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Quest Means Business

Navalny's Body To Be Held For 14 Days; Kyiv Monitoring Russian Troops After Fall Of Avdiivka; EU Opens Investigation Into TikTok Over Child Protection; Israel Sets Deadline For Ground Offensive In Rafah; U.S. Proposes Temporary Ceasefire In Draft Resolution; Crude Oil Sales Bolstering The Kremlin's Warchest. Aired 3-3:45p ET

Aired February 19, 2024 - 15:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: If you're searching for the big board today, US markets are closed for the Presidents' Day holiday.

Alexey Navalny's body will not be returned to his family for 14 days, that's according to a spokesperson for his movement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invites Donald Trump for a tour of the frontline.

And the EU opens a formal investigation into whether TikTok is doing enough to protect children.

Live from New York. It's Monday, February 19th. I'm Paula Newton, in for Richard Quest, and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

And good evening.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny says President Vladimir Putin killed her husband and that she knows exactly

why. She vowed to continue Navalny's fight for a free Russia and urged opposition supporters to join her. Listen.


YULIA NAVALNAYA, ALEXEY NAVALNY'S WIFE (through translator): I ask you to share your rage -- rage, anger and hatred with me towards those who are

daring enough to kill our future and I address you with Alexey's words, which I believe it is not a shame to do.

It's not a shame to do little, but it's a shame not to do anything. It's a shame to make yourself intimidated.


NEWTON: Now, she released that video message as she met with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell

pledged that Putin would be held to account for Navalny's death.

Now, a spokesperson for Alexey Navalny says the Russian authorities won't return his body to his family for at least another 14 days. During that

time, the spokesperson says the body will be under some sort of chemical examination.

Now of course, while questions remain over how he died last Friday, Russian authorities have made hundreds of arrests as people continue to leave

tributes to him, and that's according to a human rights group.

Now, that hasn't deterred all mourners, as you can see there. Matthew Chance has our report now from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's been a shocked reaction. Everybody knew who Alexey Navalny was, he was the

country's most prominent opposition leader and everybody is shocked, if not surprised that he met this untimely death in this penal colony in the far

north of the country.

You're joining me now in the middle of Moscow, right outside the FSB headquarters where you can see people are still coming in. There's a lady

who had just done that now. There are some more people over here, they're coming to pay their respects, to offer sympathy and condolences to the

family and friends and the organization of Alexey Navalny.

These are all the flowers that have been put down so far. Just go ahead (speaking in foreign language) -- and as I say, this is a monument to the

victims of repression during the Soviet period, and so it is interesting that this is the place where people have chosen to come and pay their

respects to Alexey Navalny.

There is a photograph of him here. Somebody has laid that. People are putting traditional red roses, a children's picture over here, saying on

the tombstone there, Alexey Navalny, "geroy" which means hero, and that is how, of course many people in this country see him as.

Now, just the act of putting that flower on this memorial is risky in a country like Russia, because all kinds of dissent, all kinds of political

opposition have been crushed by the Kremlin, and even though people are doing this now, it's not large numbers. But as I said, a steady flow, you

can say, shows just how angry and how much people are sort of braving that repression to come out and put these flowers on this monument.

Remember, across the country, hundreds of people have been dragged from these snowy parks, in towns and cities across Russia, and taken away and

detained for doing exactly this. And so it is a huge risk that people are taking is. There's a whole line of people coming here now. A huge risk that

people are taking to come out and pay their respects to Alexey Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition figure.


NEWTON: Our thanks to Matthew Chance there in Moscow.

And joining me now is Anne Applebaum. She is a staff writer at "The Atlantic" and a Pulitzer Prize winning historian. I want to thank you for

joining us.

And you know, extraordinary scenes that we just saw there in Moscow and I think it's a good time to point out your words after Navalny's death and

you say, even from behind bars, he was a threat to Putin.

To quote you, "Because he was living proof that courage is possible, that truth exists."


