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tv   Richard Engel on Assignment  MSNBC  April 29, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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they sized. we thank you for watching this special edition of "headliners." on assignment is next. happy to have you with us tonight. it has been a week of many, many legal filings and all sorts of cases involving donald trump and associates of donald trump. if you're like me you were looking forward to curling up this weekend with a big stack of courtroom transcripts. you haven't yet had time to digest. but here's one thing we learned this week from a filing by prosecutors in the case against former trump campaign chairman paul manafort. we learned this week from prosecutors what they were looking for when fbi agents raided paul manafort's house last summer. we learned a whole list of specific stuff they were looking for that included, "communications, records, documents and other files involving any of the attendees of the june 9th, 2016 he meeting at trump tower." that trump tower meeting was
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where paul manafort, donald trump jr., jared kushner met with a whole bunch of russians, ostensibly to receive delivery of russian government dirt on hillary clinton which the russians said they were providing to the trump campaign to help them win the election. now, that meeting of course has remained a real focus in the russia investigation but it's also still kind of a black box. i mean, after concealing for almost a year that that meeting had ever happened in the first place, once it came out everybody involved in that meeting has said yeah, nothing to see here, it was no big deal, it was all one big nothing, we kept it secret, sure, but not for any reason, nothing happened. well, tonight nbc news chief -- tonight nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel has a scoop about one of the participants in that meeting. it is a scoop that may get us a step closer to understanding why that whole thing happened and why that exact cast of characters turned up that day for that meeting. tonight we are going to tallinn,
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estonia, where our own richard engel is live on assignment. >> good evening tonight from tallinn. we're here in this tiny baltic city near the russian border to cover large-scale war game that nato has been holding. it's practice on how to defend against a massive cyber attack launched by a fictitious country that seems a lot like russia. so nato is preparing. but today republican members of the house intelligence committee gave president trump a pass when it comes to russia. they said they found no evidence of collusion between trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the kremlin. which brings us to that scoop rachel was talking about. our investigation has uncovered new information that suggests the russian lawyer at the trump
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tower meeting, the meeting where trump campaign officials thought they'd be getting dirt on hillary clinton, was far more connected to the russian government than she'd acknowledged before. in fact, in our interview she called herself an informant for a russian government agency. she had previously told a senate committee that she operates independently of any governmental bodies. for almost a year natalia veselnitskaya has been sticking to the story, confidently declaring that she has nothing to hide. eloquent, charming, and guarded, she was happy to give us an interview. but asked her staff to record it. >> we are recording -- >> just a second. i am finished, please.
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>> reporter: we agreed to the recording and asked her the key question, what was she doing at trump tower? >> what objective were you pursuing and on whose behalf were you pursuing that objective? are you saying you were acting as a concerned citizen? the issue she was concerned about were american sanctions which she says are based on lies and false reporting. she wanted them lifted. donald trump jr. described the meeting as a waste of time. that's not what it looked like to a seasoned intelligence professional. >> so in intelligence parlance we look at these kind of relationships almost akin to courtship. >> reporter: john sipher is a 28-year veteran of the cia 1/2 spy games with russia. he says the content of the meeting is less important than the fact that it took place at all. the meeting was billed in an e-mail to donald trump jr. as a
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meeting with a russian government lawyer who had information that would incriminate hillary. >> the fact that he responded positively would have been a signal to the russians that hey, there's a green light here, let's take the next step. however, you can't come at that next step with the full goods for fear that in the meantime the trump campaign would have talked to their lawyers, their security people and maybe even informed the fbi. >> reporter: which is why, sipher says, they sent in a lawyer instead of a spy. it's all part of the slow dance of seduction that would be typical, he says, of developing a covert relationship. >> her role would have been all along about deniability. she merely had to show up at that meeting and report back to russia. >> reporter: which brings us to the bigger question. how deep are veselnitskaya's ties with the russian state? for starters, court documents show she was doing legal work for russia's intelligence agency, the fsb. >> how did you get picked to represent --
