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Hala Gorani Tonight

Taliban Use Whips And Sticks Against Women And Journalists At Kabul Airport; Blinken Tours Ramstein Airbase In Germany; Trial Begins For Suspects In 2015 Paris Terror Attacks; Mexico's Top Court Rules Abortion Penalties Unconstitutional; Texas Governor Defends Controversial Abortion Law; Fauci: Vaccines Key To Protecting Kids Going Back To School; How Ukrainian Spies Planned To Snare Russian War Criminals; Britney Spears' Father Calls For Conservatorship To End. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: Hello everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Female protesters on the streets of Kabul

met with violence again as the Taliban issues strict new rules on demonstrations. We'll have the latest. Also ahead this hour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a scene where if they don't go, even one of them, if they don't go, I'm back. I'm not going myself.




GORANI: One young woman shares her incredible story of escape from the Afghan capital and tells CNN why she and her cousins are still afraid.

Plus, six years after perhaps the deadliest terror attack on French soil, a trial like no other gets underway. We're live in Paris this hour with the


If the world wants to know how life in Afghanistan is forming under the Taliban, images of whips and sticks being used against women and

journalists would be a stark and horrifying place to start. Yet, this is what we are seeing out of Kabul today, the Taliban using brute force on

civilians, on people who say they cannot accept the new government that was appointed yesterday because it doesn't represent them.

It was an all-male cabinet with neither women nor religious minorities despite those assurances that it would be, quote, "inclusive". Soon, even

demonstrations like these will be few and far between. The Taliban have just announced strict new rules that require all protests to have prior

approval before going ahead. The American Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Germany today. He is touring facilities that are processing some of

the Afghan refugees who made it out. He said the U.S. is concerned about the new government.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: Yesterday, the Taliban named a new interim government. We're assessing the announcement, but

despite professing that a new government would be inclusive, the announced listed names consist exclusively of individuals who are members of the

Taliban or their close associates, and no women. We're also concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of those individuals.

We understand the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. We will judge it and them by its actions. The international community has made

clear its expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government.


GORANI: Those are the words coming from America's top diplomat. Our CNN international senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is in Doha for

us this hour. And let's start with these new restrictions on protests by the Taliban.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, published this afternoon, not long after those scenes of people being whipped and a series

of detentions of journalists for the second time in a second day in a row where the journalists have been harassed and detained by the Taliban

covering these detentions. The Taliban announcing a new set of regulations, essentially saying that all protests need to be cleared in advance with the

Taliban, who do everything under what their interpretation of Sharia law, as we all know.

And then if they are allowed to go ahead, then they will be policed. They're also saying in their statement, the Taliban, that this is an

insecure period and there are concerns that large groups of people could get attacked, a hint there perhaps that ISIS-K or other similar groups

would want to embarrass the Taliban. But really, what this is, I think, is about, Hala, as you know, that would have detected is that, these protests

are almost daily.

They're predominantly of women. They're very much against the formation of this all-male, un-inclusive cabinet that includes wanted terrorists. And

they are spreading. They've also been protests -- similar source of protesting in Herat, 4 million Afghans now live in Kabul, when the Taliban

were driven from power, it was 400,000 people live there. So, Afghanistan is now a predominantly urbanized population, and without a great deal of

support for the Taliban. So, the Taliban really would be keen to get a grip on these sorts of demonstrations and protests before they catch fire and

become uncontrollable. Hala?

GORANI: And Ashraf Ghani; the former president of Afghanistan who fled hours after the capital fell to the Taliban has issued an apology. Tell us



KILEY: Well, he issued these series of apologies over statements over Twitter, essentially saying that he had fled Kabul in order to avoid the

sort of bloodshed that arguably, actually brought the Taliban to power when they eventually took power in 1996. In the early 1990s, Kabul especially,

had been the scene of unbelievable violence with some 50,000 people killed and the Taliban were hailed as saviors for bringing some kind of stability

to what was going on there. In order, he said, to avoid a repeat of that kind of insecurity, he fled.

He also said that he had -- that rumors attached to him that he had fled with suitcases full of cash stolen from the central bank were categorically

untrue, but that he would also be giving a fuller explanation at some future later date. But he's definitely -- most certainly, I think

yesterday's man, not for example issuing any kind of a rallying cry to former supporters or even remnants of the old government to continue their

resistance against the Taliban. Hala?

