has opened
up a shop selling basics like bananas, beetroot and candles. There is another man who here, who we just met, whose daughter is still in Bakhmut.
One of the thousands of people there who have been asked to evacuate, but are still in the city amid this incredible fighting.
You can see that they put up wood there to protect those windows. So much destruction in this town. We were just farther in the center of town, it's
called Chasiv Yar, this is one town over from Bakhmut with a large group of people at a bus stop waiting for a water delivery that never came. Every
few moments, you can hear explosions, the sound of what we believe to be outgoing artillery fire.
Ukrainians firing at Russian positions. We spoke with an older woman named Valentina(ph), who said that there is so much flying over their heads that
she is scared all the time. That, they are so close to the Russian positions -- that's more outgoing artillery fire -- they're so close to the
Russian positions that they can walk there.
We also spoke with some Ukrainian soldiers, like these ones, who manned one of those artillery positions. They told us that there has been no order to
pull back from Bakhmut. That they're fighting because, if they give up Bakhmut, then this town, Chasiv Yar, this would be next. And that is what
everyone is thinking now, that If Russia were to take Bakhmut, that they would have another foothold in this region from which to try to push
farther into eastern Ukraine. Alex Marquardt, CNN, in Chasiv Yar.
SOARES: Well, for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergey Lavrov, they spoke for about 10 minutes on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting that's happening in New Delhi, discussing the war
The new START Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty and Paul Whelan, of course, the U.S. citizen who has been in Russian prison for some 4 years. Natasha
Bertrand is following this story and joins me now from Washington. So Natasha, what more do we know came out of that meeting, and indeed who
initiated this meeting to start off with?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Isa, so we're actually told that it was the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who did initiate that
And you know, it was described more as a spur of the moment-type thing where Blinken did seek out Lavrov on the sidelines at the G20 to have a
conversation with him about various subjects.
But there were no formal negotiations right, nothing very formal in terms of a meeting between the U.S. and Russia, but it was an opportunity for
Blinken to raise a couple of very key issues, among them of course, the new START Treaty, trying to encourage the Russians to get back into that
nuclear arms treaty that they withdrew from just a couple of weeks ago, saying that responsible nations need, of course, these nuclear guardrails.
And then, of course, he brought up the case of Paul Whelan, who is the American who has been tamed -- been detained in Russia for nearly 5 years.
Of course, the U.S. now says that they have put forward another substantive proposal to Russia to get Paul Whelan back. But that the Russians have not
engaged. And then, finally, of course, the biggest subject of all is that - - is the war in Ukraine.
And he encouraged the Russians, of course, to abide or to sit down and talk with the Ukrainians and come to a peace agreement, noting that the
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy had put forward a ten-point peace plan of his own, and for the Russians to start engaging with that in good faith. And
that was really the overall theme of the discussions, Blinken said, at the G20 was not only urging Russia to pull out of Ukraine, but also warning
other allies of China's potential plans to arm Russia with lethal equipment.
Saying that, that is just unacceptable to the U.S., and that many allies are concerned about that. So it was an opportunity for Blinken rather
informally to meet face-to-face with Lavrov for the first time since the war began, and raise these top issues of concern for the United States,
SOARES: And Natasha, sticking with Ukraine, were G20 leaders on the same page there in regards to the war in Ukraine? Because I -- there was no
BERTRAND: Not exactly. So according to the Russian readout of their meeting with the Chinese, they say that the Russians and the Chinese were
very much on the same page with regard to the war in Ukraine. Of course, China did issue its own kind of peace proposal for that war that the United
States and the West are extremely skeptical of.
And the U.S. has said -- Antony Blinken said during a press conference earlier today that in fact, the U.S. had warned many of the allies at that
G20 Summit about China's contemplation of sending Russia that lethal equipment. And the fact that many of those allies were deeply concerned by
that. And so, I think what you saw here was kind of a divide, of course, between the kind of U.S.-led western alliance at the G20, the kind of
China-Russia alliance there.
And then India, which was of course, the host of the summit, kind of in the middle. Of course, we have seen the U.S. express concerns about India not
condemning Russia's war in Ukraine. And of course, India buying up a lot of that oil that is keeping Russian profits afloat and allowing them to
continue the war.
