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Isa Soares Tonight

Russian Fighter Jet Forces Down A U.S. Drone; Russia Attacks Cities Across Ukraine's East; Israeli Parliament Takes Initial Vote For Judicial Overhaul; Israel's Judiciary Plans Impacting Economy; Russia Denies Aircraft Contacted U.S. Drone; U.S. Political Views On Ukraine; Cyber Scam Traffickers Targeting Professionals Across Asia. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 15:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, a Russian fighter jet forced down a U.S.

Air Force drone over the Black Sea. We are live at the Pentagon. Then, relentless bombardment just miles from the brutal frontlines, the reality

on the ground in Ukraine.

And then later, flying in the face of protesters. Israel takes a step closer to controversial judicial overhaul, what it can mean for the

country's economy. But first tonight, in the skies over the Black Sea, a potentially dangerous confrontation. The U.S. says a Russian fighter jet

has forced down an American surveillance drone, similar to this one you're looking at.

First, by spraying it with fuel and then colliding with it. It happened in international airspace -- and it's important to point that out. In an area

where the U.S. has been operating surveillance drone since Russia's war on Ukraine began. The Pentagon's description of the confrontation basically,

this was likely no accident. So, I want to turn now to Georgetown University, Professor Jill Dougherty, she's a CNN contributor on Russian

Affairs and a former CNN Moscow Bureau chief.

Jill, great to have you on the show, and I think it's important to point out to our viewers that we have yet to hear from the Russians on this. But

first, just your sense of how you understand this played out or what this potentially means here.

JILL DOUGHERTY, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, I mean, there's no question that it is dangerous and provocative. And if the

reports are correct that Russian fighter jet or fighter jets poured fuel on that drone and then hit its propeller, it does very much look, you know, on

purpose. So, we'll have to get more details.

But I've been looking at the Russian media to see whether there is any type of comment, and they're playing it very carefully, they're quoting western

media. But there is a hint in some of the reporting about what you might, you know, a lesson you might draw from this. And that is that Russia has

been insisting that even though the United States, the West, NATO say that they are not parties to this war in Ukraine, they are parties to


And it could be, it could be a way of Russia to kind of send that message that, yes, you are very much a part of this conflict, and we are going to

take action. I think one thing to remember is Russia has done things similar to this, you know? In the Baltic region, there have been close

flights by Russian fighter jets, NATO had to scramble jets to in track and intercept Russian fighter jets over a period of months and years.

But the thing that the Russians do, and this is where it gets dangerous, is they appear to rely on the United States to be the responsible party. And

that is not always guaranteed, but that's what they seem to be doing, playing with fire and then hoping that the Americans will not retaliate.

SOARES: And we are learning that the State Department as well in the last few moments, in fact, have summoned the Russian ambassador to D.C., to what

they say -- U.S. says, convey a strong objections. I mean, where does this leave already these tense relations between both sides here, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I think it's the word that everybody has, that as this conflict continues and goes on, there are more and more chances for

escalation, inadvertent things, and things on purpose, which this apparently is. So, I think that's one of the concerns that, that is what

people have been predicting. It can happen in a war-time situation.

So, the sooner that the conflict ends, the better. But of course, we all know at this point, there's almost no sign that the conflict is going to

end soon.

SOARES: Yes, and of course, we've heard from the U.S. basically saying that the actions by these pilots, by Russia, were unsafe, unprofessional

and reckless. But also said the U.S. will continue operating over the Black Sea, and won't be deterred by Russia's unsafe intercept drone in

international airspace. John Kirby saying this.


I suppose the moment now is to really find out what Russia has to say. Do you have a sense of how Russian media, are they even covering this, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Well, the media that I looked at so far, a few of them are simply quoting western media, very straight read on what the other side is

saying. But they're also, as I said, kind of hints that this could be the rationale or kind of trying to send a message. But I think the issue right

now is, they don't really know what to say, because the defense ministry apparently has not said anything.

You would expect that the Americans would call in the Russian ambassador, who would want some clarification, and this is one of the problems, Isa.

You know, in this -- in this conflict, which the United States is not a party to. But because relations have been so bad, there's very little

communication. And that's where things can get dangerous too.

Remember, in Syria, during the Syria conflict, at the beginning, at least, and I think continuing to today, there are efforts at de-confliction, as

it's called, to make sure the other side knows what's happening, and to communicate. But right now, relations are extremely bad. Communication is

almost nil, and this is where --

SOARES: Yes --

DOUGHERTY: You can get into some dangerous areas.

