Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

NZ Prime Minister Ardern Resigns; Zelenskyy Asks for Moment of Silence for Crash Victims; Ukraine Asks for More Military Aid; Peru Braces for More Protests as Death toll Climbs; UK Nurses Strike; Notorious Mafia Boss to Appear in Court; The U.S. Finalizing a Massive Military Aid for Ukraine. More Military Support to Ukraine Says NATO Chief; Climate Change High Topic at Davos Forum; China, Lunar New Year and Coronavirus; An Ally of Benjamin Netanyahu Cannot Serve as Minister; Taiwan to Include Women in Reservist Training. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Just ahead here on "CNN Newsroom" --


JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it's time. And for me, it's time.


BRUNHUBER: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the shocking announcement of her intention to resign.

Plus, Ukraine's president issues an urgent plea at the World Economic Forum asking for more advanced weaponry and fast. We will hear how European leaders are responding.

And he was one of Europe's most wanted men. Now after 30 years in hiding, a notorious Mafia boss will finally face justice. We are live in Rome with the latest.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: And we begin with an unexpected announcement. New Zealand's prime minister says she is resigning and will be stepping down in just a matter of weeks. Speaking at a Labour Party retreat, Jacinda Ardern got choked up as she said she doesn't have the energy to lead government anymore, won't be seeking reelection, and announced the end date for her time in office. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARDERN: This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year but another term because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that. And so today, I'm announcing that I will not be seeking reelection, and that my term as prime minister will conclude no later than the 7th of February.


BRUNHUBER: Clearly, an emotional moment for the prime minister whose time in office brought her international recognition. World leaders have praised her empathetic handling of several major crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 Christchurch terror attack, and deadly volcanic eruption that same here. But her popularity at home has waned recently with a slowing economy and rising inflation.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong. Kristie, take us through the reasons behind the decision and the reaction.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kim, this announcement stunned many people in New Zealand and around the world. According to political pundits, if Jacinda Ardern stayed in power, she will be facing a bruising political battle ahead, so it would be better for her to leave in a high note.

But according to Jacinda Ardern herself, and we heard from her directly at a press conference earlier today, she simply does not have the energy to stand for reelection in October and that is why she is standing down as prime minister in early February.


LU STOUT (voice-over): New Zealand's youngest female prime minister strove to bring compassion and empathy to politics. Values tested by a string of once in a generation crisis.

ARDERN: We encountered a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror event, a major natural disaster, a global pandemic, and an economic crisis.

LU STOUT (voice-over): In 2019, when the far-right terrorists targeted two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing 51 people, Ardern embraced the Muslim community.


LU STOUT (voice-over): Weeks later, her government successfully banned military-style semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the attack.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: She showed the heart not only of a leader but of a mother.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Ardern became a mother in 2018 during her first full year in office, taking just six weeks off for maternity leave. A young unmarried woman from a modest background, Ardern defied norms and earned a global reputation outsized for a leader of just under five million people.

But at home, Ardern won two general elections, including a landslide victory in 2020. But public support dipped in the last of her five and a half years in office. Tough COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the economic troubles that followed the virus damaged Ardern politically.

In December, her Labour Party lost an important by-election to the conservative national party.


BRYCE EDWARDS, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON: I think the real Ardern is going is that she has lost popularity. So, the opinion polls here have really plummeted for her government and for her personally, and it's going to be a very tough election for her government to win.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Ardern admitted Thursday that she doesn't have the energy for that political fight.

ARDERN: I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple.

LU STOUT (voice-over): As for what is next, Ardern says she has no professional plans beyond her last day in office. She says she is looking forward to spending time with their family, to being there for her four-year-old daughter when she starts school, and to finally get married to her partner, television host Clarke Gayford.


LU STOUT: Domestically, inside New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has been facing down a number of political headwinds as voters focus on issues like the rising cost of living or the specter of recession. But internationally, she has been hailed for being a strong progressive voice and for being a strong leader. Let me share a couple of international reactions to her announcement, that she plans to resign.

This, from the prime minister of Australia, saying that, "Jacinda Ardern has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities. Jacinda has been a fierce advocate for New Zealand, an inspiration to so many and a great friend to me." -- unquote.

And this from Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who said, "Thank you, Jacinda Ardern, for your partnership and your friendship, and for your empathetic, compassionate, strong and steady leadership over these past several years. The difference you have made is immeasurable. I'm wishing you and your family nothing with the best, my friend." -- unquote.

Jacinda Ardern will resign as prime minister on February the 7th. Back to you.

