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Russian Roulette; Oscar Pistorius Trial; Imagine a World

Aired March 3, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Clear out by tomorrow morning or face a military storm. That was a stark ultimatum issued to Ukrainian forces in Crimea by the Russian Black Fleet commander.

But then an unnamed spokesman denied such an ultimatum had ever been issued. It is the kind of tension and unclear messaging that has triggered an urgent scramble to rein in Russia before its actions in Crimea tip toward full-scale invasion, possibly even beyond Crimea.

As President Obama dispatches Secretary of State John Kerry to Kiev, the State Department says that it is preparing sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. European ministers have been meeting in Brussels and the British foreign secretary calls this the continent's crisis of the century.

With Ukrainian military and naval bases surrounded by groups of armed men believed to be Russian troops, President Putin's ultimate aims are not clear. He hasn't spoken publicly but he has now appeared in public today at military exercises in Russia.

The new interim Ukrainian authorities are on high and nervous alert. The former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, perhaps the country's most powerful politician just now, joined me earlier from Kiev to urgently plea for help in preventing Russia from simply gobbling up the Crimea.

This is her first international interview since being freed from jail last week.


AMANPOUR: Yulia Tymoshenko, welcome to the program. Thank you for joining me today in the midst of this very, very severe crisis.

YULIA TYMOSHENKO, UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE (through translator): Yes, I'm happy to hear you and very happy to participate in your program.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you first, Ms. Tymoshenko, you know, diplomacy is going into overdrive. Secretary Kerry is on his way to Kiev.

Your acting prime minister, Mr. Yatsenyuk, has said that Ukraine will never get rid of Crimea. It will hang onto Crimea and the Russians are saying that their troops will stay in Crimea until this crisis is resolved.

What is going to be the next move?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): The next move of Russians is known today, literally several minutes ago the Russian Duma has started listening to the draft of the law of annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. It's only a question of time when it will be voted.

We all know that votes in Duma will be found. That's why Russia is escalating the crisis now. And the world should understand, should realize that Ukraine on its own won't be able to solve this issue with Russia on its own, absolutely not possible.

And only the world, at the highest possible level, using the highest possible means can stop this unprecedented for our time aggression.

AMANPOUR: You say that the Russian parliament is now discussing annexing Crimea.

What do you expect from the world, which has already said that there is no military solution to help Ukraine?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): We all well remember that when Budapest Memorandum was signed and when Ukraine was giving up with its nuclear weapons, then the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia was providing guarantees, guarantees of peace and independence, integrity of its territory.

And now, when it's the crisis is happening, Ukraine is relying on its partners. And if Russia in such a cynical and rude way violated this memorandum, then every person in Ukraine believes that the United States and the United Kingdom, that they will stick to their guarantees.

And when Russia is allowed to take away Crimea, then the world will change. And then not only politics and life in Ukraine will change. The politics and life will change practically everywhere in the world.

And then we have to accept to states that in 21st century, one country, an aggressor can violate all the international agreements, take away territories whenever she likes.

We can't afford this in the world. That's why if the instruments of diplomacy won't work, if all negotiations or instruments won't work and personal relations with Mr. Putin won't work, the world has to apply strongest means.

If Ukraine loses Crimea, it will be a signal for all people who are under threat of aggression from Russia. They will signal that they are not protected and they will have to go and subordinate to Russia.

I don't believe that the United Kingdom and the United States and also the European Union as a whole will do this to Ukraine. And let's please do your consultations and choose adequate instruments in order to -- not to allow the tragedy to happen on the territory of the -- of Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: Ms. Tymoshenko, you sound like you're raising the stakes and you are calling for the West to use military force against Russia.

Am I reading you correctly? Is that what you're calling for?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): As far as the strength, using force is concerned, I would like to remind you that in Crimea, Russian -- the Russian Federation is using force to full extent. And I don't believe it's allowed to act in this following (ph) way, even to the super powers as Russia.

I am asking all the world personally, every world leader, to use all the possibilities in order to avoid Ukraine losing Crimea.

And also I believe some other steps, which are necessary to be done, I believe that this is time now to sign, immediately sign -- immediately sign an agreement, a cessation agreement between Ukraine and the European Union.

Today, all powers in Ukraine, the parliament, the government, practically all people of Ukraine are voting for the cessation to be signed. And the -- for the Ukrainian people who gave lives, its life, for the united Europe, this is a first time in Europe when the Ukrainians gave their lives to -- for the part of -- be part of Europe.

And when we're told no, that these -- they are not ready to sign this agreement, then Ukraine want -- doesn't really understand this kind of attitude.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Kerry is coming to Kiev and he'll meet with you and other leaders there. They are trying to persuade Ukraine to keep its cool; in other words, not to give any pretext to Russia for a full-scale intervention or even to go beyond the Crimea.

Is Ukraine thinking of any military response, its own military response to the Russians?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): We're perfectly aware of the balance of forces of Russia and Ukraine. And I shouldn't comment it. We cannot put people to death at the time when the super powers will be watching it.