SOARES: Indeed. We'll stay on top, of course, of this story as soon as we get any information, or any response from Moscow. Of course, we shall bring

it to you. In the meantime Jill, always appreciate it, thanks very much. Well, Ukraine's president says his country's future is being decided right

now on the eastern frontlines.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukrainian defense forces will destroy Russia's military power. But the fighting is very tough and painful. We are seeing

that in Bakhmut, we've been seeing it for weeks now. Wagner fighters are now fighting around a sprawling metalwork plant there. Ukrainian forces are

holding their positions, now keeping Russian forces from encircling the city.

But Ukraine says Wagner units are making moves outside of Bakhmut, attacking other areas, really in the Donetsk region. Well, hours ago, a

Russian cruise missile plowed into a residential area in the city of Kramatorsk. Ivan Watson walks us through the wreckage.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Just hours after what Ukrainian authorities say was a deadly Russian strike on this

apartment block, ordinary people are already hard at work with the cleanup. There are no tears here, there are no complaints, even though at least, one

person was killed and several people injured.

"When it exploded, boom, I was knocked on the floor and blood came down my forehead", 76-year-old Simeon(ph) tells me. "But I was lucky. These two

pieces of shrapnel hit the wall and just missed my head."

(voice-over): It is simply part of life in this eastern Ukrainian city. It is located some 25 kilometers, about 15 miles away from a very active

frontline. And Kramatorsk has been the repeated target of deadly Russian missiles and rockets. The blast shattered nearly all the windows across the

courtyard from the main impact point here at kindergarten number 49.

You can see that there are a lot of volunteers, a lot of school teachers, who are here, hard at work, cleaning up the glass staunch, putting up

plywood that's been donated by the administration here. The director of the school tells me, she says that she was knocked to the ground by the force

of the blast this morning.

(on camera): Thankfully, mercifully, there were no children in this school when this explosion took place. The director says that the school's

basically been closed for some six months now, and that the children have all been evacuated to safer places. This is yet another grim reminder of

the terrible dangers, the hazards that people are living with every day here in eastern Ukraine.


SOARES: And that's Ivan Watson in Kramatorsk there. Now, despite weeks of massive protests, Israel's parliament is pushing ahead with plans to weaken

the judiciary and greatly limit its ability to challenge its legislative as well as executive powers. Protesters say it's an attempt at a coup. Those

demonstrators -- these demonstrators you're seeing there, blocking the road by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem. That's today.

Police eventually cut their chains and made some arrests. The Knesset advanced two key elements of judicial overhaul package overnight. Some

opposition leaders are now vowing to boycott the third and final vote, if it reaches that point, of course.


And I want to bring in Hadas Gold for more. She's live for us this hour in Tel Aviv. So Hadas, this, of course, is the first move, the first vote. We

have two more to go, from our last conversation several weeks ago. Do we have an idea of the timeline here?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Isa, in short, incredibly quick. Think about the fact that this government only came into power essentially

at the beginning of this year, and they want this entire massive judicial overhaul, the most significant changes in the Israeli judiciary, since its

founding to be done essentially by the end of the month.

There could be the second and third readings on all of these amendments within essentially the next ten days. That is an incredible speed for

something of such significance. Now, as you noted last night, was the first vote on two of the most key elements of this reform. The most important of

them is what's essentially known as the override clause.

That is allowing the Israeli parliament to overturn supreme court decisions with a simple majority. In fact, included in this amendment, when you read,

it's the possibility for the parliament to essentially write into a bill ahead of time that it will be immune from any sort of Supreme Court

decision. They also want to increase the number of judges required to overturn a law from a simple majority today to 12 of the 15 sitting judges.

And then the second element is being essentially considered by the opposition as something specific for Benjamin Netanyahu. It's essentially

an amendment that says that the only way a sitting prime minister can be called unfit for office is only for mental or physical reasons, and must be

decided upon by essentially a super majority of the sitting cabinet.

That's partly because Benjamin Netanyahu, as we all know, is facing an ongoing corruption trial. There's already a petition in front of the

Supreme Court to consider him unfit for office, because of the elements surrounding this ongoing corruption trial. Now, supporters of these reforms

say that they have -- they're a long-time coming, they're a long-time needed, they need to rebalance essentially the branches of government that

the Supreme Court has become too powerful as meddling in issues of the state.

But as you noted, there's a lot of opposition to these reforms. You've seen hundreds of thousands of Israelis taking to the streets, more protests are

planned this week. They see this as the end of the independence of the Israeli judiciary, and many of them see this as essentially a personal

thing for Benjamin Netanyahu, to help get him out of his ongoing corruption trial.