BRUNHUBER: All right, appreciate it, Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And for more on this, let's bring in Lara Greaves, senior lecturer of New Zealand Politics and Public Policy at the University of Auckland. Thank you so much for being here with us. You know, for many, this comes as a huge shock. Are you surprised as well?

LARA GREAVES, PROFESSOR OF NEW ZEALAND POLITICS AND PUBLIC POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND: Incredibly shocked. I don't think any of us woke up this morning expecting that Ardern would resign. We are kind of expecting in these next couple of weeks an announcement of sorts around what the election date would be, but instead, the announcement was election date, and then this whole resignation. Incredibly shocked. No one really expected this.

BRUNHUBER: All right. So, we just saw that package from Kristie Lu Stout. So, we are looking at some of the factors here behind this. Why do you think she is stepping down?

GREAVES: Well, I would actually kind of caution anyone not taking her at face value. I think everyone is tired, everyone's worn out from sort of the COVID experience, and I think we can expect our leaders, reasonably, to be worn out. I do agree that she has had some pressures from political opponents, and the 2023 election, it looks like it would be very close for her.

But generally and genuinely, she has had an incredibly challenging term. We had that world leading COVID response, the Christchurch terrorist attack. For all of these, she was also a mother during this time, so it has been an incredibly stressful five or six years. And, I mean, yeah, she needs a rest, so I think, fundamentally, she has got political challenges, but we can kind of take her at face value.

BRUNHUBER: We are talking about sort of, you know, her fading popularity. I mean, she was praised as a great communicator. She has a degree in communications. She had a fantastic ability to connect with voters. Did something break in that connection, do you think?

GREAVES: So, what has happened over time, as 2017, when Ardern won, it was quite a close election. It was one of (INAUDIBLE) of our electoral system that she ended up being prime minister. And so, what we saw after the 2020 election, which was a record high for (INAUDIBLE) and the one that we never thought we'd see under our system, we are seeing this return to politics is normal.

And part of that has happened because of those global economic pressures. We've got this cost of living crisis. We are facing inflation like many other countries are. So, part of it has been sort of coming down from these record high levels, but other things have been economic challenges and having to face all these policy challenges up against the background of COVID.

So, she has faced declining polls, and we are definitely thinking it would be quite a tight election in 2023 regardless of whose prime minister.

BRUNHUBER: There seems to be a bit of a trend. A female world leader has been forced out early, having either their party or the voters turn on them. Really quickly, is there a gender factor here at all?

GREAVES: I think there's a little bit of a gender factor, but I wouldn't put it down to that at all. I would say this is not a forcing out. This is her retiring on her terms in a way. However, we have seen unprecedented hate and vitriol towards Jacinda Ardern.

That is something that, as a New Zealand political scientist, I would never expect to see. It is not part of our political culture. But there's something about Ardern. She has been targeted. We have seen new sort of hate in New Zealand. That's really concerning and potentially a part of her resignation.


BRUNHUBER: She seemed to captivate the world's attention. Not usual for a small country like New Zealand, I would say, particularly because she was seen in contrast to the rise of populists like Donald Trump. You've outlined some of the highlights of her time in office. What do you think her legacy will be?

GREAVES: Well, I like to think about what will be on her Wikipedia page in the years to come, what they will be teaching students about her, what will those top line things be?

It will be the crisis prime minister kind of rewriting the world book on how to react in a crisis, the hugging of members of the Muslim community after the Christchurch terrorist attack, wearing the head scarf and respecting their cultural traditions while still being tough on guns, the response to COVID, making us a team of five million going hard and going early.

I think that those will be the fundamental markers of her leadership, and I think she will go down as a great prime minister in New Zealand history, fundamentally.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we will have to leave it there, but certainly, a fascinating legacy for people like you to analyze in the years to come. Lara Greaves with the University of Auckland, thank you so much, appreciate it.

Well, it is just passed 10 a.m. in Ukraine where the country is in mourning after the death of its interior minister and 13 others in a fiery helicopter crash.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered an investigation. But at this point, there is no evidence to suggest this was anything more than a tragic accident. The helicopter went down in low visibility near a kindergarten and a residential suburb of Kyiv. At least one child was killed. More than two dozen other people were injured.

Among those were Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, his top deputy, and Ukraine's state secretary. The helicopter taking off from Kyiv on route to the Kharkiv region.

President Zelenskyy asked for a moment of silence as he addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He says ultimately, Russia is to blame for this tragedy. Here he is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): This is not an accident. This is war. And war is not only going on the battlefield. There are different directions of war. There are no more accidents. This is the result of the war.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine's first lady in Davos, Switzerland was moved to tears. She says the biggest tragedy is the death of children.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following developments and has more now from Ukraine.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Widespread destruction after the helicopter for Ukraine's interior minister crashed near Kyiv. An eyewitness describing the scene to me.

