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Estonia faces standoff with Russia

October 15th, 2014
09:47 AM ET

While the world is pre-occupied trying to find a way to stop ISIS, on Russia's border, war games and psychological warfare continue.

Apart from its obvious attempt to halt Ukraine's tilt westwards, worrying new questions now about Russia’s aim – and game – in the Baltic States.

What happened in Estonia last month reads like a John le Carre novel. One of their intelligence agents was snatched in a cross border raid by Russian FSB agents, and recently paraded on Russian TV as a spy.

Is President Vladimir Putin testing NATO? Seeing how far he can probe one of its own?

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour spoke with Estonian Foreign Minister Urman Paet on Wednesday about whether the country feared the "Ukraine treatment."

Click above to watch.


Filed under:  Estonia • Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

New NATO chief touts relationship with Russia as he takes office

October 2nd, 2014
03:11 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The new NATO Secretary General, Former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, emphasized his long and productive relationship with Russia in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, a day after he took office.

“As a Norwegian politician in Norway, a country bordering Russia, I have developed a working relationship with Russia,” he said. “And we were able also during the coldest period of the Cold War to work with Russia on issues like fishery, energy, environment.”

When Stoltenberg was chosen for the position earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian State TV that he had “very good relations, including personal relations” with the former Norwegian premier.

“This is a very serious, responsible person,” President Putin said, “but we’ll see how our relations develop with him in his new position.”

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

EXCLUSIVE: To win release of MH17 bodies and black boxes, Malaysia PM ‘had to act alone’

September 24th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is speaking out for the first time on the “unconventional” backdoor negotiations he led to get MH17’S black boxes and victims’ bodies out of eastern Ukraine.

“Sometimes,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday, “you have to work the back channels.”

When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib came to the United Nations last year, he could never have imagined that two of his country's planes would soon suffer disasters.

“If you can imagine, he said, “just four months after MH370 disappeared, and all of a sudden, middle of the night, you know, a message comes across: Look, we've just lost a plane; it’s off the radar.”

“I was in a state of disbelief.”

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Malaysia • Ukraine

Russian ambassador anticipates ‘liberation’ of Mariupol in Ukraine

September 5th, 2014
03:12 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Pro-Russian separatists will “liberate” the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Russia's Permanent Representative to the OSCE, Andrey Kelin, anticipated in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Friday.

Ukrainian forces are working to fortify the city; they claim that Russian intelligence groups have been spotted in the area.

Mariupol is “the second-biggest city in Donetsk Oblas, probably, and I believe that they are going to liberate,” Kelin said.

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

NATO: Judge Russia by actions, not words

September 5th, 2014
02:00 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

As Ukraine and Pro-Russian separatists agreed to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, the deputy NATO military commander said Moscow must be judged by its actions, not its words.

"If [the ceasefire] is the portent of a peaceful solution to this conflict in eastern Ukraine that's welcome news. But I think we need to judge things by actions and not by words,” General Adrian Bradshaw told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Friday.

“I'm afraid during this crisis in the past we've heard words said which haven't been reflected by actions on the ground. So we need to just ensure that people are being genuine here."

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Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Russia • Ukraine

Russia is emotionally in Ukraine, its troops are not, says Russian MP

September 1st, 2014
03:33 PM ET

by Henry Hullah

NATO satellites, journalists on the ground and Ukrainian officials have all reported Russian troops in Ukrainian territory, but how much longer can Russia claim it has no military presence in Eastern Ukraine?

"Russia will say that until it really has some forces on the ground. As at this point, definitely we don’t have any." answered Russian Member of Parliament Vyacheslav Nikonov.

He told Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, that the Russian government had not been providing weapons, such as T-72 tanks which the MP insisted came from Hungary, to separatists and also had nothing to do with the current state of Ukraine.

"It is a completely domestic Ukrainian mess and people living there, in the eastern part of Ukraine, are mostly Russian. So I think it’s very understandable why Russia emotionally is there. Though Russian troops are definitely not there."

With high stakes and emotional investment in the dire situation of those in the Eastern Ukraine, the program asked what is the Russian Endgame here, do they want, as some believe, a land bridge to Crimea?

"The end game for Russia is of course a peaceful Ukraine, and Russian national security."

"In case of the Crimea, it was an immediate reaction of the people of the Crimea for reunification with their mother country, with Russia. "

"Crimeans never had any Ukrainian identity whatsoever. The people in Donetsk and Luhansk have maybe a little bit stronger Ukrainian identity, but it would be very hard for Kiev to convince them that they should stay inside Ukraine."

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Filed under:  Russia • Ukraine

Russia has 'imperial ambitions' says the top Ukrainian representative in London

August 28th, 2014
04:03 PM ET

by Henry Hullah

As the United Nations held an emergency meeting over reports of Russian troops in Ukrainian territory, Christiane Amanpour was joined by the top Ukrainian official in London, Andrii Kuzmenko, for analysis of what this could mean for his nation.