And me, as a person also responsible here, yesterday I addressed the Ukrainians, the population of Ukraine to keep calm and not to react to any aggression because every response to Russian aggression will be used by the aggressor, just to destroy Ukraine.

There's a critical situation. And as you can understand, it doesn't only concern only Ukraine, but also stability worldwide.

That's why this crisis should be solved not on the level of just Ukraine and Russia. It will be irresponsible. The solution will be found -- should be found at the level of super powers, the strongest powers in the world.

AMANPOUR: The Russians are calling for a government of national unity in Ukraine. So also are your Western friends.

They want to see you reach out and persuade the ethnic Russians in Crimea and elsewhere that their rights will be respected and that the new Ukrainian government is a government for all Ukrainians.

Can you reach out to those Russians who are being told that your new government does not like them and is anti-them to make sure that they feel part of the new Ukraine?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): Well, first of all, we, all of us, should perfectly realize what kind of ultimatum is voiced by Russia.

The ultimatum is that they might stop the aggression if we return a corrupted, blood-stained law of Mr. Yanukovych, which all his team return him to power, and then possibly Russia will look into stopping the aggression.

For Ukraine, this option of ultimatum is not acceptable. One doesn't need to persuade anyone. All Ukrainian people is uniquely united, both east, west; they're united. They don't want war. They want stability and peace and they're against the aggression.

Today, people in Crimea, literally, every minute, call to Russia not to let them down and not to start a war in Crimea.

You should understand that now every Ukrainian, including those living in Crimea, look up to Western countries and expect that Ukraine will be -- will be protected by -- according to agreements signed.

That's why don't leave Ukrainian people on its own with -- against an aggressive, cynical Kremlin, I just beg you, those who hear me now.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask about the order for Ukrainian people to report for military training. We're told that that is what your interim authorities have done, that there is a call up for males to start training for a period of 10 days.

If you think that Ukraine cannot face off with Russia militarily, why is this happening? And for what purpose?

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): These -- I'm sorry; it's very simple.

If the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union will leave us on our own in this difficult situation and if the aggression will come to the extent that to the Crimea will be annexed, those men who came to mobilization to -- those men will just go and die for Ukraine. You should understand that.

And they will give their lives; that's why they're being mobilized now. And that's why I've asked the world not to allow bloodshed in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: Yulia Tymoshenko, thank you for joining me at this very, very difficult moment.

TYMOSHENKO (through translator): Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And next from that real Russian drama with players and passions straight out of "War and Peace," to a drama worthy of a Hollywood murder mystery, the sensational trial of Oscar Pistorius began in South Africa today, not behind closed courtroom doors but in front of the television cameras -- a first. Pistorius and justice on trial in the Rainbow Nation when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and now to the arrest that stunned South Africa and shocked the world. Today more than a year after Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, he says by accident, he went on trial charged with her murder.

This is the moment the somber 27-year-old Paralympic athlete arrived at the high court in Pretoria and for the first time since the fatal shooting on Valentine's Day last year, he came face-to-face with this woman. She is Reeva's mother.

And this wasn't the only first for Pistorius. These pictures you're seeing mark a turning point in South Africa. TV cameras are being allowed to broadcast from inside the courtroom for the very first time in the country's history.

The cameras will give South African the chance to scrutinize their criminal justice system and its gun laws in ways that they've never been able to do before. Now one man who knows more than most about these issues is Mannie Witz. He is South African lawyer with 35 years experience and he joins me now from outside the court in Pretoria.

Mannie Witz, thank you very much indeed for joining me. Let me start by asking you how do you assess the first testimony, the first day, if you like, in front of these first-time-ever live cameras?

MANNIE WITZ, SOUTH AFRICAN LAWYER: I think it was very, very interesting. It's the first time that I've seen it in probably. I've done a lot that have been televised myself, but commissions of inquiry that I've noticed there the witness in question who was a circumstantial witness, who was a neighbor who stayed in the same complex or the complex next door declined to be televised.

So you saw the advocates; you saw the judge. You saw the two assessors and she decided she didn't want to be televised. So all you heard was her actual testimony.

I only watched a bit of it. I watched a little bit this afternoon. So I didn't watch all the testimony. I watched some of it. And I watched the cross-examination before they adjourned for tomorrow morning.

Let me ask you this, then, because you bring up a point. Not all of this trial will be televised. There are opening statements; there's certain participants who will be televised. But as you pointed out, witnesses who don't want to be televised won't be.

Just run us through what exactly will be televised and why this is important for South Africa.

WITZ: Look, I think it's very, very important not only for South Africa but also for the whole world to see that we've got a very, very good justice system. It's based on Roman (ph) Dutch law, together with a lot of English law. And we've got a system that works. You've got a very, very competent judge, very experienced.

And she is also pointed two assessors, both with legal experience to assist her in coming to a decision after they've heard all the evidence, both for the defense as well as the state, which is the direct public prosecutions.