I should say this is something that he vehemently denies. But the protests will continue. And in fact, protesters are planning to meet Netanyahu in

Berlin. He's supposed to travel there tomorrow for an official visit. Israeli saying that they will protest that visit, in addition to ongoing

protests planned here the rest of this week.

SOARES: But Hadas, I mean, we've had weeks upon weeks of protests, and that hasn't taken -- it hasn't really moved the needle at all. It's had

little impact, at least, it has -- had no impact on Netanyahu's view here. We've seen even Israeli pilots taking part in demonstrations. So where does

this relief protesters? Is there any other parts of Israeli society here that can influence here Netanyahu, at this point?

GOLD: Well, what's really incredible to see from these protesters is that they really see this as a do or die. They say that they have really no

other option, and that their numbers are actually only increasing in the streets. And they really believe that they must do this, and they believe

that they can have an effect. I do think that what we're hearing from the business community, from the Bank of Israel, from the -- from the Israeli

military and security establishment, that must have an effect.

And we are getting some reports in recent days that there might be some sort of crack, some sort of possibility for a compromise. The Israeli

President Isaac Herzog, has been working day and night, trying to get people around the table to have a compromise. He gave a very impassioned

speech last week where he essentially, for the first time, came out against these reforms, said that they threatened the foundations of Israeli

democracy, and saying that this country is at a point of no return.

Essentially, begging people to come around the table, sit down, to come to some sort of negotiation, saying there is room for reforms, but we have to

sit down and work on these together, because if you don't get all of the country on board to them, then it could have a disastrous effect, Isa.

SOARES: Hadas Gold for us this hour in Tel Aviv, thanks very much, Hadas. And we'll have much more on this from Tel Aviv in about 20 minutes or so,

including warnings of possible economic damage to Israel if the judicial overhaul plan wins approval. My colleague, Richard Quest, will join us

ahead on that. Plus, while weather in the northeast United States, heavy snow blankets the region, we'll have more on the mass travel disruption.

You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Former Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan says he's prepared to spend a night in a cell after a warrant for his arrest was issued on

Monday. Take a listen to what he told CNN just moments ago.


IMRAN KHAN, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Fundamentally prepared to spend the night in a cell, although I don't know how many nights. I am

getting my reading material. I hope I get a chance to read in the cell because normally, I don't get that much time to read. I am convinced

they're going to arrest me because a number of police, you would think it is the biggest terrorist hiding in this house.

So, the determination is there, and you know, my only worry is, I'm telling my workers that they must remain peaceful. The protests should be peaceful.

My worry is that if this gets violent, then they would use that pretext of violence to get out of the elections.


SOARES: Well, Khan supporters have been clashing with police outside his residence, and protests have broken out in major cities right across

Pakistan. The case relates to the alleged illegal purchase and sale of gifts given to the former prime minister by foreign dignitaries, while he

was in office. Khan rejects the accusations, calling the charges, quote, "bias".

We'll stay on top of that story to you. Well, in a clear counter to China, U.S., U.K. and Australia have agreed to bolster Australia's defense

capabilities with a fleet of nuclear submarines. The leaders of the three countries met in San Diego to cement a deal to sell Australia as many as

five U.S. and British subs during the coming decades. Mr. Biden said so- called AUKUS alliance is making the move to ensure peace in the western Pacific. Have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: AUKUS has one overriding objective, to enhance the stability of the Indo-Pacific amid rapidly

shifting global dynamics.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: The AUKUS agreement, we confirm here in San Diego, represents the biggest single investment in

Australia's defense capability in all of our history.


SOARES: Well, President Biden says he doesn't think China's Xi Jinping will view the submarine deal as an aggression, but China is making very

clear, it's very upset about it. The foreign ministry says, the U.S., U.K. and Australia are going down a, quote, "wrong as well as dangerous road."



WANG WENBIN, SPOKESPERSON, FOREIGN MINISTRY, CHINA (through translator): China has stressed multiple times that the U.S., U.K. and Australia

establishing this so-called trilateral security partnership, and pushing for a cooperation in nuclear-powered submarines and other cutting-edge

military technologies, is the result of a typical cold war mentality, which will only trigger an arms race, damage the international nuclear non-

proliferation regime, and harm regional peace and stability.



SOARES: Well, perhaps the greatest potential Pacific flash point is, of course, Taiwan. Chinese President, Xi Jinping got his biggest applause at

the recent party Congress when he pledged to unite Taiwan with the mainland. And as CNN's Will Ripley reports, China's military is not being

subtle about its intentions.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chinese fighter jets screaming over its skies. Military ships sailing off its coast, daily

occurrences for Taiwan, living under the constant threat of a possible Chinese attack. Beijing's communist leadership claims Taiwan as part of its

territory, despite having never ruled it.

