Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Two More Planes Shot Out of the Sky Over Ukraine; Report Details Collapse Of Peace Process; Long Journey Back For MH17 Victims

Aired July 23, 2014 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SHANE HATTINGH, MH17 PASSENGER'S BROTHER: It's surreal. That's the best I can do.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: It strikes me that you said that felt selfish by hoping that his body was among those that were there today.

HATTINGH: Yes. Because, you know, I am so proud of the Dutch nation to show an evolved kind of society that showed respect on a massive level like that, that I just want to applaud them. And therefore, I think, you know, those, especially the children, you know, I hope those are the first ones to have landed.

KEILAR: And tell us about the process for your family and you don't know and it could take a lot of time before you find out where Cameron's body is and if his is among the first of these that have come from Ukraine. What is your family going through and who is giving them information about identifying him?

HATTINGH: Well, the South African consulate is working hand in hand with the British consulate. And they seem to be getting quite a lot of good feedback as the days go on. I know my sister is back here in South Africa, and she's, you know, obviously being in the Netherlands alone is not exactly where she should be. She should be here with her kids waiting for news. And you know, with the little we do know is that Cameron was in business class and that particular part of the plane was found reasonably intact. So we can only hope that things will work out for us and that we can get Cameron home and start the grieving process.

KEILAR: One of the things that I think struck a lot of us as we watched today was that this was very dignified. And especially that it stood in contrast to what we saw before this period of these bodies being in the Netherlands, the way they were treated initially in Ukraine. What is your family's reaction been to that?

HATTINGH: You know, I've spoken to my sister and we try steer clear of that because it is the so upsetting for her. But I can tell you right now, you know, these are people that have been part of a rogue state for a long time. They have no respect for each other. I mean, look what they're doing. I mean, we're at the point where we're almost annexing another piece of a country. We've done that before and look where it's gotten us. So, it's no surprise that they were treating, you know, the remains of people like that. It made me angry beyond words. Beyond words. KEILAR: I know you personally hold Putin, Vladimir Putin, responsible

for this. Do you think that the international community will?

HATTINGH: You know, I -- I don't believe they will because I think there are too many strategic alliances with Russia where be it energy, be it gas. And I truly believe that once we have worked out exactly how this happened and who did it that there should be an ongoing process of punishment. It should cost them in such a big way that this little act of negligence, if it was that, is never, ever forgotten and it's paid for, for the next hundred years.

I mean, you must understand. These are people that were active members of society flying around the world actually having an effect on the globe. And their futures, their paths have been stunted from them and I don't believe this should be forgotten in any sort of way.

KEILAR: And the loss is unimaginable. We see one family like yours and that's unimaginable and then there are so many families affected here. For your family, Shane, what's ahead?

HATTINGH: My -- you know, my sister's son said to my mother that his whole body is sore from crying and I mean that just kills me. And I think what's ahead is my sister getting her two sons into schools and getting their lives moving so that she can actually have the time to grieve because right now she doesn't. It's about being stoic. It's about all of the little things that you need to do when you've lost someone -- the legal things, you know, the monetary things. I mean, getting his credit cards, you know destroyed because people are abusing it in the Ukraine. I mean, that is just unfathomable. I just can't work it out. So those are the things she's focusing on to keep herself busy. But as she said to me, she has no hope. It's about putting the left foot in front of the right.

KEILAR: Yes. One moment at a time, I imagine. And we know it's a really difficult time for you, for your family, Shane. We really appreciate you coming on and sharing your story and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

HATTINGH: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: And coming up next, two more planes shot out of the sky over Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels say they did it. But were the missiles that took the planes down actually fired from inside Russia?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Welcome back to the LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Jake Tapper.

A week hasn't even gone by since Malaysia airlines flight 17 was shot down most likely by a missile fired from an area of Ukraine-controlled by pro-Russian rebel, according to U.S. intelligence. But with no tangible consequences impose yet on those pro-Putin rebels or the Russians accused of arming and training them, someone has gone right back to shooting planes out of the sky today in eastern Ukraine. Missiles took out two Ukrainian military fighter jets, the pilots

apparently ejected, but no word on their conditions. An aid to one of leaders of the pro-Russian separatists tells CNN that rebels shot down those jets with shoulder-fired missiles. But a Ukrainian defense spokesman says preliminary info suggests those missiles may have been fired from inside Russia.

I want to bring in the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Gregory Pyatt.