So, it was a really interesting dynamic here. But of course, we're seeing the push-and-pull on both sides from the U.S. and from Russia, China,
India, to basically come to some kind of solution here with regards to the war. It does not look like that's going to happen anytime soon however,
SOARES: Yes, Natasha Bertrand for us in Washington, thanks very much, Natasha. Well, Russian Federal Security Service officials claim an armed
group crossed into Russian territory on Thursday, allegedly raiding villages in the Bryansk region. The region's governor says two civilians
were killed and a child injured by, quote, "sabotage groups".
And the FSB says they discovered a quote, "large number of explosive devices". Ukraine is dismissing these claims as quote, "as a classic,
deliberate provocation". U.S. and Ukrainian officials have long warned that Russia was planning false flag attacks, basically, as a pretext for
military escalation. Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Moscow with more. So Fred, just give us a bit more insight into what the Kremlin is saying about
this alleged border raid.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Isa, well, it certainly doesn't look like it's a false flag attack. It was very
interesting because early this morning, there was pretty -- a lot of commotion here in Russia because Russian authorities, the FSB, which is
responsible there for the border with Ukraine, they came out and said there was a Ukrainian cross-border raid that happened in the Bryansk region.
It's a pretty big region, we had a map there before showing the city of Bryansk. But it's really that entire region which is sort of on the
northern border with Ukraine. And apparently, there were some villages the Russians said where they originally said Ukrainian groups had infiltrated
into those, taking some people hostage.
They originally said that one person had been killed and a young boy had been injured. Those injuries weren't life-threatening. They later upped
that to two. However, then, a video appeared by a group calling themselves the Russian Volunteer Corps. Now, the Russian Volunteer Corps is a group of
Russians, Russian citizens, who are fighting on the side of Ukraine in Ukraine.
And they then went out and said that they did go across the border. They pictured themselves and had a video in front of two administrative
buildings in that region, one of them was a medical center. And they essentially called for people there, for Russians to join their fight, as
they put it. We're seeing that video right now. And that's their flag.
And that's two of those fighters that went across the border. Now, the Russians, obviously, extremely angry about this. Vladimir Putin was kept
up-to-date by his top security officials throughout the day. He was supposed to actually go on a trip to southern Russia today to meet with
He canceled that trip, instead by video conference, calling all the people that you see on the screen there, terrorists, saying that they had opened
fire on civilians, and that they had shot at a vehicle called Alada Neva(ph), which is apparently where one of those civilians were killed.
So Vladimir Putin extremely angry. The Russian security service is obviously extremely alarmed by this as well. Vladimir Putin, he went out
and he vowed to crush whoever was behind this. And the reaction from Ukraine is really interesting, Isa, because on the one hand, the Ukrainians
distanced themselves from this Russian Volunteer Corps.
They said that these -- this Russian Volunteer Corps is not officially part of Ukraine's defense forces. There are of course, some foreigner legions
within the Ukrainian defense forces. But the Ukrainians came out and said that these people are not part of that. And then, of course, you had people
like the adviser to the Ukrainian presidency who came out and said, look, this might be a false flag operation.
This is something they were expecting from the Russians. But right now, with that video surfacing, it certainly doesn't look like it was a false
flag operation. Even though, again, the Ukrainians are saying this had nothing to do with them, and they have no intention of attacking Russia,
SOARES: Yes, and importantly that we have seen several false flags operations in the last year or so. But it's important to point out and to
clarify really what you just outlined for us. I want to get your thoughts, though, on our top story. And that is this video that we've seen of the
Wagner Group getting closer and closer to Bakhmut.
The video shows -- CNN has been able to geo-locate it, it shows that they're east of Bakhmut, around 2 kilometers from the city center. How much
does Putin need this win? Just add some context here.
PLEITGEN: Well, I think it is very important. It would be a very important win for Putin. I mean, one of the things that we have to keep in mind, Isa,
is that the last big military victory for the Russian armed forces was several months back. In fact, I would say it was in the Summer of last
year. So, right now, it's been a very long time since there has been a big victory.
And then if you look at Bakhmut itself, I mean, we've been hearing from the Wagner Group, we've been hearing from the Russian military that, that place
is going to fall soon, that they're working on encircling it. And so far, that simply hasn't happened. I mean, the Ukrainians themselves are now
saying they're under a lot of pressure there, it's very difficult for them, there are advances on the part of the Russian forces.