GORANI: Sam Kiley, live in Doha. Thanks very much. Let's turn now to a story that we want to keep the spotlight on, the stranded Americans and

Afghans at Mazar-i-Sharif Airport. The American Secretary of State is trying to clarify some confusion that -- I have to be honest, even we had

here at CNN over why people with valid documents are not being allowed to leave. Listen.


BLINKEN: As of now, the Taliban are not permitting the chartered flights to depart. They claim that some of the passengers do not have the required

documentation. While there are limits to what we can do without personnel on the ground, without an airport, with normal security and procedures in

place, we are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground. That's what we've done. That's what

we will continue to do.


GORANI: So, you'll remember yesterday we spoke with Elizabeth Rubin who was involved in the attempted evacuation of a couple of plane-loads of

Afghans and U.S. citizens. Let's speak today to Marina LeGree; she's the founding director of Ascend, a small American NGO active in Afghanistan,

and she too is working to evacuate a group of girls who are currently stuck near the airport in Mazar. Why the holdup? Because from what I understand

from people I've spoken to who are involved in other evacuation efforts, many of the people who are stranded have the proper documentation. What do

you understand is going on?

MARINA LEGREE, FOUNDER & CHIEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASCEND: We don't know. We would love to know. We've been waiting for nine full days now, and our

group is -- we've been manifested since the beginning. We were called forward by the State Department to come and get on these flights, so we're

not sure what the holdup is.

GORANI: So, you were called by the State Department, and what did they tell you, nine, ten days ago?

LEGREE: We get very little information, but basically we at this point get on these buses and off we'll go. So, I then translate that to my girls and

tell them it'll be all right. Yes, you have to go over land to Mazar, but you'll be getting on flights and it'll be OK. And P.S., you can't bring

your families. So, we now have teenage girls separated from their families sitting in Mazar for nine days.

GORANI: And what are they telling you is going on now?

LEGREE: There's not really much of a "they", to tell us anything. I mean, I'm listening to the same comments from Blinken that you just played, and

really, I'm quite discouraged actually, because it sounds to me like our State Department is focused on Americans, which is great that there are

Americans that are getting out. But what about the hundreds of Afghans that were promised a ride, essentially, and now are being left to the Taliban?

GORANI: I'm trying to piece this story together myself based on what you're telling me and what other people involved in evacuations are telling

me. And it's starting to sound like maybe perhaps the hold-up was with the State Department at first, but then now perhaps, it's the Taliban blocking

some of these people from leaving. Is that kind of your understanding?

LEGREE: That's exactly right. Yes, and when we first got to Mazar -- so, we arrived on the 31st. So, these buses were called forward on the 31st.

It's a long drive. And then, by the -- so they spent the night. And by the next day, the story was, the planes can't leave because the Taliban -- they

only need an approved flight plan, which the State Department had instructed Centcom to no longer receive charters from Afghanistan because

they couldn't apply proper vetting procedures to the manifest, which we cried foul on that, as did a number of others. And it was fixed in a couple

of days.

But then the Taliban took over fully and settled more comfortably into their role, and now, they just said we're not budging. We don't want

anybody to leave -- well, they've said, you can leave if you have proper documentation, but proper documentation was never part of the deal when we

got on --

GORANI: Right --

LEGREE: The buses. Yes.


GORANI: What happens to the -- have you been in touch with the girls?

LEGREE: Oh, yes, I'm in touch 24/7. I mean, these are -- again, girls that are part of my program and staff. And they fully trusted that this is the

best option for them and they'll be looked after. And they're worried. They're -- they have no idea of what to expect. And there is no plan B.

GORANI: Yes --

LEGREE: In addition to being women at risk and being high profile athletes and community leaders, they're Hazara, and they know what awaits them if

they go back home.

GORANI: Yes, and these are -- you're not the only one. I mean, there are other journalists, NGOs, even some politicians that are organizing private

charter flights. They're using the National Afghan Airline. They even have in some cases a midway country -- Albania has issued visas to some of these

people in order to allow the United States to process some of these Afghans in a third country before they head to the U.S. So, it must be just so

frustrating -- I mean, it's frustrating for me and I'm not even involved in the effort to have everything in order.

And all these countries saying they're OK for these people to come to be processed there. And yet, this paralysis on the ground.

