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Isa Soares Tonight
Massive Protests Rock Georgia Over Foreign Agents Law; NATO Chief Warns Bakhmut Could Fall In Coming Days; New U.K. Immigration Bill Sparks Outrage; Interview With Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili On Massive Protests Engulfing Georgia For A Second Day; U.N. Envoy "Appalled" By Settler Attacks In Huwara; International Women's Day Rallies Seek Equality, Focus On Iran And Afghanistan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 08, 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, and I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, protests erupt on the streets of
Georgia's capital. Anger building over a controversial draft law, which critics say is an attack on civil society. I'll be speaking to Georgia's
president later this hour.
Then, the NATO chief warns Bakhmut may fall to Russia in the coming days as a fierce battle around the Ukrainian town grinds on. Plus, Britain's prime
minister vows to fight for its new immigration bill, which human rights groups say breaks international law, we'll have more on that coming up.
But first, this hour anger, determination and fear for the future of the country, all really filling the streets of Georgia's capital, Tbilisi right
now. Tens of thousands are rallying in front of parliament at this hour to protest a proposed law requiring foreign funded organizations to register
as foreign agents. Now, Georgians fear it will push the country closer to Moscow where a similar law has been used to justify intense financial
scrutiny of Vladimir Putin's critics.
So what was supposed to be a Women's Day march earlier today turned into an anti-Russia rally, in an earnest amount for unity with Europe. Have a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TEKLA TEVDORASHVILI, TBILISI PROTESTER: Now, we are protesting against a Russian law that the Georgian government is trying to take and bring in the
country. We are here and we are ready to fight to prove what Georgians really want. We want European future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: And it comes as you can see there after a night of clashes in Tbilisi between protesters and police. Officers in riot gear fired water
cannon and tear gas to break up the crowds which battled back with stones, as you can see, flares as well as fireworks. And here you see the crowds
trying to protect a young woman waving -- looking right there in the middle, a European Union flag as police blast her with water cannons.
That says so much. Well, much like Ukraine, the former Soviet state of Georgia has a long and troubled history with Russia including an invasion
15 years ago, and that is adding to the worries on the street. Our Matthew Chance has more on the turmoil that has erupted in Tbilisi.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia, another former Soviet state, now plunging, it seems, into anarchy.
Recent, days witnessing these pitched battles in the capital, Tbilisi. Between riot police using tear gas and water cannons and pro-western
demonstrators, some clinging desperately to European flags.
With war raging in nearby Ukraine, a Russian-style foreign agent law being debated here is unleashing this anti-Moscow outrage. The Russian version
has been used to crack down on independent aid agencies and media in the country.
BORIS GOGOLAVA, GEORGIAN PROTESTER: The law is Russian as we all know. It has been implemented in. Russia, it has been implemented in Belorussia. And
we don't want to be part of a Soviet Union. We want to be part of European Union. We want to be pro west.
CHANCE: But that's a dangerous aspiration in a region where Russia seems hell bent on tightening its grip. It is Ukraine's western leanings behind
the current bloodshed there, and its neighbors like Georgia are on a knife edge.
And It's not just in the streets where anger is pouring out. This was the Georgian parliament on the day the controversial foreign agent bill was
debated. Lawmakers actually slapping each other amid scuffles, forcing the session to end.
GIVI MIKANADZE, GEORGIAN DREAM-DEMOCRATIC GEORGIA MP (through translator): Georgian society absolutely deserves to know which organizations are being
financed, from which source, and how that money is being spent. We are talking about accountability and transparency.
CHANCE: But Georgia has better experience of Moscow's meddling.
(on camera): Well, there's been a lot of speculation about where the Russian troops are. Well, here they are, well Inside Georgian territory --
(voice-over): Losing territory in a brief conflict with Russia back in 2008 now seen as a precursor of Russia's Ukrainian war.
(on camera): The big question is, how far will they go?
(voice-over): It's a similar concern plaguing many Georgians now. That their tiny, former Soviet state is still very much a battleground between
Russia and the West.
SOARES: And Matthew Chance joins me now. And Matthew, you know Georgia, you know Russia so well. So let's put this into perspective for our
viewers. This foreign agent law, I mean, talk to us, why people are so angry right now in Tbilisi.