But the Ukrainians still themselves are not willing to budge. So it certainly is significant for the Wagner Group to be able to go on a high
rise building like that. It is inside the city of Bakhmut, even though it is on the eastern side of the city. Isa, they're not as far in as they
would like to point out, they're not near the city center.
But certainly, for them, it's very important to point that out. But it does look as though it could still be a very long and very bloody battle until
the Russians would be able to encircle that place, if they're able to do it at all. I mean, the Ukrainians are saying they are going to fight over
every inch of territory. So that is a very difficult battle for both sides, certainly very bloody on both sides.
Wagner apparently is also losing a lot of their fighters as well. And yet, neither side is willing to budge. It's a very symbolic place town. It has
become that for both the Russians --
SOARES: Yes --
PLEITGEN: And for the Ukrainians, Isa?
SOARES: Indeed, very important context there from our Fred Pleitgen for us this hour in Moscow. I appreciate it, Fred. I want to take you to Greece
now where people are demanding answers of Jesus -- horrifying train crash. The country's deadliest in living memory, in fact. This security footage
shows the moment the two trains collided.
At least, 57 people were killed and dozens more are injured. Now, rail workers on a 24-hour strike, protesting what they call, inadequate safety
measures. The Greek prime minister says tragic human error was the main cause of the disaster. Our Nada Bashir is at the scene of the collision in
Tempe, Greece, and joins me now.
So, Nada, I mean, it's clear the Greeks are very angry and understandably so, given their loss. But are we any closer to understanding what happened
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Isa, they are certainly angered. Their frustration is only growing, and that investigation into what exactly
took place and what led to this deadly collision is also still ongoing. You can see behind me the emergency teams are still very much present on the
ground, as part of that recovery effort, and that will be crucial over the course of this investigation.
But as you said there, the prime minister has already said that this was most likely caused by what he described as a tragic human error. We already
know that one person, a station manager from the city of Larissa, has now been arrested, charged with causing mass deaths and grievous bodily harm
And in fact, just in the last few hours, CNN has now obtained audio recording, which appears to show this station master giving the go ahead
for this train involved in the collision to pass through a red warning light. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Proceed through red traffic light, accidental traffic light, entry of Downporon(ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vasillas(ph), am I good to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Done. Have a good night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good trip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASHIR: Recording, we have also -- Isa, as you heard there, in addition to this recording, we have also learned from the authorities that, in fact,
the station master in question who has been detained and will face prosecutors over the coming days admitted and conceded that there were
mistakes made, but there were also questions, of course, around the safety implications here across Greece's rail network, which has been
characterized as far weaker than its European neighbors.
And in fact, the transport minister here in Greece just yesterday announced his resignation. He said that this would be a mark of respect on his part,
to those who had lost their lives, but he also conceded that the safety standards, the rail network in general is simply not up to the standards
one would expect in the 21st century.
And because of that, because of the clear failings in the rail network system here across Greece, we have seen that frustration, that anger
growing. We've seen protests taking place across the country. We've seen now rail workers, metro workers going on strike. And there is mounting
pressure on the government. Many now questioning even if it was the case of human error, there should have been a backup system.
There should have been safety systems in place, to prevent a catastrophe like this from happening. And of course, we are still seeing this recovery
effort taking place, but this is very much shifting into focusing now, more on removing the wreckage. Some of the rescue teams here have told us that
they are still looking for biological remnants, in order to identify DNA. That is the stage that they're at.
The first two carriages of this train, completely engulfed in flames. The third turned on its side after it derailed. And there are so many more
people, victims in hospital, their family members waiting for news of their condition. Of course, some of them are in a critical condition in
So, as we continue to wait to really see the extent of the human toll, there is mounting questions around the investigation as well. Isa?
SOARES: Indeed, yes, and random investigation around the fact that these trains, these rail systems were so not only understaffed, but hopelessly
behind the times as one person, rail worker said. Nada Bashir, appreciate it, thanks very much, Nada. And still to come tonight, growing frustration
in Iran. Hundreds of school girls have gotten sick after reportedly getting poisoned.