I saw a helicopter that was flying towards the kindergarten, he says. It landed almost vertically. I saw an explosion. I came down to help clear the debris.

He also shot this video of the immediate aftermath.

(On camera): The chopper crashed at the foot of this residential building. As you can see, there are lots of parts strewn around everywhere. It completely burned out, killing everyone inside and several people on the ground.

(Voice-over): Among the dead, Ukraine's interior minister, Denys Monastyrsky, his top deputy, Yevhen Yenin, and State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych.

The deputy minister's wife in tears as she reached the scene. Especially tragic, a child was also among several people killed on the ground as the aircraft hit a kindergarten just as parents were dropping their kids off. Two boys described how they tried to help.

Here, they passed injured children over the fence, this boy says. Mostly, they had bruises and scratches. Put bandages on them, wrote down their names and surnames, and found their parents.

The chopper, (INAUDIBLE). Ukrainian authorities have launched an investigation into the possible causes of the crash.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Various factors, radio communications, and the technical condition of the helicopter needs to be examined. This will take at least several weeks.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Denys Monastyrsky was one of Ukraine's most important officials. We traveled with him to the Chernobyl nuclear plant shortly after Russian forces withdrew from there. Monastyrsky frequently visited the frontlines to help boost morale.

DENYS MONASTYRSKY, FORMER UKRAINE MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS (through translator): They have such a strong fighting spirit and are ready for any scenario. We heard the shells exploding, but no one is afraid because everyone is ready.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukrainian forces are currently facing a major Russian onslaught in the eastern part of the country near Bakhmut and Soledar. And dozens were killed when a massive Russian missile hit a residential building in Dnipro.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): And now, Ukraine is also mourning the loss of more than a dozen people, including some of the country's top officials.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Ukraine.


BRUNHUBER: Sources tell CNN the U.S. is finalizing one of its biggest military aid packages for Ukraine worth about $2.5 billion. A formal announcement could come by the end of the week.

For the first time, the package would include striker combat vehicles capable of moving infantry across a battlefield. U.S. is also planning to send additional Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles known as MRAPs. The package won't include M1 Abrams tanks or the longer-range missiles Ukraine had requested. The Pentagon will send more ammunition for the HIMARS rocket systems.

For more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London. Clare, take us through this new American aid package, what's in it, and is Ukraine getting what it asked for?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kim, a heavy focus, it seems, on armored vehicles in this package equipment that seems to be tailored to the kind of grinding battles that we are seeing in the east of Ukraine that have led to this sort of prolonged and bloody stalemates. Stryker combat vehicles, those are lighter than the armored vehicles that the U.S. has already sent. They will send more of those, according to defense officials in this latest package.

The Stryker vehicles are lighter and together with the Bradleys will give Ukraine more maneuverability perhaps to get closer to the Russian frontlines as it continues to fight in the east, the same with those MRAPs, those anti-mine vehicles.

So that is kind of the thinking behind that package. Ukraine obviously continues to ask for more. We are talking here about an 800-mile frontline, about constant shelling, and aerial bombardment from Russia.

President Zelenskyy in comments again to Davos this morning in a new address that he made really spelling out why they need these new weapons. He said, look, we're not trying to hit Russian territory with the long-range artillery. We're trying to hit Russian-occupied territory within Ukraine to prevent them from constantly shelling cities like Kherson. He said that air defense is still a weak spot for Ukraine as Russia continues to target the energy grid.

He talked about the need to move forward on the battlefield, as I said, with that stalemate that we see in the east. One particularly interesting comment, he said that Ukraine still intends to try to win back Crimea. That is, of course, a very sensitive point for Russia, a clear red line. He said that he doesn't see any room for negotiation at the moment. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. Clare, as the wet sort of continues to consider how to equip Ukraine's army, what has been Russia's reaction?

SEBASTIAN: Two things, really. Russia is retooling its own military and making an elaborate show of it. It was using a lot of military posturing. Putin out with soldiers, out talking to a number of military industrial complex.

Defense Ministry Shoigu this week saying that Putin has agreed in principle to his plan to increase the size of the army about a third to one and a half million people. Putin has said that money is no object when it comes to funding the military. So, that is one thing.

Also, the rhetoric has clearly stepped up. Russia is very clearly stating now that it feels that it is at war not so much with Ukraine both with the west, with NATO, in particular with the United States. Take a listen to what the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said on Wednesday. He took it to an extreme.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Just as Napoleon mobilized the most the whole of Europe against the Russian empire, as Hitler mobilized and captured, put most of the European countries under the jackboot and deployed them against the Soviet Union. So, it is the same now.

