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Russia: At Least 40 Killed, 100+ Injured In Concert Hall Attack Near Moscow; Catherine, Princess Of Wales, Reveals Cancer Diagnosis. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 22, 2024 - 15:30   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm sorry, I meant in recent times, I mean, the last 10 years or so.

JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: That's the thing, is Putin has, a part of his claim to the throne is that he has neutralized the terrorist threat, that he has neutralized the internal threat, the external threat, that he's now fighting the West in Ukraine so that the West doesn't bring the war to Russia. Again, he's a strong man and this severely dents his image.

Again, we don't know who this is. We also don't know if this is connected to Islamist terrorism, Ukrainians. We also don't know if this is an operation planned by the Russian special services themselves. They've done things like this before.

So really right now, we don't know anything, but what we do know is it's certainly not a good look just five days after declaring victory in the presidential race, quote-unquote. And showing that he was so firmly in control of Russia, all of its people having neutralized any opposition whatsoever inside Russia. And now, five days later, we have this.

COOPER: It's also interesting, given, A, that it hasn't happened in a long time and even the last time, in 2002, the prime example of the Dubrovka Theater, in that case, most of the people -- many of the people who died were the hostages and they died by the gas that was poured in by Russian special forces.

IOFFE: There was a terrorist attack in 2017. There were still sporadic terrorist attacks in big Russian cities. So 2002 is not the last one, but that was a big one.

COOPER: In terms of Russian capabilities to deal with something like this, how does it compare to other countries?

IOFFE: Well, this is what's interesting is Russia is a police state. It has more police per capita than the U.S. It is somewhere up there with China and North Korea.

It has one of the highest proportions of police to civilian population in the world. But as we're seeing, it's much better at neutralizing peaceful protesters than it is at dealing with real threats, real security threats like this one.

Julia Ioffe, I appreciate your time. Thank you. And Matthew Chance as well. We'll be right back after a quick break.

Much more ahead on the other story. We're also following closely this hour, Catherine Princes of Wales revealing she's been diagnosed with cancer. We'll play you her statement shortly.

[15:35:00 ]


COOPER: Almost an hour and 40 minutes ago, Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, announced that she has cancer. She didn't specify what form of cancer, and the palace will not be following up with any further information. But we want to play you the statement that she made around 2 o'clock p.m. on the east coast of the United States. It's about two minutes long. Let's watch.


CATHERINE, PRINCESS OF WALES: I want to take this opportunity to say thank you personally for all the wonderful messages of support and for your understanding whilst I've been recovering from surgery. It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family, but I've had a fantastic medical team who've taken great care of me, for which I'm so grateful.

In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London, and at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful, however, tests after the operation found cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy, and I'm now in the early stages of that treatment.

This, of course, came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family. As you can imagine, this has taken time. It has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment, but most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that's appropriate for them and to reassure them that I'm going to be OK.

As I've said to them, I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal in my mind, body and spirits. Having William by my side is a great source of comfort and reassurance too, as is the love, support and kindness that has been shown by so many of you. It means so much to us both.

We hope that you'll understand that as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment. My work has always brought me a deep sense of joy, and I look forward to being back when I'm able. But for now, I must focus on making a full recovery.

At this time, I'm also thinking of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer. For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.


COOPER: That statement was released about two o'clock.


Anna Stewart is joining us. Anna, we just received a statement I understand from King Charles. What does he say?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's saying he is so proud of his daughter-in-law for the courage in sharing that cancer diagnosis.

And of course, this is something they are very much bonded over, the King himself receiving treatment right now for cancer as well. And actually, a very similar situation, going in for a planned surgery, not expecting to find any cancer there, and then having this awful shock, having to digest that, and then having to share that with the public. So you can see that there's been a horrible few weeks and months, really, for the royal family, undergoing one medical shock after another, really.

And also, I think in the statement that we've had from the princess, listening to that video message, not only is she having to sort of absorb this news herself as a family, but also having to explain to the public why it has taken them some time to speak to the public and to actually make a sort of public appearance, and also having to make very clear that they need privacy at this time.

COOPER: Anna Stewart, thanks so much. Sally Bedell Smith joins me now. Sally, I mean, obviously, this has been a difficult process for them to come to grips with. I mean, obviously, both personally and publicly. I'm wondering what stood out to you in her announcement.

