Return to Transcripts main page


Ukraine: A Country Divided; Gadhafi's Son Extradited to Libya; Imagine a World

Aired March 6, 2014 - 14:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Crisis in Crimea: it continues. The Ukrainian region at the center of tensions this week escalated the situation further today. Lawmakers voted to split from Ukraine and join Russia. Crimea's parliament plans to put the idea to its own people and their referendum in just 10 days.

Crimea is, of course, the focal point of a battle between Russia and Ukraine that started after protesters ousted Ukraine's pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych, last month.


GORANI (voice-over): For Russian forces that are out on the streets in Crimea's capital -- you see the images there. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted Moscow has the right to use military force if necessary, he says, to protect ethnic (INAUDIBLE). But Ukraine's new government and top Western officials fear an outright invasion.

Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was visibly upset by news of the referendum. At an emergency E.U. summit, he urged Russia to pull back its troops and called the referendum illegitimate.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, UKRANIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is illegitimate decision and this so-called referendum has no legal grounds at all. That's the reason why we urge Russian government not to support those who claim separatism in Ukraine. Crimea was, is and will be an integral part of Ukraine.


GORANI: The prime minister also made clear that a military response to Russia's aggression, though not preferred, was still on the table.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic scramble to resolve the crisis carries on. The American secretary of state, John Kerry, met Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, today in Rome.

And in Washington, the American president, Barack Obama, delivered a statement on Ukraine just hours after signing an executive order paving the way for sanctions against officials responsible for the crisis.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since the Russian proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violent the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.


GORANI: Geoffrey Pyatt is Obama's man in Kiev. He's the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and he joins me now on the phone.

Thanks, Ambassador, for being with us now.

What if Crimea goes ahead with this referendum on March 16th, essentially to enter -- to, quote, "enter into the Russian Federation and break away from Ukraine"?

What happens then?

GEOFFREY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, it's hard to speculate, Hala, but I think one thing that's clear is that as far as the international community is concerned, as far as the United States is concerned, and as far as the government of Ukraine is concerned, Crimea will remain part of this country.

GORANI: So who -- do you think that Moscow's directly behind this push by the Crimean parliament?

PYATT: I'm sorry, Hala? I lost you on the last question, please.

GORANI: Do you think Moscow is directly behind this push by the Crimean parliament to organize a referendum so quickly on this question?

PYATT: It's hard to tell. I mean, let me say as far as our work with Moscow is concerned on this, as your report stated earlier, Secretary Kerry and the president, vice president, all deeply engaged with Russia at this point to try to find an off-ramp from this crisis, to de-escalate, to identify diplomatic measures that addressed Russia's legitimate interests in Crimea and Russia's expressed concerns.

But I can certainly say that there's no way in which this referendum announcement advances that goal. In fact, the referendum combined with other steps to tighten the grip in Crimea are a step backwards.

GORANI: So you're still hopeful here? I mean, despite the fact that essentially the situation hasn't de-escalated? If anything, it has escalated with the announcement of this referendum.

PYATT: Well, we're working as hard as we can to create a diplomatic path here. We're working with our European partners on the question of international observers. Unfortunately, the U.N. representative, Ambassador Siri (ph) was forcibly expelled from Crimea last night.

And the observers from Vienna, from the OSCE, the military observers who sought to access to Crimea, invited, I should know, by the sovereign government of Ukraine, were not allowed to enter Crimean territory when they arrived there this afternoon.

So there's a lot to worry about. But we're not going to give up on the diplomatic effort, because we're convinced that, over the long term, Russia, like the United States, like all of Ukraine's neighbors, has an interest in a country which is sovereign, united and stable.

GORANI: But nothing that diplomats have done so far has worked, Ambassador.

PYATT: No, we -- and that -- which is why -- but you have the announcement of additional steps today. President Obama's announcement, which you reported earlier, regarding the executive order, creating an additional tool to use against those who threaten Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In addition, we have already implemented U.S. visa bans on individuals who are associated with these threats to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. You remember the last time we talked we had already been (INAUDIBLE) for individuals in Ukraine involved with --


GORANI: But --

PYATT: -- rights abuses.

GORANI: -- if I may jump in, this just sounds like a very small step. And the E.U. itself isn't even going down the road of sanctions yet. I mean, is any of this pressure really going to help Western countries achieve their goal, which is to get Russia to back away militarily and, you know, relinquish control of Crimea?

Is that realistic?

