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Russia Make Gains in Eastern Ukraine After Avdiivka Falls; Laundrie, Petito Parents Meet in Emotional Distress Lawsuit. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 21, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Russia is now claiming victory over another key village in Ukraine, just days after taking control of a critical eastern town. Ukraine thus far has denied losing more territory.

Nevertheless, fierce battles are unfolding in the east and southern part of the country as Russia is appearing to grow bolder and more aggressive in its attacks.

CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour joins us now live from the capital of Ukraine in Kyiv. Christiane, how significant are these Russian gains?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So, Boris, massively. You know, we're here in the run-up to the second year, essentially, mark of this war. And what you're seeing and what we've been seeing since the last weekend is a relentless, you know, push by Russian forces. We saw first Avdiivka fall over the weekend, and we know that they keep pushing further east and north, and they are also trying to approach and put pressure on the big, big city, the second city of Kharkiv in the northeast.

And they are sending all sorts of missiles. People are getting killed. It is really very, very dire on the front line.

In the south, as you mentioned, there is a lot more of a battle going on, and, you know, it's hard at the moment to confirm without getting absolute, you know, confirmation from the Ukrainian government. But they're putting up more of a fight, the Ukrainians, in the south and apparently tending to try to keep holding the line.


But what's absolutely clear is everybody we speak to, whether it's military, whether it's civilian, whether it's the civilian leadership or soldiers, they strongly believe that the lack of weapons and ammunition, particularly ammunition, is what's causing these incremental new gains by Russia.

The foreign minister here told me yesterday that they would not have lost Avdiivka if it had not been for the, you know, as he put it, you know, lengthy debates that have blocked up the weapons supply here, and that he said people on the front are paying with for their lives. And just finally, Boris, I would say that everybody knows, and Putin

has said it many times, that he does not believe the West has the staying power. He said it from the beginning, and he is definitely trying to make as much headway as he possibly can while the weapons are still held up by Congress.

SANCHEZ: And on that question of this logjam in Congress, Christiane, you noted it is the two-year anniversary, it will soon be the two-year anniversary of the start of this war. Do people in Ukraine get the sense that there's going to be a breakthrough after the election? Do they have hope that aid will come sooner than that?

AMANPOUR: Oh, my gosh, they can't afford to wait that long. And the conditions on the front line are such that they really can't afford to wait that long if Ukraine is to keep defending itself.

You know, the counteroffensive over the summer did not go as hoped. That's true. And yet they were able to maintain a stalemate in the words of the Ukrainian commander at that time.

That meant that they were holding the line and not one side was making significant gains. But now even that stalemate is at threat while the Russians are making gains. So it's absolutely urgent for them, in their words and what they tell us, to get this as soon as possible.

It absolutely is showing up. The delay is showing up on the front lines. And, of course, you know, we've seen what Ukraine has been able to do with the nearly two years of NATO support.

It's been able to keep them at bay. And it's been able to really sort of really try to hold the line here. But now the situation is getting very, very desperate.

SANCHEZ: And what are folks that you've spoken to saying about some of the rhetoric specifically coming from former President Donald Trump when he seems hesitant to provide Ukraine with more aid and when he sort of gives this opening to Vladimir Putin to do what he will even in NATO countries?

AMANPOUR: See, Boris, this is really a situation that most people overseas can't even begin to imagine and to take, you know, as it is. It's just such a difficult thing for people here to accept. Clearly, they, you know, it's not just that he seems hesitant, former President Trump. As you know, he has torpedoed the delivery of aid by telling his MAGA wing of the Republican Party in Congress not to do it. I mean, that's the bottom line. That's what we heard in Munich from many of the Republican senators who were there.

It was actually quite a small Republican delegation this time. But nonetheless, they stuck to the MAGA party line. To be fair, one of the Republican senators who I spoke to on a panel, he said we will do the right thing. He said democracy is messy. It's difficult in the United States. We have this very, you know, he kept returning to the border issue and wouldn't be budged from that issue. But he kept saying we will do the right thing. The question is when. And here they say to us that we have always looked to America as the

nation that fundamentally upholds and supports and promotes democracy and freedom around the world.

And they say we, Ukraine, are the buffer between the autocratic world and the democratic world. And so they really know, and they're right in it here, trying to hold that line between democracy and autocracy in Europe.

And they know -- they know Putin very well because this is actually the 12th year of Putin's, or the 10th year, I'm sorry, of Putin's invasion. He started back in 2014. And they've been holding that line for a long, long time.

So it's a fundamental battle for democracy. They are, you know, fighting it. And what they want is just the ammunition and the weapons to fight it.

SANCHEZ: Christiane Amanpour, great to have you on.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

So for the first time since their daughter was murdered, Gabby Petito's parents are going to come face-to-face with the parents of her killer, Brian Laundrie, two people who they believe hid her death. Those details straight ahead.



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: The parents of Gabby Petito are meeting face- to-face with the parents of Brian Laundrie, Petito's fiancee, who was accused of killing her. Brian Laundrie eventually took his own life before he could be charged.

Police say he left a note admitting to that killing. The Petitos filed an emotional distress lawsuit against the Laundries, claiming the couple knew their daughter was dead but kept it a secret to protect their son.


CNN's Jean Casarez is here. And, Jean, all four set for a confidential mediation conference date in Florida. What more are you learning about this?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that as of several hours ago, it was still ongoing. But this is a significant day because this case is proceeding to trial. It's a civil case all about money damages.