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you weren't representing the fsb at all? so to be clear, you were working for a military unit that has ties to the fsb. >> if you're a private lawyer or a private businessperson in russia, people there understand very well what it means to deal with the state. there's corruption, there's danger, but there's also potentially large money and lucrative contacts to be had. >> reporter: and veselnitskaya has lucrative contacts. she is widely referred to as a legal fixer for piotr katsiv, a former official and russian businessman. when american prosecutors took legal action against a company owned by katsiv's son she went to new york. >> she was essentially a shadow counsel for one of the
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defendants in that case. >> reporter: jaimie nawaday was one of the prosecutors on the case. >> what does a shadow counsel mean? >> she's not licensed to practice here in new york, so she couldn't argue in court on behalf of her client, but she nevertheless filed declarations in court. she was clearly a driver of the legal defense team. >> reporter: in 2013 the u.s. government confiscated several properties in manhattan which it argued were purchased with the loot from one of the most notorious crimes ever committed in russia. >> this case was unusual because we have this massive tax fraud but this tax fraud is then connected to the imprisonment, torture, and murder of sergei magnitsky, the lawyer who is investigating the fraud and its cover-up. >> reporter: magnitsky, the lawyer who exposed the $230 million fraud accused some of russia's most powerful officials of being involved. they threw him in jail. >> and after 358 days in prison
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he died in excruciating pain on november 16th, 2009. >> reporter: magnitsky became a. >> symbol. in 2012 congress passed the magnitsky act which placed sanctions on some of the russians he named including some of vladimir putin's closest associates. nawaday's team believed some of the dirty money was used to buy condo units in new york. >> u.s. department of justice puts out a request to russia asking for bank records, incorporation records because the underlying fraud involved the theft of corporate identities. >> how did the russian authorities respond? >> essentially, they responded by saying that the u.s. government's allegations were without merit and they would not be providing the records. >> were you surprised by that response? >> well, yes. because it's not the job of the foreign government to
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reinvestigate and come to its own conclusions about the merits of the government's case. >> reporter: the russian government has always angrily denied magnitsky's allegations of fraud and corruption. but what american prosecutors didn't know in 2014 was the role veselnitskaya may have played in crafting the official russian response. >> what i wanted to ask you about are these e-mails. if you could take a look at them. >> reporter: the documents are said to be e-mails exchanged between veselnitskaya and an official at the russian prosecutor general's office. in them she appears to review and edit the russian response to the american request for information. nbc cannot confirm the authenticity of the e-mails but changes suggested in them ended up in the official document that was sent back to the u.s. department of justice. >> so my question is what were you discussing in these e-mails and with whom?
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are you saying they were obtained illegally or are you saying they are false? the edits suggest you were dictating to the prosecutor's office how they should respond to the u.s. justice department. is that the case? you meaning me? at this point veselnitskaya started listing off names of americans, officials, journalists, and private citizens whom she suspected were behind the leak. but we got the e-mails from a russian who said they were sent anonymously. >> how did you get these documents?
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>> reporter: mikhail khodorkovsky was the richest man in russia, until putin took most of his fortune and threw him in jail. when he got out, he left the country and made it his business to fight the russian government. he's confident the e-mails came from veselnitskaya's account. >> are these genuine? and if so, why do you think that? we also showed the e-mails to nawaday, the former government lawyer. >> the underlying is an addition. the strikeout is obviously a deletion. >> you can see on paper the dialogue going back and forth.