LEGREE: I'll tell you what's the most frustrating, is we actually got on the phone with the base commander Allahu Dayid (ph), who was prepared to

receive them, and he confirmed, yes, we're ready to process these people. And we're hearing from Blinken, well, we can't vet them. We're not sure

who's on the manifest. Meanwhile, the base commander is saying we have the facilities to vet these people and separate them and process them. We've

been doing this for days, we've kept our staff warm, we're ready to receive.

You know, we even have an Ascend donor who happens to be on the ground at that same base ready to personally greet the people from my group. And I

cannot understand why the U.S. government cannot exert a bit more pressure on the Taliban, to whom they've been speaking for a very long time. Surely,

there are some relationships that can be leveraged and get these people out. It's very frustrating.

GORANI: Well, so what you heard from Antony Blinken today, you said you're not too hopeful, but at least it sounds like they're -- I mean, still

working on it. They haven't given up.

LEGREE: I hope that's the case, and I hope by speaking to you, we keep people aware that we can't fix everything that's gone on in Afghanistan and

the many things that have been a disaster. We can fix this one thing. And I hope that they're listening, and they've left hundreds of Afghans who are

at very high risk to their own devices, and we can't go back. There is no turning back to Kabul and just resuming life.

GORANI: Well --

LEGREE: So, we need action --

GORANI: We're -- we're going -- this is our second day in a row following this story, and we're going to keep on it until we get answers. And

hopefully until the people who are vulnerable, who are near the airport ready to go are able to -- are able to leave. Thank you Marina LeGree --

LEGREE: Thanks --

GORANI: Of the group Ascend joining us this evening.

LEGREE: Thank you.

GORANI: The British prime minister this week announced a resettlement program for 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Those who are facing a real

threat from the Taliban will be included, and among those at risk, people from the Hazara ethnic group. We just discussed that with Marina, by the

way, an ethnic group that's particularly vulnerable in the Taliban's Afghanistan. CNN's Phil Black met a group of Hazara children who fled with

their young cousin -- it's an incredible story of escape.


BLACK (voice-over): It's difficult to comprehend what these children are feeling. Fear, loneliness, trauma. These six boys and girls aged 5 to 17

from three different families have been transported from the desperate streets of Kabul to a small English town. They've left behind everything

they know and love, including their parents. They are at least safe because of their cousin Marcel(ph) extraordinary courage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They cry, and so I don't know what to do.

BLACK (on camera): They cry every day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They cry every day, especially with their parents there. They're like, what's going to happen?

BLACK (voice-over): Marcel (ph) is 20 years old, a British citizen who is visiting family in Kabul as the Taliban took the capital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 24 hours, it's like the world flipped.

BLACK: Marcel (ph) knew her whole family was suddenly in great danger because they are Hazaras, an ethnic group long persecuted in Afghanistan

and often massacred by the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first enemy for the Taliban are Hazaras.

BLACK: So, she eventually headed for the airport with her cousins determined to save them. This video shows part of their journey. Marcel's

(ph) uncle is driving. He repeatedly tells the children, don't be scared. Nothing will happen. Just hours later, he would be dead.


Video captured by other people on the same day shows the chaos they were heading into around the Kabul airport. Marcel (ph) says they pushed through

the crowds.


Her uncle was trying to clear a path when he was shot.

(on camera): And he just fell?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just fell. He got shot right in the heart.

BLACK (voice-over): Marcel (ph) didn't know where the bullet came from or what to do. She took this picture as he lay dying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, go. That's the last thing he said. He said go, and I went.

BLACK (on camera): Did you look back?


BLACK (voice-over): She kept the children moving, eventually approaching some American soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said, I'm a British citizen. They said who are they? Because they don't have passports, documents, nothing. They said -- I

said that these are my kids. I've adopted them.

BLACK (on camera): But you didn't know which way it was going to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It was -- it was a scene where if they don't go, even one of them, if they don't go, I'm back. I'm not going myself.

BLACK: You meant that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and I explained it to them, and the soldier looked at me right in the face. Go.

BLACK (voice-over): For Marcel (ph), that enormous relief of saving six young lives has now been overwhelmed by great responsibility. The youngest

just five years old is deeply anxious about his parents' safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like, we are Hazara. They're going to kill us first. I don't have enough time. This is what he's telling me.