CHANCE: Well, I mean, lots of countries have foreign agent laws. I mean, the United States has one, which was set out in 1938 to counter Nazi
propaganda. But what the protesters in Georgia are concerned about is that this law is an analog of what's been happening in Russia over the course of
the past several years with Vladimir Putin and his administration.
They're using the foreign agent law that they've passed to basically discredit opposition, media outlets, NGOs, aid agencies that were funded by
the European Union or by United States or anyone else from around the world. It basically silence dissent. And I think the concern in Georgia --
well, the explicit concern of the protesters in Georgia is that the same will happen in that country as well.
And that will put distance between the Georgian nation and the Georgian population, and their ambition of ultimately joining the --
SOARES: EU, yes --
CHANCE: Broader West, the European Union.
SOARES: Talk to us about the ties between -- you know, you and I were talking about the economic ties, the ties that are between Georgia and
Russia. This government right now in Georgia, are they more pro-Kremlin or are they more pro-EU, given the fact that they want to get closer to
Europe, at least, the population does. What is your sense of what the government wants to do here?
CHANCE: Well, it's unclear, isn't? But I mean, clearly, there is a disconnect between the --
SOARES: Yes --
CHANCE: Between the policies that the government is coming up with, for instance, this foreign agent law, and the views, the aspirations of so many
Georgian people. I mean, tonight, for the second day in a row, we're seeing thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands of people coming out onto
the streets in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, sort of rattling the gates of the parliament, an attempt to, yes, sort of overrun it.
And we're seeing these ferocious scenes and this confrontation underway. Last night, it was absolutely appalling. It's been criticized sort of
broadly. The action of the police and the arrests that have been made. And tonight, it's the first signs of it deteriorating into violence, again with
the police now apparently using water cannons to attempt to disperse the crowd. So, you know, look, whatever the intention of the Georgian
SOARES: Yes --
CHANCE: May be, it is clearly at odds with what --
SOARES: Indeed --
CHANCE: Those tens of thousands of people want.
SOARES: Indeed, Matthew Chance, appreciate it, thank you very much. And coming up in about 20 minutes or so, I will be speaking with the Georgian
President Salome Zourabichvili live here on our show. So do stay tuned for that.
We'll get some of the answers as well, as that, you know, that lack of correlation really, that disconnect that Matthew was talking about between
what's happening on the streets and what we're seeing within the parliament. Thanks very much, Matthew.
Now to Ukraine because Russian fighters are still advancing in Bakhmut, but are taking heavy losses in the progress. That is according to Ukrainian
military officials. They say defense forces are holding them off in several areas in and around the city. Earlier, the leader of the Wagner Mercenary
Group filmed this video inside Bakhmut, saying his forces now control the eastern part of the city.
He claims the Russian army is well prepared, full of modern weapons as well as Intelligence. And that they are waiting for their time to surge forward
after Wagner forces paved the way for them in Bakhmut. But western officials say Wagner is quickly running out of prisoners to recruit and
sent to the frontlines.
And the U.S. top spy chief says a victory in Bakhmut does not signal larger Russian gains. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVRIL HAINES, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial
gains. But Putin most likely calculates that time works in his favor, and that prolonging the war, including with potential pauses in the fighting,
may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russia's strategic interest in Ukraine, even if it takes years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Let's get more on all of this. Melissa Bell joins me this hour from Kyiv. But Melissa, we've also heard today from the NATO chief who said
he can't rule out the Russian forces will soon take over the eastern city of Bakhmut. What is the situation, though, just break it down for our
viewers on the ground as you understand it.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you've just been hearing from the Ukrainian military with a fresh update, Isa, and they say that it is more
ground that's been taken by the Russian side. Bear in mind that earlier today, we saw that video of Yevgeny Prigozhin; head of Wagner, remember
that it is Wagner mercenaries, and we've had this confirmed today from western officials, who have been leading the charge to take this city
helped by regular Russian forces bringing in their artillery.
But nowhere near as much as Prigozhin would have liked. So this really will be a win for him if and when it happens. And that's why he's been so
present on the battlefield. And that video of him speaking and how we managed to geo-locate where that is, he is with his men inching forward
towards the town. Now, western officials telling us that essentially, it is surrounded to three sides.
