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CNN International: Allies Discussing Military Aid at Meeting in Germany; At Least 54 Deaths in Weeks of Protests; China to Resume overseas Group Tours after 3-Year COVID Ban; U.S. & Germany at Odds Over Sending Tanks to Ukraine; Rural Residents Unnerved by Nonstop Roar of Crypto Mine. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 20, 2023 - 08:00   ET




MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello, welcome to CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, Ukraine's President warns hundreds of thank you is not hundreds of tanks, because both the U.S. and Germany refused to send them modern tanks, which Kyiv says are crucial for frontline combat.

Then one of the world's biggest human migrations millions in China travel ahead of the Lunar New Year, some fear it could become a COVID super spreading event. And Cryptocurrency may be revolutionizing the world of finance that one community in the United States can't get past the noise.

A crucial meeting hosted by the U.S. Defense Secretary is taking part at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany right now. And Ukraine says the gathering could decide the fate of the war. Dozens of defense leaders from around the world are discussing whether to provide Kyiv with heavy weapons.

Germany is under mounting pressure to send its Leopard 2 tanks to the Ukrainian Battlefield, or at least allow them to be transferred from other countries that have them. President Zelenskyy made an impassioned plea via video link, urging Western allies to send their weapons without delay.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: The war started by Russia does not allow delays and I and I can thank you, hundreds of times and it will be absolutely just in fear given all that we have already done but hundreds of thank you is not hundreds of tanks.


FOSTER: And Nada Bashir joins us. So a huge amount of pressure on Germany because Ukraine needs tanks but at the same time, the U.S. could give them tanks, but isn't why is that? NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well that the U.S. has laid out an expansive deal of support $2.5 million worth. They say that they have chosen not to supply those M-1 Abrams, which Ukraine has been asking for, because they simply wouldn't suit the situation on the ground for Ukraine. They are too complicated to run, too complicated to maintain.

And the logistical challenges there are also complex, but they aren't saying that they are not in favor of tank support from the European partners. In fact, the U.S. has fully in support of that and has been working with its other NATO and European allies, urging Germany in particular to support Ukraine through the supply of those level two tanks.

FOSTER: Because they make them and the deal is when they sell into another country, they can't be passed on without Germany's permission. So there's all of these Leopard tanks across Europe, which Germany effectively has the key too.

BASHIR: Exactly in Germany holds the export license. And that is something that Poland has been keen to highlight. They say they are ready and prepared to supply those tanks from Poland, to Ukraine, but they are waiting on the green light from Germany. And that's why there's so much international pressure now on the German government to do.

So we've heard from Chancellor Scholz saying that, you know, Germany stands side by side in support with its international partners for Ukraine. But at this stage, they haven't outlined whether or not they will be offering those tanks as support.

Of course, there are questions around whether or not they're still waiting for perhaps the United States to offer a firm, offer of tanks. They say they might go ahead with that, if there was a similar offer from the United States. That hasn't happened, but of course, this meeting today is all very much focused on the supply of tanks.

We've heard from Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, he's present at that meeting, but he outlined the three key things that Ukraine wants to achieve at this meeting on Tuesday said they want more air defense systems, they want a securing ammo supplies, as well as repair and servicing support for machinery. But crucially, a third key thing they need is tanks, more modern tanks.

FOSTER: And this is based on just briefly the feeling that there will be a spring offensive, and there'll be on the ground, and they will need tanks to defend themselves but also to push forward on the Russian line.

BASHIR: Yes, absolutely, I mean, we've heard from international partners NATO, the U.S. European partners saying they are ready to stand by Ukraine when it comes to the defense of support. The question now is how far are they prepared to go to support Ukraine when it comes to the offensive support that they so desperately want?

FOSTER: Yes, OK, Nada, thank you very much indeed and we get we hear when is the --? BASHIR: We're expecting a press conference from Lloyd Austin in the next hour or so.

FOSTER: OK, Peru's President is calling for calm after another night of violence. Protesters have clashed with Police for more than a month now and at least 54 people have died in the unrest, dozens more injured. The protesters are demanding President Dina Boluarte stepped down. In a news conference on Thursday she calls her dialogue and said the situation is under control.


DINA BOLUARTE, PERUVIAN PRESIDENT: You want to break the rule of law you want to create chaos and disorder. So that during this chaos you can take over the national's power, you are mistaken.



FOSTER: Meanwhile overnight dozens of firefighters were called to an historic building that caught fire in the capital Lima. Stefano Pozzebon following the story joins us from Bogota. How did that address to the nation go down?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: It's hard to see how that would go down positively when the person who's speaking Is a President that has over 70 percent of these approvals, right, Max and she called the dissenters who were on the streets, people who just wanted to sue chaos. Of course, Peru is in the middle of a deep political crisis has been there for years. And it's not just a crisis of Boluarte is making.

