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CNN INTERNATIONAL: Senior Ukrainian Officials Resign In Major Personnel Shakeup; Germany To Decide On Leopard Tank Delivery "Very Soon"; 3 Mass Shootings In California In 3 Days; Hearing On Ticketmaster Debacle Over Taylor Swift Tickets; China Detaining Demonstrators After COVID Rules Protests. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 08:00   ET




MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, a raft of resignations from top Ukrainian officials in what appears to be a shakeup in President Zelenskyy's government. Details in just a moment.

California's in a state of shock after back-to-back mass shootings. We're live in Half Moon Bay. And a chilling account of a young woman in China as she warned that she could banish then she did.

Beginning with a major shakeup of personnel in Ukraine's government. Several top officials have resigned or have been dismissed, some amid allegations of corruption. One adviser says the moves show President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in tune with society.

Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister is amongst those who have stepped down. The ministry posted his resignation letter online, calling claims against him unfounded and baseless. Zelenskyy's deputy chief of staff has also resigned. He didn't say why.

Meanwhile, Germany confirms it has received a Polish request to export Leopard two tanks and says the possible approval will happen within necessary urgency. We'll have more on that in just a moment, but our Fred Pleitgen is joining us first with the developments within the government. And how are you reading this, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, to us it almost seems like there's a big purge going on here in the Zelenskyy administration and in the general spheres of government, not just here in Kyiv, Max, but certainly in other regions in Ukraine as well.

And you're absolutely right. You had that one official who was taken into custody for alleged embezzlement from the Ministry of Development in the regions earlier this week or late last week. And certainly, that seems to have setoff this really wide motion of resignations and of sackings that's been going on. It's really quite interesting to see because there's a lot of deputy ministers among them. Like, for instance, the Deputy Defense Minister. You have the deputy head of the presidential administration, who was a wildly very popular figure here in Ukraine and certainly someone who was also very present.

Just a couple of days ago, when we were at that building attack in Dnipro, where a whole building was blown away by a Russian rocket, he was the person the central government sent out there to really raise morale and to show his face there. So certainly, someone who is very prominent also here in Ukrainian politics, very prominent also, of course, in Ukraine's effort to defend against Russia.

And I want to read you some of the regional governments where the Cabinet has decided on their dismissal or approved their dismissal. You have Zaporizhzhia right now, one of the frontline places. Kherson, of course, recently taken back by the Ukrainians part of that province, however, still in the hands of the Russians.

Dnipropetrovsk, that's where the city of Dnipro is. That's really one of those central districts that's so important here to Ukraine and certainly a lot of the federal funds also go to that place as well. So we do see that this is a pretty wide shake up, it seems. And, you know, you were talking about that presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak who said this shows that President Zelenskyy is listening to the people, is in tune of the people.

One of the other things that he said is he said that government officials need to understand that right now, in these difficult times, all of them have a job to do and they need to concentrate on those jobs and only on those jobs. So it seems as though that is a very clear message that the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is sending.

And it's really unclear whether or not what we're seeing right now is the end of it or whether or not this could continue and that there could be more resignations, but certainly a large turnover in the past couple of hours, in the past couple of days within the power structure here in Ukraine and certainly within the Ukrainian government as well, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Fred, back with you when we get more on that.

Well, as pressure builds on Germany to sign off on deliveries of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Kremlin is warning, quote, nothing good would come of it. During a joint press conference with the NATO secretary general earlier, Germany's new defense minister said a decision will come very soon, but he also called the decision on whether to supply the tanks purely political.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us now. And these words from Russia, I mean, they are concerning to people in Berlin. They're worried that sending these tanks could escalate the conflict and create tension directly between Germany and Russia.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You really have to take a step back and consider how much the war in Ukraine has changed the geopolitics of this region. A peaceful, prosperous Europe, now fighting right on its frontline, right on its doorstep, this Russian aggression.


Eastern European countries like Poland, of course, right on the border with Ukraine feel very much like they're at the frontline of this fight. And in this context, you now have this debate over deploying these Leopard tanks, these German-made tanks. And it's important to know, Germany has been reluctant to give this green light, of course, to deploy these tanks to Ukraine.

It's not, not just about Germany. There's 2,000 of these tanks spread across 13 different European countries and they can't send those tanks unless Germany gives the OK. German's foreign minister responded to this in that press conference. Let's take a listen to what he said.


BORIS PISTORIUS, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translation): There is no new status yet. I have always said that I expect the training of Ukrainian forces on these partners tanks to start already, that a decision will be taken shortly and I still assume that.

