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Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa Acquitted Of Tax Evasion Charges; Netherlands Intends To Send Patriot System To Ukraine; Death Toll Rises To 45 In Dnipro Apartment Building Strike; India Set To Become World's Most Populous Country; Ex-Mercenary Says Prisoners Who Refused To Fight For Russia Were Killed; Ex-Mercenary Says Prisoners Who Refused to Fight Were Killed; Turkish, U.S. Diplomats to Discuss Swedish & Finnish Bids for NATO Membership; Defeated Republican Charged with Attacks on Democrats. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired January 18, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: All around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, Journalists and a Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, acquitted on charges of tax evasion. Her legal win she says is a victory for facts, truth, injustice.

Tanks a lot, NATO countries moving closer to supply (PH) Ukraine with tainted armored vehicles ahead of an expected spring offensive by Russian forces.

And size matters, India either has or soon will take the title of the world's most populous country from China. And with that comes to shifting global trade, even global power.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Maria Ressa, the outspoken journalist and founder of the new site Rappler has been cleared of tax evasion by a court in Manila. And what she says was part of a politically motivated campaign to muzzle her reporting.

The charges were brought by the government or former Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, a fifth tax evasion charge still looms over Ressa and her company Rappler. If found guilty, the veteran journalist could have faced 34 years in jail on all of these four charges. She was clearly relieved once the verdict was announced.


MARIA RESSA, JOURNALISTS AND A NOBEL LAUREATE: But today, facts win, truth wins, justice wins.


VAUSE: My colleague joins us now from Manila. First of all, congratulations on the acquittal. How do you feel?

RESSA: Oh my God, John, thank you. Well, first of all, wonderful to speak with you again. But I feel -- vindicated is a strong word but you know, it took more than four years to get us to this point.

And the irony, of course, is just about six months before these tax evasion charges were filed against us before the investigations, we were awarded by the Philippine government as a top corporate taxpayer. So, it feels like the world is slowly turning right side up.

VAUSE: You said it's a win for facts, it's a win for truth, it's a win for justice. It seems those wins are fairly rare these days in many parts of the world. You have a sense that maybe things that are on the upper are improving, or are they just as bad as they have been?

RESSA: I mean, today I am optimistic. You know, I have always chosen -- you know, I've always been an optimistic person. But it's been a tough six years or so, right?

This is -- the world was really turned upside down against Rappler. In less than two years, I had 10 arrest warrants. And these was the cost of trying to do journalism in our country.

Is it turning around? Look, I don't think the problem is just the Philippine government, as long as our information ecosystem prioritizes the spread of lies, how can facts win? This is what social media and technology has done.

So, today, I am optimistic the sun is shining, but the fight must continue.

VAUSE: I'm just wondering, because these charges, four tax evasion charges, they may be politically motivated, but they were serious charges. You could have been facing years and years in jail if found guilty.

I'm wandering, through the trial, did you contemplate what a guilty verdict would mean for you?

RESSA: Absolutely. Until last night, until this morning, you know, because in fact Rappler, my co -- my co-founders and I and Rappler, the first thing that we think about is what do we do if it's a conviction, right? The first kind of statement we started thinking about was a conviction because you have to be prepared for the worst.

And also, I think, you know, as a joke, people were saying I think Rappler has PTSD. We do, but we will continue to hold the line.

You know, if it had happened, that it was a conviction, it would have been -- it would have been a crushing blow, A, to the Philippine economy, because this is about making investments illegal. That's exactly what they would have done if it had been a conviction.

The second is, it's for rule of law, which again will be helpful to investors, because President Marcos, as you know, is in Davos.

And the third one is press freedom, right? So, yes, acquittal, it is.

VAUSE: Another question of whether things are improving. I guess, these challenges came when Rodrigo Duterte was president, he did not hide his disdain for a free press. There is now this new president who you mentioned, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.


The fact that you were acquitted. Do you see that as a positive sign? I'm trying to find something positive on this day. So, do you see that as a positive sign for at least in the near term?

RESSA: It's the first decision that's come under President Marcos. But again, this isn't necessarily President Marcos, I think what we have seen is a lifting of fear. Right?