That is because Ukrainians have chosen to sacrifice space in the name of time. To the point we just heard a moment ago, Isa, the idea is that
they're trying to gain time before they abandon the city in favor of their Spring counteroffensive. But also, because they hope that this will help
further wear down the Russian machine.
And so, once this happens at some point, a tactical retreat will be announced. The question will be watch, whether and for whom this was worth
all the bad blood that has been spilled over the course of this long, seven-month siege. We wanted to find out, Isa, what it meant for the more
than 90 percent of the city's civilians who have now had to flee.
BELL (voice-over): Bakhmut, now a by-word for horror and death. Before the war, Bakhmut was about life. Its sculpted hedges and rose gardens regularly
Instagram-ed. A picture of peace, and one of the oldest cities in the Donbas. Its genteel facades built on the prosperity of salt mines. Maryna
Zhvaniia is the fourth generation of her family born and raised in the city.
Now, she and the pupils she taught have had to flee. Her life she says lies in ruins, like the old theater in which she had her wedding photos taken.
MARYNA ZHVANIIA, BAKHMUT SCHOOL TEACHER (through translator): They started by destroying the buildings, that will be hardest to rebuild. The priceless
historical heritage of our city, because I think they want to erase our nation.
BELL: A history celebrated only recently for the 450th anniversary of the founding of Bakhmut. Its grand buildings, proud reminders of better times.
Seven months of Russian artillery have pulverized it, driving more than 90 percent of its people out, and those left to the edge of sanity.
HANNA HOLUBTSOVA, BAKHMUT HUMANITARIAN WORKER (through translator): It's not living, it's surviving. People can get used to it even without heating,
water, you can never get used to explosions.
BELL: Before the war, Bakhmut was famous for the winery built in its salt mines and for its bubbles. A tourist attraction now plundered by Yevgeny
Prigozhin; the head of the Wagner Mercenary Group, his men closing in on the center of the city, and making it harder for civilians to get in and
out. This is the so-called road of life, one of the last arteries into the town's center, bogged down and muddy, usable only now by armored vehicles.
Home in Bakhmut is no more. The view from above, from heaven to hell.
(on camera): How would you describe what's been lost?
ZHVANIIA: It's as if my heart has been pulled out and thrown away, and I'm trying to pick up the pieces and put it together again. I don't know how
else to describe it. Absolutely everything is lost.
BELL (voice-over): And soon most likely in Russian hands.
BELL: Even as the civilians of Bakhmut or the people of Ukraine begin to reconcile themselves to the idea, Isa, that it inevitably, certainly, this
city will be in Russian hands sooner or later, the question is really what happens next. And again, going back to those western official assessments,
they seem to be that Russian forces, and specifically in the shape of Yevgeny Prigozhin, his men have thrown all they had at taking Bakhmut for
the symbol that it has become.
But that beyond that, they don't believe that Russia has terribly much depth either when it comes to regular forces or mercenaries across the
Luhansk and Donetsk, which really takes away the possibility that any time soon, we will see any other major offensive. Of course, at the same time,
Isa, as we know, Ukrainians to be preparing a Spring time counteroffensive --
SOARES: Yes --
BELL: Of their own.
SOARES: Melissa Bell for us this hour in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thanks very much Melissa. Well, Wolf Blitzer's exclusive interview with Ukrainian President
Volodymyr Zelenskyy will air on Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, that's 10:00 a.m. Thursday in Hong Kong, 2:00 a.m. if you are watching here
in London. Now, European authorities are warning against jumping to conclusions about last year's Nord Stream pipeline attack.
This week, a "New York Times" report said there was new Intelligence suggesting that a pro-Ukrainian group has sabotaged the pipeline which are
used for Russian gas deliveries. The Ukrainian government has denied involvement and an investigation into the attacks is still underway.
German prosecutors say they searched the boats suspected of carrying the explosives used in the attacks, but can't provide information on who is
responsible yet. We'll stay on top of the story for you. NATO Secretary- General a short while ago said the perpetrator has not been identified. CNN's Becky Anderson spoke with Poland's president about the investigation
there. And this is what he said about the pipelines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDRZEJ DUDA, PRESIDENT, POLAND (through translator): I don't know whether you can say that this is a sabotage, I will say the following if not,
Stream 2 stop existing. And if it is not possible to send gas from Russia in this way, this will be profitable for Europe. I'm sure this will be
beneficial for western Europe because in a nutshell, Russia who uses Gazprom as a tool, simply wanted to dominate Europe, but wanted to make
Europe dependent on itself in this respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: President Duda there. Now, we are learning more about the four Americans who were kidnapped in Mexico last week. Two of them have returned
to the U.S., and are now being treated at a hospital, while the remains of the two others who were killed are to be brought to the U.S. soon. Family
members say the four friends had driven to Mexico from South Carolina so one of them could get a medical procedure near the border.