BLACK (on camera): Children grow up in Afghanistan knowing that Taliban means death for the Hazara.


BLACK (voice-over): This young woman's life is now on hold indefinitely as she cares for these children, sooths their nightmares, tries to convince

them they will see their parents again. Phil Black, CNN, Hemel Hempstead, England.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, a day of reckoning in Paris. Six years after the worst terrorist attacks on French soil. A trial begins for the

main suspects, we'll have a live report from the courthouse. And later, Mexico's Supreme Court Chief Justice says a landmark abortion ruling marked

a historic day for the rights of all Mexican women. We'll be right back.


GORANI: The biggest trial in France's modern history is now underway for the 20 men charged in the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. The court in

the past few hours heard from the main defendant, Salah Abdeslam, who described himself as a fighter for ISIS. He's the only known survivor of

the group accused of directly carrying out the shootings and the bombings.


When he first spoke before the judge, he showed little emotion, but later he reportedly shouted that the defendants were being mistreated, 130 people

were killed, were murdered, and hundreds more were wounded in those coordinated attacks. CNN's Melissa Bell explains what is at stake in this



MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): France shaken to its core. November 13th, 2015, a night of terror that began at the Stade de France,

then saw coordinated attacks across Friesian bars, restaurants and the Bataclan Concert Hall. In all, 130 people were killed that night. Now,

their families and those who survived are preparing to re-live an ordeal that is beyond words.

OLIVIER LAPLAUD, SURVIVOR OF 2015 PARIS TERROR ATTACKS: I'm sleeping a little bit less. I have some flash-backs.

BELL: France's biggest ever trial, which will see 300 victims testify, will be held in this specially-designed courtroom over at least nine

months. The French President at the time, Francois Hollande will also give evidence. But of the 20 men accused of planning, aiding and carrying out

the attacks, only 14 will be in the dock. The most closely watched will be Salah Abdeslam. He was arrested in Brussels a few months later, one of the

only known survivors amongst those accused of being directly involved on the night.

JEAN-MARC DELAS, LAWYER FOR VICTIMS (through translator): It isn't so much that the trial is going to disappoint because we're not expecting a lot,

but that it might not even shed much light.

BELL: One of the challenges will be ensuring that justice is done on all sides. The outpouring of grief that followed the attacks, a reminder of how

wounded France was as a country with the question now of how neutral its judiciary can be.

NEGAR HAERI, DEFENSE LAWYER (through translator): It won't just be about sentencing, but about democracy. It is the idea of justice that is in

question. In any case, it is tested in this trial.

BELL: For those who were there that night and still live with its images, the trial will also be about being heard.

LAPLAUD: Only the victims and people who experienced that, that night can understand what I'm feeling and the violence and the images, what I saw,

the blood, the corpse.

BELL: Something he says that will be hard to explain, but necessary to say. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


GORANI: Cyril Vanier joins me now from the courthouse in Paris. Cyril, so why did it take almost six years to get this trial going?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been a massive investigation, Hala. The investigative judges have been looking at this for four and a

half years. And I suppose the short answer to your question is, they wanted to get everything right. And this involved 19 countries. There are tens of

thousands of documents that compose this investigation. We don't know exactly the number of pages, but it's in the hundreds of thousands.

And the French daily "Le Monde" reported that if you were to stack up all the documents that make up this investigation, it would be 53 meters high.

So, the answer to your question is just that there was so much to investigate, so many defendants, 14 appeared in court today. There are 20

defendants total, including some very high ranking members of the Islamic State group, several of whom are presumed dead in Iraq and Syria.

So, in many ways, this is also the trial of the Islamic State group itself. This was the deadliest attack that the Islamic State carried out in Europe.

France wanted to get it right, wanted to get all the facts straight, and also bear in mind, Hala, the number of victims here. There are 1,800

victims involved with this case, 300 appeared today, hundreds more tomorrow and the day after that. Getting all of that together and getting all of

that ready has taken almost six years.

GORANI: So, the only person directly involved in the attack itself to appear in the dock is Salah Abdeslam. But there are others. Who are they?

Who is physically present in court?

VANIER: Right, of the 14 defendants who were present in court today and will be there throughout the trial, it is people who helped plan the

attack, select targets for the attack and who helped facilitate the attack. So, they helped rent some of the cars that were used in the attack. They

helped procure weapons. They helped find hideouts. They helped hide some of the terrorists when they were on the run. Remember this Salah Abdeslam

spent several months on the run. He was briefly France's most wanted fugitive.