SALLY BEDELL SMITH, CNN ROYAL COMMENTATOR: Well, excuse me, I have laryngitis, so bear with me. But it was so authentic, Kate. She was dignified. She was natural. She was sincere. She was real and intensely human.

And I think those qualities were sort of all crystallized in every single word she said. And when she said at the end, you are not alone, it reminded me of the late Queen Elizabeth II. It was the sort of thing that she would have said, but it was direct. And it was, you know, it was just very sincere, and also very empathetic for those people who are also suffering from cancer.

And the other thing that struck me is what has been alluded to earlier, which is here we have these two crucial people in the royal family who have cancer. And they're incredibly devoted to each other.

King Charles has always been very fond of Kate, and has seen all of her qualities. And I'm sure this has brought them even closer together. And I guess my third thought was how different this is from what went on in the 20th century.

I mean, there was one sort of odd anomaly, which was in 1928 and 1929, King George V had a terrible bronchitis, pneumonia, and he almost died. But he went for a rescuer at a place on the coast called Bogner. And he wanted -- but he wanted everybody to see him.

So he went in this ambulance with very large windows, so everybody could see him go by in his hospital bed. I mean, it was a little anomalous. But at that time, actually, for that particular illness, there were many specific bulletins that went out to the public.

Not so for his son, George VI. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1951, the doctors went in and removed his left lung, they saw cancer in the right lung, and they decided they would not tell him because back in 1951, there was nothing they could do about it. And they thought, why do we bring anxiety on the family? And now we have such an extraordinary array of treatments.

And of course, the princess and the king have the ability to get access to all those treatments. And I think she was being honest in saying, she feels good. She is confident that she will be, that she will be well.

And she actually, she disclosed even more than King Charles did. He never said what kind of therapy he was having. And she very specifically said chemotherapy.


But this is something that they have, that they will share, and they will hopefully support each other. She has a very large support network, not only her family, but she has a lot of friends, and obviously, William and her children.

COOPER: And certainly a big change in how the royal family has dealt with things in the past. Sally Bedell Smith, thank you.

I want to talk to Rachel Burchfield, the royal editor for Marie Claire. Rachel, obviously, a shocking announcement today. It's really puts to rest a lot of the speculation that has been going on in tabloids and elsewhere. There's certainly a lot of support, and the support for Katherine, I can only imagine, is going to just grow, not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout the world.

RACHEL BURCHFIELD, ROYAL EDITOR, MARIE CLAIRE: I hope so. I hope that the emphasis on the word support, there are few people in the world that are treated worse than a woman who marries into the royal family. And I just urge all people all around the world, whether you follow the royal family, whether you don't, when we think of Princess Kate, let's think right now more about Kate than the princess.

When you think about the royal family, let's think more about the family than the royalty. And just let's have empathy. The internet lost its collective mind over Kate this past month.

And some of the things that were said are just disgusting. And I hope that this can be a moment of reckoning for all of us on the internet and social media, to be more empathetic, to be kinder, to realize, as we've seen through this amazing video that is just so touching, it's difficult not to tear up every time I watch it, but that she's a human being. She's a mom. She's 42 years old.

And she's going through such a difficult time in her life. Meanwhile, the world is piling on to her. I think that we can do so much better in the way we treat each other, and we can definitely do better in the way that we treat women who marry into the royal family, Kate and others.

COOPER: Rachel, I appreciate your time and your comments here in New York with Julia Chatterley. It is so, you know, we were talking before of sort of the just the humanness of what she was saying. And I think to Rachel's point, it is so -- it's just a statement so many people can relate to.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Yes, she was a human, a mother, a wife, and someone who's tried to battle all of these things, getting over major surgery, now dealing with chemotherapy.

Also, as someone that most of us wouldn't have to deal with in this situation, abuse, as we were just hearing there, of criticisms of what she has and hasn't said or what's going on. And through it all, she came out and gave an incredibly strong, vulnerable, caring statement that pointed to protecting her children, that she's grateful for her husband, and that even at a time of great distress, as you could see, and as I mentioned. And I still go back to that, the emotion that you could hear in her voice.

