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Isa Soares Tonight
Five Detained Americans In Iran Finally Freed; Libya Cleans Up After Deadly Floods; Negotiations Between United Auto Workers And Automakers Still Continues With No Breakthrough; Five Americans Freed After Years Or Prison In Iran; Zelensky Expected To Attend General Assembly In New York; UAW Strike Enters Day 4 As Talks With Automakers Resume. 2-3p ET
Aired September 18, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, breathing free air. Five Americans are
at this hour on their way home after years of captivity in Iran. We have the very latest for you. A grim toss rescue crews in Libya are working to
recover the dead after floods ravaged the port city. We have a special report from our team in Derna.
And then negotiations between the United Auto Workers and automakers are ongoing, but there is no breakthrough it seems as the first strike hit all
the big three drags on. But first, this evening, U.S. President Joe Biden says years of agony, uncertainty and suffering are finally over for five
Americans who were imprisoned in Iran.
They are right now on their way home as part of a deal that represents a breakthrough and delicate as well as indirect diplomatic negotiations.
These were some of the prisoners, first steps right there towards freedom, and they came at a steep price. The U.S. not only agreed to release five
Iranians who were held in American jails, but also free up $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds.
The Biden administration is stressing that the money is not a ransom, it'll be used only for humanitarian purposes. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: This involved the access by Iran to its own money. Money that had accumulated in Korean bank as the
result of oil sales that Iran made which were lawful at the time those sales were made.
And from day one, our sanctions have clearly and indeed always, exempt the use of resources for humanitarian purposes, because our aim is not to harm
the Iranian people. Our problem, our profound problem is with the Iranian regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, Iranian officials say the money has already been deposited into Iranian accounts at two banks in Qatar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NASSER KANAANI, SPOKESPERSON, FOREIGN MINISTRY, IRAN: We managed to get the frozen assets unblocked in South Korea. So this amount of funds of the
Islamic Republic will be put at the disposal of the administration, and in proportion to our requirements, we will be spending that money. In relation
to some other funds that we have elsewhere in the world, we will follow the same policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, let's get more on all this, our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now. So Nic, let's just -- I know it's a
complex deal, there's a lot for us to talk about. Let's look at the human angle, I think, many of these funds, it's been years waiting for this
moment. And I read Siamak Namazi's statement, and it was just so heartbreaking, we all remember the conversation he had with our Christiane
Amanpour. Talk to us about what this moment meant for them first of all.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, you feel the emotion. You feel the tear, and you feel, you know, his pain and suffering,
2,898 days, he said in that statement. And he feels bad about leaving other people behind, he singled out a particular person by name, a physician, a
Swedish-Iranian physician, Ahmed Rosadejali(ph), who he said, you know, really needs to be coming out.
You get that sense of pain that they're released and others are left behind. In fact, he called it a dysto -- he called the prison, Evin Prison
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: A dystopian united nations of hostages. You know, and then the statement goes on to say, but you know, you're going to have to give us
some space as soon as we get to the United States. I will need to spend a few days getting medical checks --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: And treatment as well, and then, I need to spend time with my family. So you get this sense of what they've been through. But we also
heard from his lawyer --
SOARES: Incredible --
ROBERTSON: He said that --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: You know, his father had been inviting him, but the Iranians -- his father was arrested, he was told during the interrogations that his
father had died, and then a week later, told his father was still alive, I mean, just mental torture --
SOARES: And his mother also in the country, right?
ROBERTSON: Also in the -- his mother refused --
SOARES: True hero as he said that --
ROBERTSON: His mother refused to leave the country. So that's just -- you know, that's just one of the five people here that we know about in detail.
The stories that they -- and the realities that they've had to live with are going to be nightmares for years and years to come. This is the
beginning of finding their families, of finding their lives, of breathing free again. But it's not the end of the torture that they've been through.
SOARES: Indeed, stay with us. I want to bring in our national security reporter, Natasha Bertrand. And Natasha, Nic was just talking about Siamak
Namazi's statement and what this moment means to all these families. But this deal, and you and I were talking in the last two hours or so, it's not
There's that $6 billion of Iranian money that has now been unfrozen. How is that -- I'm keen to know, being perceived in the United States and
particularly across the political aisle?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, that's exactly right, Isa. It's really being politicized. It is already creating
controversy among Republicans who are eager of course to attack the Biden administration for releasing these $6 billion in funds, to Iranians for
humanitarian goods. Of course, they say that this essentially equates to a ransom payment and that the money will only encourage Iran to take
Americans hostage again in the future.