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>> i was shocked to see them. i cannot emphasize enough how profoundly troubling and inappropriate those communications are. >> why? >> well, it suggests that the process certainly in this case was rigged. i mean, she was going behind the scenes and having communications with the russian prosecutors about the nature of their response to the u.s. department of justice. >> so she's telling the russian government what to tell you, which helps her client. >> and then after the response comes back to the united states she uses the language of that response to advantage her client. >> so this suggests a degree of collusion that you did not anticipate? >> absolutely. i mean, there's complete behind-the-scenes pulling the strings interference. >> is it illegal or unethical or both? >> it certainly raises very
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serious questions about obstruction of justice. it raises very serious questions about false statements to the u.s. court. >> you said that you never tried to dictate the case that the russian prosecutor was giving. if you did, and that's what these documents suggest, would that be an obstruction of justice? if you were -- veselnitskaya said her accounts had been hacked and she recognized some of the details in the printouts we handed to her. but you can confirm you had this back and forth dialogue. i'm trying to find out in this case whether you were cooperating or colluding with the russian state, which raises
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questions about your background, particularly in the fact that you were in the trump tower with the -- that's what this is all about. the only reason i'm asking these questions is because -- of the contacts you had with the most senior people who are now in our government. you said your relationship with the prosecutor general is what? >> so this is not somebody who is separated from state power. she's a very savvy operator and has a level of comfort that what she's doing is in line with what the kremlin wants done. >> what the kremlin wants is to get the sanctions lifted.
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which is what veselnitskaya talked about with the trump team. that fact, together with the suggestion that she had dirt on hillary clinton, should, sipher says, have caused the trump team to ring the alarm bells. >> that's simply showing a willingness to collude. if not against the law it's unethical, immoral, and certainly unpatriotic. >> reporter: veselnitskaya still insists emphatically that she doesn't work for the russian government or intelligence services. but she appears to have extraordinary access to the upper ranks of the russian state. as the ex-cia officer we spoke to said, it's all about deniability. so it seems is russia's use of mercenaries in syria. stay with us for more on that after the break. plus, congressman jim himes on putin's goals. >> vladimir putin's whole thing is about deniability, projecting force, messing around in areas where when things go wrong he
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play [music plays]his". when everything's connected, it's simple. easy. awesome. and welcome back to tallinn, estonia. so we talked about how russia uses deniable operatives to carry out sensitive missions like political influence campaigns. but it seems it's using the same strategy on the battlefield. earlier this year mercenaries from a shadowy company with links to putin even went so far as attacking u.s. forces in syria. it was the first time russian-led forces engaged u.s. troops in 50 years. but again, it was deniable. so we went to the war zone to
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follow the trail of the russian mercenaries. >> reporter: general jonathan braga, a veteran special forces commander, took us along on his chopper to see for the very first time the spot where it all happened, the conoco oil refinery in eastern syria. several of the buildings here took direct hits. but the oil facilities stand, for the most part undamaged. >> i have combat power. >> reporter: braga walked us through what happened here on february 7th, starting with the first sign of trouble. >> we saw vehicle movements, troop movements, rehearsals and the like, again, something we hadn't seen before. >> so what did you do when you saw this force gathering? >> i called my contact. >> this is like a red phone to the russians? >> yes. we deconflict with the russians to make sure there's no escalations and deescalate anything that might be happening. >> reporter: the russians assured braga they had no forces in the area.
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and yet the mysterious enemy fighters kept moving forward. >> about two hours later we started receiving artillery rounds followed by tank direct fire, and then eventually small arms fire as well, upwards of several hundred forces. >> reporter: you were being deliberately targeted and they were moving artillery in closer and closer. >> absolutely. and that led to obviously immediate, again, phone conversation with the russians. >> reporter: so you called and said stop this? >> yes, i did. >> reporter: but the fire kept coming in. braga had enough. >> we feel threatened, we have certain measures that we take and we escalate. >> reporter: and they escalated all right. within minutes american air strikes were coming in, hard. they kept coming. for three hours. these recordings authenticated by a senior u.s. military official are of mercenaries, russian-speaking mercenaries, reporting heavy losses. "we had our butts kicked."
