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CNN International: Germany Approves Delivery Of Leopard 2 Tanks To Ukraine; What Difference Could Western Tanks Make On The Front Line?; Russia Reacts To Germany's Tank Decision; Pres. Boluarte Calls For National Truce As More Protests Erupt; U.S. Poised To Send Abrams Tanks To Ukraine; FSB Defector Says She Took Records & Recordings To France; Former Senior FSB Lieutenant Seeking Asylum In Poland. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, Germany says it will send tanks to Ukraine, ending weeks of pressure and speculation from its allies. These sources say the U.S. will also send tanks to bolster Ukraine's efforts in the war. And Cold War style defections. Russians who once worked for the powerful FSB tell CNN about their escape.

We need a lot of Leopards, those are the words from the Ukrainian President's chief of staff after Germany announced it will send the coveted Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. It marks a shift in Russia's war on Ukraine and follows weeks of intense pressure on an initially reluctant Germany. Berlin says it will also allow other countries to export the battle tank. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed Parliament in the last hour.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translation): We are going to supply combat tanks to the Ukraine Leopards type 2. This needed a very intensive consultation with our international partners and allies. And I want to express that it was correct and it is correct that we didn't allow to get pushed, but that we continue and always insist on very close cooperation.


FOSTER: Germany's decision comes as the U.S. is poised to send about 30 of its Abrams tanks to Kyiv. U.S. officials tell CNN an announcement could come as soon as this week. Nic Robertson joins me now to explain a bit more about this. So we've talked about the pressure on Germany, but couldn't Germany also argue they've had a triumph here because they got it on their terms?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They can, absolutely. And I think that was the way that Olaf Scholz told the parliament and therefore told the people of Germany that we've done it step by step, that we weren't pressured into this, we weren't pushed into this. And I think that really fits the German narrative of where it sits historically and where it sits geographically.

As he said, the war in Ukraine is very close, it's real, but historically it's still very close to German history. And the Nazis sending their tanks through Ukraine to Russia, and of course, that is a red line trigger, and we're already hearing it from the Russian ambassador to Germany saying this crosses a red line, that this Germany continues to refuse and acknowledge its accountability for Nazism during World War II.

This is strong diplomatic language. The threats that are now coming from Russian officials, not entirely new, but this is what Olaf Scholz wanted to prepare his people for, that they're not going to get drawn deeper into a war, but Russia is certainly going to rattle their sabers and say that this is going to get worse. And you may well find this scenario.

FOSTER: What sort of numbers do you think we're looking at ultimately in terms of tanks going into Ukraine?

ROBERTSON: Well, President Zelenskyy has said that, you know, it needs more Leopards. When will they be spotted there? If we can use that pun, in three months, according to the German Defense Minister, how many will be spotted there? Perhaps we're looking at about 94 by rough calculations so far.

At least, you know, eight from Norway, 14 from the Netherlands, 14 U.K. challenges, 30 Abrahams, 14 Leopard 2s from Poland, 14 Leopard 2s from Germany. And we're hearing Spain as well that the Germans were spoken about before, Spain as well, considering sending some of theirs. And that falls somewhere short of the 300 President Zelenskyy wanting.

But it's still a big number to get enough trained personnel who can use them effectively on the battlefield. It's not just an issue of training people to drive them and repair them, but it's use them effectively, maneuver in a battlefield. Think how many times we've seen those images of NATO military exercises on the planes of Germany or in other places, that these huge machines work together as an effective fighting force and don't become expensive but easy targets for, you know, for Russian gunners.

FOSTER: OK, Nic, thank you very much.

Well, we're asking them what difference could the western tanks make on Ukraine's battle lines and front lines. Germany is sending 14 then Leopard 2 tanks as a first step. Their key feature is that they're highly maneuverable. They have all around protection from explosive devices, mines or antitank fire as well.

U.S. then also finalizing plans to bring about 30 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. Also, small number of recovery vehicles to go with them because they do need a lot of support. They're complex, they're difficult and costly to maintain.

[08:05:01] CNN National Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh joins us. And we're going to have multiple types of tank on the battlefield, but that's better than nothing, I guess. What difference would all of this make?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean certainly Ukraine will be pleased that this has begun. But what we're seeing today certainly is the beginning and it opens up an extraordinary set of challenges, frankly, for the NATO nations who are going to assist Ukraine with these tanks.

They will have to repair them. They'll probably have to take them out of Ukraine, possibly into Poland, to do those repairs. It's unlikely that they'll be able to train Ukrainian technicians inside of Ukraine to do those repairs. And we've seen ourselves the extent of damage frequently done to the Soviet era or Soviet design tanks that Ukraine is currently using.