Some think it's part of an effort to shut down their schools. Plus, the story of a man who fled Russia to avoid serving in the Ukraine war. We'll
tell you why South Korea wants to send him back.
SOARES: Well, now to a mysterious illness that's affecting hundreds of school girls right across Iran. We are seeing a growing number of reported
serial poisonings. Local media sites and Iranian lawmaker who says a reliable source told him nearly 900 students have been attacked so far.
Here's someone being loaded into an ambulance just this week.
There is speculation it may be part of a campaign to shut down schools that educate girls. Our chief international investigative correspondent Nima
Elbagir is leading our coverage on this. I mean, this is incredibly chilling, just seeing some of these videos. Just talk to us -- I know you
and your team have been speaking to people inside Iran. What have they been telling you? What kind of symptoms are they seeing here, Nima?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we actually managed to communicate with one of the girls who was present
inside one of these schools when an incident happened. I want you to take a listen because the chaos that she describes is just appalling to hear. Take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was a terrible situation. Girls had been falling on the floor and were crying. Some were unable to
walk, really didn't want to leave one another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELBAGIR: And that's just one of --
SOARES: Wow --
ELBAGIR: The incidents that she was caught in, in her school alone. She said that there were at least three separate incidents. And what's really
confusing and worrying so many of these parents is that this is across so much of Iran, and in some incidents -- some instances, you have multiple
incidents on the same day.
SOARES: And what I found interesting when I was reading about this story is that this hasn't happened overnight. This has been months in the making,
but we're just only finding out about it now. Is there a correlation? Obviously, we've been following the protests, following the death of Mahsa
Is there a correlation between the girls who went out protesting, anti government protests and these girls, who are now being, you know, being
contaminated or being sick?
ELBAGIR: Well, all of the experts we've spoken to in this kind of incident where there is a suspected toxin being released, have said it's very
difficult to know from a distance. But if you speak to students themselves and their parents, they feel that this is very much correlated. I mean, one
student who spoke to us where there had been multiple incidents at her school said, it came after the girls had taken their hijab off.
And you see so much of that correlation happening. And the sad thing is that because parents are so afraid, they are keeping their daughters at
SOARES: Yes --
ELBAGIR: The girls are so worried that what limited freedoms, including the freedom to seek education, that they actually have under the Iranian
regime, that even that is now being -- is now being contained. And that is -- that is such a big fear of so many of these families.
SOARES: What is the Iranian regime -- and are they doing anything about it? What has -- what has been their message?
ELBAGIR: Well, that's been really interested -- interesting because their tone on this has changed. They've gone from saying, this is mass hysteria,
this is rumor-mongering to just within the last few days, state media is referring to these incidents as poisonings, which is --
SOARES: Right --
ELBAGIR: A big turnaround from what they've previously been saying. And they are saying that they're going to investigate it, and we've seen them
say that, you know, people have the right to know, and this could potentially be the work of internal domestic terrorists. But given the hold
that authorities have --
SOARES: Yes --
ELBAGIR: Especially on their own hard-liners, many families are scared, confused --
SOARES: Understandably so, given everything that we've been --
ELBAGIR: Yes --
SOARES: Reporting on.
ELBAGIR: Yes, but distrusting.
SOARES: Yes --
ELBAGIR: They are distrusting. And there's nothing scarier than that, right? When you cannot trust the authorities with your children's life.
SOARES: And then now, you can't even go to school --
ELBAGIR: Yes --
SOARES: For fear over what might happened. Very quickly, do we know what toxin this is?
ELBAGIR: No, no sense yet. Some of the -- well, if it is indeed a toxin --
SOARES: Yes --
ELBAGIR: But the girls that we're speaking to are saying that there is a bitter smell in many of these incidents. As that -- it's very difficult to
take anything from that --
SOARES: Absolutely terrifying. Nima, appreciate it, thank you --
ELBAGIR: Thank you --
SOARES: Very much. Now, a Russian man opposed to the war in Ukraine is stuck in legal limbo in South Korea. He doesn't want to go back home
because he may be sent to fight in Ukraine, so he's seeking asylum. But South Korea is not rolling out a red carpet for him either. Paula Hancocks
now reports, that left him stranded at the airport for a rather long time.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than four months of sleeping on the floor with 15 men in a small airport room,
one Russian man waits to hear his fate. Hiding his identity for fear of repercussions, he's applying for asylum in South Korea, having fled a
mandatory call-up in Russia last October to fight in the war in Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When I heard about the mobilization, I felt terrible because I had been at rallies protesting
against the war. I knew based on the information they have on me, anyone who opposes the war would be first to be sent to the front lines. That was
my biggest fear.