And it will encourage really, broadly, bad behavior. So, already, we have been seeing these attacks really ramp up primarily, and I should say,
really exclusively, on the Republican side of the aisle. But the administration has sought to defend itself from those attacks by saying
that, any time they see a realistic and strong chance of getting Americans home, they are going to take it.
And as Nic has said in previous hours, and as we have reiterated, look, the administration felt that the only way to get these Americans back was to
agree to transfer these $6 billion worth of funds to a bank account that Iran could then use for things like food, medicine --
SOARES: Yes --
BERTRAND: Agricultural devices, et cetera. So they say, look, this is really an addition to the release of the five Iranian prisoners that the
U.S. had in custody. This is what they were prepared to do. It is somewhat of a political hit the Biden administration --
SOARES: Yes --
BERTRAND: Has taken here, but because they have made the release of these hostages, such a priority for their foreign policy agenda, they really felt
like they had to take it. Isa.
SOARES: I mean, how can the U.S. enforce it though? You say, you know, the U.S. says its money can only be used for humanitarian purposes. How is it
going to enforce this critically?
BERTRAND: Well, according to U.S. officials, they say that the disbursements that are going to come from the Qatari bank that now has
access to these funds, in control over these funds, are going to be monitored by the Qataris, by the United States Treasury Department. They
say that one, Iran essentially asked for this money, then the Qataris will be able to disperse it, and it will be overseen in a way that allows them
to actually monitor whether or not these are being used to buy things like food and medicine.
So, it remains to be seen how that actually works in practice, right?
SOARES: Yes --
BERTRAND: And the administration has acknowledged that if they see Iran kind of running afoul of these rules in some way, then they are simply
going to cut it off with the Qataris help. So obviously, this is going to be a big test though for the administration, if anything goes wrong, then
the political price will be high. Isa.
SOARES: Indeed, Natasha Bertrand for us there in Washington, thanks very much, Natasha. I want to return to our Nic Robertson here with us. And it -
- I mean, Nic, Natasha said this, you have said it as well in the last few hours, it's taken years of negotiations to get here. Was the $6 billion,
was that the clinch? The one that clinched the deal?
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. Iran is totally motivated by the need for money. This is a regime that is unpopular. One of the reasons it's unpopular is
because it's not delivering on the basic needs of --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: Its people, and money will help it do that. When Jason Rezaian; an American-Iranian who was held by -- he's held in Evin jail as well, and
four of those were released, the U.S. released about $400 million that had been used for sort of weapons purchases by Iran. That had been frozen. When
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released back to the U.K., dual British- Iranian citizen also held for a long time about six years was -- I think the British government settled 450 million pounds on that account. But that
was money that there shall before --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: Even this regime had paid for British military tanks that were never delivered. And I think there's another great example here as well. If
you look at the deal and the relation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, this deal that China helped broker, part of it after the first six months is to
begin to build better economic ties as a financial incentive there. Iran needs the money -- the regime rather needs the money to survive, and that's
SOARES: I'm going to get on the question now, I've been told to wrap up, very quickly. We -- the whole point of the deal is that each side is able
to see -- is a winner, is a winning side for them. How is Iranian President going to sell this, he's at the UNGA, I think this week. How do you think
he will sell this?
ROBERTSON: Well, he's already said -- there's a number of ways. He's already said, look, we'll do -- essentially what the foreign minister said,
we heard that before. We will spend the money the way we think we need to spend it. Here's a hard cold reality for everyone. Iran can take that $6
billion and spend it on schools and hospitals and worthy causes --
SOARES: Humanitarian --
ROBERTSON: Humanitarian, that is $6 billion, it doesn't have to take out of its own pocket to pay the schools and the hospitals. That is $6 billion it
has in its pocket that it can give to the arms industry, to the missile builders, that's the test for the U.S. Justice -- U.S. Treasury rather, to
monitor and then step in and say, OK, this, you are doing that.
How do you link those? That's the cold hard --
SOARES: Yes --
ROBERTSON: Reality. Everyone has to walk away with a version of this that they can sell. And this is both sides have the best version that they can
sell. There's another scenario we didn't talk about. Imagine these hostages weren't released. Imagine the scenarios that could -- ugly scenarios that
could unravel further. Points of international political -- times of international political crisis.