Amanpour asked what the diplomat was hoping for from the U.N meeting in New York.

"Since the sanctions that are already imposed against Russia we do have the terrible aggravation of the situation, it means that those sanctions are weak and insufficient. We are calling for a full stop of cooperation with the aggressor, for further tougher sanctions and further support of Ukraine."

"We are not at this stage asking for military assistance"

After what happened to Georgia in 2008, was he confident that Ukraine could defend itself against a potential Russian attack?

"This is a very new stage of conflict. We will halt the aggressor and I have no doubt we will defeat them but, for that reason we will need assistance from the West since we are fighting not just for territorial integrity of Ukraine."

"We are fighting against the war in Europe that could explode the continent."

'It is inappropriate to tolerate the use of force in the 21st century'

Kuzmenko  was  unrelenting in a powerful attack on the Russian government's behavior in this conflict. He told the program that he believed Putin's Russia was acting in a manner befitting the "19th century."

"We are witnessing another war crime," he told Amanpour. "Just due to the certain imperial ambitions."

Summing up Russia's actions, the diplomat said, "We should remember the war started with imperial ambitions and will end with shame for the nation."


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

Aid or invasion? Russia and Ukraine officials battle it out over convoy on live TV

August 13th, 2014
04:21 PM ET

By Henry Hullah

A convoy of 280 Russian trucks are heading towards Ukrainian border. Russian officials say they are full of aid desperately needed for relief efforts in Eastern Ukraine, officials across the border are not so optimistic.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has come out strongly against the convoy said the move is "cynical," and that "it would be better for Russia to send 300 empty Kamaz trucks to take their bandits back. Then there would be no need to send humanitarian aid."

Russian officials have insisted the move is to deliver humanitarian aid to areas in need.

Oleksandr Scherba, the Ambassador-at-Large to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, echoed the view of his Prime Minister on the program:

"Of course we are very distrustful of Russia's intentions from the very beginning Russia didn't show any goodwill whatsoever."

"But on the other hand," Scherba stated, "The humanitarian situation on the ground is very desperate, very difficult. We are not in the kind of situation to be very adamant about sending back anything we receive even from the nation that is behaving in a really hostile manner."

When questioned by Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, about why there has been no coordination with red cross, Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Human Rights, rebutted "I am amazed to hear that it hasn't been coordinated. From what has been said many times, not just by Russian officials, all the details, all the parameters of this humanitarian convoy have been meticulously discussed and agreed upon by: Russia, Ukraine, the International Committee for the Red Cross."

"As far as I understand he [Scherba] works in the Foreign Ministry" the special representative went on to say. "The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has officially, by sending a reply note to the Russian Foreign Ministry, has confirmed that all the details of that humanitarian convoy have been agreed upon. Once they have confirmed that all the details have been agreed upon. This was a very precise official reaction."

"The green light was on in Kiev."

Ukraine's Ambassador-at-large responded: "Nobody except for Moscow knows about that meticulous discussion."

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Filed under:  Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

Difficult road ahead for MH17 investigators

July 31st, 2014
02:45 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

As Australian and other investigators reach the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine for the first time in more than a week, that country’s foreign minister laid out the difficult task ahead.

For one, there could be as many as 80 bodies still at the crash site, Julie Bishop told CNN’s Jim Clancy, in for Christiane Amanpour.

“Our first priority is to locate bodies and remains, remembering this is two weeks since this plane was shot down,” she said. “We know how many body bags were transferred from Kharkiv to the Netherlands, but we don't know how many bodies or remains are still on the site.”

“We won't know until our investigative teams are on the site and combing the crash site for remains. And that's the grisly and sobering task that they must undertake from now on.”

“We need to be on the site for probably weeks.”

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Filed under:  Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine

‘Pointless’ sanctions will have no effect in Ukraine, says Russian commentator

July 30th, 2014
03:43 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

American and European sanctions imposed on Russia over its alleged backing of separatists in Ukraine are “pointless,” Dmitry Babich, a political analyst at the international Russian state broadcaster Voice of Russia told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Wednesday.

“It’s not immediately clear how these sanctions can bring what we all desire – peace in Ukraine,” Babich said.

Russia, he said, sees the conflict in Ukraine as a genuine civil war, not a Russian creation.

“For thirty years, Russia and America were not able to stop the flow of arms and fighters from Pakistan to Afghanistan,” he said.

The “Russian-Ukrainian border is huge; it’s thousands of miles. And there are many people in Russia who want to fight in Ukraine. There are lots of people with fighting experience from Afghanistan, from Chechnya, from Moldova.”

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Filed under:  Latest Episode • Russia • Ukraine
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