I mean, it was -- fear was palpable under the term of President Duterte. And also, I was just thinking about this, you know, the independence of the justice system. This is where the Court of tax appeals in this four years and two months that we were on trial was extremely professional. I don't think it had ever -- I was -- I was hoping for an acquittal and I was thrilled to get it.

You know, having said that, I think our victory, this victory is not just Rappler's, it is for every single person who's been unjustly accused with politically motivated charges and I named Frenchie Mae Cumpio. She's a journalist who is entering her -- this would be her fourth year in prison come February. And as you know, Lila De Lima, she spent her entire time as a senator in jail. She enters her seventh year in prison this February.

VAUSE: Maria, God speed to you. Keep up the good fight and congratulations on your acquittal once again, it's great news.

Well, climate activists Greta Thunberg has again been detained by German police, the second time this week. She's with protestors opposed to the expansion of the coal mine operation in West Germany. Police say Thunberg and other demonstrators broke through a police barricade heading for a coal pit. Thunberg has already been released according to the Reuters news agency. She was also detained Sunday after addressing demonstrators and then joining the protest.

From weeks now or possibly months, Ukrainian leaders have been pleading with allies to send battlefield tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery. And later this week at a meeting of allies, it seems some of those requests might just be granted. The heavy firepower is needed ahead of a possible spring offensive by the Russian military.

Meantime, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is in Washington to meet -- he met with the President Joe Biden. He says his country now plans to join the U.S. and Germany in sending Patriot Missile Defense Systems to Ukraine.

Later on CNN, he promised support for Ukraine would continue indefinitely.


MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER: We totally agreed that we can only stop when the worst stops and with a successful outcome for Ukraine to the end has to be successful Ukraine. Russia losing it, losing the war.


VAUSE: Meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed his British counterpart to Washington with a prediction of more military aid to Ukraine coming soon.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: As this aggression has evolved, so too has our assistance to Ukraine, making sure that it has what it needs to meet the aggression head on.

And I would anticipate that you'll hear more announcements in the days to come.


VAUSE: Ukraine also has been a big topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Tuesday, Ukrainian first lady addressed the forum, urged delegates to do more to help end the war.

She warned that Russia's aggression would not stop at Ukraine. She did receive a strong pledge of support from the head of the European Commission.


URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: But I've said from the onset of this atrocious war, that Ukraine should get all the military equipment it needs and it can handle.

Ukraine also says that it has gotten a lot of support and that is good. But yes, they had -- we need to step up in that.


VAUSE: Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is a CNN National Security and Military Analyst for four decades. He served in the U.S. Army rising to commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh army. And it's good to see you, it's been a while.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It has been a while, John, it's good to be back with you.

VAUSE: Thank you. Now, in an interview with The Economist last month, the head of the Ukrainian army said February 23rd as a deadline to rearm Ukrainian troops. He said I need 300 tanks, 600 to 700 IFVs, infantry fighting vehicles, 500 howitzers that I think it is completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23rd. So, that's 36 days now, not just to convince allies to commit to

sending those weapons like tanks, but also to deliver them as well. After February 23rd, that's when the Russians are expected to launch a major offensive. It seems like the Ukrainians are cutting it pretty close and not necessarily by choice.

HERTLING: Well, but it's also a pretty big ask, when you're talking about that many pieces of combat equipment, that is the equivalent of two armored divisions of equipment coming as gifts from Allied nations.

And you know, it's a pretty big ask not only from the standpoint of resources, but the question might be John, where are you, Mr. Zelenskyy, where do you think these are going to come from?


There isn't a big store somewhere where you just pull out 300 tanks, 600 infantry fighting vehicles. And in addition to that, have your soldiers trained on them by February 23 and have the support infrastructure and resupply capabilities to literally provide a logistics supply chain -- supply chain trail for that.

So, it is a big ask John, and it's almost is beyond the pale that General Zelenskyy would say something like that because it is quite a bit of equipment.

VAUSE: So, what is the more likely scenario here? What are the Ukrainians more likely to end up getting?