COOPER: Yes, her children, George is 10 years old, Charlotte is eight, Louis is five. Having those conversations, you know, that's an extraordinarily difficult thing. What do you say to a child, to a 10 year old and to a five year old? I mean, it's different conversations one would have.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, and I think you try and contain it, which is what they've done. They've and she said she wanted to reassure the children that she's going to be OK. And this is going to be OK. What they clearly didn't want was for them to be in an environment where people who've also perhaps had family members that have had cancer that have got very sick, have lost family members were asking the children very difficult questions, because they can't control that.

And I think we're all talking about this now. Everybody's going to be talking about this now. She did her best to protect her family. So I think everybody can understand that no matter who you are. And I think there is something -- I think there's something very emotional about watching anybody go through this, but particularly someone who's in the public eye and is required to be so perfect.

I think we wish her well. I think everybody wishes her well. That's all we can say.

COOPER: Julie Chatterley, thanks so much. We're going to take a short break. We're following the other major breaking news right now.

Authorities in Russia say a number of people have been killed, dozens others wounded after several armed men opened fire at a concert hall near Moscow. You can see four armed individuals in the screen grab from a video that's from the concert hall. We have more details when we come back.



COOPER: We are continuing to follow breaking news out of Moscow. At least 40 dead in a shooting at a concert hall in the Moscow region. That number will likely grow. The concert hall now in flames.

There are reports the roof has collapsed. Unclear whether more victims are trapped inside or if the attack is still going on. CNN has geolocated a video showing four armed attackers opening fire on their way into the hall, shooting people at close range.

And the screen grab from the video, we're not going to be showing you the rest of it. A Russian reporter at the scene says people were shot at point blank range and that is evident in the video and other videos that are out there. The attackers threw incendiary devices as well.

In a separate video recorded inside the hall, you can hear the sound of gunfire as people are shot at close range.



COOPER: CNN chief global affairs correspondent Matthew Chance joins us now from London. You just left Moscow, I believe it was yesterday. What's the latest that you were hearing in this situation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's still very unclear what the situation is at the moment. It seems that it's not under control yet. We're seeing live images come from that concert hall and shopping center just outside the city of Moscow.

It's called the Crocus City Hall. And -- Crocus City Mall, rather. And it's still in flames and there are still large numbers of emergency services there. You can see some of their flashing blue lights on the screen there and some smoke billowing out.

Look, I mean, according to local media, state media in Russia, we're talking about at least 40 people who have been killed as a result of this attack, which we believe, according to local officials, was carried out by at least four gunmen dressed in camouflage, carrying automatic weapons, sort of walking into this shopping mall, which is a giant complex, concerts, cinemas, you know, shopping facilities, everything, restaurants, walking in and opening fire on people inside.

There was a concert being held there. It hadn't quite started yet, but large numbers of people had gathered to see a concert by a Soviet era band who were very popular in Russia called Picnic.

They didn't actually take the stage because the gunfire and the explosions, and there were several explosions apparently, took place before the concert began. You can see there the auditorium with people getting up from their seats and trying to make their way to the exits as that gunfire continues.

Again, the situation, Anderson, is not fully, it seems, been brought under control yet. And so, look, at the moment, the death toll, according to local officials, being quoted by state news agencies, is 40 people. But I think everybody's bracing themselves for the possibility that that could go much higher in the hours ahead.

COOPER: And Matthew, on March 7th, the U.S. Embassy in Russia sent a security alert telling Americans to avoid large gatherings, specifically concerts, amid reports that extremists had plans to target large gatherings.

I mean, is there any indication as to who may be responsible?

CHANCE: Yes, I mean, this was an extraordinary announcement made, an alert made by the U.S. Embassy. I think the British Embassy made the announcements as well, saying that they were monitoring intelligence, which indicated extremists, as they called it, were targeting areas where lots of people would gather, including concerts. And they named -- they said that word in the actual statement.

I've spoken to the U.S. Embassy within the past few minutes, asking them to clarify, you know, who those extremists were. You know, were they Islamists? Were they people linked with Ukraine or what? And they said they're not going to do that. But they did say there is going to be a statement shortly from the U.S. State Department that will clarify that, and will also clarify to what extent this intelligence was shared with the Russian security services in Moscow and elsewhere.

COOPER: Incredible that they made that statement. That was on March 7th. Matthew Chance, thank you.

Thank you all for joining me for this breaking news. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts after a short break.