I have to ask you, now when we see that message from Navalny's wife, it's clear, right, she doesn't want to be a symbol of just grief, but of

defiance, of courage. What challenges though, greet her and her husband's movement.

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": So Yulia Navalny's statement was very important partly because she has made it clear in the past that

she doesn't want to be a public figure that she supports him, and she supports his cause. And the fact that she is coming forward now means that

she sees these ideas need a new face and a new leadership and she is willing to be it, which I think is probably not naturally something that

she would like to do.

Navalny was famous for two things. One was for exposing corruption, and for communicating the scale of corruption to people through stunningly popular

videos with hundreds of millions of hits. And he was famous also for demonstrating with the way he lived his life, what civic courage looks


Those people bringing flowers to monuments in Moscow and around the country are doing that, partly because they're inspired by his example. People are

looking for a way to show their opposition, and right now there isn't an organized movement you can join. It is extremely dangerous, and so these

small gestures indicate that that desire to be brave is still there.

NEWTON: Yes, and it is clearly what Navalny's wife is looking for. You know, she says, the main thing that we can do for Alexey now, and I'm

quoting her is "for ourselves, as well is to carry on fighting," but I want to ask you, she also says she knows why he was killed.

Even if there is some bombshell revelation here, will it change anything for people in Russia and more -- and just as importantly, for the Kremlin?

APPLEBAUM: So I don't think anybody doubts that the Kremlin killed him. One way or the other, they killed him. They made two attempts to assassinate

him, to poison him. Maybe they used poison again, maybe it was just the combined effects of his time in prison, his isolation in the far north, you

know, the longer effects of poison.

Either way, you know, whatever it was, it is without question that they're responsible for his death, and I think everybody in Russia and the world

knows it.

Although you make a good point, you know, will anybody do anything? You know, I'm worried by the number of Western leaders, including the American

president and others who said, well, you know, Russia must pay for this. Really, right now, the only way to make Russia pay is to make sure that

Russia loses the war in Ukraine, a unified effort to provide Ukrainians with ammunition to finish the war. That's the way to make Russia pay.

NEWTON: And I want to get to that point, because that is a searing point, and quite frankly, quite depressing for those Russians who were still in

exile from the outside looking in here right now.

You know, I know Biden is suggesting that there will be new sanctions for Russia. Okay, but you and I both know, if we just look at the stats, oil

exports are booming. The IMF has now boosted its growth projections for 2024.

You are on the record as saying that look, the assets, the frozen assets of Russia that are abroad need to be turned over to Ukraine now. Are you

optimistic that there is anything that the West can do now, especially when you see the isolationist strand coursing through Republican veins right


APPLEBAUM: So of course, what's important is not really Republican isolationism. What's important is that there's a small minority that's

clearly seeking to block money for Ukraine, because President Trump wants to end the war in his way, meaning let Russia win when he becomes president

next year, which is what he thinks, so it's a little bit more dangerous, than just, you know, a general strand of isolationism. It's very -- it's

very specific.

But to your question, yes, of course, there are things we can do. First of all, we can enforce the existing sanctions, which we don't. We haven't made

a serious effort even to ensure that the ones we've placed down already are being met.

There is, you know, as you say, rightly, you know, $300 billion of frozen assets. This is money there. Sooner or later, Russia is going to be

expected to pay reparations to Ukraine. There is a legal and a moral case that this money can and should be used now. If it were used now, then the

pressure on Western governments, on the US, and on Europe to provide money would be much less, but also there would be a -- you know, there is a sense

-- there would be some justice in that both in Europe and the United States and I really do hope that soon, sooner rather later, we can come to



NEWTON: Sooner rather than later, but no one underestimates the challenge that is before Western countries and Western allies and most significantly,

those Russians that remain in exile.

Anne Applebaum, thanks so much. Really appreciate your perspective.

Now, as we were just talking about Ukraine, as military says it is monitoring how Russian forces regroup and prepare for their next move now

that they've taken the eastern town of Avdiivka.