HERTLING: Well, I think that's what's going to be determined at the Ramstein meetings later this week. What you're asking for is really contributions to a defense force.

But not only that, there is the requirement especially for these frontline vehicles that are Western technology to train Ukrainian soldiers on the capabilities of these vehicles.

As we're seeing now after the United States said that they would offer Patriot Missiles and the expectation is that these weapons systems that are literally worth billions of dollars will suddenly appear and be capable of countering a Russian threat.

Now, that we're training Ukrainian soldiers at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, there's the realization that yes, this takes a long time. These are not something you just put a soldier in and say, point and shoot.

VAUSE: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) that's the -- that's the sort of one side of the equation. But Ukrainians will receive that 14 challenger tanks from the U.K. And that sort of commitment by the British, it's not just for battlefield purposes, I guess. Because they're saying it also sends a strong message to the Kremlin. Here's is the British Foreign Minister, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES CLEVERLY, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: What Putin should understand is we are going to have the strategic endurance to stick with him until the job is done. And the best thing that he can do to preserve the lives of his own troops is to recognize that we're going to stick with Ukrainians until they are victorious.


VAUSE: It would be ideal if Putin woke up one morning and realized he's bet the farm on a loser. But that hasn't happened so far.

But if there is this sort of rush of heavy weapons of tanks and you know, infantry vehicles into Ukraine for some kind of massive offensive, you know, the next couple of weeks, will you at least maybe take pause really reassessing in some way?

HERTLING: Well, when you're talking about 14 challenger tanks from the U.K. again, I'm going to suggest people take an appetite suppressant and understand what this means. 14 tanks is a tank company, it has about 90 people in it.

What General Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians are looking for are multiple tank divisions of 300, 600 vehicles as the general said in December, that takes a long time.

And even with 14 challenger tanks, it's going to take a significant requirement to train Ukrainian soldiers on that very modern, technologically advanced weapons system that the U.K. is giving that's very different from the T-72s that they've been fighting on.

And in addition to that, they have to have the repair parts, the capability to conduct the repair and resupply these vehicles with ammunition.

So, again, you won't see -- they may be -- the U.K. may be given these 14 tanks to Ukraine, but you will not see them on the battlefield within days, it will probably be within weeks, just like the 50 Bradley systems that the United States are given the Ukrainians, they are now beginning the training on those vehicles that Graph and Bureau and Hohenfels training area in Germany, a place where I know very well.

So, it will take a long time to get the familiarization and the crew training before those pieces of equipment can be found on the battlefield.

VAUSE: Mark Hertling, thanks so much for being with us. Sir, we appreciate your insights.

HERTLING: Pleasure, John, thank you.

VAUSE: Well, there's continued to be pulled from rubble and debris days after a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. At least 45 people now confirmed dead, among them six children. More than a dozen people remain missing.

Details now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Sirens mark the end of a search and rescue marathon. For three days responders works day and night trying to save lives. Now authorities say there is no more hope of finding survivors.

There's an eerie quiet here now and you can really see how people were just ripped out of their lives as the building crumbled around them. You can also see the full scale of the destruction. And the Ukrainian say they cleared around 8,500 tons of debris from this area in about 72 hours.


And still, more bodies were found including children, while others remain missing. This man searching for his grandson, venting his anger at Russia. There is no mercy for them, he says. I will curse them until the last days of my life maybe die.

Kyiv says they are certain Russia struck the building with a cruise missile designed to destroy aircraft carriers.

Yelenora Riyabikina (PH) tells me she was in her apartment in the complex when it was hit. She filmed the chaos when she first left the building and saw the destruction.

We thought it was an earthquake or something, she says, unclear what happened. When we opened the apartment we saw smoke and dust and heard screams.

The Kremlin continues to deny its forces were behind the attack. But Moscow does say Russian fighters are now making games on the battlefields.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are still shelling Russian troops around Soledar, which the Russian say is firmly under their control, thanks to fighters from the private military company Wagner. A Wagner unit posting this video after advancing even further and taking a railway station.