PYATT: Well, the important thing to remember is that Russia today finds itself incredibly isolated. That was apparent in the U.N. Security Council earlier this week. It was striking if you look at the statement from the Chinese representative, defending Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The entire international community has expressed concern about what can only be viewed as a military invasion and now with the seizure of television stations, with the imposition of this illegal referendum,, with additional steps to crack down on international presence, it certainly looks like Russia is isolating itself through these actions. But we were -- are going to remain engaged.

GORANI: Well, the economy minister yesterday, of the acting government in Kiev, told me that there are -- there is actually an open channel of communication between himself and his Russian counterpart and others in the government, for instance, the acting prime minister has spoken to Dmitry Medvedev in Russia so that there seem to be some discussions between the acting government in Kiev and Moscow here.

Do you find that encouraging? What could it yield to, do you think?

PYATT: Exactly, Hala. We are very supportive of the dialogue that has begun between Moscow and Kiev. I would not that it really goes across the board. Minister Sheremeta, who you spoke to, has had contact with his counterpart. Mr. Yatsenyuk has done the same. President Turchynov has spoken to the speaker of the Duma. The heads of the defense and security establishments have engaged with their counterparts.

We think it's through this kind of direct conversation that Russia and Ukraine can stabilize their relationship and we certainly believe that Ukraine needs to have a strong relationship with Russia because Russia plays a huge role here.

GORANI: And do you think it all depends really on Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia? Some people have looked at his actions over the last few weeks and accused him of trying to recompose parts of the Soviet Union.

Do you agree with that?

PYATT: Well, I -- on the first question, I really can't diagnose who's calling the shots in Moscow at this point. But, again, our hope is that whoever is -- whoever is calling the shots will play the long game and will recognize where Russia's interests lie, vis-a-vis its enduring relationship with Ukraine. At this point, a lot of the actions that have been taken, the actions that are coming from Moscow have united Ukrainians and have alienated Ukrainians from Russia.

And it's quite telling that last night you had a huge demonstration, 10,000 people in the eastern city of Donetsk, an anti-Russia demonstration in a Russian-speaking city, because people don't like the idea of a military invasion in what they consider their sovereign territory.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, joining us on the phone from the Ukrainian capital.

So the Crimean parliament has decided it wishes to leave Ukraine and become an autonomous region of Russia. Let's get a view on this from Moscow. CNN contributor Vladimir Pozner joins me now from the Russian capital.

Did you -- were you able to hear my conversation with the ambassador there, Vladimir?


GORANI: OK. So he's essentially still pushing the diplomatic route, hoping for a political resolution to all of this.

Do you think that it's feasible and realistic?

POZNER: If I do, I think in fact it's the most important thing to do, to keep trying to solve this through diplomacy and politically, certainly not through force. Force will only make things much, much worse and I'm very hopeful that there is a political solution to this.

GORANI: What if, though, Crimea goes ahead with this referendum? What if it breaks away from Ukraine and Western countries consider it illegal and illegitimate? But what if all that happens? Then what?

POZNER: That's a very good question. Let's put -- let's look at it this way.

First of all, what do we consider legitimate? Is the government in Kiev a legitimate government? After all, it overthrew the other government. That's also anti-constitutional. It's not -- the constitution doesn't allow that as all revolutions are anti-constitutional.

You have the same thing in the Crimea. In that case, they're kind of equal. Now 60 percent of the population in Crimea are Russians. And they want to be part of Russia. Is that legitimate? Personally, I don't think so.

Will they go ahead with that referendum? I think they will.

Will the result be overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia? I'm afraid so.

The question is how will President Putin react to that?

GORANI: But I mean, you can't -- I mean, it's just like having a U.S. state decide that it wants to break away from, you know, the United States, the federal system, and just join another country. I mean, this just all sounds surreal. It doesn't sound like the kind of process that is anchored in reality and in practicality here.

POZNER: I'm afraid that that comparison is a little bit lame. Let me remind you that there's a place called Kosovo that wanted to break away from Serbia and not only did it break away, but NATO bombed Serbia to make sure that it did break away.

These things have happened before. I'm not saying I support them. But they have happened. And I think that one of the problems with Crimea is that the Russian people who live there feel that they're not really -- how should I put this? First class citizens in present Ukraine.

Now I don't support the idea of Crimea joining the Russian Federation. I think it would be a big mistake. But I understand the emotions that are behind that. And when Mr. Yatsenyuk says that Crimea was, is and will be Ukrainian, that's not true. It was part of Russia for over 250 years.

GORANI: All right. So I went from asking a good question to a lame one. Let me try for a good question in your book for this one.

Lots of talk, as I mentioned there, with the U.S. ambassador about Vladimir Putin wanting to rebuild some sort of empire. So the fundamental question behind that is what is his motivation here? Is it geostrategic? Is it empire building? Is it economic? Is about -- is it about his own place in history?