Tensions rising across the Taiwan Strait since Nancy Pelosi's visit in August. The first visit by a U.S. house speaker to the island in 25 years.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan.

RIPLEY: Who can forget China's response last year? Those days of large- scale military drills encircling the island, firing ballistic missiles over Taiwan. Analysts fear this may be repeated again next month. Taiwan's

President Tsai Ing-Wen expected to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: So, are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense --

BIDEN: Yes --

COOPER: If China attacked it?

BIDEN: Yes, we have a commitment to do that.

RIPLEY: But the U.S. has reasons to worry about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Protecting valuable semiconductor chips, Taiwan is a global leader

in semiconductors. Tiny chips that power everything from computers to cars. The island producing 70 percent of global supply. Defending democracy,

losing Democratic Taiwan to communist China would shatter U.S. credibility in the Indo-Pacific region.

Protecting U.S. alliances, Asian countries would face an even more powerful China, a heavily-surveilled police state with little freedom of speech. The

stakes are indeed high, but experts do believe there's reason for optimism.

(on camera): Do you think the U.S. and China are headed in a positive, optimistic direction?

LEV NACHMAN, NATIONAL CHENGCHI UNIVERSITY: The idea that conflict between the U.S. and China is inevitable, I strongly disagree with that. Meaningful

channels of communication between the U.S. and the PRC, that helps us minimize unknowns, it helps us minimize confusion and misunderstandings,

and ultimately, that's good for Taiwan.

RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S.-China relations on a downward spiral since that suspected Chinese spy balloon burst in months of Beijing-D.C. diplomacy. As

two democratic allies, the U.S. and Taiwan get even closer. Taiwan's president and the third in line to the U.S. presidency, meeting on American

soil. As tensions escalate, all eyes will be on China and where is this all headed?


SOARES: Will Ripley there. Well, more than 100 people have died after Cyclone Freddy ripped through Malawi and Mozambique this weekend. The death

toll is still expected to rise. The storm has caused landslides, flash flooding and widespread blackouts. Southern Malawi, one of the worst-

affected areas is now in a state of disaster. Larry Madowo has the story.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Isa, the exact number of the dead from tropical Cyclone Freddy may not be known for a little while

longer. That is because there are people who remain missing, unaccounted for or are believed to be trapped because of landslides and flash flooding,

there are people who have been cut off.

The damage infrastructure has been significant. Roads and buildings, some cases, power has been knocked off, telecommunications is faulty. So the

search and rescue operation is still going on, especially in southern Malawi, which has been worst hit by this tropical cyclone. And in some

instances, where entire homes stood, they have been swept away, like this eyewitness explains.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are plenty of houses, plenty of houses, but they're all gone. Plenty of bodies down here, in the mud here, plenty of



MADOWO: Just how many people are dead under the floodwaters and the mud? It's difficult to tell at this time. Tropical Cyclone Freddy made landfall

in Mozambique over the weekend, the second time in a month, and there, at least, ten people are believed to have died. That number will likely

increase. And more than 22,000 people are affected, and then it made its way northwards into southern Malawi, where some of the worst devastation

has been witnessed.

The U.N. is calling for coordinated assistance. This is in line with the Malawian government declaring a state of disaster and asking for local and

international help. Some Malawi corporate are already responding, offering whatever they can. But it's a rush against time here, to stop the spread of

cholera. Malawi is already suffering from the worst cholera outbreak on record, and with sanitation conditions worsening. There's a real fear here,

and that is on top of everything else the country is dealing with, Isa.

SOARES: Really troubling picture there that Larry Madowo just painted. We'll stay on top of that story for you, of course.


Now, the start of Spring may just be a week away, but Winter shows no signs of letting up in the northeast United States. A powerful northeastern storm

bringing snow and intense winds is hitting the region, even grounded planes at LaGuardia Airport in New York City earlier today, and the FAA says

ground-stops at other airports, a possible due, of course, to the Winter weather. CNN's Athena Jones joins me now live from LaGuardia Airport in

Queens, New York.

So Athena, just paint us -- paint us a picture of what's happening there. Planes taking off? Are passengers frustrated?

ATHENA JONES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Isa, well, planes are still taking off. I'm looking outside, there's blowing snow still outside,

but I can tell you that there are some 3,300 delayed flights across the region, and about a 1,000 cancellations. We're here at LaGuardia, which

represents about a quarter of those cancellations.