SOARES: We shall see what it said, of course, when these leaders, President Biden as well as the Iranian president speak at the U.N., thank you very
much, Nic. And as I was saying, dozens of world leaders are gathering today in New York for the 78th UN General Assembly. They are facing a huge list
of global challenges including the devastating flooding in Libya that we brought you here, and of course, Russia's war in Ukraine.
It is a job made harder by the fact that key players are skipping this year, and that includes top leaders from China, Russia, the U.K. and
France. U.S. President Joe Biden will be attending as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who is appearing in person for the very first
time. Senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth joins me now from the -- from the United Nations.
And Richard, you know, you said in a piece that you wrote for cnn.com, I was just reading, I want to read out to our viewers, "United Nations is
prepared to announce world peace at the end of the global event -- no, if only you're right. The truth is topics at a two-week submit appear more
numerous, volatile and hard to solve than ever before." So, what can we expect?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That was a secret, I don't know where you got an update of that.
The -- what can we expect? There are probably a little drama, a little emotion when President Zelenskyy addresses a Wednesday meeting at a high
level on Ukraine. Not sure if Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will attend. If he does, it could get a little heated, though there had been at least 70
Security Council meetings on Ukraine since the war broke out.
The issue of course, is helped divide U.N. members even more. There are countries that want to help and donate to Ukraine, but they feel more
attention should be paid to their Africa or southern Africa issues. Here at the U.N., you mentioned that 4 out of 5 of the permanent five Security
Council members are not led here by their voted leader. The French foreign minister is leading her delegation here, hear her thoughts on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE COLONNA, FOREIGN MINISTER, FRANCE (through translator): This General Assembly is taking place in the context as you know, of serious
questioning of international governance. Permanent member of the Security Council, Russia, has invaded its neighbor with no respect for moral, legal
or political frameworks, and has aggressed a sovereign independent state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: So on Tuesday, Joe Biden; the U.S. president, will speak second in the traditional slot after Brazil. Later in the morning, early afternoon,
President Zelenskyy and then the Iranian president will speak somewhere around 4:15, 4:30-ish New York time. They will be the key figures, but you
never know what can pop up here.
SOARES: Indeed, I know you'll keep a close eye on all of it for us, Richard, appreciate it, thank you very much. And still to come tonight, the
EU chief is pledging to help Italy's crisis-hit island of Lampedusa after a dramatic surge in migration. We'll bring you that story. And then later, in
Libya city of the dead. We'll hear from survivors in Derna facing the aftermath of the deadly flooding. Those stories after this.
SOARES: The EU chief says irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs European answer. During a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa
on Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen promised immediate support to Italy. She was alongside the country's prime minister, you can see there, Giorgia
Meloni, who said one solution will be to prevent the departure of migrants.
Lampedusa has seen a massive influx of people with migrant arrivals surpassing the island's population of 7,000 this past week. Barbie Nadeau
is joining me now from Rome with the very latest. So, the EU chief then, Barbie, saying the European challenge requires a European solution. Did
Ursula von der Leyen offer a solution? What is that solution?
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN PRODUCER: You know, it's interesting, it's a very complicated problem. This 10-point plan, I've got to say one of many 10-
point plans of migration we've seen here in Italy over the last several decades really doesn't address the plight of the people who are looking for
protection. There is really been no mention in how they can stop people in their countries of origin.
The focus is very much on the countries of transit. Now, that is Libya and Tunisia, especially with regards to Lampedusa. Lots of these boats have,
you know, 10, 15, 20 people coming from Tunisia to arriving directly on the island. And you know, it's going to be very difficult to carry out some of
these 10 points. Some of them, you know, do sound optimistic like having humanitarian corridors or having legal ways for people to apply for asylum.
But that doesn't address those people, the majority of the people who are coming over, who are escaping corruption, who are fleeing from --
SOARES: Yes --
NADEAU: The climate crisis, who are, you know, who have bigger problems. And it also really includes destroying the boat and breaking up the
smuggling, you know, rings and things like that. Well, Europe doesn't have jurisdiction to go to Tunisia or Libya and conduct, you know, law
enforcement sorts of maneuvers.