What's behind his actions right now?

POZNER: I frankly think it's geopolitical. I think there's a strong fear that should Ukraine become part of the European Union, NATO will be in Ukraine and on the Soviet border -- on the Russian borders. It has a large border, a long border between Ukraine and Russia. And there's a fear of that. It's a geopolitical game. And I happen to think that the United States is also involved for geopolitical reasons.

Quite frankly, I don't believe that either side with all the talk actually cares about freedom, human rights and all of that. It's all about national interests and about geopolitics.

GORANI: Right. But it --


POZNER: Not a pleasant thing to admit, but that's the way I feel.

GORANI: -- well, usually, it's realpolitik, I mean, when you dig deep enough rather than ideals.


GORANI: In any international move. But here's the thing, what about Ukraine --

POZNER: Absolutely.

GORANI: -- it's almost like we've stopped talking about Ukrainians. We just keep talking about Russians, Americans, Germans.

Is Ukraine just going to remain a client state of one side or the other for, you know, for the foreseeable future? When will --

POZNER: I think --

GORANI: -- thrive on its own.

POZNER: I think that's a very good question. I also think that you're dealing with a country that's divided 50 percent Russia, 50 percent Ukrainian. There's danger of a civil war which some people don't seem to be talking about. But I think it's the most dangerous thing. And yes, to me, it looks to a certain extent that, in the near future, at least, Ukraine is going to be either a client state of one country or the other, sadly enough. I wish it weren't that way, but quite -- you know, to be open with you, that's what I think.

GORANI: Vladimir Pozner, joining us from Moscow, thanks very much for your analysis today.

POZNER: Thank you.

GORANI: And while Crimea searches for its political identity, it might take a lesson from the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring. The Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, today announced the lifting of his country's state of emergency, which has been in effect since 2011. It's another hopeful sign for a nation which only three years ago toppled its autocratic leader and in its first democratic elections empowered a moderate Islamist party.

Now Tunisia has a new constitution and a peaceful transition of power that will bring about new elections this year. And after a break, the other side of the Arab Spring in Libya, where political tensions and frustrations are still a combustible combination. The ghost of Gadhafi when we come back.




GORANI: Welcome back to the program, I'm Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane.

Turning now to Libya, where more than two years after he fled, Saadi Gadhafi, son of former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, has been extradited back to Libya from Niger, where he'd been living since his father's fall and killing.

A Libyan militia associated with the Libyan government posted these pictures of Saadi Gadhafi on their Facebook page, the before, the during and the after and the shaving of his head and beard. Saadi was a business man and professional football player before the Libyan revolution. He is not wanted by the International Criminal Court, unlike his brother, Saif.

Nick Kaufman is a defense lawyer who's Republican Saadi Gadhafi in the past. I spoke to him a short while ago from Jerusalem.


GORANI: You've read the latest news reports, Nick Kaufman, about Niger's extradition of Saadi Gadhafi back to Libya.

What are your issues with this extradite?

NICK KAUFMAN, SAADI GADHAFI'S FORMER LAWYER: Well, you've used the word extradition. I think extradition is rather a euphemistic term in the circumstances. I'm not even sure that he was extradited. Extradition suggests that this was a legal process, where Saadi Gadhafi was afforded a lawyer, a court hearing. And I'm not even clear -- it's not even clear to me that that even took place.

Now I'm quite surprised at the authorities in Niger. They know who I am. They know that I was formally representing Saadi. They know how to contact me. I know Maru Ahmadu (ph), the minister of justice. I also know Mohammed Bazoum (ph), the foreign minister. They could have easily contacted me and told them of their intentions.

So I'm not so sure that the proper extradition process, in fact, took place here.

GORANI: And so they have not contacted you; have you -- because you're, as I understand it, you're not currently representing Saadi Gadhafi. Have you contacted authorities in Libya?

KAUFMAN: Well, I only found out about it this morning. And I myself am trying to learn information. As I said, I haven't seen anything so far to suggest that there was, in fact, a proper extradition request. Maybe there was. I know that there was an Interpol red notice issue for Saadi Gadhafi.

But that's a different matter entirely.

GORANI: What is a red notice issue exactly? What would it mean in terms of --

KAUFMAN: Well --

GORANI: -- what authorities could do with this case?

KAUFMAN: -- well, the Interpol red notice was issued three years ago when Saadi first fled from Libya. It was basically demanding his return to Libya for offenses of theft. Now a red notice is not an international arrest warrant. A red notice is merely a notice to a country informing them that Saadi Gadhafi is wanted for certain crimes.