I want you to look up at this board, we all see both the delayed flights and the cancellations. Some of these delays are up to 3 hours long, several

more canceled flights in a few hours ago, and not very many on-time flights. Just because -- as we've spoken of the wind, the ice, and this

terrible Winter weather. We caught up with a large group of high school students from Dallas, they were part of a high school band here with the

band directors and their chaperones, their flight was canceled, they had to scramble onto two separate flights.

Here's what one of their chaperones, Esteban Mohika(ph) had to say. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one delay after another, hopefully we're not stuck overnight, but we're trying to make it work to get our kids home. And so,

right now, they're all pretty tired and ready to go home. So, we're just going to do the best, we're trying to feed them something inside the

terminal, make sure that they're taking care of, and then we'll just do whatever we can to keep them happy.


JONES: So, that group eventually left this area, but we've talked to a few people who said their flights are on time right now, they hope it stays

that way. Bottom-line, folks at airports like Boston Logan and New York are saying, anyone coming to the airport needs to check with their airline

before they arrive. People also need to allow extra travel time to get to the airport, and not just when they get to the airport.

So, a lot of adjustments people will have to make. And meanwhile, when it comes to the airlines, if someone doesn't want to travel at all, so they

can avoid this mess, Delta, American, United, Southwest, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines are all offering waivers of some sort to help folks rebook

and change their plans, so they don't have to come and be stuck at the airport for the next several hours. Isa?

SOARES: Important recommendations and advice there from Athena Jones in LaGuardia. Thanks very much, Athena, appreciate it. And still to come right

here on the show, the governor of Israel Central Bank has a warning about and Netanyahu government's planned judicial overhaul. Our Richard Quest

joins us with the details with this interview just ahead.




SOARES: Welcome back to the show, everyone.

Returning now to the firestorm of controversy over the Israeli government's proposed judicial overhaul that could become law within just a few weeks.

In fact, 10 days, as we heard in the last 20 minutes.

Critics aren't just taking to the streets to protest. Some are actually threatening to take their money and business out of Israel. There's also

economic pushback from overseas; 255 U.S. business leaders have signed a letter, saying they have substantial investments in Israel. They may be

compelled to go elsewhere if the judicial overhaul goes through.

Our business editor at large, Richard Quest, has been looking into the economic impact of this planned judicial overhaul. He spoke today with the

governor of the Bank of Israel and he joins me now live from Tel Aviv.

Richard, great to see you. Just tell us what the bank, the governor of the Bank of Israel, said. What is he worried about?

What's the fear?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: I think the governor of the Bank of Israel is walking a very thin line, in a sense. On the one hand, he's not political

and he's very careful to make sure he doesn't delve into that.

But it's just about impossible, at the moment. What he's worried about is two things. On the first hand, the economic impact that this will have.

Just about everybody says that the tech industry is going to really kick up a storm. They are going to leave. Some will not invest. There will be

economic repercussions as a result.

And obviously, the governor is concerned about that. But the other thing and perhaps from his official point of view, it's the independence of the

institutions. If you are de facto going to turn the supreme court into a political body and you are going to start tinkering around with judicial

independence, can the central bank be next?

And even though he's had assurances that it's not, the governor is quite clear: independence of central bank, independence of institutions, is



AMIR YARON, GOVERNOR, BANK OF ISRAEL: We have seen some high tech leaders and industry leaders telling us that maybe investment first won't come in

and some of them are even talking that they might take their business elsewhere.

In the long run, the implication might be basically brain drain, et cetera. And this is why this needs to be handled with care.


QUEST: The governor thinks that these reforms are hasty, that the process has not been thought through and that, ultimately, the unintended -- or

intended -- consequences will be damaging to the economy.

Why is it important that he speaks?

Because he will be the one who has to clean up the economic mess, if and when it all goes wrong.

SOARES: Correct me if I'm wrong, Richard, but it's pretty unprecedented to hear from the governor on a matter like this, the first time I'm hearing.

You know, I'm hearing from anything political to do with Israel.

Does he think, Richard, on this point, does he think he can move the needle at all?

That this pressure from the business community, from him can move the needle?

Because we've seen protests after protests, including, of course, Israeli pilots and that has done very little.

QUEST: I don't know whether he does think he can actually move the needle, because, look, at the end of the day, what this really comes down to is a

very large number of respectable people, including Nobel laureates, including top academics, judicial authorities, all say that this is the

wrong way forward.

But the government, with its coalition, is determined to plow on, regardless. Look, even the president of the country has said this is wrong

and should not go forward. I've been to Israel goodness knows how many times. There are crises when it is looking at survival, in the case of a


But this is different. There was a feeling here that I've not felt before. It's an existential crisis, based on the fear that the fabric of the

country is being ripped apart. And you've got a lot of people, Isa, who are respected people, who are saying the country is going the wrong way.