HANCOCKS: President Vladimir Putin's mass call-up sparked an exodus from the country. Hundreds of thousands of men are believed to have fled to
avoid being sent to Ukraine, leaving his wife and seven-year-old son, he boarded a flight to South Korea, saying he believed he would be accepted as
it is a democratic country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I miss my boy really badly. I can't talk about it, it's too emotional. I really miss my family.
HANCOCKS: He would wash his laundry in Incheon Airport bathroom, saying there was no hot water for showers for the past months, despite Seoul
immigration saying there should be. He was given a hot buns and juice for lunch, chicken and rice for dinner, while he feels powerless to control his
future, he says the alternative would be far worse.
(on camera): What would your message be to the people who are deciding if you can stay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a draft dodger. I'm against the war, and I don't want to go to war and kill people, but I am not a draft dodger.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): An important point to make, he feels, as South Korea has mandatory military service of its own, of at least 18 months for
almost all able-bodied men, most by the age of 28.
(on camera): Do you consider yourself a victim of this war?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. A year ago, I had no intention of leaving. I never thought I'd leave Russia.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): What he didn't realize before boarding a plane to Seoul, he says, is how few refugees this country accepts. In 2019, of
almost 15,500 applicants, just 79 were granted refugee status. That's half of 1 percent. With just 230 receiving a permit to stay on humanitarian
grounds, he was moved this week to an immigration facility, with some freedom of movement to await his fate.
(on camera): The Justice Ministry said this week, it is appealing the decision to even allow him to apply for asylum. He says he is surprised and
disappointed by that decision. And his lawyer says that, that process alone could take up to five months. Then applying for refugee status could take
another one or two years, and his lawyer says, based on precedents, success is not going to be easy. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
SOARES: And still to come, Palestinians are calling for international protection after a set of rampage in the West Bank. We'll talk about the
fallout with a diplomat who was involved in the Oslo Accords. That's just ahead.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.
Human rights groups are calling on the United States to block an Israeli minister from visiting the country, after he called for a Palestinian town
to be, quote, "erased."
Bezalel Smotrich is expected to attend a conference in Washington this month. A source tells CNN, he has no meetings planned with the Biden
administration. The State Department has slammed his comments as repugnant incitement to violence.
Smotrich is Israel's finance minister but also has significant powers over the West Bank, which makes his remarks all the more disturbing. He called
for the town of Huwara to be wiped out by Israel, just days after settlers went on a rampage there, setting fire to Palestinians' homes and
One man was shot and killed. A top Israeli general has condemned the violence as simply indiscriminate terror. In a televised interview, he said
the army prepared for reprisals after a gunman shot two Israeli brothers in Huwara but was not ready for what he called a problem, have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. GEN. YEHUDA FUCHS, ISRAELI ARMY COMMANDER, WEST BANK (through translator): The incident in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws.
We are prepared, as we prepare after every terror attack.
There's a phenomenon of outlaws taking the junctions to throw stones and block Palestinian roads in the area. I don't think that collective
punishment helps combating terrorism. On the contrary, I think it might even cause terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, some eyewitnesses to the hours-long attack accused the army of standing by and allowing it to happen, even firing tear gas at
Palestinians, who tried to defend themselves. The Palestinian Authority prime minister toured the destruction in Huwara on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MUHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): What we have seen here in this house is evidence of how big
the crime carried out by settlers and covered up and protected by the army is.
It is clear that this move is supported by a political decision from the Israeli government. Therefore, three sides are partners in this crime: the
government, which takes the political decision; an army, who is protecting; and the settlers, who are implementing. This is what we saw here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, the army says intervening Huwara to defend Palestinians from settlers who clashed not only with Palestinians but with Israeli troops and
police. That Palestinians say the rampage makes it clear, they need the world to help protect Palestinian lives under military occupation.