So, there's a lot to be desired. You know, it was a show of support of Italy, you know, at a moment of crisis, but this is a problem that's been
going on for years and years, and until it's really dealt with it, the very stell(ph) of it, Isa, as you well know is not going to be --
SOARES: Yes --
SOARES: A show of support that Meloni probably does not hurt Meloni in the slightest at home. But let's talk about Tunisia, because I remember you and
I, Barbie, talking about EU leaders going to Tunisia, signing an agreement with the promise of investment funds as an incentive to stop the boats, I
think it was something like 105 million euros dedicated to stop these smugglers. What happened to that?
NADEAU: Well, the European Union didn't quite embrace this idea as much as the people who went over there. Meloni and the European Commission
president, you know, they had lofty plans it was talked about, of course, this all records back to the days of Gaddafi in Libya, it worked very well
then to invest in Libya to stop the boats when Berlusconi was the prime minister here and Gaddafi was the leader in Libya.
It worked then. And so, you know, it's really taking a page out of that. It just didn't work this time because the money didn't show up. And you know,
some might argue that it's not just about the money, but you know, until and unless Tunisia does something to try to stop the boats from leaving,
and they probably won't because at the end of the day, they don't want people who are transiting to their country to be bottlenecked in that
country. So it's a very complicated issue. You know, these transit countries are not really that willing to cooperate. Isa.
SOARES: I know it's a story that you're going to stay on top of it, and so are we here on the show. Barbie, thank you very much, appreciate it. Well,
a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Libya after deadly floods. The United Nation estimates nearly 4,000 people were killed when floodwaters decimated
the city of Derna just over a week ago.
More than 9,000 people are still missing. Our Jomana Karadsheh is there with the very latest.
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's all gone they say, Derna is now a city of the dead. There was no time for final
goodbyes here, "mom, rest in peace", spray-painted where that mother once lived. In 90 minutes, a city and its people were left shattered. Here,
grief lingers in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
KARADSHEH: And faces tell of the horror they survived and loss they have yet to comprehend. Akrim(ph)lost his brother's entire family, he now sits
where their house once stood, it's all he has left of them. "I lost my brother and his children, I lost my neighbors, I lost my whole world", he
says. He searched for their bodies everywhere in hospitals and by the sea.
Akrim(ph) breaks down as he tries to remember his last call with his brother just two days before the catastrophe struck. He says, this is God's
will, it's a harsh one they've had to accept.
Everyone here has lost family, one after the other, they share their gut- wrenching stories.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
KARADSHEH: Stone-faced Innam Abdullah(ph) recalls how he held his 10-year- old son and jumped from one rooftop to another to escape the ferocious flood. He helped families but couldn't save his own. Abdullah(ph) lost his
mother, his wife and his two other boys, 25 family members in total, but he's only buried four.
Everyone here is on a mission to find the dead. There aren't enough search and rescue teams, it's mostly volunteers digging through the muddy rubble
of these homes. They call passersby to join.
(on camera): They believe there is one or more dead bodies underneath the rubble. They say, they can smell it.
(voice-over): But most of the bodies are not here, officials say, thousands were swept away with their homes and in their cars into the Mediterranean.
Idyllic seafront is now a staging area where they deliver the dead, but Adiza(ph) not had time to process what she survived, she's been here since
last Monday preparing the dead for burial.
This is the hardest thing she's ever had to do, she says. She's recognized the lifeless faces of family, friends and neighbors. "Is this Derna, it
will forever be heartbroken", she says. "We lost our finest, people used to come and look at our flowers, our jazz men, now they've come to a broken
Derna." At a cemetery outside the city where more than a thousand victims have been buried in mass graves, they prepare for more.
No family here, just strangers who prayed for the dead. But there is no time to stop, the bodies just keep coming.
SOARES: That was Jomana Karadsheh reporting from Derna. Now, the Wagner mercenary group is still active and operating in Africa even after the
death of its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash after leading a failed coup against Russia's military leaders. CNN's
Clarissa Ward went to the Central African Republic to show how Wagner's grip there remains unbroken.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT( voice-over): The last places that Prigozhin was seen alive during his final tour across Africa.
It's called the Russian Cultural Center, only it has no connection to Russia's official cultural agency, and was run until recently by
Prigozhin's closest associate here. Photographs taken on that visit show a new face, a woman known as Nafisa Kareanava(ph).
After days of asking for permission to visit, we decide to film covertly.
(on camera): So -- but you were here then when Yevgeny Prigozhin, when he was here and the photographs. There's the photographs of you with Prigozhin
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, can you show me that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was just over in that corner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, that's good.