And what we do know is that a professional mediator, he's an attorney, but he is designated by the State Bar of Florida to mediate situations like this, is meeting, significant that they will all be together. And you can have your attorney represent you when you're not there. But I learned that all the families, the two families, will be together there.

And they're trying to go through this to see if there is a monetary settlement that can be worked out so they don't have to go to trial. And it is, just as you said, it is confidential. So we may never know exactly what was said, exactly what was arrived at will have to go into the record in court. But we won't know how they got there.

But the emotions have to be so high because this is a case where the parents of Gabby Petito, when they were looking for her, had no idea what had happened to her. They were reaching out to the Laundries every day, trying to text them, email them, phone them. And they were blocked continually.

And now through deposition, we do know that Brian Laundrie called his parents, finally told his father, Gabby's gone, I need an attorney, and I'm coming home. And he drove home in her van. And they never told the Petitos any of that.

Now they say, the Laundries say, we have no legal duty to tell you that. Our attorney told us not to talk to you. And furthermore, we don't have to talk to you if that is our choice. We were concerned for our son and what was happening.

So the emotions have to be high, but it's significant because if they don't reach a settlement today, this case is going to trial.

DEAN: All right, we will keep an eye on that. Jean Casarez with the latest for us. Thank you so much.

Still to come, Jimmy Kimmel responds. The late night host mocking the fraud lawsuit filed against him by former lawmaker George Santos. Hear what Kimmel had to say. That's next.



DEAN: Well, Jimmy Kimmel is laughing off getting sued by former Congressman George Santos. The talk show host responded last night after learning Santos wants to take him to court over a series of videos Santos claims he was duped into recording.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!: I am currently embroiled in what may be the most preposterous lawsuit of all time. George Santos, a man Republicans kicked out of Congress for being a fraud, is suing me for fraud.

After he was removed from the House, George signed on with Cameo to make some money. You know, the website where you can get a celebrity to make a video. So we wrote some absolutely ridiculous messages for him to read. We gave them a credit card number. And sure enough, he recorded the messages and sent them back to us. And now he's suing. He says we deceived him.

If there's one thing George Santos will not stand for, it's using a fake name under false pretenses.


SANCHEZ: CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy has been following this for us. Oliver, we've been trying to figure out the details of this lawsuit, the terms and conditions of Cameo, and whether Santos even has a real case.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Well, I mean, this is no laughing matter to Santos, but I think for everyone else, including Jimmy Kimmel, it's quite funny to see play out. And you saw Kimmel there responding. That's the first response we've seen from the late- night comedian since Santos filed this lawsuit over the weekend.

You know, it's really a remarkable lawsuit for the reasons that Jimmy Kimmel himself is laying out. You know, Santos was ejected from Congress last year over these fraud allegations, and now he's making those same allegations against Jimmy Kimmel. So it's quite ironic, and that's something that Kimmel, you know, pointed out in his response there.

But I'll leave the actual terms and conditions and legal stuff up to the lawyers, guys.

SANCHEZ: Yes, dripping with irony, this story. Oliver Darcy, thanks so much for the update.

Well, he thought he won $340 million. Turns out, though, it was a typo. Is he still going to get a payout? We'll dig into the story next.



SANCHEZ: We want to give you a live look at Culver City, California, where President Biden is expected to deliver remarks pretty soon to that.

The president visiting California on a fundraising swing, trying to gather money for what's going to be a very competitive 2024 presidential election. Just earlier today, President Biden announced an additional $1.2 billion in student debt relief. You see a sign there in the background noting the White House's efforts on student loan relief.

It's actually helping 150,000 borrowers avoid having to pay back student loans, which is obviously something that has plagued many college students after their graduation.

DEAN: And that he ran on and promised. And now that they're heading into re-election, it's critically important for him to be able to say he delivered on that for a lot of younger voters out there who he needs to hold that coalition together.

What was interesting, too, is when we talked to Kevin Liptak a little bit earlier, who's traveling with the president, he said that we have heard him attacking Trump, his likely opponent in this race, on Russia and Vladimir Putin and refusing to condemn him. And that he's not only doing that publicly, he's doing it privately in these fundraisers as well. He's expected, I think you mentioned, to raise some $10 million on that fundraising swing. So we'll keep an eye on that.

In the meantime, a man in Washington, D.C. thought he won a massive lottery jackpot, only to be told, nope, it's a mistake. Now 60-year- old John Cheeks is suing Powerball.

He says he bought a ticket last year and when he went to check it the next day, on the website, he matched all five numbers and the Powerball for a jackpot win of $340 million. But the lawsuit alleges when he took the ticket to the lottery office, he was told he was not the winner.


SANCHEZ: Yes, in a hearing last year, the agency for the Powerball website says it accidentally posted Cheeks' winning numbers and then removed them as soon as they realized the mistake. The agency is now calling Cheeks' claims fraudulent.

Attorneys for Cheeks say that he should be paid out those winnings. We'll, of course, see how this plays out in court.

But could you imagine walking into work holding that winning ticket, getting calls from all these relatives you haven't heard from for years, you're celebrating, you're on a high, and then suddenly --

DEAN: That high is just taken away.

SANCHEZ: Taken away.

DEAN: The answer is no.

SANCHEZ: Right back down to earth.

Hey, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. Jessica, great to have you. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts in five seconds. Stay with CNN.