But a lot of the witnesses who feel that they don't want to be televised are probably the lay (ph) witnesses. These are circumstantial witnesses. These are other witnesses who don't want their identity disclosed. And I think it's mainly the expert witnesses, the (INAUDIBLE) forensics and those type of witnesses, depending on themselves and on the ruling of the judge who might decide whether or not they want to be televised or not.

AMANPOUR: And you know the judge very well. She was a student of yours.

What about the defense? Do you think that Oscar Pistorius would be put on the stand? You are a defense attorney yourself. He's obviously, you know, given his plea in court and he's had his written statement up to now, his affidavit.

Is it in his interest, do you think, to be put on the stand?

WITZ: Well, the burden of proof remains on the state, the director public prosecutions. They have to prove all the elements of the offense beyond any reasonable doubt against Mr. Pistorius. So at the end of the case is one of three choices. If they feel there's no evidence on either all the charges or some of the charges, in terms of Section 174 of our Criminal Procedure Act (INAUDIBLE) 1977, as amended, they can apply for a discharge at the end of the case. That very simply means that if there's no evidence before which a judge, in this particular case, the judge and the two assessors, acting reasonably, might convict the accused.

So if they find there's no evidence, they can there, at that stage, acquit. Then you're left as a defense advocate, which I am, and the defense in this particular case with two choices, either you can close your case without giving any evidence or alternatively if you believe that prima facie they have made out a case that you have to answer, you can then elect whether your client wants to give evidence of his own defense, together with any supporting witnesses and whether or not that you want to rebut any evidence that is used against him. And then obviously once he's given his evidence, he'll be subjected to, I can assure you, a very testing and thorough cross-examination by the state.

AMANPOUR: Mannie, a lot of -- you have said this is a great opportunity for South Africa to see your fine justice system. But of course many South Africans feel that the justice system is stacked and that, you know, there are so many issues at play here.

Do you think this trial, by being televised, will actually, you know, have a positive effect on showing justice to be done? Because isn't the showing of justice to be done a fundamental principle of justice in the first place?

WITZ: Well, one of our fundamental principles on which our whole justice system has always been based and that goes back from centuries, is justice must be seen to be done. Now I think this gives a good opportunity that the people in this particular matter, they're from the state and the defense point of view, including the accused himself, as well as both families, who are both, unfortunately, involved in this tragedy that's unfolding, that occurred, will all be seen to be given a fair trial. You'll be able to see how the justice system works, see whether or not it's a fair trial.

And people can actually see that evidence is led, cross-examination, closing arguments and all the things that make up the case and then see whether or not the court is in a position to come to a decision and a just decision, bearing in mind the question of the burden and the onus in this case, the burden of proof.

AMANPOUR: And Mannie, Mannie, finally, you know, this has obviously been described as many of these big trials are, as the trial of the century. It has caused a huge amount of international hype and attention with cameras from all over the world outside that courtroom. And a special South African channel devoted to this trial 24/7.

Will Oscar Pistorius, do you think, get a fair trial?

WITZ: I think from what I've seen so far, I think definitely he'll definitely get a fair trial. And you know, knowing the judge, I was her master (ph).


WITZ: And knowing the judge in this particular matter, I think that most definitely she'll ensure that he does get a fair trial.

And she follows the rules. She follows the procedure. And I've got no doubt that in regard to all the parties, they're very experienced. They're very, very well versed and very experienced, both the defense, the advocates, the attorney as well as the state. So you've got very competent people, probably be some of the top heavyweights, as we call them, lawyers in South Africa. So I think everybody that's watching, everybody that sees and sees what unfolds will no doubt come to a conclusion, whatever the outcome at the end of the case. The sad case as well as the defense, if any of this is led, that the people that are involved and the country have seen the justice system work. And there will be definitely get a fair trial. And of that I'm very confident what I've seen so far.

AMANPOUR: Mannie Witz, thank you very much indeed for you analysis, long-time defense lawyer there in South Africa on the Pistorius trial.

And a final thought: last night, as millions of people watched around the world "12 Years a Slave" won the Oscar for Best Picture. And director Steve McQueen concluded his emotional and excited acceptance speech with these words.


STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR: I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.



AMANPOUR: And he, of course, made history being the first black director to have his film win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Now imagine a world where the fight against modern slavery still goes on.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Back in 2012, CNN's award-winning Freedom Project went to the West African nation of Mauritania, which topped the list of the 2013 Global Slavery Index with over 140,000 people living in slavery there.

Mauritania officially abolished slavery back in 1981. It was the last nation on Earth to do so. But generations of children have been born into servitude and continue to be born into servitude. Many of them are women, forced to work for no pay as everything from goatherders to domestic servants and often they are subject to physical and sexual abuse.

There have been limited attempts to train women for other skills like sewing and weaving. But the government has been painfully slow to acknowledge the existence of slavery, insisting there are only what it calls vestiges of the past. But as Steve McQueen so eloquently and passionately stated, for more than tens of millions of people around the world, slavery did not die on the plantation, but it is still very much alive. And the fight goes on to stop it.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye tonight from New York.