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one squadron lost 200 people. "the yankees," they said, "knew we were coming and they knew we were russian." >> there have been reports that 200 to 300 of that russian force was killed. is that accurate? >> that's i would say close to our estimates as well. >> reporter: that was the first time any american official openly said that. the pentagon and the white house had been very reluctant to talk about the incident. >> i think they wanted to keep this quiet because they didn't want this to escalate into any sort of incident. >> michael carpenter worked the beat during the obama administration. the russians he said were also eager to keep the incident under wraps. >> the u.s. side notified the russian side through our 24/7 deconfliction channel, that we were taking incoming and we were going to start air strikes. and the russians said copy, we understand that's going to happen, and yet the russian
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deconfliction center cannot notify the mercenaries on the ground the u.s. air force was coming in. >> reporter: after all, mercenaries are deniable and dispensable. >> there's nothing necessarily wrong with using contract soldiers. unless of course you're lying to your own people and trying to cover up the true nature of a country's involvement in a military adventure in a third country. >> reporter: russia's adventure in syria is no secret. it sent tens of thousands of troops there over the last three years. the secret is that there are about 3,000 other russian fighters in syria under arms but off the books. >> these contractors are used as crack storm troops, to go in and fight the fight and take the casualties. >> reporter: pavel felgenhauer, a military analyst, says they work for a shadowy russian company known as the wagner group. >> the russian military is huge.
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there are hundreds of thousands of uniformed soldiers. why use hired hands? >> for secrecy and the possible deniability. that's a way to control the flow of information which makes these mercenaries, volunteers, contractors more preferable. >> lock and load. >> reporter: there is of course a precedent for all this. blackwater. the american company once known as the world's most powerful mercenary army. >> russia has modeled wagner consciously on blackwater. they saw blackwater as the perfect solution to being able to offer some plausible deniability and less responsibility for protecting the lives of soldiers in hot spots. >> reporter: when real russian soldiers die in hot spots, they receive full military honors. wagner fighters do not. we traveled more than 1,000 miles east of moscow to a small town where several of the
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mercenaries killed in syria were being buried. their funerals were quick, quiet family ceremonies. our cameras were clearly not welcome. local politician natalia krylova is trying to break the code of silence around the dead contractors. >> if our guys must go to syria to die, let it be official. they should be buried as heroes. >> reporter: her friend igor kosoturov, who worked for wagner, died in syria. krylova agreed to take us to see his family. on the way she tells us she only learned what igor was up to after he died. >> translator: i know for a fact that he wasn't fighting for the military. so when i found out that he was killed by the american air strike in february, i realized he must have been working for wagner. >> reporter: she believes igor,
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a former soldier, only signed up because he needed the money. >> translator: he had a small store here in the village, but with the economic crisis, with the american sanctions no one has money to buy anything. >> reporter: we hope to get some answers at igor's store. >> so we're going to hang back a little bit while she goes and talks to igor's ex-wife, see if she can convince her to come out and tell us why the families are unwilling to talk to us. >> reporter: but even krylova couldn't convince the family to speak to us. investigating the wagner group can be a dangerous business around here. local journalist maxim borodin, who wrote about ortly before the alleged accident he said borodin called him to say that armed men in masks turned up at his place. hours later he was dead. that happens occasionally to russian journalists who ask too many questions. but try as it might, the kremlin can't keep wagner's work a secret.
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dogged russian journalists revealed the names and faces of dozens of fighters who died in syria. two of them were captured by isis. others were caught on camera arriving at a russian airport carrying duty-free bags from syria. there's even a rap video celebrating wagner's front line victories. ♪ the man behind wagner is believed to be the man standing next to putin. yevgeni prigozhin. >> he's a funder of wagner, he bankrolls the organization but he doesn't have extensive military experience so he doesn't have experience on the ground. >> he use the to be a hot dog salesman. now he's known as putin's chef. >> he has a massive catering business that makes a lot of money thanks to very lucrative contracts he's able to score based on his relationship to putin, and in turn he does putin's favors. >> reporter: one of those favors earned prigozhin an indictment
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from special counsel robert mueller for running the troll farm which attacked our elections. but favors go both ways. he has a contract with the syrian government that gives him 25% of the revenue from any oil field his mercenaries grab. according to a military source he sent a message to damascus just before the attack saying he had a good surprise that would come between february 6th and 9th. the oil field attack on american troops happened on the night of the 7th. >> russia right now is engaged in a war against western democracies using hidden means. whether it's cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns or proxies on the ground in place like syria and ukraine it's all methods that are used that hide in the shadows. >> you may have noticed we didn't interview anyone from wagner in the story. we were on to one man who claimed he was in syria and in that battle with the americans. through an intermediary we were
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trying to convince him to do an interview with us until suddenly he got a call. a voice said "you talk too much." he backed out. >> coming up, congressman jim himes with some thoughts on how to push putin back. >> we need to make it very, very clear to the kremlin that there are red lines that if he crosses with his military or with proxies there will be a very vigorous response reminiscent of the response of u.s. special forces against the wagner group in syria. ♪ you don't like my lasagna? no, it's good. -hmm. -oh. huh. [ both laugh ] here, blow. blow on it. you see it, right? is there a draft in here? i'm telling you, it's so easy to get home insurance on progressive can't save you from becoming your parents. but we can save you money when you bundle home and auto.