Wagner acknowledges using convicts recruited directly from Russian prisons to fight. Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin recently praising a group that survived.

YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, RUSSIAN MERCENARY (through translator): I told you I needed your criminal talents in order to defeat the enemy in Ukraine. Now those criminal talents are no longer needed.

PLEITGEN: Ukraine says the Wagner assault and the missile strike show they need more advanced weapons from the U.S. and its allies to keep momentum on the battlefield and protect citizens at home.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Dnipro, Ukraine.


VAUSE: And a Wagner mercenary has defected seeking asylum now in Norway. Andrei Medvedev is the highest ranking Wagner fighter to flee to the west. Harrowing journey, he says, during which he claims to have dodged bullets and dogs, crossed over a frozen Arctic River.

He says he feared for his life after refusing to sign up for another tour with the mercenary group. Defiance which he says is not tolerated.


ANDREI MEDVEDEV, FORMER WAGNER MERCENARY (through translator): I know cases where prisoners were demonstratively shot dead for refusing to fight or for betrayal. They were showing fighters here this is what will happen to you.


VAUSE: CNN's Nic Robertson will have much more on this story coming up later this hour.

But first, a short break. They're home to more than a third of the world's population but only one can be the most populous nation and it's probably not China anymore. What the rise of India means for the future of the world.


VAUSE: The body of another victim from the deadly Yeti airlines crash has been recovered leaving just one person and accounted for. The total number of bodies discovered now stands at 71. There were 72 onboard including four crew members when the plane crash into river -- River Gourge rather, near the city of Pokhara in Nepal on Sunday. This is the deadliest air disaster in Nepal in more than 30 years.


India is on track to surpass China to become the most populous country in the world this year. In fact, it may already have happened.

India's 2021 census was delayed by the pandemic, but U.N. experts predicted last year, India would hit 1.412 billion people. Meantime, China's population has fallen for the first time in six decades now at 1.411 billion. An analysts say it will continue to shrink over the next 30 years.

We have more on this to Los Angeles and Ryan Patel Senior Fellow at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Good to have you on with us on this one (INAUDIBLE).

So, how does this shift from China to India reflect a shift in global trade, possibly global power? What does this moment say about the future and economic outlooks for both countries here?

RYAN PATEL, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE DRUCKER SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, CLAREMONT GRADUATE UNIVERSITY: Well, I mean, I think at least for China -- I mean, for China, they knew this was happening, hence why in 2021 they abandoned the rules and tried to increase the marital status and children to kind of grow the population, so they saw this coming.

For India, this has been -- this is something that they were preparing for that they knew it was coming, they had all these policies in place to kind of make it more fun. And they know they're going to need more jobs, they're going to be 90 million more jobs between 20 -- from now till 2030, just from non-farm payroll perspective.

And so, they needed to get their infrastructure set up. And I'm not saying that they're there yet. There's still a lot of opportunity, but that -- they weren't going to go backwards and try to control the population. They're obviously trying to do their best but it's about how are you going to manage the flow of that.

VAUSE: They still have opportunity. That's a really good way of putting it.

For any -- there are benefits to being the world's most populous nation that could strengthen their claim to a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But I think you've hinted at this, there are drawbacks too.

We spoke to a professor at the Indian School of Business, he told us India is sitting on a time bomb, there will be social unrest if we cannot create enough employment in a relatively short period of time.

So, OK, how are they going to basically generate all those jobs? I think you said 90 million jobs. And you know, like any change, how this plays out in terms of benefits versus challenges, or opportunities. So, it comes down to what the government does, right?

PATEL: Yes, I mean, so if I had to sit on my soapbox, remember, there's one things about saying things than doing things, right? That's easy to -- it's a little bit hard to put in place but the Indian Government has said made an India program to start up India, skill India, they've started these programs.

But the hard part, John is, is to how to make them better, right? And the Indian government Prime Minister Modi knows there's one ask -- there's many aspects, but they need to increase women participation in the workforce by promoting equality and fair pay, this is going to be a game changer for them, John, to create more workplace to have income to drive, you know, economic growth.