But what I want to emphasize again is what I said in Ramstein. I explicitly encourage the partner countries that have Leopard tanks that are ready for use to start training Ukrainian forces on these tanks already.


ABDELAZIZ: So you have it there, no decision yet. One expected in the coming days. Poland has submitted their request to send these tanks. There was quite a stir a couple of days ago when Poland's foreign minister said, listen, if we need pre-approval, well, we might as well go ahead and send them. If we get a coalition of partners willing to go ahead with it, we'll do it without that approval from Germany.

A lot happening here, but the bottom line is for Ukraine, this should have happened yesterday. They don't want this red tape, they don't want this bureaucracy. They consider it a waste of time and they say they need those tanks on the front line to fight this Russian counter offensive coming right now.

FOSTER: Are you concerned there might be a reaction from Russia?

ABDELAZIZ: Well, I mean --

FOSTER: If that sense?

ABDELAZIZ: Very much Europe and Russia are at odds right now. I mean how much more can it escalate? But there has always been this red line throughout this conflict particularly when it comes to discussing weapons. How far should the range of these weapons be? Should we allow missiles that can hit inside Russia? How much will we leave Ukraine with this weaponry? And what does it mean and can it tip this conflict over the edge? That calculus right now being made in Berlin, Max.

FOSTER: OK. Salma, thank you.

U.S. President Joe Biden calling for Congress to act quickly and ban assault weapons. This after we have another mass shooting in the state of California. California's governor is calling it a tragedy upon tragedy. Seven more people lost their lives to gun violence in two separate incidents on Monday afternoon when a man opened fire at a farm in Half Moon Bay and then a trucking facility.

The 67-year-old suspect's dramatic arrests played out in front of cameras hours later.

SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: At 04:40 p.m., Zhao was located in his vehicle in the parking lot of the sheriff's substation here in Half Moon Bay by a sheriff's deputy. Zhao was taken into custody without incident and a semiotic handgun was located in his vehicle. Zhao is believed to have acted alone and there is no further threat to this community.


FOSTER: California is still reeling from this weekend's shooting in Monterey Bay, where a gunman killed 11 people. And on Monday evening, a shooting at an Oakland gas station claimed one life.

Let's go to Half Moon Bay, California. Veronica Miracle there. I mean, the statistics are horrendous. Three of these mass shootings in as many days.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Max. And I think people are just really reeling not only in this community, in this state, but really this country after learning this news. This particular mass shooting that took place happened at two separate locations about a five-minute drive apart from each other.

At that first location, deputies found four bodies, a fifth person critically injured who was still in the hospital. And then about a five minute driveaway, they discovered three more bodies. And authorities say that people live and work at these locations as a farming community. And one of them was a mushroom farm.

And it was in the afternoon after school had gotten out. So children were present during this massacre. Just absolutely horrible. 67-year- old Chunli Zhao was discovered by a deputy at a police substation inside of his car and that's when he was taken into custody there. There is still no any idea around what a possible motive could be, but he is believed to be a worker at one of the farms and those victims believed to be farm workers of Chinese descent.

There are certainly incredibly disturbing similarities between this shooting here in Half Moon Bay and the mass shooting that took place in Monterey Park over the weekend. Both suspects, elderly Asian men and the victims believed also to be of Asian descent.

But there's another layer of stress and trauma that is particular to this community here in Half Moon Bay. In recent weeks, this state has been battered by storms, just to storm after storm. And it has caused devastating destruction and flooding here in this community, all over the state as well. But in this community that is so heavily reliant on on farming.


The flooding has been devastating. It's just another layer of trauma and stress for the people here. Back to you, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Veronica, thank you so much.

Ticketmaster's grip on the U.S. live event industry faces increased scrutiny at a Senate hearing in less than two hours time. Serious issues came to light last year during a Taylor Swift ticket sales meltdown that infuriated hundreds of thousands of fans. The Judiciary Committee is looking at concerns that ticketmaster's tight control is a disservice to consumers.

Christine Romans joins us live from New York. I mean, they're looking for, you know, efficiency, aren't they, effectively by going to one site where they can buy all these tickets.


FOSTER: But they weren't getting efficiency on this occasion.

ROMANS: No. Anything but -- I mean, it was just a complete meltdown, and Taylor Swift fans were very angry. And people who have been critical of too much control concentrated in this Ticketmaster live nation corporate body. Once it emerged in 2009 saying there just wasn't enough competition, those voices found really an outlet for what they've been complaining about.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, for example, an American senator, this is what she said at the time.