That requires a network and organization. All of these people that were in the Belgian terror cell and that helped in every little conceivable way,

some of them just activated SIM cards, are among the defendants who are in the dock today, Hala.


GORANI: All right, Cyril Vanier, thank you very much live in Paris. In the U.S., a criminal trial has begun for a former billionaire once hailed as

the next Steve Jobs. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of medical startup Theranos has arrived in court to face fraud charges. She's accused of

misrepresenting the capabilities of the company's blood tests. In 2015, the "Wall Street Journal" reported that those devices were flawed, and now the

Justice Department is trying to prove that she knowingly deceived patients and investors. Her trial is expected to last 3 months.

Still to come, a highly controversial ruling on abortion in the world's second biggest Roman Catholic country. We're live in Mexico ahead. Then,

quote, "disgusting, misleading and magical thinking." Texas Governor Greg Abbott is facing a slew of criticism for his latest comments defending the

state's new abortion law. We'll be right back.


GORANI: The Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says a Supreme Court ruling that effectively decriminalizes abortion must be, quote,

"respected regardless of personal opinions on the controversial issue". The court unanimously ruled that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional,

striking down a state's law that threatened women who undergo abortions with up to three years in prison. The chief justice calls it a historic day

for the rights of all Mexican women. Abortion opponents are outraged. CNN's Rafael Romo is live for us in Mexico City. Why did this happen now?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, it's an issue that has been boiling here in Mexico for a long time. States have made their own choices, and

ultimately it was up to the Supreme Court to make a decision on one state that ruled that it was unconstitutional. And so like many other countries,

Hala, this is a very difficult and polarizing issue for Mexicans. A poll published today by "El Financiero" here in Mexico says 53 percent of

Mexicans are against abortion while 45 percent agree with the practice. The fact that the Mexican supreme court ruled Tuesday that penalizing abortion

is unconstitutional is not going to bridge the gap.

But in any case, it sets a precedent that will be applied in the country's 32 states. The main issue the court was to consider was whether it is

constitutional to punish a woman who has an abortion with a prison sentence.

The ruling stems from a law enacted in the northern state of Coahuila, which said that women who get an abortion may be punished with up to three

years in prison and a fine. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this morning said he respects the court's ruling.


ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): What I think about it is that it is a decision by the judicial branch, the

supreme court. It was practically unanimous. It should be respected. We shouldn't, at least in my case, take sides because there are competing

positions on this.


ROMO: And, Hala, there was also reaction from the Mexican Catholic Church even before the ruling was issued, a bishop speaking for the Episcopal

Conference, issued a statement saying the following.

"We would like to remind you all that a human being conceived by a father and a mother, whose life begins at the moment of conception, should be

recognized in his or her dignity in all stages of life and deserves the same protection under the law in the face of actions that could put this

person in jeopardy."

People we've talked to here in Mexico City reflect the tradition I was telling you about, Hala. One woman told us that she agrees with the ruling

because no woman should be deprived of her right to decide, much less be incarcerated because of something that she is deciding about her own body.

On the other side, another woman told us that she agrees that women should do whatever they want with their body but not on this issue, because we're

also talking about a human being, whose life, she says, is being unjustly terminated. Hala, back to you.

HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Are there any women in prison currently as a result of having gotten an abortion when it was still illegal?

And if so, is this ruling retroactive?

ROMO: Not currently, Hala. This is precisely what the State of Coahuila was trying to say. They had just passed the law. So the law was challenged

and it was brought to the supreme court.

So what happens now is that the ruling invalidates the court in Coahuila State, which by the way is a state that is near -- relatively close to the

state of Texas, where they just banned the law.

So now the question begins here, the question that is being asked is, are women from Texas going to come to Mexico to seek an abortion?

Remains to be seen, of course, Hala.

GORANI: We'll have to keep an eye on that. Rafael Romo, thanks very much.

Just across the northern border, a very different law of the land is in effect. In Texas, most abortions are now considered a crime past six weeks.

It's a near complete ban and it prohibits procedures before many women even know they're pregnant, even in cases involving rape or incest.

But the state's governor says he has a solution for the rape issue. Listen.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists

from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets. So goal number one in

the state of Texas is to eliminate rape so that no woman, no person, will be a victim of rape.