One of the survivors told her mother that when the gunmen ambushed their group on Friday, two of her friends were immediately shot and killed. This
house is where they were found. CNN's Rosa Flores is at the hospital where the two survivors are being treated. And Rosa, good to see you. Just give
us a sense of what more we are learning about their ordeal, and critically what do we know about the two Americans who survived? What is their
condition like, Rosa?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what? We know it's from the family of one of the victims from LaTavia Washington McGee. She was
kidnapped, she was not harmed. But she and the other survivor, Eric Williams, were brought to the hospital that you see behind me after they
were recovered by authorities for treatment and for observance.
Now, Washington McGee, she was unharmed, but Eric Williams received gunshots to his legs, according to his family. Now, it's unclear their
current condition, the hospital is not releasing a statement. But according to Washington McGee's mother, she says that she is expecting her daughter
to leave the hospital today. So we're hoping to get that news at some point today.
Now, what we're learning more about today, Isa, is a better picture of what exactly happened to these Americans. According to Mexican officials, the
Americans crossed into Mexico at about 9:18 a.m. on Friday, and then they got lost. Their cellphone didn't have a great service, they couldn't find
the doctor's office where Washington McGee was supposed to get this medical treatment.
And so, they were driving around. And the timestamp that we have for that dramatic video of these Americans getting dragged into the bed of a white
pickup truck, is 11:45 a.m. So according to Mexican authorities, there is more than two hours that transpired between these Americans crossing into
Matamoros, Mexico, and that dramatic video.
Now, according to Mexican authorities, then they used surveillance video to follow that pickup truck at some point. But all of those traces went cold
until Tuesday morning, that's when they say that they received a tip, they followed that tip that led them to the Americans. They say that the
Americans were in this wooden house in the outskirts of Matamoros, Mexico, and that one individual was arrested.
This individual is 24 years old. A resident of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Which is the same state where Matamoros is in. What's interesting here is that
Mexican authorities are not releasing whether this individual is linked to criminal organizations. As you remember, a U.S. official with information
about this investigation told CNN that these Americans were mistaken for Haitian drug smugglers.
And so, there is still a lot of questions about all of that. And of course, the big question is they found the Americans, but they didn't find the
kidnappers or the killings. I should add that both the Mexican authorities and U.S. authorities are conducting a criminal investigation. Isa?
SOARES: Yes, many questions still unanswered. Rosa Flores for us there, thanks very much, Rosa. And still to come on the show tonight, human rights
groups say the U.K. government is on track to break international law with its new immigration plan.
I speak to the U.N. Assistant Commissioner for Protection just ahead. And in a few minutes from now, the president of Georgia will speak with us live
about the protesting engulfing her country and the parliament bill that's igniting them.
Both of those stories after this short break.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. The British government is facing a huge pushback over an immigration policy that human rights groups say breaks
international law. The tough new bill aims to deter people crossing the English Channel to Britain in small boats, by threatening them with swift
removal from U.K. shores and a lifetime ban on claiming asylum.
The United Nations is warning that if passed, the bill would be akin to an asylum ban. Well, earlier today, the British Prime Minister defended his
policy. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RISHI SUNAK, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: There is a global migration problem. We're not alone in facing these challenges. And it is precisely
because -- it is precisely because across Europe, the numbers escalating to the extent they are, we have brought forward new plans because we are
determined Mr. Speaker, to ensure that it remains a compassionate and generous country, that, that is done fairly and legally. That's why we will
break the criminal gangs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, let's get more on this, Gillian Triggs is Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at the United Nations, and she joins me now
from Geneva. Gillian, great to have you on the show. I understand that you're profoundly concerned with this policy, just tell our viewers why?