We are joined now by Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He visited the West Bank and Gaza just a few months ago
and says for Palestinians, there's simply no chance for a normal life.
Jan, great to have you on the show. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us here. Let me get first your reaction to those comments from
Bezalel Smotrich. The U.S., you heard probably, calling it disgusting, repugnant and irresponsible.
How do you describe what you heard there?
JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: What I heard was the ugly face of an ugly, lethal, terrible, unjustifiable occupation.
So of course, this is mafia style politicians, who have come to power in Israel. It's not the Israel that I knew.
I've been there now for 50 years, back and forth. My brother was in a kibbutz in 1967. I studied at the Hebrew University. I knew Rabin and
Koresh (ph), the iconic Israeli leaders. This is an ugly occupation. And those who are administrating that are mafia style politicians.
SOARES: Mafia style politician Ned Price called on prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to publicly and clearly reject these comments. But
until now, Jan, I mean, there's been silence from Netanyahu.
What does this tell you, than, about this new right-wing government that we're seeing in Israel?
How worried are you?
EGELAND: It's really an extremist government. I don't think, in the United States and in Europe, we understand how far right, how far into extremism,
this government is.
One other of the ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is very close to violent settler youth that are beating the Palestinian women, children, harassing
Bedouins. I just brought my board of the Norwegian Refugee Council to see our work on the West Bank and Gaza.
And of course, these are Norwegians, Swedes, Americans (ph) and they are as outraged as everybody become when they come and see what is the reality of
this occupation now, especially now on the West Bank, where it's become so lethal. A Palestinian is killed every day now; 60 people so far this year.
SOARES: And it's not just, you know, not just Palestinians who are angry; we've seen Israelis pretty angry, too. We've seen angry protesters over
government plans to overhaul judicial system, completely different.
But these protesters, you saw them in the last two days or yesterday, I should say, Jan, they're being violent. We're looking at some of them here.
Netanyahu said when he became prime minister, there would be control of this in his cabinet.
Is this a prime minister in control of his cabinet?
EGELAND: It is really not. When they say, the cabinet ministers say that they want to erase Palestinian villages full of women and children, clearly
not. There is a polarization now within the Israeli society.
There's also polarization within Palestinian society, where too many are being radicalized beyond belief, because they don't believe at all that
their neighbor, Israel, the stronger party, the occupier, will ever come forward with a peace agreement, a two-state solution that we believed on
when we facilitated the Oslo accord.
All of that seems that dead now, which means that the United States and Europe need to be much tougher in enforcing some kind of a peace process
that can lead to an end to this vicious cycle of violence and oppression and occupation.
SOARES: Our viewers would know, you were among the initiators, of course, of the peace negotiations that led to the Oslo accord between Israel and
Palestine. I think it was in 1993.
I mean, 30 years later, why haven't we got it right?
What has gone wrong here?
EGELAND: Well, at the time I was there, we facilitated an agreement. It was signed in front of the White House with President Bill Clinton as the
godfather. The United States was heavily engaged in this period.
I think since then, there's been less U.S. engagement. The United States is the only one that has influence on this stronger party, Israel. There was
too little international pressure.
And we underestimated the enemies of peace on either side of the extreme Israeli side and the extreme Palestinian side. But we shouldn't give up.
It's the only possibility to get these two ancient civilizations, neighbors as they are, Israelis and Palestinians, to avoid having an endless conflict
with insecurity for both people.
SOARES: Why do you think the U.S. has not been as engaged?
EGELAND: Well, unfortunately, several presidents felt burned by their bad experiences, that agreements were not implemented.
But I think this -- to relinquish your own important role and then end up as U.S. is now doing, sending lethal military aid to an occupier, and not
pushing forward a peace process, will lead to the rest of the world finding the West being very hypocritical. Many don't understand, why is the whole
world supporting us on Ukraine?
And seeing the Russian occupation and the Russian aggression, as we do?
Well, I think part of it is that they see us as very hypocritical on the issue, for example, on Israeli occupation of Palestinians.
SOARES: And interestingly, you say, that because I was speaking to the former Colombian president, Emmanuel Santos, just a week ago. And he told
me that the war in Ukraine was sucking the attention away from other problems, including what we are seeing in Israel and the West Bank. This is
what he said, have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, PRESIDENT OF COLOMBIA: Well, many people are questioning what is considered sort of a double standards. What happened or
is happening in Israel, with the Palestinians and the settlements.