United States has created a coalition which includes almost all of Europe that are NATO members and EU members as well. Using Ukraine, they are raging a war against our country with the same task. The final solution to the Russian question. Just as Hitler wanted to find a solution to the Jewish question.


SEBASTIAN: Hitler, obviously, very extreme rhetoric there. Obviously, Russia is the aggressor in this war and invaded Ukraine, but history has shown that when Russia feels it is under threat, that creates a dangerous moment.

That along with that military posturing, the fact that they just installed the head of all of the armed forces as the head of operations in Ukraine, all of that points to Russia's plans for a bigger war rather than a path to peace, and that really underscores why we are seeing this uptick and request for Ukraine -- from Ukraine for more western weapons. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank you so much, Clare Sebastian, appreciate it.




BRUNHUBER: The protesters, they are chanting on their way to Peru's capital where anti-government rallies are expected to resume on Thursday. Protesters clashed with police in Lima on Wednesday as part of nationwide demonstrations, paralyzing the country for weeks.

We have more now from Stefano Pozzebon.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Late on Wednesday night, the Peruvian (INAUDIBLE) updated to 51, the total number of deaths in the wave of protests that is sweeping across the nation since the ousting of former president Pedro Castillo last month.

One person died on Wednesday in protest in (INAUDIBLE) Province, in rural Peru. This occurred as thousands of people are traveling towards the capital, Lima, for a nationwide rally against the current president, Dina Boluarte, scheduled for Thursday. Among their demands is the resignation of Boluarte and a fresh round of election.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Well, as I said, there are several urgent needs. But right now, the political situation merits the change of representatives and government, and the executive and the legislature. That is the immediate thing, because there are other deeper issues: Inflation, lack of employment, poverty, malnutrition, and other historical issues that have not been addressed.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Boluarte has called for any protest to be peaceful but has so far resisted calls for her resignation, saying that she intends to fulfil her mandate until the next round of election is scheduled next year.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


BRUNHUBER: France is bracing for transportation chaos, school closures, and more scenes like these as thousands, possible even millions of workers go on strike.

Plus, a mafia boss gets nabbed after three decades in the shadows. Now, he is about to face a judge for the first time since he was put behind bars. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: For the second straight day, thousands of nurses in England aren't showing up for work. They're asking for a pay raise, saying their current salaries aren't enough to make ends meet with inflation now soaring to more than 10%. On Wednesday, some of the nurses marched to 10 Downing Street. The government has said their demands are unaffordable. Nurses are threatening to also stop working for two days in February if there is no progress by the end of this month. Ambulance workers of England and Wales are also warning of more strikes.

And widespread strikes are expected across France today as workers were revolt against the government plan to delay their retirements. But this is far from the first-time proposed pension reforms have provoked popular anger.

CNN's Melissa Bell explains.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 28 years, Enrique Moreira has carried this same equipment to work.


BELL: But on Thursday, he will take to the streets in protest over the two extra years the government wants him to spend working for his pension.

ENRIQUE MOREIRA, CONSTRUCTION WORKER (through translator): Living is getting more expensive. Retirement further away. It's ridiculous. I can't go on. That is why we have to take to the streets, and that's what we will do on Thursday.

BELL (voice-over): French President Emmanuel Macron has unsuccessfully tried pension reform before.

In 2020, he backed down in the face of street protests and the COVID pandemic. 2023, he says, will be different.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): This year will be the year of pension reform. We'll change to guarantee the balance in our system for the coming years and decades. We need to work more.

BELL (voice-over): Currently, the French can retire at 62 or even earlier in some cases with a minimum monthly government pension of around a thousand euros.

Earlier this month, the French prime minister announced plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, with the full pension raised by an average of a hundred euros a month.

STEPHANIE RIST, GOVERNMENT MP (through translator): If we don't pass this reform, the books will not be balanced, which means that we will have to lower the pensions of retirees or increase the contributions of working people, thus reducing the purchasing power of the French.

BELL (voice-over): Pension reform has been derailed in the past. In 1995, under then President Jacques Chirac, it also faced stiff resistance under Macron's two predecessors.

FRANCOIS HOMMERIL, PRESIDENT, CFE-CGC UNION (through translator): It's true that there is a strong symbolic value for the social model put in place after World War II. The political forces from the far- left to the right came together to govern France, and they created this model. It's our heritage, our wealth, and the French are incredibly attached to it.