Now, it is Russia's biggest gain in months. It allows the Kremlin to move fighters in several directions. US President Joe Biden is blaming the

defeat on the inability of Congress to approve more military aid for Ukraine.

Now that hold up in Washington is being closely watched by ordinary Ukrainians as you can imagine. They are desperate for a morale boost.

Our Christiane Amanpour is in Kyiv, where she has been gauging the mood on the streets as the war is about to enter its third year.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Paula, here I am in the Ukrainian Capitol just a few days before the second anniversary of the war

and I can tell you, the feeling is really one of dismay, of some despair, of urgency. They absolutely need to be delivered the promises that the West

made to them two years ago, when Russia first invaded, in other words, its full scale invasion in February, two years ago.

They need more heavy weapons, they need artillery, they need the ammunition, just the basic shells. They need anti-air defenses, and

frankly, they need more people, so there are call-ups here.

And so there is an enormous, you know, unhappiness with what is transpiring in the US Congress, and they know because they are reading the headlines,

they're looking at social media, they're looking every day at their phones to see whether something will shift in Congress, because they know that

Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the Republican Party are holding up this aid delivery.

So in Munich this weekend, in front of world leaders, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president was asked, would you invite Trump here to Ukraine to see for



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If Trump -- Mr. Trump, if he will come, I am ready even to go with him to the frontline.


ZELENSKYY: I think -- I think -- I think if we are in dialogue, how to finish the war, we have to demonstrate people who are decision makers what

does it mean, the real war, not in Instagram. Real war?


AMANPOUR: Again, just to be clear, the president there said to me and said to the audience in Munich, that they don't have the artillery, Russia has

the artillery.

He actually said, our main weapon now is our people. Think about that, people rushing to defend this country to hold the frontlines without the

weapons to do it, having to make choices as to when to use valuable shells.

I mean, this is an untenable situation. And as you've seen in the real war, Zelenskyy said, over the weekend, Avdiivka in the east fell to the

Russians. And today, Russia put its flags over that town, and people are very concerned about what is going to happen up and down the frontline as

this war enters a third year -- Paula.

NEWTON: Our thanks to Christiane there.

Fred Pleitgen is with us now from Berlin. I mean, Fred, look, everything that Christiane just articulated, you've seen firsthand in Ukraine on those

frontlines. I mean, how should we interpret the Ukrainian retreat right now in terms of the state of play?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that the Ukrainians in Avdiivka were simply in the end, overwhelmed there.

I mean, one of the things that the frontline soldiers were telling us is that over the past couple of weeks, really the past couple of months, they

have been fending off Russian assaults on that town. They have told us, and I was around the Avdiivka area that the Russians seemed hell bent on taking

Avdiivka and they were throwing almost everything at it.

That included a lot of assaults from Russian infantry that really had no protection at all. A lot of Russians were killed defending that town.

That's one thing that we always have to keep in mind.

The Ukrainians were saying that the casualty figures are somewhere between one to 10 to one to seven in favor of the Ukrainian, so a lot of Russians

were killed as they were assaulting that town.

But the Ukrainians also were undermanned in Avdiivka, which was a big problem for them. They were telling us that a lot of the ranks, the people

who are getting wounded in that battle were not being replenished and therefore, the lines were really thinned out trying to deal with those

Russian assaults.

And what Christiane was mentioning there and certainly what the Ukrainian president mentioned as well, Paula, is really the biggest issue that the

Ukrainians have and that's the lack of artillery ammunition and it's not only a problem on the Avdiivka area, on that frontline, but also on other

frontlines as well.


There was one artillery position that we visited near the Bakhmut area where the Ukrainians had zero shells when we showed up and they got four

delivered in the time that we were there and those were all just smoke grenades, so really not something that you could seriously fire at a

Russian position and hope to get any sort of effect.