SOARES: And you can watch Clarissa's full report in just a few hours for now, tune in 8:00 p.m. New York time anywhere throughout the day right here
on Wednesday. And still to come tonight, as the U.N. General Assembly opens this week in New York, allies want to make support for Ukraine a top
priority. I'll speak with the president of Estonia, that's ahead.
And then later, more on Kim Jong-un as he returns home from Russia. What the North Korean leader's visit may mean for the war in Ukraine.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. And more now on the news of the Americans freed from years of imprisonment in Iran. A senior administration official
for the White House says the release of the five Americans from detention does not change America's relationship with Iran in quote, "any way". In
fact, the Biden administration will issue new sanctions against Iran following the release.
The official went on to say, quote, "Iran is adversary and a state sponsor of terrorism and will be held accountable." I want to go to our senior
White House correspondent Kayla Tausche for more reaction from the Biden administration. And Kayla, I mean, some good news finally for so many of us
to report. Five Americans as we understand en route right now to the U.S.
A momentous day, clearly, as we've been hearing here for the families, but also a big win for diplomacy and for President Biden here.
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden, Isa, says that he remains committed to freeing Americans who are wrongfully
detained overseas. And agree that this is a big win for diplomacy. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken recounted an emotional conversation that
he had with those prisoners upon their release and said it was an emotional conversation with them and their families and called it, a victorious day.
That being said, senior U.S. officials say that this does not change the U.S. relationship with Iran. And said that there are no plans for direct
talks with Iran going forward. This deal in particular took several years to negotiate, and there were several earlier iterations of it, these
official said that were rejected because they were non-starters for the United States.
Here in New York where the president is set to the arrive for the U.N. General Assembly where he's going to be delivering and address tomorrow.
Iran is expected to play a central role and the administration is expected to call out Iran. It is also worth noting that while this is a momentous
day for the Biden administration in its diplomatic efforts, that it is not a deal that's being universally praised in the United States. Republicans,
notably candidate for president Mike Pence, who's the former vice president, criticized the unfreezing of the $6 billion in Iranian funds
from accounts overseas, saying that that would allow Iran to continue to ferment terrorism abroad, Isa.
SOARES: Kayla, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Well, Kim Jong-un is heading home after a rare trip outside North Korea on a six-day visit to Russia. Video from Russian state media shows the North
Korean leader boarding his personal armored train on Sunday and waving to local officials as a band played on.
Meanwhile, as one trip ends, another high-profile visit begins. China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, is in Russia, fresh from meeting with U.S. national
security adviser Jake Sullivan in Malta. Our Kristie Lu Stout has the latest from Hong Kong.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, is in Russia for a four-day visit that could pave the way to stronger ties and a
possible visit by president Vladimir Putin to Beijing next month. On Monday, Wang meets with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to
discuss a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues, according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, including, "A settlement in
Ukraine as well as security in the Asia-Pacific region."
Now Wang last visited Russia in February, days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Many Western leaders have been
closely watching for any signs of support from China, including the possible provision of lethal military aid. Wang is expected to lay the
groundwork for Putin's visit to Beijing for the third Belt and Road form in October. Putin is not known to have traveled abroad since the International
Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
China, like Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine, is not a member of the ICC. Wang's visit to Russia follows his weekend meeting in Malta with the U.S.
national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The talks are described as, "constructive" and could pave the way for a meeting between Xi Jinping and
Joe Biden later this year. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
SOARES: Well, an unprecedented strike in the U.S. against the three big automakers. We'll have the very latest. As economists say, it could have a
massive impact on the economy if it drives on. Our team is on the ground. We'll take you there next.
SOARES: And returning to one of our top stories now, world leaders are in New York for United Nations General Assembly. Ukrainian President Volodymyr
Zelenskyy is expected in person for the first time since Russia's full- scale invasion. He will try to rally support for more advanced weapons as well as more ammunition. He looks to his allies like Estonia as a
percentage of GDP, as you can see there, Estonia is one of the top providers for Ukraine.
Estonia's president says primary focus for the UNGA,is on continued support for Ukraine as well as arguing for reform on veto rights in the face of
Joining us now live is Estonian President Alar Karis. Mr. President, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us this evening. We know
you're addressing the UNGA on Wednesday. What exactly will be your message to leaders in New York and beyond, sir?