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welcome back. tonight we've brought you our exclusive on the russian lawyer at the trump tower meeting who admitted she has much stronger ties to the russian government than she's acknowledged before. democratic congressman jim himes is on the house intelligence committee. we wanted his opinion on our story. we spoke in his office in connecticut. we shared some of our reporting on natalia veselnitskaya, the russian lawyer who met with the trump campaign team in 2016, with congressman jim himes and asked him for his thoughts. >> i haven't seen the details. but this sort of paints a picture of veselnitskaya as a broad-ranging operative and adviser to the russian government. >> and then suddenly she's at that key meeting in trump tower with donald jr., paul manafort, and jared kushner. so what does that say? >> well, again, this is success beyond the wildest dreams of the kremlin. right?
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because you might have gotten a cup of coffee with don jr. at the starbucks downstairs but instead you're sitting in a conference room deep in trump tower -- by the way, that raises all sorts of counterintelligence issues that we don't talk much about but you've got all these people associated with the russians wandering around the very heart of the trump campaign. >> troubling? >> beyond troubling. nine out of ten americans would have said wait a second, russians want to give me dirt on my political opponent? i'm in politics too. the first thing you do is you call the fbi and say hey, they're dangling something for me. instead don jr. on e-mail says, "i love it. bring it on." so profoundly troubling. americans, himes said, have a hard time understanding that under putin the lines between russian state business and private business are blurred. >> vladimir putin's whole thing is about deniability, projecting force, messing around in areas where when things go wrong he can just say these folks had nothing to do with me. >> is it a winning strategy?
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and is the u.s. doing enough to stop that strategy? >> i think putin has achieved a lot of his aims. so i think the response has got to be to make sure the west understands that this is his critical strategy. we need to call his bluff. we need to say look, whether it's veselnitskaya or mercenaries operating in syria, they're yours. you own them. >> what do you know about the attack that took place in syria? >> it's a little hard to believe that the russian commanders on the ground didn't know exactly what their mercenaries were doing. maybe they thought the americans were operating with rules of engagement or with a fear of engaging the russians that would allow these commanders to push them around a little bit. if that was their thinking that was a huge miscalculation and obviously there's a lot of dead russian mercenaries to show the miscalculation. >> some in the administration are using it as a badge of honor to say that in certain cases they are absolutely willing to stand up to russia. >> using that as evidence the americans are willing to stand up to russia is absurd. what americans on the ground did as artillery was landing around
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their ears and as they were under attack by russian irregular forces, they depend defended themselves. united states special operations is not going to take incoming artillery and not respond to it. >> reporter: but he says we do need to get tough on the russians before it's too late. >> i would also argue that the president's refusal to call russia out for what it is means that vladimir putin thinks he's got a lot of operational room. >> why don't you think he's willing to call them out? >> well, that's the million-dollar question today. this president likes strong men. he sees himself as a strong man. he bridles at the constraints that we have on the president, the courts, the media, the congress. he just hates it. and i think he admire those leaders that can operate abroad without constraint. >> what can the u.s. do? >> make it very, very clear to the kremlin that there are red lines that if he crosses with his military or with proxies there will be a very vigorous response reminiscent of the response of u.s. special forces against the wagner group in syria.