But right now the ball is clearly in her court because yesterday again, we understand that thousands of people, the government does not release figures of how many people took to the streets. But we understand that at least thousands, if not, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Lima.

At least three people died in these protests nationwide, mostly in the rural areas of Peru because the burns are the violence that is occurring outside the capital in the provinces in the Andean Ranger where most of the poverty is concentrated in the country.

But now as I said the ball is in Boluarte's court and he's a President who has been in power for a little over a month. She took over as a caretaker after the ousting of her predecessor Pedro Castillo, who tried to dismantle Congress. Both the presidency and Congress are widely regarded as corrupted institution as and there is political crises they are how can Peru turn to page one now its Boluarte responsibility to offer a fair deal, I guess.

To protest or kind of bring the country together because now the question is, for example, for today, what happens with the thousands of people who traveled to Lima yesterday to protest to have their voices heard by Boluarte, and by the rest of the leadership? They're still in Lima, they want answer and they want political change.

So it's now up to the authorities to kind of like broker a deal and finds a way to bring this country together after I'd say six years of two political crises because we've been here before and this is just the ugliest page of a crisis and a story that keeps rolling, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Stefano thank you very much indeed back with you for updates on that. Today is one of the busiest travel days in China in recent years as millions of people floods train stations to make it home for the Lunar New Year holiday on Sunday. Now officials are trying to ease fears that the busy travel season will cause new surge is in China's already raging COVID outbreak.

China's Vice Premier says infections are at a relatively low level. And health officials say the COVID wave may have peaked after a three year COVID ban. Beijing says it allows tour operators to resume overseas, tour packages for Chinese citizens to certain countries. Let's bring in ceiling correspondent Marc Stewart in Hong Kong, I guess you're expecting that response from the authorities, but there's a huge amount of concern isn't there that the - problem here?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is concern, Max. I mean, as you said, this is referred to as the great human migration on Earth. And if you if you break that down even further, there are 1.4 billion people approximately living in Mainland, China. But it's estimated during this holiday rush, which really began about two weeks ago and will continue for several weeks after we're talking about 2 billion roughly 2 billion individual trips across China.

So that is why there is concern. Of course, in many areas, officials feel that the caseload has peaked Shanghai, for example. But with that said, some people will be going into more rural areas where health care may not necessarily be that strong or that sophisticated. So that is why there is a reason for concern, but people are definitely on the move.

They are on train stations that you see there. They're on airplanes, they are driving, and they're also taking boats. And this is almost sacred looked forward upon time of year. But if you think about it, this is really the first time for many families across China and really Asia that they will be able to see each other not only after waiting months, but in some cases years.

And this also does signal perhaps a bigger grand opening of travel. As you mentioned, some of those tour operators will be able to begin overseas trips. So that will open Chinese citizens to travel to places toward really all aspects of the earth whether it be to South America or across Asia. So that's where we are today, the hopes are that things will continue smoothly.


STEWART: I will tell you something, Max, being here in Hong Kong the excitement about New Year is palpable. It is the Year of the Rabbit, people are hoping for prosperity and for good health. A lot of activities are planned here in Hong Kong. There are rabbits everywhere and people are really trying to focus on the positive and not so much this COVID threat.

FOSTER: OK, Mark Stewart, thank you for that, we'll be watching it. Dozens of people have lost their homes after a massive fire in an impoverished neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. Flames and black smoke seen billowing here from the area official say about 60 homes, many made from vinyl and plywood were destroyed.

More than 500 people had to be evacuated. There are no reports of any deaths or injuries. They're the cause of the fire, still under investigation. Alec Baldwin's Attorney says his client feels blindsided by the criminal charges against him and calls it a terrible miscarriage of justice.

The actor faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a deadly shooting on the New Mexico set of the movie Rust in 2000 over either 2021 the film's armorer, who oversaw all weapons for the film faces similar charges. The District Attorney says there was a clear lack of safety on the set.


MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, NEW MEXICO FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: An actor doesn't get a free pass just because they're an actor. And that's what's so important is that we're saying here in New Mexico, everyone's equal under the law. Everyone has to follow their duties and do what's right and take that safety into account so that this doesn't ever happen again.


FOSTER: At least one film industry group is standing behind Baldwin it calls the charges wrong and uninformed.


DUNCAN CRABTREE-IRELAND, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SAG-AFTRA: It is wrong and uninformed because it the charges clearly indicate a lack of understanding about the standards and expectations of how a film set operates. And the fact is actors are not firearms experts. Actors cannot be expected and are not expected to do final safety checks or anything of that nature.


