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U.S. And Germany Appear Ready To Send Tanks To Ukraine; Chris Hipkins Sworn In As New Zealand's Prime Minister; Classified Documents Found At Mike Pence's Home. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm John Vause.

Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM. After months of deadlock, here comes the tanks. Both Germany and the U.S. finalizing plans to send their frontline battle tanks to Ukraine.

Tough act to follow. New Zealand's Prime Minister has been sworn into office, replacing Jacinda Ardern who become a superstar to progressives, a target of hate for the far right.

Aide to Mike Pence? Those classified documents just keep turning up where they're not meant to be. As a political scandal now become a major problem for U.S. national security.

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

VAUSE: After months of deadlock, Berlin appears ready to send its main battle tank to Ukraine. At the same time, the White House is expected to announce the shipment of about 30 M1 Abrams tanks. The German news outlet Der Spiegel is reporting that Germany will send 14 Leopard 2 tanks and drop export restrictions to allow NATO allies to transfer their Leopard tanks to Kyiv as well.

The tank debate is expected to begin in the German parliament in the coming hours. The news comes as the U.S. finalizes plans to send the Abrams tank to Ukraine with an announcement expected possibly as soon as today.

Just days earlier, German officials indicated they would send tanks to Ukraine only after the U.S. made a similar commitment. But there is still no word on how many tanks will ultimately be sent, where they will come from or where they -- when they will actually arrive.

And after meeting with the Finnish President, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the need was urgent.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): t is not about five or 10 or 15 tanks, the need is greater. We are doing what is necessary every day to fill the deficit. And I thank everyone who supports us in this, however, discussions must end with decisions.


VAUSE: Along with the German and U.S. main battle tanks, Britain has already committed to send Challenger 2 tanks, all considered far superior to the Soviet era tanks the Russians use like the T-72s.

CNN's Nic Robertson has details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): The logjam broken according to (INAUDIBLE) exclusive. Ukraine to get U.S. and German made tanks, with the Abrams and the Leopard 2.

What Ukraine wanted, a Western made modern counter to a potential Russian spring offensive now a reality after weeks of high stakes posturing and frustrations. Germany insisting it wouldn't send its tanks unless the U.S. did too, the hence a deal was in the works, but times hard to read.

BORIS PISTORIUS, GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): I explicitly encouraged the partner countries that have Leopard tanks that are ready for use to start training Ukrainian forces on these tanks already.

ROBERTSON: Poland's pointed reply saying it's training Ukrainians already, and after days of publicly aired frustrations, finally made a formal request to Germany to re-export some of their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI, POLISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I hope this response from Germany will come quickly this time because the Germans are delaying, dodging, acting in a way that is very difficult to understand. Very clearly they do not want to help Ukraine.

ROBERTSON: The public wrangling the biggest visible tension in the so far strongly united response to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, was talked (PH) down both sides of the Atlantic.

JOHN KIRBY, PRESS SECRETARY, PENTAGON: To say that this is dividing the alliance or somehow putting international security at risk in Ukraine because there's a discussion over tanks is just way over blowing this thing.

ROBERTSON: But Germany's speed bumps to arming Ukraine were not new. Rewind to earlier in the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz drew President Zelenskyy's criticism for lagging other allies in military support.

Since then, a government realization Russia a threat not a business partner, air defense systems and heavy howitzers sent to Ukraine. The root of Germany's caution, public opinion, politician's bellwether and is laced with uncomfortable World War II comparisons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scholz knows that a big part of this population is against this war, and they don't want that. Germany goes too deep into this war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I think a little bit too hesitant about it. And I think it's a lot more he can do.

ROBERTSON: When the tanks actually arrive in Ukraine, still unclear.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.



VAUSE: General Mark Hertling is a CNN Military Analyst and the former commanding general for U.S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. It's good to see you again.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good. Great to be with you again, John.

VAUSE: OK, so we just heard from Ukraine's president talking about the need for a lot more than just 14 or 15 tanks. I want you to listen to the Secretary General of NATO on his take, here he is.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: The Russia is preparing for new offensives, we need to enable the Ukrainians sooner or faster to be able to repel those offenses, and also enable them to retake and liberate their own territory.