There is one factor though that I think is very, very important right now to the Ukrainians and that is that the Russians have increasingly figured

out how to use their air force to inflict heavy casualties on the Ukrainians. They have managed to outfit some of their bombs with glide kits

to make them travel further, keeping them out of range of Ukrainian anti- aircraft systems, but at the same time pounding the frontlines.

It is definitely something that the Ukrainians say, played a big role in Avdiivka, and could be a big issue for them going forward as they try to

hold other areas of the country where the Russians are pressing -- Paula.

NEWTON: You know, Fred, they are going to get those fighter jets soon in Ukraine, and perhaps something will change in Congress. Does any of this

just flip a switch? Or is this going to be the status of this conflict right now for the next few months?

PLEITGEN: Well, yes, certainly the Ukrainians believe that the F-16s, if and when they get them, when they get them, I guess it is looking at right

now, they do believe that that'll make a big difference as far as keeping Russian fighter bombers, strike aircraft further away from the frontlines

to try and mitigate some of that.

One of the things that we've seen the Ukrainians apparently do is able to shoot down a couple of those Russian jets, they might have moved some of

their sort of medium or longer range anti-aircraft systems to the frontlines. But of course, that's not something right now that's


So they do say that the F-16, they believe will make a big difference even if they don't get a massive quantity of them. There are certain other

things that the Ukrainians believe could play in their favor, even if the US doesn't deliver more military aid to them and that is that right now,

here in Western Europe, a lot of the artillery ammunition production is ramping up.

It is going very slowly, but at some point, that's going to kick into high gear and the Europeans believe that they are going to be able to supply

large quantities of artillery shells to the Ukrainians.

The big issue is how much damage will the Russians have done until then, and I think another problem that the Ukrainians have also very much

identified is that they do need to be capable of mobilizing more troops for the frontlines than they have so far.

It is something that the Ukrainian say they've identified. They want to change the rotations, they want to make sure that some of those troops that

have been fighting on that area of Avdiivka, some of those forces were on the frontlines for almost two years nonstop. They want to change that to a

certain degree, give some of the soldiers a breather and make sure that no one's on the frontline for an extended period of time -- Paula.

NEWTON: But as you pointed out, mobilization still in Ukraine, a huge, huge issue.

Fred Pleitgen for us, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the EU launches an investigation into TikTok over child protection and Richard Quest speaks with the man responsible for top

tourism destinations like Cancun and Tulum as Mexico tries to secure the industry's future in the face of growing crime.



NEWTON: EU is investigating whether TikTok is doing enough to protect minors and it will look for suspected violations on the Digital Services

Act that went into place in August.

Now, this investigation will cover addiction risk, advertising, data access, and age verification measures.

Now last month, on Capitol Hill, the CEO of TikTok insisted his platform is already prioritizing teen safety. Listen.


SHOU CHEW, CEO, TIKTOK: TikTok is vigilant about enforcing its 13 and up age policy and offers an experience for teens that is much more restrictive

than you and I would have as adults.

We make careful product design choices to help make our app inhospitable to those seeking to harm teens.


NEWTON: Clare Duffy have been following all of this and she joins us now from New York.

Now on the face of it, this is a pretty comprehensive investigation. What exactly will it be looking into?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: Yes, Paula, this does appear to be a pretty wide-ranging investigation. It'll be looking at things like is

TikTok's algorithm addictive? Or does it potentially send young users down problematic rabbit holes of content? Does TikTok have effective measures in

place for age verification or ensuring the privacy and safety of minors.

And beyond those concerns about young users, it will also be looking at things like whether TikTok is complying with the DSA requirement to create

a public repository of the ads that run on the platform, and if TikTok is sharing enough data with third party researchers, people who might want to

study these kinds of concerns.

Now, these are all concerns that lawmakers and regulators around the world have expressed concerns about in the past couple of years, but it appears

that since this EU DSA has gone into effect, this new law that creates stricter regulations for big tech platforms, the European Union is now in a

unique position to actually be the one to take action on these concerns -- Paula.