So a lot of questions certainly and you've heard Nic outlining their two particular types of tanks, the Challengers and the Leopards or there could be other brands being bought into play here as well and then we have the U.S. M1 Abrams that use a much more complex, even set of fuel in fact to function.

So this is opening up a very complex set of logistical challenges. You should remember that, you know, Ukraine is sometimes a day to drive across and tanks move at a much slower speed even if they're driven in lorry articulated recovery vehicles. So this is a significant challenge. It will take a lot of time.

But, Max, the point here is not so much that the impact of these will be felt tomorrow or in any potential spring offensive by either side. It's the fact that the messaging you're hearing from NATO and the west and the United States as part of that is consistently more and more equipment that months ago would have been unthinkable.

They weren't going to send Patriots. Now they are. They were never going to send tanks. Now they are. And that will be being felt in the Kremlin, acutely aware that it seems the west are simply unafraid at this stage about how much they provoke Russia. Max?

FOSTER: Patriots are obviously defensive equipment. The tanks are offensive equipment. So do you see Ukraine being able to push back the front lines more effectively now and get around the Russians?

WALSH: I think that's the key thing that these tanks bring that the other types of weapons don't. Now, you can argue that tanks can be used offensively, but really, this sort of weaponry, fast, modern, a sea change, generational change from the stuff that the Russians are being forced to use because of the devastation done to their original fleets of armor at the beginning of the war. That will enable, if properly used in large enough numbers, Ukraine to make advances most likely on the battlefield.

It will come at a cost and it'll certainly mean that repairs will need to be made and replenishment done by those same NATO nations. But this is a sign here I think that these NATO states are seeing two things. They're seeing that they can really equip Ukraine with whatever they like at this point without feeling a fear that Russia has anything left to escalate with.

And secondly, and this is an interesting element of all of this, these are weapons that these NATO states are deciding they don't necessarily need to have in their own possession in the years imminently ahead. That may suggest that they're recalculating the risk they directly face from a wider conflict from Russia.

And they may also have calculated that any confrontation with Russia is going to happen in Ukraine, with Ukraine doing so much of the fighting. And they can effectively afford to make the strategic decision to hand this sort of equipment over. Max?

FOSTER: OK, Nick Paton Walsh., thank you.

The Russian Embassy in Berlin is calling Germany's decision to approve the delivery of those Leopard tanks to Ukraine, an extremely dangerous move that threatens to escalate the conflict. And the ambassador there warned that redlines are a thing of the past. Before the announcement was even made, the Kremlin said the approval of Western tax will bring more tension to Europe and more suffering to Ukraine.

Our Salma Abdelaziz is following this story for us. This was so much of the cause concern, wasn't it, within Germany that sending these tanks would escalate the crisis? And the Russians seem to be confirming that.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And it's not just condemnation coming from the Kremlin. It is actually threats coming from the Kremlin. One Russian official saying that they would consider these weapons shipments, they would consider these tanks, as they're being delivered to Ukraine, to be legitimate targets that could be hit by Russian forces.

Now, that's nothing new. Throughout this conflict, Russia has made that statement time and time again. And it has indeed targeted very important, valuable weapons, including long range missiles right on those front lines. It's hit weapons depots. Now Ukraine's air defense systems have expanded. But that it will absolutely be a logistical concern as these various countries try to get these tanks on the ground as quickly as possible.

We are hearing from one German official that logjam could be about three months before we see it on the ground. And there is something to point out here, of course, in the statement from the Kremlin. As you heard there from my colleague Nic Robertson, the statement goes on to make these parallels between World War II, make these parallels between having German tanks on the Eastern front.

And that's why the chancellor, Chancellor Olaf Scholz's statement to Parliament just a short time ago was so important. It was about domestic consumption, about explaining to his own population, which is very split. German people are very split on whether or not to provide these tanks, regardless of whether or not they see that the fight for Ukraine is, of course, a legitimate fight. [08:10:14]

There is that concern about the escalation, and that's what Chancellor Olaf Scholz was addressing in Parliament today. But I think there's also a message there to his partner as well, to wider Europe and to the United States, because as this pressure has piled on Berlin over the course of the last few days, Berlin has said, give us a moment. We just need to think through this.

We have our own process, our own ways, our own steps that we need to take before we make this decision. And you have to remember, this is a coalition. This partnership behind Ukraine has been largely unified. But this was a moment, I wouldn't say of divisions, but of different views and of different experiences.

Poland, which was quick to say, we want to see those tanks right on the front line. You can understand that that is the border of NATO. It is Poland, which had to welcome millions of refugees last year, whereas Berlin, of course, sitting on its perch, is making these larger geopolitical calculations.