That is sufficient notice for the country which is requested to initiate an extradition process. That did not happen here, as it would appear.

GORANI: So what you're arguing isn't the fact that Libya should not get him back and try him inside of Libya. You're arguing that the process itself was flawed? Is that fair to say?

KAUFMAN: Well, I haven't seen anything to suggest at this present moment in time that the process was, shall we say, totally legal. What I can say is that there have been allegations in the past in similar situations -- and I take Abdullah al-Senussi (ph) for example, who was detained in Mauritania. He was returned to Libya and the allegations go and these are allegations which have been raised by his lawyers at The Hague, that money was paid.

GORANI: OK. But my question being you do agree, though, that he must answer to some of those charges and allegations against him, against the role he played in his family? Clearly, this isn't Saif Gadhafi; it's another set of charges.

But you do agree that the Libyan authorities should try him for some of these -- for some of these alleged crimes, correct?

KAUFMAN: Well, you're asking me to comment on whether they should try him. My answer to that is quite clear. I mean, Saadi Gadhafi told me when I was representing him that he strenuously denies the charges which are the subject matter of the red notice. Of course, if Libya has evidence against Saadi Gadhafi, then Saadi Gadhafi should be entitled to a trial, and a fair trial in accordance of due process.

GORANI: You don't think he will get that?

KAUFMAN: Do I think that Saadi Gadhafi will get a fair trial in Libya?


KAUFMAN: Well, that's hard to say at the present moment in time. Let me just take, for example, what happened less than a month ago. The former prosecutor general, with whom I was also in touch with, Mr. al-Hasadi (ph), he was murdered. So if they can't even protect their own former justice ministers and officials, I can't see how they can protect someone like Saadi Gadhafi.

GORANI: You know Saadi Gadhafi obviously having represented him in the past. What do you think his mindset is now?

KAUFMAN: Well, I know that Saadi's stay in Niger has been particularly hard for him. He's been under total house arrest for the last three years. And this humiliating experience which we've all witnessed today, having his head shaved in front of the whole world, I can't imagine that would exactly add to his present state of mind.

I also take into account the fact that he's witnessed the brutal murder of his own father on television, as did the whole world.

GORANI: You have those who suffered under Gadhafi's rule would say, well, he doesn't deserve our sympathy. I'm sure you've heard that before. The question, though, having represented him in the past is would you represent him again if asked?

KAUFMAN: Well, if he were to ask me and the Libyan authorities were to assure my own personal safety and Saadi Gadhafi's own personal safety, then I would certainly consider the proposition, yes.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Nick Kaufman, joining us from Jerusalem with more on --

KAUFMAN: Thank you, Hala.

GORANI: -- on this case, thanks.

Nick Kaufman there. And we put his points about the legality of Saadi Gadhafi's extradition to the Libyan justice minister himself, Salah el- Marghani. He told us, quote, "He was extradited at the request of the attorney general in Libya and the approval of the authorities in Niger. He is in Libya to face trial and that trial should be in accordance with international standards of a fair trial. Any person is innocent unless otherwise proven guilty," unquote. That from the justice minister in Libya. And we'll keep following that story.

And after a break we'll take another look at Ukraine through the lens and the genius of Sergei Eisenstein, the movie director once known as the king of Soviet cinema. The silent film that still speaks volumes when we come back.




GORANI: And a final thought tonight, as we've seen in recent days, events in Ukraine have spun protests and political turmoil. Now imagine a world where almost a country ago it was the setting for one of the greatest films of all time, "Battleship Potemkin," is the 1925 silent movie masterwork by Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. A dramatization of a mutiny aboard a Russian bipartisanship in Odessa Harbor. But Potemkin is more than propaganda. Truly revolutionary is Eisenstein's use of editing, rapid-fire images that drive the action and clutch at the throat.

The scene on the Odessa steps is one of the most imitated in movie history, as a cheering crowd is suddenly attacked by Czarist troops.

And this, the image of a dying mother losing control of her baby carriage as it tumbles down the steps has been copied in modern movies like "The Untouchables." But the original seems to be the one remaining untouchable, a heart-stopping groundbreaking testament to cinema at its finest and a stirring portrait of a country caught up in a revolution that still reverberates today.

And before we go tonight, a world exclusive interview we have coming up, Christiane Amanpour sits down with Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas. She gets his reaction to protests against his government, the state of Venezuela's economy and whether better relations with the U.S. are possible. That is AMANPOUR Friday at 7:00, 8:00 pm in Berlin.

That's going to do it for our program. You can go to the website,, and find me on Twitter @HalaGorani. Thanks and goodbye from the CNN Center.