And Ambassador, the first thing I want to ask you about is these two Ukrainian military planes shot down today. Ukrainian officials are saying these were missiles fired from Russian territory. And now we're hearing word from U.S. officials that they see about 12,000 to 15,000 Russian troops assembled very close to the border with Eastern Ukraine and that they're breaking up into groups.

Does intelligence show that that is what's happening that Ukrainian officials are correct and these perhaps being Russian forces shooting down Ukrainian planes from within their territory?

GREGORY PYATT, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Brianna, what we know is that incredibly, even after the shoot down of the Malaysian airways flight, Russia has persisted in a pattern of destabilization against Ukraine. It's continued to send fighters and heavy weapons, tanks and missile launchers across the Russian Ukrainian border. And now, as you say, the Ukrainian military believes that two of its fighter jets were shot down again by advanced modern military missiles this afternoon.

If this is confirmed and I want to emphasize we don't have confirmation yet through our unilateral forces of exactly what happened this afternoon, but if it is confirmed it reflects an outrageous, continued escalation of this crisis by Russia even after the SA-11 brought down an airplane leading to a death of nearly 300 innocent people.

KEILAR: Why did it matter if it's coming from with within Russian territory or if they're coming from within eastern Ukraine where Russian alliance separatists are operating?

PYATT: Well, you're exactly right. In some ways the difference doesn't matter because what we know is that Russia has engaged in this pattern of destabilizing action which began about two weeks ago to take a much more alarming turn as we began to see heavy weaponry, large tank columns, armored personnel carriers flowing into Ukraine and reflecting the apparent decision to empty out training camps or to began to remove -- bring people out of training camps in Russia in a Rostov region.

Russia has had its fingerprints on its crisis from the last days of February when the Russian army invaded Crimea and then annexed the Crimean peninsula, all the while claiming that there was nobody there. And this pattern has unfortunately only escalated for the past five months, reaching this tragic culmination on Thursday afternoon when the Malaysian airlines flight was brought down.

KEILAR: Our thanks to Ambassador Pyatt for joining us.

And coming up next, the last time John Kerry tried to broker a peace deal in the Middle East, it crumbled before his eyes. How backstabbing and distrust squashed any chance at peace then and what it means now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Jake Tapper. Rockets continue to fly from Israel into Gaza and the death toll creeps higher. The Obama administration dispatch Secretary of State John Kerry to the region. Kerry met first with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before conferring with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

In this on again/off again diplomacy all sounds terribly familiar. If it does sound terribly familiar that's because it is. A report in the "New Republic" says a two-state solution was closer than most people think before everything fell apart because of backstabbing, pettiness and distrust.

President Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice said at one point exploded at Abbas' negotiating team saying, you, Palestinians can never see the (bleeping) big picture. And joining me now the authors of that report, Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

I want to pull out some of the fascinating details. Ben to you first, at one point, John Kerry is comparing the strife and turmoil that Gazans go through to what he's on Vietnam. And then we hear from Netanyahu that he shouts back. He says, quote, "This isn't Vietnam. No one understands Israel but Israel."

So I wonder, Ben, how much does that get in the way when you have the sense that Israel or at least Bibi sort of feels that Israel is an island.

BEN BIRNBAUM, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": It is very true and this is one of the examples in the piece where the two sides talk past each other and the point that Kerry was making, this was a scene where Netanyahu was talking about Palestinian incitement and Kerry said that there's no justification for that.

But that you need to understand the Palestinian point of view and he was using his time in Vietnam as an example of that. The faces he saw on the people he was fighting against. So it's very difficult and Bibi obviously couldn't see that point.

KEILAR: Certainly, they didn't see eye to eye on this. Another instance where they didn't or certainly there seems to be skepticism, he dismiss it and calls it a PR campaign for the secretary of state, saying, quote, "The only thing that can save us is for John Kerry to win his Nobel Prize and leave us alone."

I mean, Amir, that is a fascinating example here of the dismissiveness. Do you think that's pervasive in the process on the part of the Israelis?

AMIR TIBON, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, I have to say that, you know, Yaalon, the defense minister was not the only skeptical minister in the Israeli government and not the only one throwing insults at Secretary Kerry during the process of the nine months of the peace process. Many others praised him for his determiness and for trying and for being determined and caring so much for Israel.