The second piece, too, is to be more open to international companies, we've seen that with Apple manufacturing coming into India, being more competitive, they're being more open.

And the third thing I would have to say, is these other cities outside the ones that we know, Mumbai, and Delhi, these other secondary cities, like Ahmedabad (PH), these other cities that most people don't know, build them as hubs, they're actually, you know, give cities in Ahmedabad where it's going to make easier for international companies to come in to be able to do this. So, they have -- they have some of the initiatives in place, John, but

they've got to do more. And that's the opportunity here is that they cannot fall behind is why I think the quote from the professor was a ticking time bomb, is that if you do nothing, they can go off.

VAUSE: Yes, the work force for women, I think it's around 10 percent, which is pretty pathetic.

China's birthrate of the past 60 years has fallen dramatically, peaking in the early 60s. Then in 1979, came the one-child policy. 2016, one became two, then in 2021, two became three effectively doing both at all.

But despite effectively ending restrictions, the birth rate has continued to decline in China, look at that, that number just keeps going down. And here's one possible reason why. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The cost to raise a child now is too high. From when they are little to when they go to school, then when they look for a job in the future, get married and have their own children. The cost is too high.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have four parents combined between us. We also have grandparents, we need to take care of at least four elderly people. Now the government is encouraging us to have three children, we simply can't afford it.


VAUSE: Everyone knows who has a kid, kids are expensive. And the wealthier a country becomes, more expensive the kids are. All this raising the kids, I should say.

Could India be facing similar problems at some point in the future? But also the shrinking workforce supporting an aging population.

PATEL: And yes, definitely, difference between China and U.S. -- China and India, India 27 percent of its population is 15 to 29 years old, another quarter percentage from zero to 15. So, they do have a younger growth potential where China obviously has an elderly age group they have to take care of.

Now, in the -- in the forthcoming, they're going to have to end up -- India is going to have to deal with this issue of how to deal with the elderly.


But it's funny, I saw a statute, India's life expectancy over the last couple of years of average age actually increase in death rate has fallen too, so there's -- they've got -- I mean, good thing to have, other obstacles to face too when you have that aspect expanding.

VAUSE: When there are challenges or opportunities and you're the guy to tell us about it. Thank you. Ryan Patel there in Los Angeles. Appreciate your time.

PATEL: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Former Russian mercenary is now seeking asylum in Norway and speaking out for what he claims is really happening to the prisoners killed fighting for Russia in Ukraine, more on that when we come back.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Former commander of Russian mercenaries is now in Norway seeking asylum. He's also shedding light of what he says really happens to the many prisoners who've been conscripted to fight for Russia and Ukraine. CNN's Nic Robertson has our story.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Andrei Medvedev is lucky to be alive. The former Wagner unit commander says he fled Russia in a daring Arctic escape, dodging bullets and dogs across a frozen river to Norway.

MEDVEDEV: I've been chased. I'm afraid for my life.

ROBERTSON: Afraid he says because he has witnessed a murderous atrocities in Ukraine committed in the name of his ex-boss Wagner oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, aka Putin's chef, and he wants to tell all. Russians killing Russians, some of them former prisoners freed from Russian jails to fight for Wagner.

MEDVEDEV (through translator): I know cases where prisoners were demonstratively shot dead for refusing to fight or for betrayal. They were showing fighters here, this is what will happen to you.

ROBERTSON: He says he joined Wagner in July last year, signed up for four months, fought near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

But when precaution began recruiting former prisoners to swell Wagner's ranks, Medvedev saw a deadly change and he wanted out because his contract ended but wasn't allowed to quit.

MEDVEDEV (through translator): Since the moment the prisoners have come to service, strange things and murders of their own recruited prisoners by the Wagner security service, and foolish orders such as sending us to die as cannon fodder started to happen.


ROBERTSON(voice-over): He is the highest-ranking Wagner fighter to flee to the West. His eye-witness account of Prigozhin's murderous practices in Ukraine is revelatory.

VLADIMIR OSECHKIN, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: He is really a target for the Russian special forces, for the security service from Wagner Group. It's a very high risk of dying.