And you are left asking the government, why are you right when everybody else is wrong?

SOARES: Yes and, yet, the government has failed to respond to any of this criticism. At least we have not yet heard from Netanyahu. This is something

many of my guests have been telling me here, Richard.

But look, you are talking about, you know, many people not recognizing Israel. The fabric of Israel being changed here with these proposals. Let's

talk about the economics. I was looking at some of the numbers.

The shekel slumped 8 percent versus the dollar, reaching a three-year low. And this is just since last month's proposals. And that speaks to the

economic concern, the economic worries that the governor right there was talking to you about.

QUEST: So what will happen?

You are going to hear on QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight, you are going to hear the top venture capitalist, Shlomo Dovrat from Viola talking. You are

going to hear from one of the top unicorns talking. You are going to hear the other point of view as well, of course.

The reality is, Isa, there will be salami slicing. It won't be overnight. In a sense, it'll be a bit like Brexit. It won't be overnight; it'll be

salami slicing. This investment will not happen.

Something else will not happen. Somebody will pull out. Somebody will not open a business or will choose to go to Dubai or choose to go to Bahrain,

London or wherever else they will go.

And in five years' time, you will look in the rearview mirror and you will say, oh, my word. The tech sector is smaller now than it was then. That is

the fear. I think that the people here believe it will become a reality, if this passes as is.

SOARES: Very troubling, indeed. Richard Quest for us this hour in Tel Aviv, thanks very much, Richard.

He will be back in about 20 minutes live with his show, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," right here on CNN.

And I will bring you an update just now on our top story, a story, of course, we've been covering the last 20, 30 minutes or so. The U.S. saying

that Russia forced down an American surveillance drone -- or Russia's defense ministry now says its fighter jet did not come into contact with

the American drone or use onboard weapons.

The U.S. military says the Russian jet forced down its drone, first by spraying it with fuel and then colliding with it. Now the incident happened

in international airspace in an area the U.S. has been operating surveillance drones since Russia's war on Ukraine began.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is monitoring developments for us from the Pentagon.

So Oren, what do you make of the Russian defense ministry response to this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russian defense ministry had to respond essentially because of the level of accusation and

what the U.S. is accusing Russian pilots of doing.

But the Pentagon did also just say that there is video that they're working on and imagery that they're working on, declassifying. And that in and of

itself might shoot a hole in some of the Russian explanation or lack of explanation of what played out here over international waters over the

Black Sea.

Earlier this morning, the U.S. European Command says that one of its MQ-9 Reaper drones was operating, as we watched them do not only since the

beginning of the war but even before that, surveilling the area, not only the Black Sea but perhaps Crimea and southern Ukraine as well.

Two Russian fighter jets, two Su-27s, conducted this unsafe and unprofessional interception, colliding with the drone and knocking off a

piece of its propeller, which forced the U.S. to bring it down in international waters.

So obviously, a major accusation from the U.S. there but the U.S. lays out how this all played out and how it brought down that drone in international

waters. The U.S. State Department has brought this up with the Russians.

The Pentagon says there are no plans now for communication between the militaries here. So either between the U.S. Defense minister and his

Russian counterpart or the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his counterpart.

But of course, we will see how this plays out. We are also watching if there's any recovery efforts. We spoke to the Navy a short time ago and

there are no U.S. Navy assets in the Black Sea. So recovery of this MQ-9 drone may not even be an option.

But we will see how this develops, especially, of course, in the diplomatic side between the U.S. and Russia at this point, Isa.

SOARES: So Russia, Moscow basically saying the Russian fighter aircraft did not come into contact with the U.S. drone. Correct me if I'm wrong

here. We know from the Pentagon that the Russian aircraft was flying alongside the drone for about 30 to 40 minutes before it collided with it.

So do we know that the Pentagon, did they say whether this was intentional here, Oren?

LIEBERMANN: The Pentagon was careful not to describe the intent of the Russian pilots. But it is quite clear, if you look at the initial statement

in describing how this played out over the course of that time, repeatedly flying in front of the drone, spraying fuel from essentially the aircraft

right in front of the drone, the interactions appear to be very intentional on the part of the Russian pilots.

Whether they meant to take out the propeller or hit it in some way to damage the propeller is another question. That's an incredibly difficult

piece of maneuvering, it seems, if you just look at the profiles of the drone and you look at the profile of the Russian jet. That's a much more

difficult question to answer.

But clearly, from the description here, the Russian pilots, according to the U.S., were very much acting in a way, frankly, that they should not

have been.