GORANI: The Democratic congress woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed those remarks as disgusting. And she said Abbott speaks from a place of

deep ignorance.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): And people like governor Abbott and Mitch McConnell want to have more control over a woman's body than that

woman or that person has over themselves.

And the ease with which these men seek to do that to other people is atrocious. It is morally reprehensible. And they don't -- they cannot even

begin to understand the agonizing decisions that people have to make, including in cases of miscarriage, rape and incest.


GORANI: The governor's comments are drawing criticism beyond Washington.


GORANI: The CEO of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center says Abbott's remarks don't reflect the new realities of the new law or the realities of

the women she speaks to every day.

Amy Jones joins me now via Skype from Dallas.

Thanks, Amy Jones, for being with us.

What are you hearing from women who are calling into the center, from women who may have been victims of sexual assault or rape in the aftermath of

this legislation in Texas?

AMY JONES, RAPE CRISIS CENTER, DALLAS: Well, I'll be honest, Hala, we haven't heard a lot of calls to our hotline since this law went into place.

But I will say that we -- we do consistently receive calls from survivors, who have experienced sexual violence and just need someone to talk to, need

to better understand their options, need to understand what their rights are in the state of Texas.

So it's a really common thing for us to speak to survivors, who are facing the reality of a pregnancy after an assault.

GORANI: How much more trauma do you think it will inflict on the survivor of a rape to be told that they cannot legally abort or get the abortion

care that they might need or want after having been raped and falling pregnant as a result?

JONES: I think the amount of trauma is potentially inconceivable for us. I think we'll better understand that as time goes on.

What I will say is we know the heart of sexual violence, the heart of sexual assault is an abuse of power and control. And for someone who has

experienced that loss of power and control over their own body, that is an enormous part of the trauma and the recovery.

And so to then be facing the reality of again not having power and control over their own body and those choices, related to bodily autonomy, I think

will absolutely retraumatize and add additional layers of trauma to survivors as they try and heal and recover.

GORANI: It's almost -- it's very difficult to conceive of a scenario, in which a woman is raped, whether it's incest or whether it's rape from an

acquaintance or rape by a stranger -- and then be forced to go through with a pregnancy she does not want. But that could be the reality for many women

going forward.

JONES: I think that is the reality. That is what we're looking at. And that is what we're all trying to come to terms with.

GORANI: Yes. And let me ask you about -- and you may or may not have heard about these but I'm hearing and reading reports of women stockpiling Plan

B, the day-after pill or contraceptive medication.

Is that happening in Texas?

I mean, that would give us a sense of how much fear there is among women.

JONES: You know, I haven't heard that directly. It certainly would not surprise me. Currently those resources are available over the counter.

But I think it's really, really normal for people to start getting afraid and start stockpiling just in case. I wouldn't be surprised if we are

starting to hear that on our hotline in the next, you know, weeks and coming months.

GORANI: And lastly, governor Abbott has said that he will eliminate rapists. He will go after rapists and basically rape will be eliminated in


What's your reaction to those comments?

JONES: Well, I think that would be fantastic. I think if that were a reality and that were something that could be accomplished, we would all be

really grateful.

But I think we all understand that that's probably not a reality. And it's certainly not going to happen anytime soon.

So in the meantime, what does this law mean for those many, many, many survivors, who are facing the reality of potentially having to carry to

term a pregnancy that's a result of a profound violation of their bodily autonomy?

That's what we're talking about now.

GORANI: Amy Jones, thank you so much, the CEO of the Rape Crisis Center in Dallas. Thanks for joining us on CNN.

On Thursday, President Biden will give a speech, outlining the next phase of his administration's plan to fight the pandemic. It comes as the

country's average daily case count is still soaring. The U.S. is now averaging more than 150,000 new cases every day. That is more than triple

where we were a year ago.

What else has changed?

This time, a lot more kids are getting sick. Children now account for more than a quarter of new weekly cases nationwide. The American Academy of

Pediatrics says more than a quarter million child cases were reported last week, the most since the pandemic began.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN, with the new school year getting into full swing, it is more important than ever for everyone eligible to get



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: If we want to protect the children, particularly those who are not yet eligible for

vaccination, you want to surround the children with people who are vaccinated -- teachers, teachers, school personnel, everyone else.