So really taking a step back. Yes, this is an incremental increase in the help and the weaponry that Ukraine is seeing. But as you heard from Nick Paton Walsh there, there were things that were absolutely off the table. They were never going to give tanks, they were never going to give certain types of long range missiles. Those are now coming to the front lines.

An attempt to modernize this army, but also just an indication of a huge geopolitical shift in the region and countries really trying to keep up with that in their support for Ukraine, Max.

FOSTER: Salma, thank you.

Now, Tuesday saw more violent political protests in the capital of Peru. Protesters in Lima clashed with riot police who fired at the crowd and threw teargas canisters in an effort to control the chaos. In a televised speech on Tuesday, Peru's president called for a national truce while blaming radical groups for the unrest which has gripped the nation for weeks following the ousting of the former President Pedro Castillo in December.

Stefano Pozzebon is following developments from Bogota, Colombia. Take us through what we're seeing at the moment then. It seems to many people outside the country is the continuation of what we've seen in recent weeks. But is there something different going on here?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN JOURNALIST: Yes, Max, it is, in a way, a continuation. And of course, when a continuation means just more protest and more polarization. You can tell that Peru is really going through a rabbit hole and there is no solution to the crisis inside. Because yesterday Dina Boluarte was speaking with -- in a televised address and was answering questions from members of the Foreign Press who are in Lima.

And they, you know, they asked her about what is that can be done, what compromise can be drawn to end this crisis. And while she offered condolences and she said she was sorry for the loss of lives and 56 people have died in this most violent cycle of protests in Peru in recent history, she categorically excluded the possibility of her leaving office soon and she condemned the violence of the protests there in the strongest term. Takes a listen.


DINA BOLUARTE, PERUVIAN PRESIDENT: But I think the right to protest cannot come accompanied by violence, destruction and death.


POZZEBON: And so the rhetoric from the government is still that while it is legitimate to hold a peaceful protest around her government, the protests are being blackmailed and taken over by fringes of radicals and violent who want to wreck the country into chaos. And that, of course, it does not sit well with the tens of thousands of people who are up in arms not only in Lima, but all around the country.

So it's just going from bad to worse. And it's really -- the most worrying part is that there is no solution of the crisis in sight, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Stefano, thank you.

Still to come, we'll look at the U.S. role in getting Germany to send tanks to Ukraine and what was behind the decision. We'll go live to Washington for the latest on that.



FOSTER: As we mentioned, the U.S. is finalizing plans to send about 30 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, according to officials. Washington's change of heart may have broken a diplomatic logjam with Germany. Berlin had openly said it would send its Leopard tanks to Kyiv only if the U.S. sent its Abrams tanks.

But while the Abrams tanks are top of the line, they're complex and they're hard to maintain.


JOHN KIRBY, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR: And we have talked about the fact that the Abrams are an incredibly capable system, but it's a very expensive system to operate and to maintain. It has a jet engine. It doesn't mean that the Ukrainians can't learn it. It just means that we have to factor all that stuff in with any system that we're going to potentially provide to them.


FOSTER: White House Reporter Natasha Bertrand joins us now from Washington, D.C. What's your understanding of what happened here then? Was Germany only willing to announce it was sending their tanks once America had agreed behind the scenes?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That does appear to be what happened, Max. Because last week, the U.S. was really adamant about this not being the right time for Ukraine to get these Abrams tanks. And a senior Pentagon official briefed reporter saying that it just doesn't make sense at this moment because they are so costly, they break down easily, they are seen as very inefficient because they are extremely heavy.

And it is not clear, of course, how long it will take for the Ukrainians to actually be trained on them. It's upwards really of three months. So they were really sending -- driving this message home. And what we're told is that over the last several days, U.S. officials and German officials had been trying to reach some kind of agreement to break this standoff because the U.S. did want to see these Leopard tanks be sent to Ukraine.

They believed that they could be a game changer for the war there and allow Ukraine to really break through Russia's defensive lines and retake territory. But, ultimately, Germany was not willing to do that without a kind of international coalition that included, of course, the United States. Essentially, they did not want Russia to be able to single out Germany as a so-called aggressor state in this conflict and kind of going up against Russia.

So now what we're hearing is that the U.S. is expected to announce as soon as this week. It could come imminently the commitment of about 30 Abrams tanks, regardless of, you know, the logistical issues here. And they're also going to provide some recovery vehicles, we're told, that will allow Ukraine to kind of repair those tanks if they do break down on the battlefield, take them out of commission and kind of allow the Ukrainians to better maintain those systems so that they can use them effectively.