BELL (voice-over): The hope of the unions on Thursday, that the protests will be as big as they were in 2010, when they claimed more than three million people took to the streets of France.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: We are waiting for Italy's former most wanted man to make his first court appearance since his arrest. Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was on the run for 30 years until he was finally caught checking in at a private health clinic on Monday. Denaro received multiple life sentences in absentia, including for his role in the killings of two anti-mafia prosecutors in 1992, the focus of today's hearing.

And Barbie Nadeau is monitoring developments from Rome, and she joins us now live. So, Barbie, Denaro due to appear in court via video, I understand, in just minutes. So, what can we expect from today's hearing?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, this is a man who has been convicted in absentia in many of his -- in many of his criminal trials. And what you've got and the Italian legal system is every single trial has to be -- has to go through three levels, three tiers. He is convicting the first level. This is actually the appellate level. It is the first time that he will have to actually face a judge. It is the first time that he will have legal representation.

His lawyer is actually his niece. This is the daughter of his sister. He has got a sister and brother who were convicted in the mafia affiliation. This is the sister who is not.

So, this is the first time he is going to have any sort of legal representation and we are expecting him to obviously face a judge for the first time from his bunker on the mainland.

BRUNHUBER: And give us some of the contacts here, Barbie. Denaro, as I said, one of Europe's most wanted men and was in hiding for some 30 years. So, how did police capture him and get him to court?

NADEAU: Well, you know, this is one of the biggest areas of contention here. A lot of people are saying that this was a deal that he turned himself because he needed a cancer treatment. You know, the investigators are saying this is 30 years in the making. They followed every possible lead, finally found him in a small town in Sicily very close to where he grew up and captured him when he was checking in to this private health clinic.

He is now in a maximum-security prison on the mainland that holds mafia criminals and which has one of the best cancer treatment centers in these prisons systems. So, he is getting his chemotherapy. He is alleged to have colon cancer.

This is going to be the first of many times we see this man in court, either in video or perhaps in prison down the road because he has got a number of these criminal convictions in the first degree. Each one is going to have to go through all three levels of the Italian court system. It'll be interesting to see the Italian judicial system on trial itself in this matter to see if they can make these convictions stick.

BRUNHUBER: Yeah, not a given. We will be watching. Barbie Nadeau in Rome, thank you so much.

All right, still to come, more on the latest pledges of military aid for Ukraine, including some advanced weaponry of allies in Europe. Plus, rising temperatures in the Arctic that put Greenland's glaciers at the tipping point of melting. We'll explain what they would do to global sea levels, coming up. Stay with us!




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. For more now on one of the top stories from Ukraine where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered an investigation into the cause of Wednesday's helicopter crash that killed 14 people including the country's interior minister. The chopper went down near a kindergarten and residential block in the city of Brovary near the capital Kyiv.

More than two dozen people were injured including 11 children. Hours later, in a video address, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Zelenskyy asked for a moment of silence for the victims. He said, quote, "Every death is the result of war." And is calling on western nation to speed up the delivery of weapons.

Now, this comes as sources tell CNN the U.S. is finalizing plans for a new $2.5 billion military aid package for Ukraine. CNN's Oren Lieberman has details from the Pentagon

OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN PENTAGON: Today, the largest U.S. package to Ukraine was just a couple of weeks ago, it was $3 billion including much of that coming directly from U.S. stocks so it could be shipped quickly. Before that, just before Christmas, was a package that was nearly $2 billion. So, if we're talking about that kind of range, and two U.S. officials have told us it is expected to be one of the largest packages.

You're almost certainly expecting there is going to be a tremendous amount of ammo in there as well as other capabilities. And that's critical for Ukraine because as much as they've innovated, as much as they found new ways to use advance U.S. technology to take the fight to Russia, this is still on the ground a brutal war of heavy artillery.

And that's where any ammo is critical to this fight. So, keep Ukraine in the fight especially as we see Russia trying to make moves in eastern Ukraine. Of course, any weapons package is something that you hear from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a tremendous amount of appreciation.

We also expect that later this week perhaps with the announcement from other countries of the weapons that they are willing to send. The U.K. has already announced they'll send their own Challenger 2 tanks, Poland, Finland expressing their willingness to send German-made Leopard tanks although Germany has not yet given the sign off to that from what we understand.

And then there's the question of U.S. tanks. From the U.S. perspective, M1 Abrams tanks are still too heavy in terms of maintenance, too heavy in terms of what they can go over on the ground, and then they guzzle gas. So, from the U.S. perspective, it's not the right fit right now, but perhaps that has kept other countries from sending in their own tanks.