ALAR KARIS, ESTONIAN PRESIDENT: Well, it's going to be actually two messages. One is, of course, the war in Ukraine and all about the war in
Ukraine. And actually, the second one is related to the war in Ukraine, which is we have to reform the United Nations Security Council, because
there are veto for some number of countries, and especially from Russia. So, we can't proceed from here if there is a veto procedure in Security
SOARES: So you're caught -- on that -- let's start on that second point then, the calling for the need to reform the U.N. Security Council. I'm
getting an order to remove voting rights from certain countries, in particular aggressor states. How successful do you think you'll be, Mr.
President, on that front?
KARIS: I understand this. There have been several attempts already from the beginning of the '90s. And it's not only a veto issue, but U.N. has
changed. If you look at -- look back, I mean, the U.N. started in the '40s, 1940s. There are only 50 is something members. Now, there are 193. That
means the situation has changed. And also, probably we need more members also in the United Nations Security Council. So now the question is, who is
going to be, that's an argument and is a discussion point.
SOARES: And I'm sure questions will be raised and asked about Russia, and I'm sure you'll tell me this. And if that is the case, I'm keen to get your
thoughts here, Mr. President, on the recent relationship or alliance, if you want to call it that, that we have seen play out in the last week
between North Korea and Russia. If there is some sort of arms deal or military agreement between Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un, what should be the
KARIS: We should be very careful. I mean, what's going on, especially with these countries like North Korea and so forth. I mean, the military
presence and military ammunition that these countries have, including nuclear weapons, are worrying, of course. So, this is also part of the
United Nations to make sure that these kinds of conflicts that now we have in Ukraine, won't happen. And if it happened, I have to find a solution for
these conflicts. But if there are veto for some countries, especially countries who is actually doing these atrocities in neighboring countries,
then we do have a problem.
Just to remind you that when we had predecessor of United Nations, which was the League of Nations, then Soviet Union at the time attacked our
neighbor Finland. Soviet Union was kicked out from the League of Nations. But now, there is a Russia who is a member of the United Security Council.
SOARES: So are you saying if there is some sort of deal between both sides that Russia should be kicked out?
KARIS: This question of kicking out, the question at this very moment is a question of veto. I mean, that means if there are atrocities, or at least
let's say the Russia is involved, at least it should be sustained rather than vetoing the declarations or whatever is going to be there.
SOARES: Yes, and the veto might not have enough votes for that veto. Let's talk about the other points you brought up, Mr. President, and that's
Ukraine and the war in Ukraine. We are expected to hear from President Zelenskyy tomorrow. We have learned, CNN has learned from a senior
Ukrainian official, that Ukrainian forces have liberated about 300 square kilometers of territory from Russia since the start of this counter-
What is your assessment of the progress so far in what relates to this counteroffensive, Mr. President?
KARIS: As President Zelenskyy said himself, this is not a movie. That means it lasts only one hour and fifty or thirty minutes. It's a war. It does
last long. And it's my -- what I would like to propose is more and more and more leaders should go to Ukraine, to visit Kiev, and not only Kiev, but go
to the front line. They're going to talk to these people who actually are fighting there. And then you realize that the offensive is there, that it
just takes much, much longer, then one would expect watching TV.
SOARES: Yeah, you are alluding there to some of the criticism about the pace or some may say the slow pace of this counteroffensive. It seems at
least now, there seems to be momentum, Mr. President, but of course the concern is as winter sets in, the gains perhaps may slow. What does Ukraine
need, you think, to keep that momentum on the battlefield? Where are allies going wrong, or where are they slow on?
KARIS: I mean, as I mentioned, war is a war, and it's very cruel to speculate what's going to happen next. But we see already today that there
is some kind of offense which has been successful. And what we have to do is just to keep supporting Ukraine. Military, humanitarian, also start to
rebuild Ukraine, which like Estonia is starting to build a kindergarten in Ukraine. That means even if a war ends tomorrow, it still takes thousands
of years to rebuild Ukraine. And it does cost money.
SOARES: Let me ask you this finally. I was reading a fascinating article by an interview, in fact, with you, Estonia's outgoing spy chief. And he said,
if the war were to stop today, it would take Russia between three to five years to restore its military might and capabilities to the level that we
need to strike the next neighboring country. This is Colonel Margo Grosberg, Estonia's outgoing spy chief. That is pretty startling, sir.