FOSTER: CNN's Security Correspondent, Josh Campbell joins us live from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thanks for joining us, Josh. What will the court look at because someone's culpable here? Aren't they because someone died? But who will they look to assert that blame onto effectively?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, it's a great question. And I posed that exact question to the District Attorney yesterday after she announced this significant charge here involuntary manslaughter against Actor Alec Baldwin.

And what she told me is that there was no single piece of evidence that she used that sealed it for her that. She knew that she had to prosecute but she said in her words, she looked at the totality of the circumstances surrounding how that movie set operated.

She said that there was a pattern of unsafe practices. And of course, we know what happened Actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing the scene of a movie using what was a prop gun. Somehow a live round of ammunition got in that gun, the gun discharged killing Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

And so the District Attorney saying that if you look at the history of this movie set there have been previous accidental discharges, there had been employees on the set complaining of safety issues. And so when she came to the decision, look, this is gross negligence. And you know, I asked her, Alec Baldwin certainly didn't intend to do this.

By all accounts this was an accident and she told me specifically that something can be both accidental and still be a crime and her goal and the goal of prosecutors here is to try to bring justice to Halyna Hutchins and her surviving family members. Now there is a question still the debate about how that gun actually went off? Alec Baldwin is firm and saying that he did not pull the trigger on that weapon.

But interestingly, we're learning that investigators here actually sent that firearm from New Mexico to the Washington D.C. area. It was analyzed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI at their laboratory; they conducted analysis on that gun that Baldwin used. And they determined that there was no way that that gun could have fired blood for someone pulling the trigger.

And so again, that's another key piece of information that prosecutors use saying that that just added to the negligence, you know, pulling a gun and pointing at someone and pulling the trigger. Obviously, for his part, Alec Baldwin has claimed that he is innocent. He says that he will fight these charges as far as what happens next.

Prosecutors say that they want to arrest him, he's not going to be placed under arrest that he will be issued a summons where he will have to come back to New Mexico or appear by video conference, and then the prosecution will start next.

FOSTER: OK, Josh, thank you. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has apologized for not wearing a seatbelt. He was filming a video in the back of a car without wearing the seatbelt down the street spokesperson calls it an error in judgment adding the PM took it off just to shoot the video the fined for not wearing a seatbelt in Britain is more than $600 if you're in a car and there is a seatbelt. So looks like he was breaking the law but the Police are looking at it.

Still to come, Ukraine has been pleading for heavier weapons but the U.S. and Germany are reluctant to fulfill the entire request.


FOSTER: We'll tell you why tanks are off the table but for now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) FOSTER: U.S. Secretary of Defense is calling for a decisive moment for Ukraine in a decisive decade for the world. Lloyd Austin is hosting a gathering of Western allies at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to talk about providing Ukraine with heavier, more modern weapons now.

It's a request Kyiv has made repeatedly but Germany is indicating it won't send us Leopard tanks unless the U.S. also agrees to send its own M-1 Abrams tanks. Something Washington says is too logistically complicated. Still the U.S. Defense Chief says action needs to be taken.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: This is a crucial moment. Russia is regrouping, recruiting and trying to reequip. This is not a moment to slow down. It's a time to dig deeper. The Ukrainian people are watching us, the Kremlin is watching us and history is watching us.


FOSTER: So why are the U.S. not sending tanks to Ukraine? CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me now live at the Pentagon. Just to speak to President Zelenskyy is concerned right now. There's CIA intelligence isn't there? As we understand it, that there will be a spring offensive and tanks will be needed to defend against that and to, you know, in the offensive against the Russians as well.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, that's why Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has focused in on tanks. Up until now a lot of the weaponry the U.S. and others have provided has been what's known as indirect fire. Like the high bars, for example, you're firing that from 3040 miles away from the frontlines, you're quite far back.

Tanks are direct fires it's getting right in there in the mix on the front line. And you need that, especially as Ukraine wants to take out or take on an offensive and continue retaking its own territory. We see Russians digging in on their defensive lines and that's one of the reasons Ukraine wants tanks.

And we've heard that drumbeat from Zelenskyy, not only today, but in the past as well. So the question is what about U.S. tanks and then what about German tanks? And we can deal with those separately. The U.S. isn't sending its Abrams tank, frankly, because officials say look their gas guzzling maintenance nightmares.

They're also much heavier than other tanks. So they're not what Ukraine needs right now. The U.S. and others are putting pressure on Germany to approve its German made Leopard tanks, but Germany is saying no for an entirely different reason, at least saying no, right now. Germany is just waiting for the U.S. to send tanks.

So there's this back and forth here, Germany trying to shift the responsibility here, and not approving other countries sending its tanks. The question, where does this all go? You've heard the call from both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Zelenskyy for countries to do more, Max.

And that's what we're waiting to see coming out of the Ukraine defense contact group in Germany. Do we hear the tanks announcement other countries and the U.S. have put a tremendous amount of weaponry on the table already for Ukraine here?