NEWTON: And what does that mean for TikTok, not just in the EU obviously, but beyond those borders?

DUFFY: Yes, TikTok says that it is complying with this investigation. The company also says that it has features and settings in place to protect

young users as you heard the CEO say in that clip in the open.

The company also last year took some steps to comply with the DSA in advance, including you know, it no longer is showing ads to teenagers based

on data it collects about them. But if the EU is able to substantiate any of these other suspected violations, it could force the company to go even


Companies found to have violated the DSA could face fines of up to six percent of their global annual revenue. But in some cases, it appears that

companies could also agree to make changes that would bring them into compliance with the DSA, and I think the hope is there that while those

changes would only be required in Europe, the platforms might agree to make those changes broadly for all of their users and then that way, it might

benefit users beyond just the EU.

NEWTON: Yes, and regulators might also take a cue from what the EU is doing. I want to highlight something you've said and that is data it

collects about them. That is the bottom line. It is collecting data on children.

Clare Duffy for us, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Now, it is almost spring break season. This was the scene in Cancun last year with crowds of young people partying the week away.

Now Cancun is in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo along the Caribbean Sea. Its Secretary of Tourism says the state is moving past its party

reputation, or at least trying to, and is trying to become a place that has something for everyone. Listen.


BERNARDO CUETO RIESTRA, SECRETARY OF TOURISM, QUINTANA ROO: They want to build was a new model of tourism basically, in a lot of tourists --

touristic areas in Europe, in the beaches of Europe and in Asia, and they start a plan. This plan grows up and Cancun nowadays has more than 45,000

rooms of hotel in this beautiful island,


RIESTRA: We think that -- we are in a new era in the way of seeing Cancun like a tourism destination.

Cancun nowadays is a great city of Mexico. It has great economic development. It is growing a lot, the city, and nowadays Cancun offer more

than only beaches and sun.


QUEST: You're still very popular, but your largest market, North America, many people may be feeling a little Mexican doubt.

RIESTRA: More than seven million Americans visit our state the last year, 2023 and it was a record for us. We have to improve a lot in the certainty

that the market has to have to enjoy what we are offering.

QUEST: But are you aiming for more European visitors?


QUEST: Higher spending European visitors, Asia visitors even Australasia.

RIESTRA: Yes, we look forward for that market. We have new resorts, of high-class resorts in the state and in Cancun. We are having a better offer

that -- the offer that is well-known above about the spring break.

QUEST: How would you get rid of that reputation?

RIESTRA: I think that this reputation has changed in the past few years. We have resorts like Mayakoba, that is a great place with great resorts that

is well-known about the calm that you can have there.

We have the best service in the world and the best experience that tourists can have in the world.

QUEST: So what's the one thing you need to do?

RIESTRA: We need to increase the impact of the promotion in our destination. We think that we are in the correct path. We are a safe place.

Of course, not only Mexico, the world is a little bit crazy nowadays, with a lot of challenges in security, and we are very aware that we have to work

all the day to preserve the security of our tourists, and that's the best point of Quintana Roo of the Mexican-Caribbean.


NEWTON: Our thanks there to Richard for that interview and we'll be right back with more news in a moment.



NEWTON: The U.S. is now saying the two missiles were launched from Houthi- controlled areas of Yemen towards a commercial ship on Sunday. U.S. Central Command adding that one of the missiles hit the vessel registered in the

U.K. You see it there. The Rubymar and the crew has now been taken to a nearby port. The ship was in the area around Bab al-Mandab Strait between

the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Now Meantime, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz has given Hamas an ultimatum. Release the remaining hostages by Ramadan or Israel will expand

its military offensive into Rafah. Ramadan is set to start and about three weeks from now. A reminder more than a million displaced Palestinians are

sheltering in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city. Now in the last few hours, meantime, the U.S. has proposed a U.N. resolution calling for a temporary

ceasefire in Gaza "as soon as practical."