Many countries in the south are saying, well, why is that not condemned?
And why what is happening in Ukraine is condemned?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Do you agree with that view?
Is there a double standard, you know?
Is there hypocrisy here, when you compare what's happening with the Palestinians and the settlements and what's happening in Ukraine?
EGELAND: Yes, I think that is, in a way, what I would say.
Referring to, there are so many, like, Juan Manuel Santos, whom I know well from Colombia, who feel that. Africans, people in the Middle East, Haitians
and others. Because I would not compare the two, really, infer that that's the same thing. I mean, Ukraine is the most horrific war, conventional war,
in our generation.
But occupation is occupation, really. And the ugly face of it is becoming uglier and uglier. And you cannot go, again, to the West Bank and see how
the settlements are built one after the other.
They have swimming pools, they have fantastic theaters, et cetera. Then they send their violent youth to beat the Palestinians, the Bedouins next
door and then torch the school -- or rather the military erase the school that we, the humanitarians, built for these Bedouin children.
You can't make it up, the kind of injustice that is before our eyes, for example, on the West Bank. But also in the siege of Gaza, which is for
many, an open air prison, Gaza people cannot go in and out like we can from our own city. They're confined to a small area.
SOARES: Yes, and important to point out. As an occupier in power in the West Bank, Israel has a legal obligation, of course, under the Geneva
convention, to protect the local population. Jan Egeland, always great to get your insights on such an important perspective. Thanks very much, Jan,
EGELAND: Thank you.
SOARES: And still to come tonight, a high-ranking U.S. state official says she was one of the targets of an anti-Semitic murder plot. That story, just
SOARES: The U.S. is on track to sell more than $600 million worth of military hardware to Taiwan. The arms sale should include missiles to arm
F-16 fighter jets, like these we see now.
And those jets, in turn, would be crucial in Taiwan's defense against any potential air attack. While it would be a security and economic win-win for
the United States, China is not happy. Here's the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAO NING, SPOKESPERSON, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): The sale of arms by the United States to China's Taiwan region seriously
violates the One China principle and the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques. It damages China's sovereignty and security interests as well as Sino-U.S.
relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. China has always firmly opposed this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: It's worth noting that the heat of diplomatic climate really surrounding this deal, it's only, if you remember, a few weeks after that
Chinese spy balloon floated over the U.S. and U.S. officials say China is seriously considering sending lethal aid to Russia. We will stay on top of
An attorney general from Michigan says she was a target in an anti-Semitic murder plot. Dana Nessel says the FBI informed her that she was among the
Jewish elected officials a man threatened to kill on social media.
Investigators say Jack Carpenter III has been arrested and charged over the threat. This is adding to concerns about increasing anti-Semitic incidents
across the United States. Our Polo Sandoval is keeping on top of the story.
Polo, what do we know about the suspect and about the plot here?
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, just more on that final point you just made. This is just the latest full act of political
violence that specifically targeted an elected official in the state of Michigan; this one, having to do with Jake Eugene Carpenter III.
Federal investigators allege that he took to Twitter back in mid February, writing that he planned to, quote, "carry out punishment of death to anyone
that is Jewish in Michigan government."
That tweet immediately got the attention of federal authorities. They then started working with Michigan State Police the day after that was posted
and were able to speak to the defendant's mother, who told investigators she believes that her son was armed, was in Texas and even shared his phone
number with investigators.
That is the way they were able to track him down in northern Texas, a day after this was posted, and quickly apprehended him without incident.
What we know about the suspect here, when you read through the many tweets that he posted online, they're certainly unhinged. They are anti-Semitic
and alarming in nature.
In fact, on one occasion, on that same Twitter page, he declared a sovereign country of so-called New Israel in his rural Michigan home. But
what really escalated the situation was when federal investigators found out that there were at least three 9 mm handguns that were registered in
his name, in the state of Michigan.
That certainly simply added more urgency to track him down. Afraid that he would act on this threat, not just for Michigan's attorney general but
other elected officials. He is currently in custody. We've reached out to the public defender's office that's representing Carpenter.