FOSTER: Yes and the frustration isn't just with the U.S. towards Germany is there on this. So a country like Poland is desperate to send its Leopard tanks into Ukraine, but it can't because you signed a deal with Germany, that it had to get approval from Germany before it's allowed to send them but there is torque isn't there in Poland? That they might just send them in without getting Germany's permission but that was cause a big split, wouldn't it within the alliance?

LIEBERMANN: It certainly could cause a big split the question, how big is that split? And that's what I suspect, Poland is weighing right now. You called it frustration. It has certainly boiled over at this point. Poland, other countries as well Finland has not been as vocal, but they've indicated their willingness to send in these German made Leopard tanks.

But you're exactly right, you can't just export another country's weapons that you have, you need their sign off. For Poland, they've seemed to have waited long enough and suggested they might just send them anyway. How big of a rift would that cause with Germany?

Well, if Poland waits any longer, we might be about to find out. But you see, Poland essentially pushing for that decision to be made waiting for the German Sign off. Reportedly, the German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who's only been in the job a day or two now told reporters at Ramstein, Germany a decision has not yet been made on that and he's not sure when it will be made.

FOSTER: OK, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon thank you. We'll have the results, I think in the next couple of hours of those meetings, still ahead.


MIKE LUGIEWICZ, MURPHY OF NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: When it's at about 75, 80 decibels. I'd say a jet engine never leaves.


FOSTER: The Sounds of Silence punctuated by cacophony crypto mining has come to one North Carolina town. How the community is fighting back when we return?


FOSTER: Cryptocurrency exchanges in case you didn't know rely on large banks of computer service with power a lot of power, powerful fans to keep them cool. These so called crypto mines can be extremely noisy especially for people who live nearby. CNN's Bill Weir visited one rural North Carolina community where peace and quiet has been replaced by the roar of a crypto mine and residents simply aren't amused.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is a sound of Green Mountain Farm certified by quiet parks International is one of the most peaceful spots in North Carolina. Thanks to their rare local enforcement of laws against noise pollution.

Meanwhile, about 90 minutes away, beautiful Cherokee County sounds like this. It has stack upon stack of computer servers and the fans needed to cool them. This is what's known as a crypto mine. And it makes the sound of people in San Francisco trying to make virtual money.

WEIR (on camera): How do you describe that noise?

LUGIEWICZ: We're probably setting it up by 65 decibels right now when it's at about 75, 80 decibels. I'd say a jet engine never leaves.

WEIR (voice over): 16 months after the mind fired up without warning. Mike Lugiewicz put his house up for sale in frustration.

LUGIEWICZ: There'd be turkeys out in the field and deer by the hundreds.

WEIR (on camera): Yes.

LUGIEWICZ: You don't have that anymore.

WEIR (voice over): While Tom lash misses the wildlife.



WEIR (voice over): Phyllis Cantrell says she feels trapped.

CANTRELL: You can actually lay your head on the pillow and hear and hum up through the walls.

WEIR (on camera): Have you thought about moving?

CANTRELL: We're 73 years old. Where are we going to go?

WEIR (on camera): Imagine a game where the dice have a billion sides and the first person to roll a 10 wins. That is essentially crypto mining and to play that game these days, you need computers thousands of computers running 24/7, 365. And after China outlawed Cryptocurrency and crypto mining, more and more mines like this began popping up in Appalachia, places where the power is cheap and the regulations are either non-existent or unenforced.

WEIR (voice over): But in this deep red Republican pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --is that no, its 24/7 noise it sounds like do nothing to help these people. What are you guys going to do?

WEIR (voice over): The mine has up ended local politics.

JUDY STINES, MURPHY OF NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: I like to be behind the scenes. And I like to serve pot and I knew that we needed to win an election.

WEIR (voice over): Outrage over the mind helped flip the balance of power in November's county election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call upon U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.

WEIR (voice over): With the new Board of Commissioners now asking for federal help in ending American crypto mining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To introduce and championed legislation through the U.S. Congress to ban in or regulate crypto mining operations in the United States of America.

WEIR (voice over): When asked over LinkedIn for reaction, Chandler Song one of the mines co-owners wrote, oh boy they wanted us so bad a year ago. As for the proposed ban, it is unconstitutional to say the least. Song and his crypto mining co-founder made Forbes 30 under 30 list a few years ago.

And recently claimed quarterly revenues of more than $20 million dollars but when asked follow up questions, Song went silent. Is mine and Murphy has not so far, but the County Attorney is looking for a legal way to shut it down a cautionary reminder that the next time you hear a place as peaceful as Green Mountain far. Chances are someone got loud and fought for it.


FOSTER: That was Bill Weir reporting. Thanks for joining me here on CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max foster in London. "World Sport" with Amanda is up next.