VAUSE: So, there's a lot of relief now that tanks are on their way. But obviously, this won't happen overnight, training will take some time. And there'll be a slow build up process.

But at this point, we don't know how long the training will take. We don't know how many tanks will actually end up in Ukraine. We don't even know if the Ukrainians know how to use them in any sort of extended period of time, since they don't know about maintenance, all the rest of it.

So, there is still a lot about this plan that we don't know.

HERTLING: There is, John. And what I'll say is, there are going to be a lot of people jumping up and down saying hey, finally the decision has been made. But there's a lot of complexity that even goes into the delivery of these vehicles. Not just the training of the crews, but the trainer -- the training of the maintainers of the tank at different echelons.

I mean, whether it's a Leopard, a German Leopard, or U.S. Abrams, there's a whole lot of maintenance that goes along with these vehicles, especially in rough, complex, conventional combat.

So, yes, you'll start seeing the delivery, you'll start seeing the announcement of where Ukrainian tankers and maintainers are going to train, I have some ideas of where that might be taking place. But then, there's just the delivery of the tank itself.

VAUSE: So, as to why this whole process of supplying German big tanks became so drawn out, I want you to listen to Germany's defense minister on any possible cracks within the NATO alliance over this issue, here he is.


PISTORIUS (through translator): It is not the case that is portrayed over and over again, that there is no unity or that Germany is isolated. There is an ongoing evaluation process in the member countries, which is carried out in different ways.


VAUSE: Yes, so it was all just about a different evaluation process. You know, I guess it's possible. But what's your take?

HERTLING: Well, my take is that that is actually exactly right. You first have politics involved with it, and then you have the capability for the donation. Then you have how do you sustain these things, what do you -- what do we want to deliver? What are the kinds of things we want in an export vehicle.

There are a list of about 50 questions that any donating country is going to ask themselves when they're giving up some of their national security equipment.

In the case of Germany, though, you have a couple of political problems, number one, you have a brand new defense minister, you also have some extreme views on both the left and the right side of the German chancellery on why they should or should not give tanks.

So, a lot of things played a part in this but I think truthfully, the pressure of other NATO nations actually contributed to Germany finally making this decision.

VAUSE: Well, the end result of all this back and forth is that the Ukrainians will receive the German made Leopard tanks, as well as the U.S. M1 Abrams, which use up a lot of fuel, they're very gas hungry, difficult to maintain, complex to use, and require a lot of training.

By comparison, the Leopard tank runs on diesel, is easier to operate, which in theory means less time needed for training the Ukrainians.

So, explain why is the U.S. now committing Abrams tank into a battlefield or a war zone far more suited to the German made Leopard tanks? What's going on? What's the reason for this?

HERTLING: I think the reason the United States is contributing, and I actually thought a few months ago they would eventually do this, like we've done to a lot of our other partner nations is it's building for the future. But it is going to take a lot of time. And in fact, contributing the Abrams will drive other systemic

improvements in the Ukrainian military, like an establishment of a very viable logistics system, which I think if Ukrainian officers were being honest right now, they have a lot of work to do in their sustainment area.

So, this might help them do that, to get the kind of maintainers and spare parts and resupply and lines of communications ready, but that's going to come toward the end of this.

And I -- you know, I predict John that you may see a couple of Leopard tanks on the battlefield by March. And when I say a couple, maybe a company or battalions worth that will eventually grow. But the Abrams probably won't get there for, in my view between six and eight months because it takes a lot of work to set that sustainment base and to train the people that are maintaining that tank.

VAUSE: General Mark Hertling as always, thank you for your insights, your expertise, your knowledge and your experience. Thank you, sir.

HERTLING: Pleasure, John. Thank you.


VAUSE: New Zealand has a new prime minister less than a week after the shock resignation of Jacinda Ardern. A short time ago, Chris Hipkins was sworn into office in the capital Wellington, followed by his first Cabinet meeting.

The former education minister received unanimous support from within the ruling Labour Party.