It warns Israel should not proceed with its ground offensive in the Rafah, an Algerian draft resolution calls though for an immediate ceasefire. CNN's

Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv for us who has been following all of this. I want to get to the issue of that deadline issued by the Israeli war

cabinet. What's the strategy behind this especially given that as we always discuss, the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians are hanging in the


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of this certainly does seem to be tied to those ongoing negotiations between Israel

and Hamas mediated of course, by several other parties in the region. We know that the Israeli prime minister has been taking a very hard line in

those talks and that Hamas appears to be doing the same. And so, Pentagon's a member of Israel's war cabinet now effectively giving an ultimatum to

Hamas saying, agree to this deal basically or surrender or face this offensive by Ramadan, which starts at the beginning of next month.

But the threats of this coming offensive in Rafah are already having an impact on the ground, with many people beginning to flee that city of Rafah

heading for central Gaza where they're seeking safety. But too many of those individuals are finding that central Gaza is no haven. And I do want

to warn our viewers that they may find some of these images disturbing.


DIAMOND (voiceover): One after another after another after another. Victims of the latest Israeli air strike flood into this hospital in central Gaza.

They're mostly children. Some of them still clinging to life. Others bloodied and limp. Without a pulse, the life gone from their eyes. Here

children comfort children, even as they are still trembling from the shock.

MAYAS, INJURED IN AIRSTIKE (through translator): I was on the rooftop and suddenly I heard an explosion. I flew away and fell down. My back hurts. I

saw smoke and stones falling. Then I heard people screaming.

DIAMOND (voiceover): A hospital spokesman said at least 18 people were killed and dozens of others injured Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a

home in Deir al-Balah. Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment about the strike. Witnesses say many of the victims had just

arrived from Rafa. Gaza's southernmost city where fear and confusion have set in as Israel threatens a coming military offensive. But central Gaza is

no haven. A reality revealed in the cruelest of ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator) I can't speak. Innocent children were sieged. They killed them all. They didn't leave a child alive.

DIAMOND (voiceover): In the ruins of the Al Baraka family home, the target of Sunday's airstrike, the desperate search for survivors is underway. As

one man dives into the rubble, another shouts get out of there, you'll die down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We could only pull two alive from under the rubble and the rest are all missing. We don't see safety in a

mosque or in an onerous school or in a hospital. The word safety is not something that exists anymore. They evacuated us from place to place

claiming it's safe. There is no way safe.


DIAMOND (voiceover): Shouts praising God rises a girl is pulled from the rubble, but her body is lifeless. Added to the list of more than 12,000

children killed in Gaza. Bystanders try and cover her body, but the man carrying her throws the blanket off. He wants the world to see what this

war has wrought.


DIAMOND: And our thanks to journalist Mohammed El Sawwaf. He who filmed those images for us on the ground in central Gaza. Meanwhile, in northern

Gaza, the situation is growing increasingly dire. We've been hearing in recent weeks of reports of people eating grass, eating leaves eating animal

feed in order to survive. And today several U.N. agencies putting out a report kind of quantifying just the dire humanitarian situation there.

One in six children under the age of two in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished according to those organizations. And in Gaza overall, more

than 60 percent of people are having only one meal a day. Paula?

NEWTON: Yes. And so many Gazans telling us that all of it falling so far on deaf ears they find. Jeremy Diamond for us in Tel Aviv. Thanks so much.

Appreciate it.

Now, a new analysis shared with CNN shows that Russia is entering its third year of its war in Ukraine with an unprecedented war chest according to the

Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. Russia made a record $37 billion in crude oil sales last year. That was to India alone. Russian oil

exports have bounced back since the start of the war. You can see the strong sales there to both India and China.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more now on how these billions of oil dollars are funding Vladimir Putin's war.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Blue tranquil, a world away from Ukraine's front lines. We're

headed out to where Russia may be filling its war chest to a record high.

Crude oil tankers sometimes engaged in opaque secretive transfers, these two under sanctions busting suspicions in the past, the big one from

Russia's Black Sea coast, transferring crude to the smaller one, which also came from Russia.