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>> u.s. officials think putin is being aggressive. but many russians don't see it. instead they see putin as trying to right a historic wrong, the collapse of the soviet union. coming up, what shaped the russian president's worldview? a look at the making of the new russian czar. ♪[upbeat music]
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tonight we reported on russian covert political
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influence campaigns and the use of mercenaries, these dispensable soldiers invisible in life and in death. we know where putin's tactics came from. he was a spy before becoming president. but what about the ambition? journalist susan glasser, who's been writing about putin for nearly two decades, tells us it started at an early age. >> vladimir putin is a classic product of the soviet union. his grandfather was a cook for lenin and later for stalin himself. >> german troops pushed the russians back. >> his parents managed but just barely to survive world war ii. after the war in 1952 vladimir putin's mother gave birth to him in her early 40s. vladimir putin, kind of a tough angry kid, and he lived in a communal apartment. they didn't have basically any privacy. they had one room to themselves.
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he eventually took up martial arts and channeled some of that anger. he watched on tv. in particular there was a series called "the sword and the shield" that really glorified the role of the predecessors of the kgb. and that's the kind of spy that vladimir putin grew up wanting to be. and actually, it was in his german class that he finally, you know, sort of buckled down and that seemed to help him focus his energy and he eventually then went on to law school and tried to figure out what would it take to get me in to the kgb. he ended up as a lieutenant colonel. he was not perceived to win the best, most elite assignments. vladimir putin did not go to london. he was posted in dresden, a relative backwater. he was not an undercover spy during james bond-like missions over the berlin wall.
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>> mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. >> in november of 1989, remember, is when the wall opened in berlin. people were taking to the streets. vladimir putin thought they were coming for him. that must have been a terrifying moment when he thought they were coming into the kgb's office. they're frantically burning papers. they cabled back to moscow. and moscow was silent. he himself goes outside and confronts the angry crowd. he has nothing really to tell them. he's bluffing. and he convinces them not to storm the building and to go away. vladimir putin returns to russia in tumult, the soviet union collapsing, ends up working for a very charismatic first post-soviet mayor of st. petersburg.
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so vladimir putin, you know, went in just a couple years' time from a nobody in st. petersburg to having a series of the most important jobs in russia. for someone like a former lieutenant colonel to rise to be the president of russia was a shocking event in russian post-soviet society. he was pretty ruthless in following the kgb playbook throughout his very unlikely rise in politics and also obviously since he's been the president of russia. had you told me or i think most people, russians or americans in the spring of 2000, 2001 that vladimir putin would end up being the longest-serving russian leader since joseph stalin, whom his grandfather worked for as a cook, you know, i think we would not have believed you. >> putin has proven to be a survivor. but how? coming up, we meet some russians who are trying to take him on.
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>> i have no idea of how many time we spend for this. maybe one year, maybe ten years. maybe all our lives. but we should do this. we should keep fighting. just because it's correct.
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welcome back. people sometimes ask me, is putin really popular? the simple answer is he does have a lot of support. but he has opponents too.
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they get crushed whenever they face putin head on. so now some are trying a new strategy. it's difficult and dangerous to stand up to a man as determined and some say ruthless as vladimir putin. but this january a few thousand russians took to the streets to call for a boycott of the presidential elections. 18-year-old student katya, who was in the cloud that day, well aware of the danger. do you think you're going to get arrested? >> i'm ready for that, yes. >> reporter: but katya and her fellow protesters were determined to deliver their anti-putin message and to take it as close to his front door as possible. that's the kremlin right there. and the protesters are still marching toward it. generally, this is considered a gho area for demonstration. >> rallies were held all over russia and hundreds were arrest leader alexi novali who was
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barred from running in the election. putin is proud of his approval ratings. he owes them in part to his real popularity but also to the silencing of his opponents. is there freedom to operate and be part of a democracy in russia now? >> okay. at least we sit here in this office, we are free to talk. right? it's something. >> reporter: you say we're free to talk in this office. the police have come into this office and arrested people. no? >> a couple of times, yes. >> reporter: being sent to yale isn't the worst thing that can happen to people who oppose putin. no one is safe. that message was delivered in 2015 when one of the most prominent best-known opposition leaders was gunned down in the shadow of the kremlin. five men were found guilty of his murder.