That's been sort of the discussion around what's going in. Around the questions of the offensive, Ukraine has said they are bracing for Russian offensive. And the National Security Council here has said after this winter is over, perhaps they expect Russia to try to carry out more offensives and take more territory. The question does Russia have the manpower and capability for that at this point.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Coast Guard says it's tracking a suspected Russian spy ship sailing near the Hawaiian Islands. The Coast Guard released this video of the vessel and said it's believed to be gathering intelligence. The ship which the U.S. has been monitoring for several weeks is moving through international waters.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine will retake Crimea in comments livestreamed during a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos just in the last hour. Ukrainian president has renewed his push for military aid and for more advanced weapons from western allies. NATO secretary general speaking with CNN in his own argument for greater military support for Ukraine. Here he is.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: If we want peace and negotiated pace, that ensure that Ukraine prevails a sovereign independent nation, then we need to provide the military support to Ukraine. Because most likely, this war will end at the negotiating table. And what we do know is what will happen around the table, totally depends on the situation on the battlefield. And therefore, to have peace tomorrow, we need military support to Ukraine today. And that includes more advanced weapons.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Anna Stewart joins me now with more from London. So, we heard about more advanced weapons there from Jen Stoltenberg. What would that look like?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, I think at this stage in the conflict, it's looking very much like tanks. At least that is what Ukraine would like to see. They like hundreds of tanks from their allies. And, hey, lots of experts and some of their western allies certainly agree with that. The U.K., Poland, Finland, they've all pledged that they would like to give tanks.

But for those latitude countries and many others actually around NATO, they need the approval of Germany because they have our German-made tanks. They need Germany's approval to re-export them to Ukraine. And that is being, I'd say that has been some of the frustration that we have seen both on and off stage at the World Economic Forum this year. Listen to what the Polish prime minister had to say to our Richard Quest yesterday.


MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI, POLISH PRIME MINISTER: The critically important point is, will Germany finally, finally give their part of heavy artillery, in particular, heavy and modern tanks? If France and in particular, Germany, and some other countries gave 20, 30 tanks each, then it could make a difference for Ukraine.


STEWART: Well, the German chancellor also spoke at the World Economic Forum yesterday amidst all this pressure, and essentially said that this is not a decision that Germany is willing to make by itself. He said we are never doing something just by ourselves, but together with others, especially the U.S.

And as you heard from that report from Oren Lieberman, current, the U.S. committing to send armored vehicles but not their tanks, the M1 Abrams tanks. They say they would have logistical and maintenance complication with their types of tanks, but we do expect a meeting of the U.S. and German defense ministers in the next couple of hours.

There is a big summit of defense ministers regarding military aid to Ukraine tomorrow. So, we could have some updates on this element in the coming hours.

BRUNHUBER: All right. So, then, Anna, the key question, will -- does U.S. help push Europe to respond in kind?

STEWART: Well, certainly from the president of Ukraine's perspective, they need more now, instantly. There is a great deal of urgency here, and the frustration that we've heard from many different leaders actually regarding this, and even CEOs wanting to see an end to this conflict. It was very much echoed in the comments from Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday. Take a listen to what he had to say.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: The world was hesitant in 2014 when Russia, without hesitation, occupied the Crimea. The world was hesitant in 2022, when Russia without hesitation made the war full scale. The world must not hesitate today and ever.


STEWART: According to Zelenskyy, you know, hesitation from western allies has already caused Ukraine dearly. And it wants to see the swiftest and as possible and to this conflict. Kim?

BRUNHUBER: All right. Thank so much, Anna Stewart. Appreciate it.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres was even gloomier than usual as he spoke about climate change at the Davos Forum on Wednesday. He pulled no punches painting the fossil fuel industry as the primary culprit behind global warming. Guterres pointedly accuse energy companies of denying their own science on climate interesting and choosing to increase production instead. Listen to this:


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We are flirting with climate disaster. Every week brings and new climate horror story. Greenhouse gas emissions are at record levels and growing. The commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees is nearly going up in smoke.



BRUNHUBER: Well, sometime today, climate activist Greta Thunberg and others are expected to meet with the head of the International Energy Industry in Davos to urge drastic cuts in carbon emissions.