KARIS: It's important to make sure that after four or five years, there is no idea from, let's say, Russian side to start any kind of war in any place
in the world, especially if we talk about the neighbors. Because there are so many frozen conflicts already, and we have to stop this war and to end
these conflicts as well.
SOARES: The Estonian President, Alar Karis. Mr. President, I appreciate you taking your time from the busy schedule to speak to us. Thank you, sir.
KARIS: Thank you very much.
SOARES: Now to the United Auto Workers' unprecedented strike against the big three automakers in the United States. It's now in day four, a
negotiations with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis are ongoing. Prior worker contracts expired on Thursday without a deal on wages and benefits.
This is the first time all three automakers are being targeted simultaneously, and it's one of the most ambitious U.S. labor actions in
CNN's Gabe Cohen is at the picket line outside Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio. You have been in the picket line this afternoon. Talk us through the
mood as we now enter day four here.
GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, Isa, the energy you can hear is still high, so a lot of chanting and cheering. We're now four days into it, the
58 or 100 or so members here in Toledo, Ohio, outside this Stellantis Jeep factory behind me, they are now making $500 a week in strike pay, and
nearly 13,000 workers are now on -- UAW members are now on strike across the country. And yet so many of them have told me they are prepared to
stand at this picket line and strike for as long as it takes.
And unfortunately, at this point it seems that this may take a while longer because we have just seen this really deep divide between the sides. Over
the weekend, there was a small sign of progress with a union source telling our CNN team that they had reasonably productive conversations with Ford,
but certainly nowhere near a deal. We know that Stellantis is at the table with the union today, so a lot of these workers are waiting anxiously to
find out if there's any progress there. But at this point, Isa, no indication that this strike is going to end immediately.
And these workers were told to be prepared for this moment. They're being hit financially, but they have told me they're prepared for the long haul.
SOARES: And Gab, how large is the crowd workers behind you there on the picket line?
And how long are they prepared to wait it out, to find a deal?
COHEN: Yes. So there are about, it looks like maybe 15 to 20 behind me, and I want to see if we can step into the road for a minute. We're going to try
to be safe, but if you look down the road, there are groups stretching all the way down about a half mile down the road around this complex. So,
they're picketing outside each and every gate of this factory, trying not to let anyone enter out. Let's actually step off just to be safe, but
again, there are large group significant groups.
And Isa, it's not just Toledo workers. What we have seen is that union workers are coming in from other cities to support this. We've met folks
from Cleveland, from Kokomo, Indiana, from really all over the place who want to be a part of this and support the workers that are now on strike.
SOARES: Gabe, really appreciate it. Thank you very much. Gabe there from Toledo, Ohio, getting the support from the truckers.
And still to come tonight around the world, he's known for a string of Hollywood movies and his marriage and divorce from pop star Katy Perry. In
the United Kingdom, his reputation is taking a dive. We'll explain why Russell Brand's name is in the headline, that is next.
SOARES: Well, after a six-day visit to Russia, Kim Jong-un is returning home. Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the North Korean leader
during many of his stops. Our Paula Hancocks has more.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is access rarely given to a foreign leader. North Korea's Kim Jong-un spent six days in Russia
inspecting a space center, learning about the country's fighter jets, its warships and touring other military facilities. The result of a closer
alliance with President Vladimir Putin, Kim pledging support for his war in Ukraine and his fight against hegemonic forces. The union of pariahs that
worries the United States and its allies, sparking assumptions of a military deal, ammunition for Moscow in return for technological know-how
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our view has been before the visit and after the visit that talks about the provision of weapons by
North Korea to Russia to kill Ukrainians have been advancing and continue to advance.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): The Kremlin says no agreements were signed. Putin says he's not intending to violate sanctions. U.N. Security Council
resolutions, which Russia has signed on to, forbid any deals with North Korea that would aid its nuclear and missile program.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: He said he would respect the sanctions. And I strongly hope that that will be the case because if not,
we will have another very serious problem in the work of the Security Council because the guardian of those sanctions is the Security Council.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): Traveling more than 4,000 kilometers or 2,400 miles across Russia, Kim took his time on his special armored train each stopped
with its own strong military focus. A parting gift for Kim were attack drones and body armor according to Russian state media. The two leaders
exchanging carbines, a type of rifle when they first met.
As Kim starts his slow journey back to North Korea, China's foreign minister Wang Yi arrives in Russia. China has traditionally been North
Korea's closest ally. Some analysts believe Pyongyang may be hedging its bets.