The U.S. characterized this as unsafe and even gone further and called this reckless on the part of the Russian pilots.

Crucially, as you pointed, out there have been U.S. surveillance assets, drones like this and others flying over the Black Sea, since even before

the war. And there have been Russian intercepts, including over the Black Sea, of U.S. aircraft.

But simply nothing like this. Nothing as potentially escalatory and nothing as, frankly, reckless as Russian aircraft colliding in midair with a U.S.

drone; quite a large one as well. That's one thing for our viewers to know.

This isn't a small, little commercial drone. The drone we are talking about here has a wingspan of 66 feet. It's 36 feet long and, when fully loaded,

can weigh more than 10,000 pounds.

SOARES: And the U.S., in the meantime, says it will continue operating over the Black Sea and it will not be deterred by Russia's unsafe intercept

of the drone. Oren Liebermann, appreciate, it thank you very much.

And we will be back after this short break.




SOARES: Well, when it comes to U.S. politics, involvement in Ukraine, is, of course, a key issue, especially as the pool of contenders grows for the

2024 presidential election.

And now, Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who is widely viewed as a top Republican contender but has not yet declared his candidacy, has given some

of his clearest views yet on the subject.

He now says, protecting Ukraine is not of, quote, "vital national interest." CNN's Jeff Zeleny tells us much more about the statement and the

impact it might have. He's our chief U.S. national affairs correspondent and he joins me now from Washington.

Jeff, great to have you on the show on this. Look, these comments by DeSantis really speak to some of the concerns I've heard here from many

ministers on the show and, yes, of a potential Ukraine fatigue and what this may mean in terms of long term support, U.S. support for Ukraine. But

put this into context for us.

Where do the Republican candidates sit on support for Ukraine?

Is there consensus here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is not consensus and that's a departure from a long standing Republican Party

foreign policy.

If you think back to the pre-Donald Trump era, the Republican Party was widely considered, widely viewed pretty hawkish. Think of George W. Bush,

think of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush.

Of course, the hawkish policy, there was not an isolationist strain inside the Republican Party; certainly the mainstream one. Now there absolutely

is. In the post Donald Trump era, there's certainly an isolationist strain.


And that's what the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who's not announced that he's running but we do know that he's planning a run -- he's planning

to announce in May or June that he's joining this Republican presidential field.

And he's considered one of the front-runners. He, of course, is saying that he believes it's not in the interest. That's gotten some blowback from

Republican senators on Capitol Hill, some House members as well.

The old guard, if you will, that believes that there must be one voice speaking against Vladimir Putin. So certainly, this is going to be one of

the key dividing lines in a Republican presidential primary going forward.

He's on the opposite side of former vice president, Mike Pence; former U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley; other sort of old school, more traditional

Republican candidates, who believe that this is not a wise view.

But the Florida governor is following basically the lead of Donald Trump, joining that wing of the party and there is some support among voters for

that. They believe it's simply not in the top U.S. interest for this. So certainly, this will be one of the focal points, one of the red lines in

this Republican presidential primary.

SOARES: Well, we've got some new CNN polling and I want to bring this up for our viewers.

We have a poll that asks, how important is it that the GOP nominee believes the U.S. should not be involved, as you can see there, in Russia-Ukraine?

Essential, 36 percent; Important, 44 percent; not important, 19 percent. If you add them up, we're talking 80 percent.

What does that suggest then to you?

How concerned should those more -- they're more for supporting Ukraine, in terms of long-term, whatever it takes, what's your view on this?

ZELENY: Well, look, I think that this is an example, where it's hard to know who's leading whom here.

Is it the political leaders like Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, some others leading the party?

Or are they following the view here?

I think there's some good evidence that they're following the view. But look, the reality is there is some fatigue over this. Even though no U.S.

troops are involved directly in the battle, of course, it's more of a financial commitment.

But boy, there was not this type of discussion during the longest war that the U.S. has ever been involved in, in Afghanistan, of course. There was

not this kind of discussion during that period. But there is sort of a hangover from that.

There is sort of a fatigue that has set in. So this is a very worrying concern to the Republicans that disagree with this strongly. It also should

be a worrying concern to Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others in Ukraine, that wonder exactly what the U.S. foreign policy is.

So this is what President Biden always talks about. He said he was reelected to send the world a message.

The question is, is that a permanent message or a temporary message?

And one could be certainly excused for wondering what the exact U.S. foreign policy is. Here it's clear, of course, from the Biden

administration; it's much less clear from at least some inside the Republican Party.

SOARES: Yes, I think I can tell you, you know, just comments by DeSantis, will no doubt raise some eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic.