CHRIS HIPKINS, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I think cost of living is right at the top of the issues facing New Zealand is at the moment because it has an impact on just about every other one of the issues that New Zealanders will care about.


VAUSE: With Hipkins sworn in, former Prime Minister Jacinda Arden moves to the back bench and plans to spend more time with family.

For more on this, CNN's Anna Coren live for us this hour in Hong Kong. So, New Zealand's 41st prime minister has a pretty tough road ahead of him. Not just politically but also filling Ardern's shoes.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, huge shoes to fill, John, there's no doubt about it. It's something that he certainly acknowledges but we heard from Chris Hipkins this morning when he was sworn in as New Zealand's Prime Minister replacing Jacinda Ardern after her shock announcement last week. Ardern cited burnout as the reason why she was stepping down and there's no doubt that that played a factor in her decision. But John as we know, the reality on the ground is very different. New

Zealanders had simply fallen out of love with Jacinda Ardern. Her approval ratings and that of her Labour Party had dropped significantly and inflation rising, crime inequality. You know, a huge issues facing New Zealanders right now and they obviously blame the government in power.

The polls were predicting that if Jacinda Ardern had gone to the October election, she would have lost but obviously, you know, her international perception persona is very much different to how she is viewed back in New Zealand. On the world stage, Jacinda Ardern is loved and adored.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Prime Minister Hipkins.

COREN (voice over): A new prime minister for New Zealand Chris Hipkins succeeds Jacinda Ardern after she suddenly announced her resignation last week.

HIPKINS: This is the biggest privilege and the biggest responsibility of my life. I am energized and excited by the challenge that lies ahead.

The 44-year-old career politician also known in Parliament as Chippy has been a close ally to Ardern, most notably taking charge of the country's COVID-19 policies when the pandemic began.

His swearing in also marks the end of an era for Ardern, whose poise and leadership were lauded far and wide.

JACINDA ARDERN, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: I am determined to do things differently. I do think you can be both strong and compassionate. I do think success is not just about economic but about your social indicators of success.

COREN: Ardern burst onto the global stage in 2017 as one of the world's youngest female leaders, known for taking her newborn to the U.N. General Assembly.

ARDERN: I am by no means the first woman to multitask. And in terms of being a woman in politics, there are plenty of women who carved a path and incrementally have led the way to be able to make it possible for people to look upon my time and leadership and think yes, I can do the job and be a mother.

COREN: She's an outspoken supporter of gender equality, gun control and fighting climate change.

In the end, she said she was tired and needed to step down. But her legacy won't be forgotten.

HIPKINS: Jacinda Ardern has been an incredible Prime Minister for New Zealand. She was the leader that we needed at the time that we needed it. Jacinda provided, you know, calm, stable, reassuring leadership, which I hope to continue to do.

COREN: With elections less than a year away, Chris Hipkins has to prove he can keep the ruling Labour Party in power.

EVA MURPHY, NEW ZEALAND PRESIDENT: He definitely has big shoes to fill. He won't ever fill the shoes that Jacinda has and it'll be interesting to see what Labour come out with in terms of the election campaign over the next year.


COREN (on camera): John, Chris Hipkins has actually less than nine months to turn his party around and can convince New Zealanders that they should reelect the Labour Party.

He has been responsible for education, for health, for New Zealand's COVID response and also for policing during Jacinda Ardern's government. He's built a reputation as Mr. Fix It as, you know, someone who's hard working, likes to get his hands dirty. But is that enough for the Labour Party to be reelected on the 14th of October with him at their home?

As you say, Jacinda Ardern, she goes to the backbench and that's where she will see out her time in politics until she resigns altogether in April, John.

VAUSE: The world's greatest backbencher for another nine months. Anna, thank you. Anna Coren live live for us in Hong Kong.


Peru's President Dina Boluarte has called for a nationwide truce to end weeks of nationwide unrest as anti-government protesters in Lima again demand her resignation.

Police used tear gas during clashes with protesters. These demonstrations began in December after the ouster of former President Pedro Castillo and have left parts of the country paralyzed.