AMY KLOBUCHAR, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: I called for years for a change, and maybe Taylor Swift fans will probably put it -- will finally put it over the edge.


ROMANS: At the time, Taylor Swift responded back in November on social media, and she said this, "It's truly amazing that 2.4 million people were able to get tickets." I mean, it shows the huge demand, Max, for this concert. But she said, it really ticks me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get these tickets.

And bear attacks is exactly what so many of these fans had said. I mean, they were stuck in these queues forever. They had, you know, special login codes that didn't work. And suddenly, on the resale market, these tickets that they were in line for were selling for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and they missed their moment.

So I think what you will see today, Max, is a public shaming of this company. The Senate Judiciary Committee, a powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, is going to be really trying to take this company to task for not doing a better job at what was a perfectly foreseen event there. This very popular Taylor Swift concert tour.

FOSTER: OK, Christine, thank you. We'll be watching the hearing closely.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

FOSTER: Still to come.


BRANDON TSAY, CONFRONTED AND DISARMED GUNMAN: I'm going to die. This is it. This is the end for me.


FOSTER: The harrowing scenes of recent mass shootings in California. We'll have some of the stories that are bringing the communities together.


FOSTER: How does a community heal after a mass shooting? These are pictures of a vigil held in Monterey Park where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting. They become typical sort of scenes around these events.


There have been three mass shootings in as many days in California, but we're also hearing about extraordinary stories of courage. 26- year-old Brandon Tsay is being hailed as a hero after disarming a gunman shortly after he opened fire in a dance hall on Saturday.

Take a look at this moment. This is the moment he confronted a gunman. It makes you wonder if you would ever be as brave.

Tsay spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper about confronting the suspected shooter and what went through his mind.


TSAY: I'm not going to lie, I did freeze up when I saw him with the gun. I had many thoughts where I would think, I'm going to die. This is it. This is the end for me. But then something happened. You know, something came over me. I just had this rush of a thought and adrenaline, you know, in this sort of situation. And I was able to come to the conclusion that I needed to do something. I needed to grab the gun. I needed to save myself and the people inside. It looked like he was still trying to fight, but I pointed the gun at him and told him, go, go away. You got to leave. Go. Get out here.

And I also threatened him that I would shoot. And I had many thoughts. I thought, I would actually have to kill him. I have to actually shoot this person. He was trying to contemplate whether to attack. Like, I -- there's a brief standoff where he was just thinking about coming after me with his body. And I was thinking, oh, I would have to shoot him. But he actually came to conclusion to turn around and leave. And that's when he exited a door and jogged back to his van.


FOSTER: And he would have saved lives, not just his own. Monterey Park Mayor says -- Mayor Henry Lo has said that the city has begun a long road to recovery as its community gets together to remember those who lost their lives, while celebrating the Lunar New Year at a dance studio.

CNN's David Culver met some of the relatives of the victims and joins me now. I mean, sometimes we do focus too much certainly on the perpetrators in these situations, and it might help to look at the heroes as well.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Max. And I think that's part of the intention with some of these victims' family members and wanting to share their loved one's stories. You know, we hear from some who initially they seem interested in wanting to share a little bit. So we're there and available, and then suddenly they say, you know, the emotions have overcome them and they're not available to do that.

They just don't feel like they can go forward with it, and you have to respect that. But for the son of one of the victims who we met up with yesterday here, it was an opportunity to share a little bit about his dad. And I was taken back because out of all the emotions he's processing right now, anger was not one of them.


VAL ANTHONY ALVERO, SON OF SHOOTING VICTIM VALENTINO ALVERO: I don't think it adds anything to be angry to a situation. You know, what happens happened. You can't change it. I just like for, you know, better to come out of it, right.

I think the biggest thing I'd want other people to take away, and I think regardless of this situation, I think it's always so important., is just to cherish the time out with other people.


CULVER: It is still very raw and fresh for that family. And yet, Max, you'll notice how poised and really calm his demeanor was. He says he's really channeling his dad, who he said really would go through moments of crisis trying to push through the emotion and just focus on what needs to be done.

And in this moment, he says it's about taking care of now his family that's trying to go through the logistics of planning funerals and really also fielding what is incredible amount of requests from families all over the world because they have family ties to the Philippines. And it is a major challenge to try to navigate this process, and yet at the same time, go through your own grieving process.

FOSTER: California has some of the tightest gun control laws in the nation, doesn't it? The more these incidents happen, it seems the less they're talking about gun control because it just doesn't seem to change. So what sort of solutions are people talking about here to all of these?