GILLIAN TRIGGS, ASSISTANT HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR PROTECTION, UNHCR: Well, one of the most fundamental principles of international law is that
everyone has the right to claim asylum for international protection in another country, where they are forced to flee violence, persecution where
that is imposed by reason of nationality or race, religion, social group and so on.
So what this bill does is to pretty much deny any access to asylum, by people who are arriving by boat. And that is very worrying because it
violates this fundamental principle with so many countries, of course including the United Kingdom and many other countries have supported for
SOARES: So no one -- no one would actually -- asylum cases would actually be heard under this new bill? But you know, our viewers will know this,
that, you know, this government, as you well know was elected on a promise to secure its borders and to stop these boats.
So what can be done? What policy would work in your view here?
TRIGGS: Well, this is what we are working with the United Kingdom government to achieve. That is to find ways of stopping these drowning at
sea and dangerous voyages, whether they're by land or by sea. We've sympathized, of course, with the -- with the view of British citizens, of
citizens in many parts of the world, that arrivals in these ways cannot be good. It's dangerous. It leads to death. It's unpredictable, and not the
way to seek protection.
If it can be possibly avoided, and sometimes it can't be. But to answer your question, what we're doing is trying to speak to the British
government among others, to say let's find more regular pathways. Some countries of course, have great need for labor. Let's look at labor
migration opportunities. Opportunities for education.
The United States for example now has a very big program called The Welcome Call, which allows community resettlement, family reunion. There are ways
of strengthening the migration system which will protect that space for those who are seeking asylum from the persecution and violence --
SOARES: And is the government --
TRIGGS: And as we've heard, of course, earlier in the --
SOARES: Sorry --
TRIGGS: Sorry --
SOARES: To interrupt you Gillian, is the government listening to these proposals?
TRIGGS: Yes. We -- useful discussions and we'll continue to do so. So, one of the things that we of course disappointed by is the willingness to go
ahead with this draconian bill when we are discussing ways in which other alternatives can be found.
Which won't stop everybody. It will not be totally effective, it cannot be that the numbers seeking international protection are massively increasing
globally with conflicts from of course, Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, the Rohingya, Iran, Iraq, of course, and many parts of Africa, Ethiopia,
Eritrea and others.
So we're not -- there is no easy solutions. But we do believe that blanket rules that deny access to asylum systems that can work if speedy, if it's
fair with humane responses. Those can work, and that we can protect that asylum space.
SOARES: And Gillian, you are the president from what I understand of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and we have seen also Australia facing
backlash over -- I think it's fair to say over its migrant policy, resettling migrants in third countries and so forth. Is this becoming a
trend? How worried about what we -- what we're seeing here in the U.K. as well as what you saw in Australia, and do you fear that we're losing a bit
of our moral compass here?
TRIGGS: Well, I think there's a sense of panic, and I think that -- which is not really justified. Particularly -- and the fact that I made the point
of contrast. We've seen that the European Union has triggered its temporary protection visa for potentially 8 million Ukrainians who fled across
borders to seek protection in Europe. That is why the refugee convention is there.
I would not go so far as to say that the British approach is a taller trend. It's actually failing, we've seen that with the legal restrictions
or injunctions against the U.K.-Rwanda matter. We've seen the huge financial and practical difficulties that have arisen in Australia. And
we've seen other countries experimenting with various other options.
But we are really confident that if countries were prepared to strengthen migration, regular pathways, to look also at root causes, invest more --
SOARES: Yes --
TRIGGS: In development, try to understand why people are moving. Of course, war is a very obvious explanation. In some cases, it's conflict
that's sparked by climate change. In others, it's poverty and bad government.
SOARES: Yes, the root causes are so important. Gillian Triggs, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thanks, Gillian.
TRIGGS: Pleasure to speak to you, thank you very --
SOARES: And still to come on the show -- still to come on the show tonight, tens of thousands are on the streets of Georgia's capital right
now saying no to Russia. We'll speak live with the country's president. That is next.
SOARES: Welcome back to the, show, everyone.
Like a blanket of a light across the capital, tens of thousands of Georgians are this hour on the streets of Tbilisi protesting a
controversial foreign agents bill introduced in parliament.
You are looking at live pictures coming to us from Tbilisi this hour. We have seen riot police, water cannons, police using water cannon for a
second night to try to break up the crowds.