Stefano Pozzebon has more now.


STEFANO POZZEBON, REPORTER (on camera): Clashes once again flared up in the streets of Lima on Tuesday as anti-government protesters marched to demand the current president Dina Boluarte to step down.

In the most violent cycle of protest in Peruvian recent history, already 56 people have died. But neither the protester nor the government are showing any sign of ceding.

In a meeting with foreign media just hours before the protesters took to the streets, Boluarte accused her opponents of trying to wreck the country into chaos. She did, however, offer some apology for the loss of life. DINA BOLUARTE, PERUVIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would say it once more, the death of my fellow citizens hurts my heart and my soul. Once again, I asked forgiveness for those deaths.

POZZEBON: Wednesday is said to be another consequential day for Peru as Boluarte is due to address the Organization of American States to update on the situation in Peru. The protests against her government are now approaching their fourth consecutive week.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


VAUSE: Still ahead, a new chapter in the saga over government secrets. Classified documents found at the home of former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Also, as I speak, the U.S. Gulf Coast under tornado threat. We'll have more on major storm damage in Texas, as well as the latest forecast. You're watching CNN.


VAUSE: Now it's Mike Pence. Mike Pence, the man who was supremely confident, insisting that he did not have any classified documents from his time as U.S. vice president. But now, Mike Pence joins Donald Trump and the current President Joe Biden of classified documents that were found at his residence and the Justice Department is now investigating.

CNN's Evan Perez reports.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence's home last week. Now, those documents are in the hands of the FBI and the Justice Department, which has launched a review of what's in those documents and how they ended up at Pence's home in Indiana.

Sources tell CNN that aides to Pence were searching boxes at his new home in Carmel, Indiana. And in the wake of these revelations about classified material that were found at President Joe Biden's private office and residents.


The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said that he did not have any classified documents in his possession.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you as we sit here in your home office in Indiana, did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not. Our staff reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residence to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House.

PEREZ: A lawyer for Pence says that the former vice president was unaware that these classified documents were at his home and Pence's attorney told CNN that the FBI came to Pence's home last Thursday to pick up the documents with classified markings.

And on Monday, Pence's legal team drove four boxes of records that may include non-classified government documents back to Washington D.C. to hand them back over to the National Archives for a review for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Mark Zaid is a National Security attorney as well as the founder of the James Madison Project, which is dedicated to reducing government secrecy. Mark, thanks for being with us.

MARK ZAID, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: It is my pleasure. Thank you.

VAUSE: OK. So, I want you to listen to Mike Pence speaking on Fox about 12 days ago, here he is.


PENCE: The handling of classified materials and the nation's secret is very serious matter. And as a former Vice President of the United States, I can -- I can speak from personal experience about the attention that ought to be paid to those materials when you're in office and after you leave office, and clearly, that did not take place in this case.


VAUSE: What do you know? Four days after that interview, classified documents were found in his home. But during that Fox appearance, Pence went into great detail, every step of the process for viewing classified material.

At a minimum, it sounds like he knew what he should have done, but clearly didn't.

So, in light of presidents Biden and Trump now, has this issue of mishandling classified documents moved from a political scandal, if you like, to a national security problem?

ZAID: Well, it's always been a national security problem, and no one should minimize the significance of how important it is to protect classified information.

And even though hopefully, none of this information had been compromised, it was still insecure. And when I heard him say those at the time he did, it was very obvious to me that it was politicized. And that I know, Vice President Mike Pence, you know better and now he really knows better, because unfortunately, he's eating his words.

VAUSE: Yes, it seems, you know, is there a systemic problem? Because, you know, we are hearing from presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, they all say, they told CNN, they've turned over their classified records to National Archive upon leaving office, that's their representatives told us on Tuesday.

So, just as we're clearing shop, you know, should their private homes and offices now be searched for any classified material?

ZAID: I wouldn't necessarily say searched in the sense of the FBI coming in, but by their own staff, just as was done by Vice President Pence. Yes, absolutely.

When the Mar-a-Lago situation first arose, the first thought that came to my mind was, wow, all of the former senior leaders should really go check their garages and their attics and their closets, because I bet anything that they have mistakenly taken classified, marked classified documents home with them as well.