Even though there are some government leaders locally who are trying to push back on that, we've got to get the school system masked.


FAUCI: In addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people.


GORANI: Well, so far just over 53 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and three quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one


But experts, as we've been reporting for many months now, have said consistently, you need to hit a much higher percentage. In Florida, one of

the big COVID hotspots in the U.S., one school district has lost 13 employees to the virus.

The superintendent says none of them were infected at schools but they were all unvaccinated and African American. While he says he's doing all he can

do convince employees to get vaccinated, the superintendent believes some minority groups do not trust that COVID vaccines actually work. Listen.


ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I think this underscores the big tragedy that we see occurring across


Even though in my community 98 percent of individuals have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, there is still a lag, specific to individuals that

represent ethnic minorities in Miami-Dade.

And this is the result of understandable historic facts that have, in a certain way, prejudiced the understanding of these communities about the

viability of the vaccine.


GORANI: An official at the World Health Organization says the severity of the coronavirus pandemic could have been avoided but that the world missed

the opportunity to eliminate the virus.


DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We had a chance in the beginning of this pandemic. I like not to think of

the "what ifs" too much because it's a very difficult thing for me to think through. This pandemic did not need to be this bad.


GORANI: Well, as the fight against COVID-19 continues, the WHO says global cases have remained stable over the past month. And it says all regions

have reported consistent or declining infections in the past week, compared to the previous week except the Americas, which reported a 19 percent

increase. So good news and not so good news.

Still to come tonight, what looked like a Belarusian sting to catch Russian mercenaries meddling in elections turned out to be something else entirely.

It's a story with a lot of twists -- coming up next.

Plus an unexpected turn in Britney Spears' fight to end her years-long conservatorship. Why she may be one step closer to controlling her own






GORANI: In July last year, security forces in Belarus arrested 33 suspected Russian mercenaries, accusing the Kremlin of sending them to

enflame antigovernment tensions in the country ahead of presidential elections.

The men were paraded on Belarusian state TV before being swiftly deported back to Russia. But CNN can now reveal stunning details of what former

Ukrainian intelligence officials say was actually not a failed attempt by Moscow to meddle in the elections of Belarus at all but a foiled Ukrainian-

led operation to capture and jail Russian mercenaries linked to war crimes.

You're going to need an explainer for this one. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has this exclusive report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dramatic raid in a Minsk hotel was all over state TV, by the Russian's

special forces, shown arresting this group of alleged Russian mercenaries, experienced fighters who said they were described suspected of being sent

by Moscow to disrupt elections in the country last year.

"We got confirmed intel. These Russians had real combat experience and actually took part in armed conflicts," this heavily disguised Belarusian

police commander warned at the time.

But what he didn't know is why this mysterious group of Russians was really there. Few did until now.

CHANCE: All right, well, we're now driving to an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where we're set to meet a

group of former Ukrainian military intelligence officials, who have an extraordinary story about what actually went down in Belarus and about how

those Russian mercenaries were, in fact, part of an elaborate Ukrainian-led sting operation to capture suspected Russian war criminals to bring them to

justice here.

CHANCE (voice-over): The former high ranking officers spoke to CNN on condition we shield their identities. They're not authorized to disclose

details of what they say was an ambitious top secret plan backed by the United States that failed at the last moment when Belarus intervened.

CHANCE: When you saw all those people, those Russian mercenaries being arrested in Belarus, that was a nightmare for you.

What did you think?

SOURCE A, FORMER UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER (through translation): The feeling I got was very bad, because it meant all our hard work had gone

down the drain. We'd carefully prepared for more than a year in the hope that justice would prevail and that these bandits would be in prison and

punished. Unfortunately, this didn't happen.

CHANCE (voice-over): When he says bandits, he means Russian-backed fighters battling Ukrainian government forces in the country's breakaway

east. Among them, Russian nationals accused of involvement in some of the worst atrocities of the war, like the downing in 2014 of a Malaysian

airliner, MH17, with nearly 300 people on board.

Our intelligence sources say the men detained in Belarus have been identified over many months as having suspected links to war crimes.

SOURCE B, FORMER UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER (through translation): There were two who were present when the missile that downed MH17 was

launched. Four others were members of a group responsible for shooting down our military aircraft and killing at least 70 of our best men.