And former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry now serves as America's chief climate envoy. CNN's Julia Chatterley spoke with him in Davos about recent pledges by the Biden administration to take a more aggressive approach to the climate crisis. Here it is.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. CLIMATE ENVOY: I think all in all, people understand this is a game-changer. The president's accomplishment in getting the most historic commitment to climate ever is already paying dividends and I think that it's going to put people to work, it's going to push the curve of technology, and it really advances America's ability to be able to help in this race to do what is sane and important for all of us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Scientists studying Greenland's vast ice sheets are issuing dire findings about rising temperatures in the Arctic. They say temperatures there are now the warmest they have been and at least 1,000 years. Researchers have been studying ice core samples that were first drilled in 2012. CNN's Fred Pleitgen was there to see it.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The ice cores are essentially compressed snow that fell here over tens of thousands of years. Each layer holds a record of the climate in a certain era. The further down they drill, the further they go back in time. One of those taking part in the drilling mission is Trevor Popp, a climatologist from the University of Copenhagen.

TREVOR POPP, UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN: These ice cores in Greenland tell us basically the past climate, what the ice can record. And this is stuff like temperature, the amount of precipitation, the seasonality precipitation, dust, impurities in the atmosphere, and importantly changes from year to year.


BRUNHUBER: CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir explains why drilling into the thick Arctic ice is valuable to understanding climate change. Here he is.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: That's the results of studies that look at core samples, looked at the tiny pockets of gas, and all of the layers of ice. Each year it snows and adds another layer, and they can go back and the data just gets longer and proves what a lot of these scientists have been warning that the planet heated up by fossil fuels now, is especially cooking the top of the globe.

The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest. And at the current rate, just Greenland's melt would add about 50 centimeters to global sea level rise, which mean -- which would mean re-engineering every port city in the world. So, it's just further science and yet another red flag.

BRUNHUBER: Greenland's ice sheets are second only to Antarctica and scientist warn that Arctic warming is near tipping point. Greenland holds so much frozen water that if all that were to melt, the rise of sea levels would be catastrophic.

An announcement is expected Thursday on whether criminal charges will be filed in the deadly shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin film "Rust." The cinematographer was killed and the director was wounded during filming in New Mexico back in 2021. While Baldwin fired the gun, he blames the film's armor for loading it with a live round instead of a blank, and an assistant director who handed him the weapon. They accused Baldwin of deflecting blame. And we'll have more on that story in the next hour. All right, still to come, growing concerns as China prepares for its

biggest holiday and the largest human migration on Earth. All amidst of a troubling wave of COVID-19.

Plus, a political crisis is (inaudible) in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to decide whether to fire his interior minister after a court ruling. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Travel is an all-time high in China with the Lunar New Year just days away. They are barely any restrictions after Beijing rolled back its zero COVID policy. Hong Kong is also set to scrap its own quarantine requirement for those who test positive for the virus. But what's to stop another major outbreak over the holiday? CNN's Ivan Watson has more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A population on the move. After three years of restrictions due to their government's war on COVID, Chinese can finally travel again, just in time for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. In pre-pandemic times, this was described as the world's largest annual human migration.

I haven't been home in three years, says this man at the main Beijing train station. Millions of Chinese people are traveling, as COVID-19 spreads out of control.

(On camera): Chinese officials say COVID infections have passed their peak in many parts of the country, but there are clearly still concerns about the scale of the outbreak. For example, here in Hong Kong, authorities require all of these travelers arriving on high- speed trains from mainland China to get negative COVID test first before they can cross the border.

(Voice-over): Last month, Beijing abruptly scrapped its strict zero COVID policy. The ensuing surge of sick people putting a strain on hospitals and health workers. Several social media videos showed nurses sick with covid collapsing on the job.

I felt unwell, says this nurse in Shandong. It had been a week that I had COVID-19 until that day when I finally collapsed. Over the weekend, health officials who once prided themselves on keeping COVID out of China, abruptly raised the COVID death toll since early December, from several dozen COVID deaths to nearly 60,000 people killed by COVID. But the official U-turn on COVID has had other unintended consequences.

At a factory in Chongqing, workers pelted police with what appeared to be boxes of COVID tests. Some biotech companies withholding salaries or laying off workers after the government suddenly stopped demanding the population take millions of COVID tests a day. GEORGE MAGNUS, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD CHINA CENTER:

The implementation of zero COVID and the abrupt and unprepared manner in which it was abandoned, it speaks to a chronic government's failure.

WATSON (voice-over): One of China's richest provinces, Guangdong, spent around $22 billion over three years on pandemic prevention.

MAGNUS: A lot of these local governments are highly indebted. They've got big cash flow problems. This is a big problem that the central government and local governments will have to sort out in this coming decade, but COVID just kind of made it worse, really.

For now, uncertainty over public health and government finances has done little to dampen a palpable sense of excitement. Understandable as Chinese emerge from pandemic lockdown to celebrate the year of the rabbit, the biggest holiday of the year. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

BRUNHUBER: The oldest member of K-pop supergroup BTS is one step closer to getting back on a stage. Jin entered into South Korea's mandatory military service back in December during the band's break. And just completed his five weeks of basic training. While he shared these pictures on the music fan app Weverse on Wednesday, saying that he's having fun and wishing fans of the best.