VAUSE: And unlike the Trump case, what we know at this point, it seems the details surrounding Pence and Biden are similar in that the documents were not deliberately taken. The DOJ was notified when they were found, there was no attempt to hide the documents or lie about their location.

Still, we had this reporting. Members of Trump's legal team believed that the discovery of classified documents at Pence's Indiana home, coupled with President Joe Biden's own ongoing special counsel investigation related to his handling of classified documents, changes the dynamics of the Justice Department's investigation into Trump.

They seem to believe with all three cases now, it'd be harder to justify charges against any one of them. But the Pence Biden case, it could also highlight how egregious Donald Trump acted.

ZAID: There was no doubt. In fact, my concern with the revelation of President Biden was that it would and could impact a decision by the attorney general to prosecute former President Trump for the mishandling of classified information.

Separate and apart from charges of obstruction, concealment, false statements, all of which make the Trump situation incredibly different and far more egregious.

I actually now think that the existence of the Pence situation may actually play to the detriment of Donald Trump and that it neutralizes the Biden situation and sort of brings us back to square one that the egregious mishandling, the intentional mishandling by Donald Trump and his surrounding staff still makes him susceptible to potential charges.


VAUSE: And hanging over all of this is the problem of over classification. It's not new this problem back in 2016 report by the Brennan Center that systemic problems within the classification process. "Subjectivity, discretion and skewed incentive structure, combined to produce massive over classification of phenomenon noted by experts and blue-ribbon commissions for decades, current and former governor officials have estimated that 50 to 90 percent of classified documents could safely be released."

So, right now, if the system isn't broken, it seems like it's close to it, can it be fixed?

ZAID: I think it can be fixed. And this is as you said, a decade long problem. I have reports from 1950s that you can easily just issue them today and they'd be just as pertinent.

The problem is, since the 1990s, with the advent of e-mail and additional electronic records, the number is astounding. And it's just too difficult to control.

There are federal agencies and no doubt other countries as well, that are looking into having A.I. join this effort to try and minimize classification and declassify certain information.

But clearly, something needs to be done and maybe if they can step away from the partisan nature of these attacks on both parties with respect to these incidents, actually, somebody could focus on trying to fix it so that we could protect national security.

VAUSE: Is there an adult in the room I guess. Mark, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

ZAID: Thank you.

VAUSE: New details now, the two mass shootings in California over the past few days. The shooter in Half Moon Bay lived at the first farm where he opened fire on Monday according to a company spokesperson. He killed seven people during his rampage across the area. He lived and worked at the first site since at least March of last year when it was sold to new owners.

Police say he was also accused of threatening to murder a former coworker at a different job. Crowds gathered further south in Monterey Park to remember the 11 victims killed at a dance studio on Saturday.

The names of all the victims have been released by the medical examiner's office. California Governor Gavin Newsom shared his feelings about the multiple shootings on Tuesday.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Federal government needs to do its job but let's call it out. You have one party that are obstructionist. And if I seem passionate intense about it because I'm damn sick and tired of this stuff. I'm sick of this. I don't want to ever see this again.


VAUSE: The Gun Violence Archive reports there have been at least 40 mass shootings in the United States. So far this year, it is January 25th, do the math.

The U.S. decision to send tanks to Ukraine comes at a critical moment on and off the battlefield. Ahead, the group mainly responsible for Russia's marginal gains and what Ukraine still wants and needs from the West.


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


At least a dozen high-ranking Ukrainian officials have been purged from government positions, part of an anti-corruption drive.

This all started with the arrest of the acting minister for regional development over the weekend. He's accused of receiving $400,000 in kickbacks for arranging contracts for power generators.

And on Tuesday, the president's deputy chief of staff announced his resignation after Ukrainian media reports that he'd been using a vehicle meant for humanitarian purposes. He denies that.

The deputy defense minister also out, and the ministry itself is accused of buying food supplies for many times their market value.