So identifying and punishing these people was of high interest to us.

CHANCE (voice-over): It was apparently of interest to U.S. intelligence, too. But U.S. officials deny having any direct role.

According to our sources, the Ukrainian-led operation got some U.S. cash, technical assistance and advice from the CIA on drawing Russian mercenaries

in. A senior U.S. official told CNN those allegations are false.

CHANCE: But identifying the right people and then luring them out of Russia required an elaborate deception. So our former Ukrainian military

intelligence sources told us they set about creating a fake private military company with its own Russian language websites.

On it, they advertised jobs, like one lucrative contract, $5,000 a month to protect oil facilities in Venezuela. That was the bait. And we're told

hundreds of Russian mercenaries actually took it.

CHANCE (voice-over): All they had to do, according to our sources, was prove who they were and where they fought.


SOURCE A (through translation): We started to call them and say, "Hey, man, OK, tell me something about yourself. Maybe you are not really a

fighter. Maybe you were a plumber or something like that."

And then they started to reveal things about themselves, sending us documents, military IDs and proof of where they'd fought and we're like,

"Bingo, we can use that."

CHANCE: They're sending you evidence of who they are?

SOURCE A (through translation): Yes, they sent it to us. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): In fact, what followed was, according to our sources, a fountain of freely volunteered intel, not just documents and photos but

potentially incriminating videos like this one, after the downing of a Ukrainian military aircraft in the eastern war zone, offered up by the

fighters themselves.

All Ukrainian intelligence had to do was pick the ones that wanted the offer of the lucrative Venezuela contracts and, because of COVID-19 travel

restrictions in Russia, assemble them in neighboring Belarus to fly out.

Our intelligence sources say the real plan was to land them in Ukraine and make the arrests.

SOURCE B (through translator): If these people would have ended up here in Ukraine, the details of their criminal acts would have become known around

the world. Ukraine could have brought them to justice and shown that our fight with Russia is serious and that we won't raise our hands and


CHANCE (voice-over): But the plan failed when the Belarusians arrested the group just hours before they were meant to leave. It could have been a

stunning blow to Moscow. Instead, according to our sources, a bold Ukrainian intelligence operation was foiled.

CHANCE: The current Ukrainian government trying to put distance between themselves and what unfolded last year. They're not yet responded to

request for a comment about this failed sting.

But even if this operation had been successful and so many Russians captured, it's unlikely anybody from the Ukrainian or the U.S. governments

would have wanted to take responsibility -- Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


GORANI: Incredible story.

Coming up, Britney Spears' fight to end her conservatorship just got support from a very unlikely source. That's coming up next. We'll be right






GORANI: Pop icon -- the pop icon Britney Spears is fighting for freedom from that conservatorship that has controlled her money, her health, her

career path as well for the past 13 years. We've covered it quite a bit.

It's been run by her father, Jamie Spears, in an arrangement his daughter has called abusive. Britney says she's been forced to perform, has been

given no privacy and was even forced to use birth control against her will.

But that could be about to change because of a new court petition from Jamie Spears himself. Chloe Melas explains.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Britney Spears' father filing a petition to end his daughter's 13-year conservatorship. This after Britney Spears

said in two emotional testimonies this summer that she wanted to charge her father with conservatorship abuse.

In this 112 page petition that CNN obtained late Tuesday night, Jamie says he's acting in the best interest of his daughter and that a lot has changed

since the conservatorship first went into effect in 2009.

Britney has yet to publicly comment on her father's latest petition. The next court hearing is scheduled for September 29th. That is where Judge

Brenda Penny (ph) is expected to rule on whether or not this conservatorship will end once and for all.

Britney Spears' attorney, Matthew Rosengart, releasing a statement to CNN, calling this, quote, "a victory" but saying that he still wants Jamie

Spears to sit down for a sworn deposition under oath. So this is still developing and it looks like this battle could play out far past this month

-- back to you.


GORANI: Chloe Melas, thank you very much.

Richard Quest is going to join us in just a minute. Here's a look at the big board for you. We had a very brief moment on the plus side for the Dow

Jones. It's currently down a fifth of a percent, losing 63 points.

Why is that?

Well, there's no one better placed to explain what's happening on the markets than Richard, who's coming up next. As for me, that's going to do

it for my hour. I'm Hala Gorani. I'll see you same time, same place tomorrow.