ROBERTSON: Human rights activist Vladimir Osechkin helped Medvedev escape; has made sure his story gets out.

OSECHKIN: It's very important to do the international investigation about this. It's very important to open this information to the Russian people, to understand what has happened.

ROBERTSON: Medvedev's biggest revelation will likely be the most damaging to Putin and Prigozhin's recruitment drives.

Last month, Prigozhin recorded this callous video, purporting to pose in front of his dead fighters in body bags, claiming their contracts were complete, and they were on their way back home.

But Medvedev says he's seen the truth, many fighters never making it home, because Prigozhin is too cheap to pay out insurance on their death.

MEDVEDEV (through translator): The majority of the prisoners were buried and then declared missing. The insurance only pays out money to relatives of the deceased if the body was identified and handed over to the relatives, so they were just declaring everyone as missing.

ROBERTSON: Right now, Medvedev is at a secure location in Norway, telling investigators every detail he can remember. He says he didn't commit a crime and wants those responsible for the murders brought to justice.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Two years to the day since returning to Russia and being jailed, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he will continue his opposition to the Russian government.

He tweeted, "When you write a post like this, you have to ask yourself, how many more such anniversary posts will you have to right? Life and the events around us prompt the answer. How many -- however many it may take, our miserable, exhausted motherland needs to be saved. It has been pillaged, wounded, dragged into an aggressive war, and turned into a person run by the most unscrupulous and deceitful scoundrels."

Navalny is serving a nine-year prison sentence for fraud charges, which his supporters say were politically motivated.

Well, Sweden and Finland are hoping an upcoming meeting will help convince Turkey to approve their bids for NATO membership, bids brought on by the war in Ukraine.

The Turkish foreign minister will be holding talks with the U.S. secretary of state in Washington in the coming days.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports now from Istanbul on the sticking points so far.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some Turkish officials have been saying that they are in no rush to approve Finland and Sweden's membership in NATO.

Some Turkish officials also indicating that they might not take this to the Turkish parliament for a vote before elections that are expected here in May or June.

Turkey has accused those two Nordic countries of harboring members of Kurdish separatist groups that Turkey views as a national security threat.

They did sign a memorandum between these three countries, between Turkey, Sweden, and Finland, in which they say they will be taking steps to address these national security concerns that Turkey brought up.

Turkish officials are saying that some steps have been taken but not enough has been done. They say they want to see more concrete steps taken before they go ahead and approved a membership.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in recent days also saying that they will not go ahead with this until Sweden and Finland hand over more than 100 individuals, they say, who are wanted by Turkey.

But it's also very important to keep in mind that what Turkish officials say publicly doesn't necessarily reflect where things are in terms of negotiations taking place behind closed doors that have continued now for months, especially at a time where Turkey is headed into elections.

KARADSHEH: And we've heard from U.S. officials in the past, from NATO secretary-general and others, who believe that Turkey will eventually come around, and they will approve Finland and Sweden's membership.

But some believe that what it's trying to do right now this is use this situation and its leverage to try and extract concessions it has been after for a long time from these countries and others .

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


VAUSE: When we come back, a story no parent should miss. A toddler playing with a handgun, pulling the trigger. We'll explain what happened after the break.


Plus, a failed Republican candidate in New Mexico charged with shooting at the homes of Democrat officials. Details also ahead.


VAUSE: The world's oldest known person, a French nun, has died aged 118. Sister Andre passed away Tuesday in Southern France. They city's mayor announced her death on Twitter.

According to the Guinness World Records, Sister Andre was the oldest nun to ever live and dedicated most of her life to religious services. Quite (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

She had seen 18 French presidents and ten different popes presiding over the Catholic Church in her 118 years.

So, just how did the toddler in the U.S. state of Indiana manage to get hold of a handgun and then casually wave the weapon around in the entryway of an apartment building while also pulling the trigger?

The footage from a security camera was aired online live TV last weekend during the Reels program on Patrol Live. According to an affidavit, the boy's father says he was ill and asleep, didn't realize his young son had escaped the apartment.