Two years ago, an anti-corruption watchdog named Ukraine the second most corrupt country in Europe, behind Russia. Ukraine must clean up widespread corruption as a condition for E.U. membership.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Any internal issue that hinders the state is being cleaned up and will be cleaned up further. It is fair. It is needed for our defense, and it helps our rapprochement with European institutions. We need a strong state, and Ukraine will be just that.


VAUSE: President Zelenskyy is also warning that Russia is amassing forces and preparing for revenge. And that means Ukraine's needs on the battlefield continue to grow.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Even as fighting rages in Eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are making little headway.

Vladimir Putin recently appointed his military chief, Valery Gerasimov, to lead the war in Ukraine, yet another reshuffle in the hierarchy. The deputy head of Ukraine's defense intelligence tells me he believes

Putin realizes his entire command structure is in disarray.

VADYM SKIBITSKIY, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY HEAD OF DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE (through translator): He really does have problems with the command, both at the top level, the generals, and at the bottom level of platoon or company commander. That issue is generally very problematic.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Another problem: those marginal gains Russia is making come mostly from mercenaries of the Wagner private military company around Bakhmut, where Wagner has been gaining ground while suffering severe losses themselves.

Wagner's boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been highly critical of Russia's military leadership, calling them all but incompetent.

The Ukrainians say he's made plenty of enemies among the elites.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): The leadership of the Russian armed forces are going to try to belittle Prigozhin's role and place however they can, so he cannot strengthen his positions in the Kremlin hierarchy.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While the Ukrainians try to hold on in Bakhmut, they say they urgently need Western-made battle tanks to take back more territory.

ANDRIY MEINYK, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: There are about 2,000 tanks available, and even if each country would send 10 percent of demand, it will be a huge army, which would allow us to start this counteroffensive in spring.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Ukrainians say just as critical are longer-range rockets from the U.S. to hit Russia's supply lines, something the U.S. is wary of giving them, for fear of escalating the conflict.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): Right now, they have moved their logistics and control, but mainly logistic systems, further away from the front line, and that's 80 to 100 to 120 kilometers away. And to strike them, you need longer-range strike systems.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): That would include targets on Russian territory to choke off any future offensive by Moscow forces.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): There are strong logistics hubs in the Rostov region. It is these very hubs, and they need to be struck in order to disrupt the supply systems of all kinds.

PLEITGEN: For now, though, the Ukrainians certainly seem to be very happy with that decision by both the United States and Germany to send main battle tanks to Ukraine.

In fact, the chief of staff of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that he believes Western main battle tanks are, as he puts it, democracy's punch against autocracy.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


VAUSE: In the U.S., more than a dozen tornadoes were reported Tuesday across parts of Texas and Louisiana. And there could still be more bad weather to come for the Gulf Coast.

You're looking at the aftermath of a confirmed tornado outside Houston. A local official in Pasadena, Texas, calls the structural damage catastrophic.

Tens of thousands of Texas customers lost power. Emergency crews were responding to a high number of stranded motorists.


For more, let's go to CNN meteorologist Britley Ritz, live at the Weather Center. Good to see you again.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You too, John. We are still dealing with, unfortunately, severe weather across parts of the Southeast.

One tornado warning still in effect for about another ten minutes for Saint Bernard Parish, which is just West of New Orleans. Notice that area highlighted in fuchsia. That's the tornado warning again for another ten minutes.

A few notches in the line itself indicate little bits of rotation, but the system itself slowly weakening as we've lost the heat of the day, and much colder air sliding in behind it. So we'll get that rain- cooled air.

And notice another warning in place. This is a severe thunderstorm warning, for orange. That slides up North of New Orleans, where areas will be dealing with strong winds.

Tornado watches still in effect for New Orleans, now stretching back into the Florida Panhandle until 5 a.m. Central Time. And that system itself takes its track Eastward.

So that severe weather threat will continue through the overnight. Notice areas highlighted in orange, more of that damaging wind threat and isolated tornado threat. But again, pushing Eastward over the next 24 hours, still holding that severe weather threat.

So we'll be dealing with that same threat -- winds and tornadoes -- although it will start to weaken a bit.