But just to close things out on a larger scope, what this means for officials in Michigan is that we have seen this sort of merging of anti
government/COVID conspiracy theories and now adding this anti-Semitic factor as well.
That's why ADL, an anti-hate group up here in the U.S., is seriously concerned that many of these individuals may potentially act on these
But when you look at this particular case, he said, really, it's remarkable how it all came together. The tweet was posted on February 17th. And he's
in custody on February 18th, preventing what could've been a tragedy targeting Michigan's top cop.
SOARES: Picture you painted there, incredibly troubling, indeed. Polo Sandoval, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Still to come tonight, one passenger said it felt like freefalling off the top of a roller coaster. We will have more on the clear air turbulence that
forced a Lufthansa flight to divert. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.
Shocking moments aboard a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, where passengers say the plane fell 1,000 feet while in the air. You can see the effects of
the intense turbulence right here.
Remnants of the dinner service was strewn right across the cabin. Now passengers say it happened twice more. They describe glass breaking and
people screaming. The plane was diverted to Dulles Airport in Virginia, where seven people were taken to hospital.
Mary Schiavo is former inspector general of the United States Department of Transportation. She joins me now.
Mary, you are just the person for this.
I mean what do you make of what happened here?
We all are used to a bit of turbulence but this sounded like incredibly terrifying.
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Certainly very terrifying. And you know, more common than, people would think, I mean, every year,
probably about 65,000 flights are hit by turbulence and about 5,500 of them are categorized as severe turbulence incidents.
And fortunately, the most severe of them is something called clear air turbulence. That means turbulence that occurs, using layman's terms,
outside of any cloud formations. You are literally flying through clear air. It's not like you're going to hit a storm front or clouds or, you
know, a big thundercloud and you hit turbulence.
And it usually is up in altitude. It's in higher altitudes, most often. And it can last from 100 to 300 miles, typically, which is why they had more
than one incident of it.
And in years gone by, it has sent many people to the hospital; a few deaths, not many, over the last 20 years. In one case, one plane was
damaged so badly, it had to be scrapped. But ordinarily, you have to just buckle down tight and keep going. There is not much you can do once you are
SOARES: Yes, incredibly scary experience, as we can see there from the footage. Let me ask you about what we've been reporting on. Recently, we've
seen aviation incidents in succession, really, in the United States; runway incursions.
What is going on, Mary?
SCHIAVO: Well, runway incursions are a very serious and very dangerous problem. And they have been on the increase pretty much. There are a few
aberrational years and during COVID, when the numbers of flights were down, the number of runway incursions dramatically decreased.
But runway incursions, meaning that two planes are coming very close to each other on runway or a taxiway at the airport, usually it's traffic
crossing an active runway. It's been climbing steadily over the past 20 years, despite a lot of efforts by the United States and other countries to
put things in place, to bring it down.
There is electronic equipment at the airport called ASDE, airport surveillance detection equipment. There are alerting systems that alert the
air traffic control. There are more automated systems going into place and air traffic organizations have even put into place what's called hot spot
They warn pilots, certain airports and certain runways and taxiways are dangerous.
But still, the numbers rise and it's so dangerous. I will give you a comparison.
There are probably about 1,700 to 1,800 runway incursions a year but the most serious ones are called Category A in the United States and there are
about a dozen of those. Already in the first two months of this year, there have been five or six, depending on how you count them, more than any other
So it's very serious and it would cause a tremendous lawsuit if it happened, if the collision actually occurred.
SOARES: Indeed, very scary indeed. Just briefly, Mary, we were talking about a flight being diverted after a crew reported a battery in an
overhead bin was on fire.
I mean, how common is this?
SCHIAVO: Well, it's not something that happens every day. But in this case, it's good, because flight crews are trained to deal with this. That's
why, when you go to check in and you get that annoying questionnaire, have you put any lithium ion batteries in your suitcase?
It's because, to put them out, you have to have water, right?
Cabin crews are trying to do this and they literally drown your battery or your laptop, keep it wet and put that fire out.
SOARES: Mary Schiavo, always good to have you on the show. I appreciate it, Mary.
SCHIAVO: Thank you.
SOARES: That does it here tonight. Do stay right here, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with Richard Quest live from Seoul is next. I shall see you