The demonstrators that you are seeing there, they basically see this bill as a move to mimic Russia. And they say they have had more than enough of
Moscow's meddling in their country.
Well, I'm joined now by the president of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, who has vowed to really veto this controversial bill.
Madam President, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us on the show.
I mean, the scenes that our viewers have been seeing, that we have been seeing now for a second night really show the discontent, as well as the
anger toward this draft law, which could potentially mean we will be looking at a more anti-democratic and authoritarian Georgia.
Why would a country that has European aspirations want to take this route, in your view?
SALOME ZOURABICHVILI, PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA: Well, it is very clear that the country, the population does not want to take that road.
And every time in Georgia's recent history or longer history that the question, the choice has been there, the answer of the Georgian population
-- and too many times it has been on the streets -- has been: We want Europe. It is Europe that is our future. And it is also our values.
And that is what is happening today. clearly, the law, the draft law that has been presented, which I have announced that I would veto, is a law that
goes against all the principles that the European Union stands for.
And that happens at a time when we are waiting for the decision on the candidate status that has been refused to Georgia a few months ago, when it
was given to Ukraine and Moldova.
So the Georgian population knows that we are at a very important juncture for its future. They know that now the future of their children is being
determined by what we're going to do in the coming weeks and months.
ZOURABICHVILI: And they are saying very clearly that what they want is to be in Europe.
SOARES: And you will be hearing that as well from the -- from the people in the streets of Tbilisi.
And you say, Madam President, that you will veto this law. But the executive power lies with the prime minister.
SOARES: And from what I understand about 76 lawmakers from the governing Georgian Dream Party are backing this.
Yet a majority of the Georgia population, as you clearly laid out, say they believe the country's future lies in the E.U. So just explain the
disconnect, really, between the legislature, which has been democratically elected and the will of the people.
ZOURABICHVILI: Well, they were elected, as I was elected, at the time as president and they were elected for the parliament, on the program of
getting Georgia into the European Union.
That's what we have in the Constitution, which I'm a guarantor of. And my position in this country, even if I don't have executive powers, that I'm
here to ensure that what we have promised our electorate will be delivered.
If the parliament, the majority, the ruling party does not feel that it is answerable to its population, that's their problem. I feel that I'm not
only answerable but I think that the only reason why I decided to run for the presidency, why I want to be the president of this country is to help
to bring this country closer and eventually in the European Union.
That is really a historic choice, one that maybe will not present itself again. We are in a very complex, to say the least, geographical position.
But we have been given -- and that is very important -- the European perspective.
And European perspective means that the objections that existed before, because of our geographical position, saying, well, we don't know whether
that's really Europe, have been now put aside.
So we have really a huge chance, together with our Ukrainian friends and our Moldovan friends, to join the European Union. And that will be clearly
the place where, finally, Georgia can rest, after many centuries of different empires walking over our territory and occupying it at some
And as we looked, as we're looking at some of these images coming in, the second night of -- really of protest, riot police, water cannons and no
doubt that it is very concerning if you look at these images, I just want to get your thoughts on what we heard from the U.S. Embassy in Georgia.
They described the legislation, Madam President, as Kremlin-inspired. But in your statement, you say that this law, which you call a trap, is a
directive from Moscow.
Are you talking about Russian interference?
ZOURABICHVILI: I said --
SOARES: Is the Kremlin behind this?
ZOURABICHVILI: -- I said that there was no other explanation, because, as I said, we all know that we are now on the run-up to the decision by the
European Union about our candidate status.
And there is no need for this law. It comes from nowhere. Nobody has asked for it. There is no need to have more registration of the nongovernmental
organizations. And the presentation of this law calling these people, including myself, by the way, foreign agents is something that looks very
much like Russian politics.
It looks very much like Russian politics, when the free expression of the will of the people is answered by trying to repress these protests. These
people are coming in front of the parliament.
They're coming peacefully and they're coming with one request, which is to withdraw this law, which the Venice Commission is probably in these coming
days going to say that also it has no standing of its own.
So let the authorities understand that they have a last chance to really close the gap with our population, which has been widening and widening.
They have a last chance to demonstrate that they are not some non-declared pro-Russian force.
They have a last chance to show that what they are giving lip service to, that they are pro-European, is not only lip service but it's really where
they're heading to.