You had those examples and we took the best quotes coming from Yaalon. But there were many others who attacked him and he paid a price for trying so hard and caring so much. He had to take a lot of insults from Israeli politicians along the way.

KEILAR: The political stakes are so high for anyone, any of the parties involved really on a personal level. It's stunning the level of distrust on both sides here. You reported that Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator, said at one point to President Abbas, I just think Netanyahu will take you, Kerry and everyone else for a ride.

Ben, when you look at that, I know part of it has to do with the fact that he personally had so much on the line with, you know, just on a very personal level politically, that seems to be a theme throughout your report.

Yes. I don't think this was a sentiment that was unique to Saeb Erekat. In fact, pretty much all of the Palestinian leadership had this idea that these talks were pointless and even Abbas himself who pretty much went against a Palestinian leadership, he had his reservations and by the end, he really felt like the Americans rightly or wrongly were taking Israel's side on some of the key issues.

So definitely on the Palestinian side, and I think the Americans would acknowledge this that that was one of the major things that ended up dooming these talks was the perception that the Americans were favoring Israel.

KEILAR: Amir, something that struck me was an episode in the oval office that you detail in your report. President Obama tells negotiators in that meeting including Zippy Livni, there is a lot of optimism in this room. I'm more skeptical. How pessimistic did you find the president to be as you went through this very involved report that you did?

TIBON: You know, one of the big of questions that people in Israel were asking real time when the negotiations took place is how much is President Obama committed to this issue? Is this a personal project of Kerry's? Is this something that he's promoting on his own or is there an entire administration behind him?

I think that the answer really turned out to be that while Obama did support him and was willing also to make hard choices and we detailed how Obama eventually agreed against his will to discuss the release of Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish-American spy for Israel. So he was willing to make hard choices. But, you know, it didn't seem that he was really on there 100 percent with Kerry. There was some kind of a difference between the man of optimism and how much the two of them saw this as a real possibility.

KEILAR: Yes. You get sense it was Kerry who had the drive much more so. Ben Birnbaum, and Amir Tibon, fascinating report. Thank you.

When we come back, a touching reception for the victims of Flight 17, complete strangers lining up for miles to pay their respects. Their silence speaking volumes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Flags at half-staff, roadways lined with onlookers. The Dutch nation coming to a complete standstill for a day of mourning as the first remains from Flight 17 are finally returned to the Netherland, but as our Nick Payton Walsh reports the journey isn't over yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many of their hearts were dreams of beaches, tranquil vacations. The 298 lives taken here in a war they may have known little of, lying in the elements. After days of painful pleading with separatists, this train of five refrigerated wagons brought them closer to a resting place.

They're behind closed walls began the grim task of working out how many human souls were in the body bags on board. A journey that began so unceremoniously could only grow in dignity. A Dutch C-130 taking 16 coffins and four loaded in silence. Ukraine's embattled army honoring them as they could. Global opinion at one in sadness.

ANGUS HOUSTON, SPECIAL ENVOY, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We stand together today united in grief with the families and friends who have lost people they cherish.

WALSH (on camera): As much dignity as can be afforded these bodies on this, the easiest part of journey back to the Netherlands.

(voice-over): Forty in total carried out today. The rest, they hope, by Friday. Only then can forensic science can begin to work out who and how many there were. They landed, the voice of recrimination was drowned out by a more powerful silence of respect, grief. The Netherlands' planes briefly stopped flights, paused entirely for a minute.

They played the last post on the bugel only for fallen soldiers instead for these perhaps victims of a war crime. The line of hearses, this for only 1/7 of those killed, witness to how mammoth and sickening this loss is to the Netherlands. Even when these processions end, the search for bodies may not.

Some perhaps left in that field in Ukraine. Their families left with only time to help cope with the loss and forget how MH-17 came to end. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Brianna, there is a key issue we're learning of, 74 coffins will be moved tomorrow back to the Netherlands from here, but we understand that part of this process when they are taking the bodies off the train is more complex perhaps than we originally thought. They're not opening body bags that are actually brought to them on the train.

They're taking those body bags, x-raying them, checking for any suspicions items inside and then putting the body bags inside the coffins. So those coffins moved today and that we'll move tomorrow are not necessarily the remains of one individual. The process in the Netherlands working out with who is who and how many were on that train will continue and perhaps take some time -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Weeks maybe months. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Brianna Keilar and I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer, live from Jerusalem in "THE SITUATION ROOM."