But it is a big 180 from where we were last week. And, of course, this all comes after months and months of diplomatic pressure by the Ukrainians to send these heavy Western tanks to them so that they can really make a difference in their expected spring offensives, Max.

FOSTER: In terms of the logistical challenges you talk about, they're immense, aren't they? You've got to get the tanks over there, you've got to train the Ukrainians in how to maintain and use them. So when do you actually see them being in action in Ukraine?

BERTRAND: Not for several months, is what we're told. So the Germans, obviously, have said that even the Leopard tanks, which are already pretty readily available and in many European countries, will take about three months to be actually on the ground in Ukraine.


Given the amount of training that these Abrams tanks will require, because they are very complicated, U.S. officials tell us that it could be as much as many as three months before we see those tanks on the ground. But, of course, this is not -- this is something that Ukraine has wanted, right? They are willing to learn how to use these effectively, and they say that even if it takes a few months, this is still potentially going to be game changing for the, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Natasha, thank you very much indeed.

Coming up, Russian agents are making Cold War style defections, and they're telling CNN why they're seeking a better life in the west. That's after the break.


FOSTER: Low level soldiers to a former three-star general. Opposition to Russia's direction and war in Ukraine has led to a wave of Russian officials defecting to the west. In a CNN exclusive, two former FBS agents tell our Melissa Bell why they decided to flee.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her view was of Moscow from the inside, a life of privilege and access, including an FSB vehicle. As a doctor working for Russia's Federal Security Service, the powerful FSB.

MARIA DMITRIEVA, FORMER FSB DOCTOR (through translation): I'm Maria Dmitrieva. Today is October 12, and I filmed this video in the plane from Moscow.

BELL (voice-over): A Cold War style defection booking a flight to France before anyone suspected she might go.

DMITRIEVA (through translation): I am now in the French territory.

BELL (voice-over): Complete with photographs, as well as work contracts, patient records, and references to prove her identity to French authorities. She also brought documents she thought the west might be interested in.

DMITRIEVA (through translation): I brought photos, audio and video recordings, which confirms that the majority of the Russian army is against some of the policies of the current leaders. At my own peril and risk, I was able to smuggle my phone into the FSB building twice and was able to make some records.

BELL (voice-over): She also brought recordings of conversations with senior officials, she says, to hand to French intelligence. Currency as she sought political asylum. Dmitrieva is one of a flood of senior Russians, from soldiers, to Wagner mercenaries and FSB employees now arriving in Europe. So many that Putin promised in December to promptly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs. Even as Europe has been expelling senior Russians, 600 in 2022, including 400 spies, according to the head of the British intelligence agency MI5.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

BELL (voice-over): But in an exclusive interview with CNN, former Senior FSB Lieutenant Emran Navruzbekov says there are plenty of active agents left. Navruzbekov comes from a family of security service agents, many of his relatives now under arrest in his native Dagestan. Before defecting, he worked for the FSB in Poland, now he's seeking asylum there.

EMRAN NAVRUZBEKOV, FORMER FSB LIEUTENANT (through translation): The role of the FSB since the beginning of the war, well, they wanted to end the war quickly, but failed. Now in the FSB, it's every man for himself.


Everyone wants to escape from Russia. Every second FSB officer wants to run away. Now, already they understand that Russia will never win this war.

NAVRUZBEKOV (through translation): Of course, I'm afraid. I know how they work. History says that in any case, I will be killed.

BELL (voice-over): Vladimir Osechkin says he's helped at least 20 senior Russian insiders escape since the war in Ukraine began. The exiled Russian human rights activist is on Moscow's list of wanted criminals and insists on meeting in a public place. In September, French police opened an investigation into a possible assassination attempt at his home.

VLADIMIR OSECHKIN, RUSSIAN ACTIVIST IN EXILE: I saw my wife and children who spent more than 30 minutes on the floor, and the children was very scared and my wife like a mother to protect them because it's risk of the shoots. In this moment, it was very difficult.

Here is one part.

BELL (voice-over): Osechkin says, it's his help to those fleeing and the documents they bring that make him a target. Like the images he shows us on his computer, of what he says are Russian surveillance radar positions aimed at Europe, dating back to 2017. Given to him, Osechkin says, by a three-star general now in exile.

OSECHKIN: Putin, why he want to kill me? He's very scared. There is a lot of people who now work in the Putin system, but they want to find their way to work together with west, with Ukraine, with Europe, with the United States, and to stop the Putin.

BELL (voice-over): When Osechkin leaves us, it's with some of the policemen who since September, ensure his security day and night.

Maria, like many of the Russians arriving, has no such protection and little money left. But she agreed to speak to us, hoping for a better future in the West.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.


FOSTER: Thank you for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next.