So let them refrain from any use of force. That's my call from here. I know and I support and I have had yesterday addressed to the population I
support fully what is happening, because I think that a democratic country --
ZOURABICHVILI: -- and Georgia, in its heart, its values and its practice, the population, at least, is a democratic country.
We have a much more democratic population than we have had, unfortunately, governments. And this population has the right to express its will --
ZOURABICHVILI: -- has a right to say that it wants Europe.
And I'm going to support it with all the capacity that I have. And one of them is to talk to the foreign leaders, to talk to the foreign media. And
that's why I'm very thankful for the capacity that you're giving me to do that today.
SOARES: It is important to have you here, Madam President, given the scenes that we are seeing in Tbilisi right this hour of young people,
people across Georgia really voicing their opinion.
We're seeing them being drenched with water cannons as you and I are talking here. And I think it's important we put this into context for our
viewers, because Georgia, of course, was the first country that President Putin invaded back in 2008.
And I was reading that you lost about a fifth of your territory to Moscow in that conflict. Do you fear, then, Madam President, that Putin is eying
Georgia as the next target?
ZOURABICHVILI: Well, we are not the next target. We have been the target over and over since not only recent period but the first independence in 29
-- '21, 1921.
We were fully invaded and annexed by the then-Soviet Russia and again in '92, '93, second independence and again in 2008 and many repressions all
over this period of the Soviet power.
So Georgia is not the next. It's the ongoing, really, victim of Russia's aggression, of Russia's imperialism. And that might be another way, an
indirect way, to try to put a foothold in Georgia.
Georgia is extremely important, because we are the Black Sea. We are the next extension of the European Union in a place, the Transcaucasus, that is
very important for the future balance in the world and around Europe.
So clearly, Russia is not going to let go very easily. But Russia is losing its war in Ukraine. Russia is losing any kind of attraction that it might
have had on anyone. All the neighbors of Russia know that Russia has been or is or will be trying to get territories of other countries.
And that is something that should stop. Really, the fundamental point of the war in Ukraine and how it will end is -- will be to stop Russia from
being that occupying power that it has been over the last century-and-a- half. That is our future.
Russia has to understand that, if it wants to be considered as a normal partner of international relations, it has finally to understand that it
has borders, like any other country and no rights to invade anybody else.
SOARES: Madam President, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us here on the show. Thank you very much.
ZOURABICHVILI: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SOARES: Still to come, tonight Israeli protesters gear up for a national day of resistance as they warn democracy itself is at. Stake. That story,
SOARES: The U.N. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace says he is appalled by the continuing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank town of
Huwara, saying Israel has an obligation as an occupying power to protect civilian life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): Surveillance video captured one of the attacks on Monday, it shows that you can see there Israeli settlers smashing the
windows of a car with a family inside. The driver managed to pull away.
He says settlers also fired live ammunition at them. Several family members were treated in hospital, including a young girl sprayed with tear gas.
Settlers torched Huwara late after two Israelis were killed near the town.
Yesterday, Israel went after the suspected gunman in that attack, a Hamas militant in Jenin, killing him and five other people. The U.N. envoy says
he's alarmed by what he calls -- pardon me -- a cycle of violence, urging both sides to immediately de-escalate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: While the military is highly revered in Israel, a growing protest within its ranks is causing deep alarm in the new right-wing government and
across Israeli society. Dozens of elite fighter pilots boycotted training exercises today, the latest display of opposition to judicial overhaul
plans that critics say would kill democracy.
Protesters have been taking to the streets for weeks, as we've been showing you on the show. And they're gearing up for what they call a national day
of resistance. That is expected to happen on Thursday. Let's get more now from journalist Elliott Gotkine, who joins us now from Jerusalem.
We've been showing our viewers these protests against the government's judicial reform for weeks now. Some have become, I think it's fair to say,
Is there a sense that this latest boycott by the Israeli Air Force pilots, who, of course, are a unifying force for the, country the first line of
defense, that they can move the needle and halt these reforms from taking place?
ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isa, I think that certainly the hope. But it's important to note that for now no one is saying they're not going
to serve. No one saying they're not going to fly on any missions, even though in the Israeli air force, they are not only reservists, they're all
They're not only obliged by law to fly on missions so they're not saying they're not going to fly on these missions yet. So you can consider, this
according to one fighter pilot, a kind of yellow card, as you would see in soccer, a yellow card to make sure to try and get this government to take
note, to pay heed.