WALSH (on camera): Here you get a feeling of how hard it is to keep track of all of this just transfers occurring out here in the blue expanse,

massive trade for billions of dollars of oil, some of which ends up helping the Kremlin fund its war.

WALSH (voice-over): Tens of millions of barrels of crude likely transferred like this last year. And where it ends up often unclear, which is the


AMI DANIEL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, WINDWARD: That's probably about 60 million barrels that are being transferred in the middle of the ocean

purposefully. So you really needed to have a reason because it's much easier not to do that.

WALSH (voice-over): These two have a messy past. So the shipping monitor that led us to them.

DAVID TANNENBAUM, DIRECTOR, BLACKSTONE COMPLIANCE SERVICES: The larger tanker that you guys saw is actually owned by a large company that bought a

lot of these tankers when Russian sanctions came out, right, and so they've been heavily associated with what we call the Dark Fleet, which is these

tankers that are servicing Russia, Iran, Venezuela and other sort of sanctions concerns.

So the smaller one actually has an interesting history itself, it was once owned by a sanction person.

WALSH (voice-over): Russia is richer than ever before. Last year's budget was $320 billion. About a third of which spent on its invasion of Ukraine.

Sanctions were meant to dent oil paying for war. But instead, India has stepped in and is now buying 13 times more Russian crude oil than before

the war, worth $37 billion last year, says one estimate exclusively given to CNN.

India buying Russian crude isn't sanctioned, but it's buying so much Russia might need to dodge some sanctions to ship it all. We asked an artificial

intelligence firm Winward to analyze all global shipping last year for direct shipments between Russia and India, and they found a huge 588.

A separate analysis by Pole Star Global for CNN revealed over 200 other ships that left Russia last year and did a ship-to-ship transfer off the

Greek Coast to another boat that then went on to India.

TAENNENBAUM: Ship to ship transfers are done legally, but they're also used as an illicit tactic to evade sanctions to sort of try and confuse the

authorities as to where this oil is coming from. And who's buying it at the end of the day.

WALSH (voice-over): India says these shipments fuel its economy without raising global prices by competing with the West for Middle Eastern oil.


But there's a complication for the West here, as India refines the oil and sells those products on. The biggest buyer of products from Russia and

crude last year according to exclusive new data obtained by CNN, the United States over a billion dollars' worth from India.

Way more, if you add to what U.S. allies also imposing sanctions on Russia also import.

ISSAC LEVI, CENTER FOR RESEARCH ON ENERGY AND CLEAN AIR: So, we've seen an increase in 2023 or 44 percent of oil products that are being made from

Russia and crude oil flowing into those countries that impose sanctions on Russia, such as the U.S., U.K. and E.U.

WALSH (voice-over): But Russia's even on the make from the refining this Indian port and refinery Vadinar sent an estimated $50 million of refined

products to the U.S. last year. And guess who owns nearly half of it? Rosneft, the Russian state oil giant enriching the Kremlin. Putin earning

money on the crude, probably the shipping, but also the refining and the resale.

DANIEL: Really, you're talking about something which is amazingly lucrative, and therefore the temptation to do that, as a person or as a

company is absolutely huge for the traders and they could just make 10, 20, 30, 40 million within four or five months. I'm not sure there's any other

opportunity in the world to do that. And there is please let me know what.

WALSH (voice-over): An opaque chain of billions risking Moscow having unlimited funds for its wars.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.


NEWTON: You know, a vivid reminder there from Nick about how easily really Russia has been able to skirt those sanctions and brings into new

perspective. President Biden's comments that because of Alexei Navalny's death that he is considering new sanctions against Russia. Many studies

have shown that the sanctions have not had the intendance -- the intended strategic effect on either the Kremlin or what's been happening on the

ground and on the battlefield in Ukraine.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for today. I'm Paula Newton in New York. Up next for us here on CNN, Living Golf.