Shane Osborne is now facing a negligent charge and is expected in court later this week.

He denies owning a gun, says it belonged to a cousin. A neighbor says she called 9-1-1 after the toddler pointed the gun at her and her son. No one was hurt, and no shots were fired, somehow.

A Republican candidate who ran unsuccessfully for a state house seat in New Mexico last November is now under arrest. Solomon Pena has been charged with contracting four gunmen to shoot at the homes of Democratic officials after he visited them to dispute his election defeat.

Police say he's now scheduled for a pre-trial detention hearing Wednesday, and CNN's Josh Campbell has details.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Republican former candidate for the New Mexico legislature handcuffed Monday by SWAT officers and now in the custody of Albuquerque Police.

Solomon Pena, a 2020 election denier who lost his bid for the New Mexico house in 2022, is accused of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of four elected Democratic state leaders.

MAYOR TIM KELLER, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (D): The APD essentially discovered what we had all feared, and what we had suspected, that these shootings were, indeed, politically motivated.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Solomon provided, quote, "firearms and cash payments" and personally participated in at least one shooting, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, with the intention "to cause serious injury or cause death to occupants inside their homes." Additionally, the arrest affidavit included images from the phone of

one of the coconspirators, photos that were sent by Pena. Those images show Pena with one of the four suspected shooters, who when arrested, had a gun that police say was used in one of the shootings.


Despite getting walloped by 48 percentage points, Pena maintained the state house election was rigged, a recurring belief echoed by some Republicans nationwide when losing elections, and amplified by former president, Donald Trump.

Pena is an outspoken Trump supporter, and just days after his loss, he tweeted, ""Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options."

And just this month, tweeting he'd fight the election, quote, "until the day I die."

Pena is a convicted felon. He served nearly seven years for burglary and larceny. CNN has reached out to Pena's campaign for comment.


County Commissioner Adriann Barboa's home was one of those targeted. Just hours, she says, after she was playing with her grandchild. Barboa says Pena visited her home uninvited after the election.

BARBOA: He was saying that the elections were fake, that -- really speaking erratically. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others, causing serious trauma.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Pena also showed up at what he believed was the home of former commissioner Debbie O'Malley, again, uninvited.


CAMPBELL (voice-over): O'Malley does not live at that address, but Pena later tracked her down at her home, seen here on a Ring camera interacting with O'Malley at her property gate. She told CNN he seemed agitated and a little aggressive. Her home was one of the four targeted.

CAMPBELL: Now, on those four alleged coconspirators, police say they're expecting criminal charges against those individuals. Authorities say they're still working to determine whether those suspects actually knew the identities of the people that they were allegedly targeting or whether they were simply hired to conduct these shootings.

Police say that's all part of the ongoing investigation.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


VAUSE: To tennis now, where Novak Djokovic has been given a standing ovation during his first-round victory at the Australian Open. The Serbian is a nine-time champion in Melbourne, but ahead of the tournament last year, he was deported because he was not vaccinated for COVID-19.

Djokovic has been ruthless in this match against Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena, winning in straight sets. Fans are doing their part to help them feel right at home.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 9-TIME AUSTRALIAN OPEN CHAMPION: Thank you for giving me such a welcoming reception I could only dream of. I really feel very happy that -- that I'm back in Australia, back here on the court where I had the biggest success in my career. You know, definitely, this court is the most special court in my life, and I couldn't ask for a better start of the tournament so thank you for your support. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.


VAUSE: Meantime, Djokovic rival Raphael Nadal is in trouble at the moment. The 22-time major champion facing American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. Dropped the first set six games to four. Currently trailing in the second set, having just taken a medical timeout.

The defending champion may just be heading home a little earlier than he thought.

On the women's side, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek has advanced into the third round. The reigning French Open and U.S. Open champion eased past Camila Osorio of Columbia, 6-2, 6-3.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) is the overwhelming favorite to win the title in Melbourne, for what would be her fourth career major victory.

I'm going to take a break after reading all those names. I'm John Vause. WORLD SPORT starts after the break. I will be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. Hope to see you back here.