Because if it doesn't, the consequences for the state of Israel and its ability to protect itself could be very serious indeed.
GOTKINE (voice-over): They bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and regularly hit Iranian targets in Syria. Even some of Israel's combat pilots
are now firing warning shots, with reservists from one squadron skipping a training session, suggesting they may not heed the call of duty if the
government rams through its judicial overhaul.
In this country, that's a very big deal.
NERI YARKONI, FORMER IAF PILOT: The mere existence of Israel is based on the Israeli air force. Simple as that.
GOTKINE (voice-over): Neri Yarkoni was an Israeli combat pilot for 30 years. He is also a lawyer, who warns that if the government continues with
plans to neuter the supreme court and give itself sweeping powers, the country may be in trouble.
YARKONI: Since we are talking only about few hundreds of people, then if you lose some of them, the mere existence of Israel is essentially
degraded. That is why the government and all the people in Israel are very concerned about the protest of the Israeli fighter pilots.
GOTKINE (voice-over): Israel's defense minister, seen here meeting reservist commanders from the combined services on Tuesday, says he is
GOTKINE: (INAUDIBLE) protest in Israel have so far failed to persuade the government to even pause its judicial reform plans.
GOTKINE (voice-over): Could this warning from some of Israel's air force pilots, the very people whose job it is to defend Israel's existence, could
they have any more luck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the current situation, I --
GOTKINE (voice-over): This analyst thinks they will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think what we're seeing now from the fighter pilots is a new ball game altogether. It's an escalation of the protest. It comes
alongside with other measures of escalation. And it seems like a snowball that is just gaining more and more momentum. I think that it will bring the
government to the table.
GOTKINE (voice-over): On the ground, though, little appears to be changing. The government's judicial overhaul remains on track. Another day
of mass protests, perhaps with a few pilots among the crowd, is planned for Thursday.
GOTKINE: And these protests on Thursday are already having practical impacts as well. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was due in Israel
this evening. Instead, he's delayed his arrival and his meetings that were going to take place in the center of Tel Aviv.
They have been moved closer to the airport at the request of Israel's ministry of defense because of these protests.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, meanwhile, is due to fly to Rome on Thursday. He's going to fly by helicopter to the airport again because of these
protests. I suppose the irony is that we're talking about fighter pilots protesting.
There are also reports this week that El Al, the national airline, couldn't get air pilots to volunteer to fly the Netanyahus to Rome because their day
jobs, some of them, those fighter pilots, some of them are flying for the national airline. Isa.
SOARES: We will touch base with you tomorrow. Elliott Gotkine, appreciate it.
We'll be back after the short break.
SOARES: Just in case you didn't know, it is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women and address the ongoing
inequalities -- and there are many -- around the world. Many are participating in acts of solidarity. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): In Morocco, dozens formed a circle at the World Women's Forum for Peace, meant to highlight the growing digital gender gap.
Over in, Spain the government has approved a draft bill of gender equality law. It aims to boost the presence of women in politics as well as in
But today is also about highlighting the struggles women are facing around the world.
I want to focus on Afghanistan, because now it's being called the most repressive country in the world for women's rights.
SOARES: You can see, here around 20 women gathered in Kabul to mark the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES (voice-over): Iran has seen the largest women's rights protest in years. The country's clerical rulers are now facing renewed pressure after
a wave of poisoning attacks on school girls.
And demonstrations are taking place around the world in solidarity, as you can see there, with women in both countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Now it has been a year since U.S. Soccer and U.S. Women's national team brokered a landmark agreement, equal pay for women and men players.
Women's star Megan Rapinoe is still coming to terms with the achievement.
She says she realized early on that this was a bigger movement than anticipated. She said the team felt immense pressure to win the Women's
World Cup in 2019 while battling to prove their worth off the field -- both of which they did, as you well know.
And this International Women's Day, we want to really highlight her words. This is what she said.
"There was a relentlessness and a refusal to accept anything other than what we felt like we deserved."
We'll leave you with that on this happy International Women's Day. Thank you very much for your company, do stay right there. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS"
is next with Richard Quest. I'll see you tomorrow, bye.