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but the friends and family believe the trial was a coverup. >> many people for a long time was trying to have memorial. >> reporter: i met this man outside the apartment in years used radical forms of protest to fight back. >> we have no public policy. we have no public competition. we have no open and free parliament. >> reporter: last year, he took his protest off the street and into the district council in moscow, where he now serves as a deputy. do you think you are making a difference? >> yes, i think so. i can help people. can show how the authority can work without putin. >> reporter: he isn't the only opposition activist to go into local politics.
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>> we ran candidates and won 267 seats. this was a tremendous success. >> reporter: this political consultant believes all politics are local. >> that's where first-time candidates were people with no political experience do the first step. that's where they learn the small work is really important. that's where real political activism starts. >> reporter: he splits his time between moscow and washington, d.c. where he moved eight years ago. he worked on american political campaigns, for obama and bernie sanders. that's where he got the idea for what he calls political uber. >> politics should be as easy as uber ride. we ran the most successful and most affordable campaign ever. each candidate cost us a day, like a cup of coffee, $2.50. >> reporter: he is getting the hang of local politics and is ready to take the next step.
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he plans to run for mayor of moscow in september. >> if i became mayor, we have much more opportunity to change not only moscow but russia. >> reporter: he says it's going to take time. >> i believe if i invest 20, 25 years of my life in this project, in the development of politics in russia, i believe one day this country is going to start to change. >> reporter: he knows that running for a high profile job could put him in the krecmlin's cross hairs. >> we understand every one of us can be in jail, can be killed. if you are not ready to keep fighting, you should stop. >> reporter: he feels he owes it to those who came before him. you are ready to die for this? >> i do what i believe in. i will not stop because of all my friends was in prison.
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i cannot stop. i have no idea how many times we spend for this. maybe one year. maybe ten years. maybe our lives. we should do this. we should keep fighting, just because it's correct. >> reporter: coming up, we explore this country, estonia, a former soviet nation that's trying to make a clean break with its past. this is the ocean.
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welcome back to estonia. this is a tiny country, 1.3 million people. it's a member of nato. but it sits right on russia's border. every time putin makes a move, people here take notice. the host of a popular foreign affairs show took me to a place that sums up how this country is trying to move on from its past. what is this place? >> as you can see, there are statues from soviet heroes. stalin, and a remembrance of when we didn't have freedom or liberty. >> reporter: how far away are we from russia, the russian border? >> about 300 kilometers. >> reporter: what is it like to live on the doorstep of russia? >> you can't think about it every day. because otherwise, you will --
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you would end up mad, i think. if you read only the news that russia is attacking one neighbor or another, georgia, ukraine and now it is in syria, you start to think that, of course. >> reporter: worry that you are next? >> yes, of course, we're worried. we have to always be aware that there might do something. what ist is we don't know. >> reporter: when you see what has been going on in the united states, propaganda campaigns, hacks from russia, does this sort of sound familiar to you? >> of course. we have that kind of propaganda all the time in our russian media. they are saying this is the country that is not very big. this is a country that should be in part of bigger russia, let's say. >> reporter: greater russia? >> greater russia probably, yes. >> reporter: how do you think
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the world should deal with russia? >> million dollar question right now. i understand the way that we have to communicate with russia and with putin. but we need sanctions. otherwise they will just do whatever they like. >> reporter: one more thing before we go tonight. the russia investigation is getting more intense and detailed by the day. that makes it more serious but also harder to follow and the more confusing it gets, the easier it is to dismiss the whole thing as smoke and mirrors. we don't know what robert mueller has. but we know he is looking at that trump tower meeting and he is looking at the head of mercenary outfit who is also accused of election meddling. while it may be hard to see sometimes, a full picture is emerging like a mosaic being crafted one piece at a time. thanks for watching tonight. follow us on twitter. we'll be back soon.
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it happened so quickly. >> my dad just panicked. >> a sudden slip. a fatal fall. >> you are losing your mother. you are watching her go. >> someone else was watching her, too. a curious neighbor just moments before witnessed something astonishing. >> it was scary. the look on his face was almost undescribable. >> what had she seen?


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