You know, not only did he say it's not a vital national interest but he calls it a territorial dispute as well, which is quite something.

Look, let's talk about the polling that you were -- just touched on.

Where do we stand?

What's the polling on -- in terms of GOP nominee preference?

Where do people stand on Trump, DeSantis, is it still very much them leading?


ZELENY: Right, you can look at these numbers here. Essentially, that's a statistical tie between Donald Trump and the Florida governor, Ron

DeSantis, who's not in the race yet.

But look, at this point, it's incredibly early. Polling is simply a snapshot in time of what voters are saying in the media, et cetera. But

it's not a two man race. But boy, those two men are at the head of the pack here.

And the former president, he made clear -- he was in Iowa yesterday, of course, a state that begins this presidential nominating process, just next

January, February. He was going after Ron DeSantis pretty hard and straight on on policies, on their disagreements on Social Security, on ethanol

subsidies etc.

So for now, those two men are leading the field. But it is very early and other candidates are still to get in the race. We never know what a

presidential campaign is going to be about at the end. So Ukraine may play a role in it; it may not. But certainly these are some of the early

dividing lines.

SOARES: Yes, it's early, 11 months or so away, I believe. Thanks very much. Great to have you on the show. Thanks, Jeff, appreciate it.

ZELENY: It's my pleasure.

SOARES: We will be back after this short break.





SOARES: Young tech savvy professionals are increasingly falling victim to cyber scams. Across Asia, there's a growing number of people who thought

they were traveling for high paying jobs but instead -- pardon me -- forced to work as cybercriminals. Kristie Lu Stout reports as part of CNN's My

Freedom Day coverage.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Maybe you have seen one before, a friendly text from a stranger that could be the beginning of a

cyber scam.

LU XIANGRI, CYBER TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): These cyber fill (ph) companies are doing all kinds of scamming. The first company I

went to was looking for Chinese people. They were tricking them to invest.

STOUT (voice-over): Lu Xiangri worked as a cyber scammer in Cambodia against his will. He was lured to Sianookville (ph) with a promise of a

management job only to be held captive, forced to work as a cyber criminal.

LU (through translator): More than a dozen security guards were out there with guns. We weren't even allowed to step out of the door.

STOUT: We spoke to people from Bangladesh, China and Taiwan, who all say they were trafficked by cyber scam companies and they all share a similar

account. They were lured by a dream job, forced to scam with fake identities and some even sold from company to company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) are mostly educated because the conduct scan is very different from other kind of a job than just labor.

STOUT (voice-over): According to the International Labor Organization, 50 million people worldwide are now enslaved, up 25 percent from the last

estimate in 2016. Experts say cyber scam traffickers have exploited unemployment from the COVID-19 pandemic to lure tens of thousands of


PATRICIA HO, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Taking advantage of joblessness was one thing. But also taking advantage of the fact that people really wanted

to travel. So the idea that you could travel somewhere for a job project was something that was quite exciting for many.

STOUT (voice-over): China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam have all issued warnings about high salary job offers from Cambodia. Hong Kong

authorities are warning travelers at the airport of scams and have set up a dedicated task force for victims. But many victims are too afraid for to

ask for help.

HO: We have to find ways to encourage them to go to the authorities. Giving them immunity from prosecution isn't -- it's an absolute necessity.

Cambodia has acknowledged that foreign nationals have been trafficked by cyber scammers and carried out high-profile raids. But activists say many

large-scale operations are still running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is still ongoing. They are (INAUDIBLE) one of trips (ph) kind of showcasing to the international community but it was

nothing compared with the whole scale.

STOUT (voice-over): Lu managed to escape when he contacted local officials. He became a villain rescuer, determined to help others avoid his


STOUT: What is your message to people who think this would never happen to me?


LU (through translator): You can earn $US 20,000 for one person you scam. Many would be willing to do it, even if it means selling their relatives

and friends.

STOUT (voice-over): Lu is one of the lucky ones. Activists say thousands of others remain captive, trapped by a dream job that turned into a

nightmare -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


SOARES: And a reminder of our top story this hour. We've just learned the U.S. is summoning the Russian ambassador in Washington and the U.S.

ambassador in Moscow has sent a strong message over the apparent Russian downing of an American drone over the Black Sea.

The U.S. says, a Russian fighter jet forced down a drone similar to this one. First by spraying it with fuel and then colliding with it. Russia,

though, in the last 15-20 minutes says, its jet did not come into contact with the drone or use its onboard weapons.

Richard Quest, with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," will have much more on this. He's up next. Do stay right here. I will be back tomorrow, have a wonderful

evening, bye-bye.