On the back end, we're dealing with the colder air and we're dealing with snowfall. We have winter storm warnings in effect from Oklahoma City back into the Ohio Valley, now stretching up into New England. Some of these locations could be picking up roughly about 5 to 10 inches, isolated higher amounts up to about a foot of snow -- John.

VAUSE: Britley, we appreciate the update. Thank you.

RITZ: Yes.

VAUSE: Well, some good news for travelers stranded by snow in South Korea. Flights to and from Jeju Island have been allowed to resume.

But that does not mean the extreme weather is over. Up to 77 meters of snow is expected on Jeju through coming hours. Nearly 36,000 people were stranded on Tuesday, after almost 500 flights were canceled.

China's Northernmost city has recorded its coldest day ever. Meteorologists say temperatures dipped down to minus 53 degrees Celsius on Saturday, breaking the previous record, which was set in 1969.

The region is close to the Russian Siberia border and is widely known as China's North Pole. And it's cold.

Still to come, it's history in the making for India after a song from a blockbuster film gets nominated for an Oscar. What the recognition means for the country's film industry. More on that in a moment.


VAUSE: Nominations for the 95th Academy Awards are out, and leading the pack with 11 nominations is the science-fiction film, "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once."


MICHELLE YEOH, ACTRESS: It's the multiverse. I've seen thousands of Evelyns. You can access them.


VAUSE: The film earned nods for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role for Michelle Yeoh, two nods for Actresses in a Supporting Role for Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get it done.


VAUSE: Well, for Best Picture is James Cameron -- James Cameron's "Avatar: The Way of Water," which is also being nominated for Production Design, Achievement in Sound and Visual Effects.



(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Some big names from the world of music are also up for Original Song, and that includes Lady Gaga, for "Hold My Hand" from "Top Gun: Maverick."

Another original song nominee has put Indian filmmakers in the spotlight. It's the first time a song from a fully Indian-produced film has ever been considered for the category.

CNN's Vedika Sud has more now on what is an historic nomination.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has explosions, epic battles, larger-than-life action scenes, and a man wrestling a tiger.

India's latest blockbuster movie, "RRR" -- "Rise, Roar, Revolt" -- has been making waves around the world. Triumphing over Rihanna and Taylor Swift's soundtracks at the Golden Globes, "RRR" was awarded the Best Original Song for "Naatu Naatu."

The action fantasy film about real-life Indian revolutionaries fighting against colonialism has earned an Oscar nomination, a rare moment for an Indian film.

S.S. RAJAMOULI, DIRECTOR, "RRR": When we initially set out to make "RRR," we don't have the critical acclaim in mind. We set out to make the movie for the audience, for them to love it, for them to experience the movie.

SUD (voice-over): "RRR" has already grossed more than $150 million worldwide and stayed for 16 weeks on the list of top ten most viewed non-English films on Netflix.

Critics say the firm is a breath of fresh air for the American audience.

COURTNEY HOWARD, FILM CRITIC: There's just something fresh and unique about it, where I think it's going to be hard to -- if Hollywood tries to do it, it's going to be hard to recapture that lightning in a bottle that this movie seems to do.

SUD (voice-over): Director S.S. Rajamouli is known for his bombastic and maximalist action scenes.

The film's budget, a reported $68 million, makes it one of the most expensive Indian films to date, far below most Hollywood blockbusters.

The movie's overseas success has been celebrated back home. India's Prime Minister Modi personally congratulated the filmmakers after their win at the Golden Globes, saying, "This prestigious honor has made every Indian very proud."

Hollywood has opened its doors to non-English films in recent years, and like "Parasite," which became the first foreign language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, critics say "RRR's" Oscar nomination is pushing boundaries.

SHUBHRA GUPTA, FILM CRITIC, "THE INDIAN EXPRESS": What it's already doing is something that has -- no other Indian has ever done. It's a kind of -- a sort of gigantic leap in the awareness that there is something called Indian cinema, and that there will be a lot more interest in it going forward.

SUD (voice-over): A win at the Academy Awards would be a first for an Indian film and a historic one.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


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