CULVER: And it is something that comes up with some of the families that you speak with. Some simply don't want to go down that avenue and talk about it, but they acknowledge it. Others are more outspoken and willing to really address that straight on. And it's something that is constantly talked about with each of these.

I mean, you see the vigil behind me out in front of this dance studio. It is disturbingly routine here in this country to have a mass shooting and then followed by yet another vigil. And so it seems like to break that, as these families have pointed out, there needs to be something that is substantive in the change, and yet not no one has seemed to bring forward that.


And here we had just a few hours ago in Northern California, yet another shooting involving multiple victims. And so, it is something that the victims' families certainly acknowledge, and yet they, too, were at a loss for any solutions.

FOSTER: We keep talking about these shootings, don't we, these mass shootings. And from outside America, it just --


FOSTER: -- seems very depressing. Do you think it's -- you know, what does it say about America?

CULVER: Depressing here too, right? I mean, that's I think the frustrating factor in all of this is there are so many good qualities about this country that folks here obviously strive to make it from very far away and from -- amidst harrowing circumstances. I mean, just a month ago, I was down at the border covering the migrant crisis there and the determination for folks to come into this country.

But you're right, you know, for people who are living here now, dealing with us and seeing these images, it is incredibly disturbing and overall disappointing. Max?

FOSTER: OK. David, thank you for joining us from California.

After the break, Chinese authorities are quietly rounding up protesters after rare COVID demonstrations. In a chilling video, one woman warned she could be next. And her story is coming up.


FOSTER: Weeks after rare anti-zero COVID protests in Beijing, CNN has learned that a group of young female professionals have been quietly detained by authorities. One protester made a video warning she would vanish soon, and then she did.

Selina Wang has the story.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're seeing this video, that means I've already been taken by the police. These are the chilling words of a young woman in China who took part in this demonstration in Beijing on November 27. It was one of dozens of anti- zero COVID protests that erupted in cities across China.

(on-camera): They're chanting that they don't want COVID tests. They want freedom.

(voice-over): Police lined the streets, but the mood was calm and peaceful. Many were there to mourn the lives lost in China's Urumqi city, where a deadly fire broke out in a locked down building. This 26-year-old woman, an editor at a publishing house, said that is why she and her friends took to the streets.

She said they followed the rules and didn't have any conflict with the police. Soon after filming this, she was arrested. She knew her time was nearing. CNN has learned from sources that weeks after the protest, police started rounding up her friends one by one, most of them also young female professionals.

We tracked down and interviewed one of her friends who's been tirelessly searching for her. We're not revealing her name or any of the sources we've spoken to because of concerns of retribution from the Chinese state.

Authorities want to intimidate ordinary people, she said. They want to turn people into a motionless machine. We can't even gather together to grieve.

Police swiftly cracked down on the protesters in some cities, violently pushing and dragging the demonstrators. But the Beijing protesters peacefully dispersed. Afterwards, police blanketed protest sites. In some places, authorities check cell phones for virtual private networks and tracked down participants with cell phone data.


Soon after, China dropped its zero-COVID policy and opened up. In his New Year's Eve address, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said it was, quote, only natural for different people to have different concerns or hold different views on the same issue. But behind the scenes, their loved ones say the retribution continues.

She's paying a heavy price. We were born into this land, so naturally we would want to make China better. But now I feel there's nothing that we can do, she says, breaking down into tears.

Authorities have made no official comment about the detention and will likely never know how many people have been detained in connection with the protests. If it's dozens, hundreds or more. As people across China are celebrating the Lunar New Year with their newfound freedom, the young woman says the mothers of her and her friends want to know why their daughters were taken from them.

In her final words in the video message, she made this call for help. Don't let us be taken away or convicted arbitrarily. Don't let us disappear from this world unjustly.


WANG: CNN has asked Beijing authorities for comment on the young woman you saw there, along with the other detentions, but we have not heard back. We've learned she's one of eight people who have been quietly detained after the protests. People who know these women tell us they were confused as to why they were taken, describing them as young female professionals working in publishing, journalism and education, saying they are socially minded, but not dissidents or organizers.

Experts say the police may have been suspicious of young, politically aware women. Chinese authorities have a well-documented history of targeting feminists, and at least one of the women detained was questioned during her interrogation about whether she had any involvement in feminist groups.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.

FOSTER: Finally, in the next few minutes, we'll find out who's up for Hollywood's top honors. The nominees for this year's Academy Awards are expected to be announced any moment now. Do stay with CNN to hear which stars and what films make this year's coveted list.

Thank you for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "WORLD SPORT" with Amanda Davies is up next.