ANDREI LANKOV, PROFESSOR, KOOKMIN UNIVERSITY: The amount of money China is spending on keeping North Korea afloat is essentially a small change.
However, something else can happen and it's always nice to have not one sponsor but two.
HANCOCKS: Even though there is no specific agreement to point to after this trip, the U.S. believes that North Korea has already provided infantry
rockets and missiles to the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, late last year. And South Korea's presidential office believes that weapons provided
by North Korea have already been used by Russia in Ukraine. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
SOARES: Israel's Prime Minister meets the world's richest man. Benjamin Netanyahu visited Elon Musk in California today before he heads to New York
for the U.N. General Assembly. Their meeting was broadcast live on X, formerly known as Twitter. Mr. Netanyahu asked Musk to help roll back anti-
Semitism on the platform. Musk said he's against attacks on any group and obviously against anti-Semitism.
Now, on British newspaper, The Times says more women have come forward against actor and comedian Russell Brand. Brand, I should say, since a
media investigation uncovered accusations of sexual assault against him this weekend, we learned at least four women have made allegations against
Brand dating from 2006 to 2013. Their claims was revealed in the joint investigation by The Times, The Sunday Times and Channel 4.
Before the report was published, Brand vehemently denied the allegations. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL BRAND, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: But amidst this litany of astonishing, rather baroque attacks are some very serious allegations that I absolutely
refute. These allegations pertain to the time when I was working in the mainstream, when I was in the newspapers all the time, when I was in the
movies. And as I've written about extensively in my books, I was very, very promiscuous. Now, during that time of promiscuity, the relationships I had
were absolutely always consensual. I was always transparent about that then, almost too transparent. And I'm being transparent about it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: While CNN cannot independently confirm the allegations, Anna Stewart is following this story though and joins me now. And Anna, these
are very serious allegations. Just talk us through what we know.
ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're talking about rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013. And this was very much at the
height of Russell Brand's fame, not just famous in the U.K. as a comedian and a presenter, but actually really a rising star in Hollywood as well.
And of the four women who've made allegations, two of them and their incidents happened in Hollywood.
One of the most shocking allegations, I think, is from a woman that's been called Alice in the documentary that was released. This was a joint
investigation. It's not her real name. She alleges she was in a controlling relationship with Russell Brand, that he sexually assaulted her and she was
just 13 years old. He was 30. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALICE, NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT IDENTITY: Russell engaged in the behaviors of a groomer looking back in it. But I didn't even know what that was then
or what that looked like. He would try to drive a wedge between me and my parents, taught me to lie to them. I was at my dad's house and it was 11:00
at night. Russell was texting me. He's like, please come over, I need to see you. I'm really upset. Like I need to see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: She was 16. CNN cannot independently confirm the allegation. And as you heard there and before, Russell Brand denies all of these
SOARES: Just talk us through what the police is saying as an investigation hasn't been open. What is BBC, what are some of the other media companies
saying? Because of course he was employed at -- during this period by different media companies.
STEWART: I think there are two really key issues to consider beyond the direct allegations against Russell Brand. You're right. One of them is the
media and entertainment industry. What happened during these years of employment? Who knew what, what was covered up, what complaints were made
and an investigation is underway both from the BBC and also from Channel 4 as well.
Channel 4 have removed all Russell Brand content while they consider what went on and look further into some of the claims that were made.
He was fired twice before actually joining the BBC in 2006. The Met police are also obviously considering what's happened and they've spoken to
Channel 4 and the Sunday Times say that any sources that made these allegations should come forward. They want to know how they can report to
the Met police, the Met police want to make sure they know absolutely how they can do that.
SOARES: Are they investigating? And the -- is the Met police investigating now?
STEWART: So we spoke to the Met police today and while they couldn't directly name Russell Brand, their response says that they are now
investigating a sexual assault that was alleged to have taken place in 2003 in central London. Now, that's actually before the allegations made by the
Sunday Times and Channel 4. So this is a completely separate allegations. But as far as we are aware at this stage, none of the allegations made in
this joint investigation have been brought to the Met police.
SOARES: And in the meantime, Russell Brand, does he continue to stand up comedy? What do we know?
STEWART: Well, the latest is his live tour has been cancelled. He actually performed moments after the allegations were made public in London on
SOARES: And important point out he denies all these allegations. Thank you very much, Anna.
And that does it for us for this evening. Thank you very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next time. I
shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.