Jin will serve as an assistant instructor at an army base. He's the first of his band mates to start his military service.

Israel's top court has disqualified an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from serving as interior minister. In a stunning ruling, the ultra-orthodox lawmaker was deemed ineligible to hold the post due to past tax convictions. But Netanyahu has not said yet if he plans to fire Aryeh Deri. CNN's Hadas Gold has the details.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: This was a bomb shell 10 to 1 ruling that could become a massive political and constitutional crisis for Netanyahu and for Israel. The highest court in Israel is saying that the recently appointed minister of interior and health, Aryeh Deri, cannot serve because of his previous convictions, including from last year on tax charges for what he struck a plea bargain, resigned from parliament, served the suspended sentence, and vowed to retire from public office.

So now, the Supreme Court said Deri needs to resign or Netanyahu needs to fire him. But Netanyahu have to manage this relationship carefully because he needs Deri's 11 seats from Deri's party in order to stay in power. If he loses those 11 seats from his coalition, then Netanyahu no longer has a majority.

So far, Netanyahu hasn't commented beyond supporting Deri and Deri' has pledged to keep fighting. Most likely, though, this will speed up an already brewing showdown here in Israel over the role and power of Israel's highest court. Because Netanyahu and his government want to make traditional reforms. They've already set off a plan. And, part of the plan would make it

possible for the parliament and therefore whoever is in power, to overturn Supreme Court rulings. Now, backers of these changes have long accused the Supreme Court here of overreach and elitism. They say the changes would help restore balance between the branches of government.

But the opponents of these reforms including the former prime minister, Yair Lapid, the current president of the Israeli Supreme Court and 80,000 or so people who came out in the pouring rain on Saturday to protests in Tel Aviv say it would destroy the independent judiciary, it would destroy the checks and balances and would potentially be the beginning of the end, they say, of Israeli democracy.

But, if Benjamin Netanyahu manages to get these traditional reforms through, it cannot only help Netanyahu in his own corruption trial, something that he denies, but could also be the path back for Deri to serve because then the parliament and the party in power could overturn the Supreme Court decision.

And backers of these reforms have now called on them, on Netanyahu to be fast-tracked as a result of this against Deri, speeding up what is already expected to be one of the most dramatic legal and political battles in Israeli history. Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.

BRUNHUBER: All right, still to come, a British actor goes missing in the California mountains. We'll have the latest on search and rescue efforts including why the weather is making the job more difficult for police. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Taiwan is expanding options for military training as China continues to ramp up pressure on the democratic self-ruled island. For the first time, women will be allowed to sign up for voluntary training for reservist forces. We have the details from CNN's Marc Stewart in Hong Kong.



MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This move allowing women in Taiwan to participate in reservist training will expand the pool of people who can operate weapons at a time of political tension. Women do already serve in Taiwan's military, but most in non-combat roles. Looking at data as of 2021, women made up 15 percent of Taiwan's military according to the CIA fact book.

This is a trial run and it's only available to female soldiers or officers who have been discharged. It's not open to all civilian women. As far as the timetable, group of 220 women will begin training closer to spring time.

According to Taiwan's defense ministry, such training was only available to men because it didn't have resources to train both males and females. Lawmakers said this amongst to discrimination. And some additional context, men in Taiwan are obligated to participated in mandatory military service. Marc Stewart, CNN, Hong Kong.

BRUNHUBER: British actor Julian Sands has gone missing in the mountains of southern California according to a place spokesperson. The actor, known for his role in "A Room with a View" and "The Sun Also Rises" was reported missing by his wife on Friday after leaving for a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Police warn the area is dangerous to hike this time of year due to snow and ice. Search teams had to pause their efforts due to avalanche threats and severe weather, but are using drones to continue the search for the actor.

Well, in just a few hours, the nominees for the BAFTA Film Awards will be announced, but, ahead, the top films, the group has released its nominees for rising star of the year, an award the public can vote for. BAFTA says these actors have shown talent and the ability to capture the imagination of the film industry. The nominees include Naomi Ackie who will star as Whitney Houston in the biopic "Whitney Houston: I Want to Dance with Somebody" as well as singer Sheila Atim, who recently appeared in the historical epic "The Women King" with Viola Davis.

Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Kim Brunhuber at CNN Center in Atlanta. You can follow me on Twitter @kimbrunhuber. And "CNN Newsroom" continues now with Max Foster in London. Please do stay with us.