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CNN International: Missile Strikes Residential Block In Zaporizhzhia; Xi Heads Home As Chinese Leader And Putin Hail "New Era"; Putin & Xi Sign Joint Declaration On Deepening Partnership; U.S. Federal Reserve To Make Pivotal Interest Rate Decision; U.S. "Troubled" By Resettlement Law Passed By Israeli Knesset; Parliament Passes Law Criminalizing Identifying As LGBTQ Plus; Exclusive: Emails Between Daniels And Trump's Lawyer Turned Over To Manhattan's District Attorney's Office; Johnson To Be Questioned About COVID-19 Lockdown Parties; Wall Street Investing In Water Rights. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 08:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London in for Max Foster today. Just ahead, a residential bloc in Zaporizhzhia is apparently struck by missiles. We're live in Ukraine with the latest.

A high stakes balancing act for the Fed as it weighs a decision on interest rates in the midst of banking worries and rising inflation. More on what to expect. And sandstorms blanket Beijing as the air pollution there soars off the charts.

A swarm of Russian missiles has bombarded parts of Ukraine overnight, apparently targeting residential areas, including Zaporizhzhia. This is social media video of a building there, and you can see the moment very clearly that a missile hits it. Meanwhile, in Kyiv, a drone hit a residential building, killing four people.

Let's bring in Ivan Watson following the story from Kyiv, Ukraine. Ivan, what more are you learning about these latest attacks?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, it's a deceptively kind of warm day in late winter, early spring here. And that's when the Ukrainian authorities say at least two Russian missiles slammed into the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, hitting two nine story apartment buildings.

We've just gotten casualty figures from the acting mayor of the city, who says that 18 people have been wounded, including two children aged seven and nine, that 11 adults have been hospitalized. The fire department was on the scene, search and rescue as well.

You can see from the amateur footage from the scene some of the damage that these powerful weapons caused, again against these residential buildings. This isn't the first time that apartment buildings in Zaporizhzhia have been hit by Russian missiles. The city is about 25 minutes drive from active front lines and other apartment buildings have been absolutely decimated in past months by similar types of attacks. I think the timing of this is also interesting because just last night, the leaders of China and Russia were kind of embracing theirselves each other, bidding fond farewell to each other after two days of meetings in Moscow and declaring how they wanted to create a more just, more peaceful, more democratic international order before the Chinese leader left.

And then that night, the Ukrainian authorities say that Ukrainian cities and towns came under multiple missile and drone attacks from the Russian military. In the southern port city of Odesa, several missiles fired, the Ukrainians say, by Russian warplanes. Some of them were intercepted. At least one got through the defenses and hit the city. Still trying to hear more about the extent of the damage there.

And meanwhile, the Ukrainian air force says at least 21 of these Iranian made Shahed drones that Iran provides to Russia were fired from the north of Ukraine at Ukrainian cities and towns. That some of them hit a town about 50 miles outside of the capital city, Kyiv, killing at least four people. That air defenses succeeded in knocking down 16 of the 21 drones.

But everyone that gets through can still hurt innocent people, civilian people. On the flip side of this terrible conflict, Bianca, the Russians have been saying that some kind of drones were targeting probably from Ukraine, the city of Sevastopol in the Russian occupied Crimea peninsula. The Russian Defense Ministry saying that they succeeded in knocking down some of these drones.

So it's giving you a picture of the deadly long distance war that's being waged against cities, at towns on both sides of the conflict, even as the Russian and Ukrainian militaries continue killing each other on the front lines day after day. Bianca?

NOBILO: Ivan Watson live in Kharkiv, thank you very much.

A new era, but no announced promise of weapons as China's president ends his state visit to Russia and heads home. Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced solidarity along with vows to advance their country's economic interests. Putin also touted China's self- proclaimed peace plan for Ukraine, dismissed by the U.S. as diplomatic cover for Moscow.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Of course we did not ignore the situation around Ukraine. We believe that many of the points on the peace plan put forward by China are consistent with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis of a peaceful settlement when the west and Kyiv are ready for it. But this readiness is not observed on their side.


NOBILO: Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance joins me now from Moscow. Matthew, where do things stand with this proposed 12- point peace plan? And what else did Russia tangibly achieve from this state visit?


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the peace plan, well, Russia says it's open to it, although as you heard Vladimir Putin say there, he doesn't feel that either Kyiv or the larger west is open to it at the moment.

And so, it's not clear what the status of it is going to be. There were discussions a couple of days ago in Kyiv about having a first phone call with Xi Jinping and President Zelenskyy, although at the moment that has not taken place, and I'm not sure -- excuse me -- what plans there are for that.

In terms of what else Russia got out of this, well, it was a massive diplomatic coup for a world leader like Xi Jinping to stand side by side by Vladimir Putin at a time when he's isolated in the rest of the world. Just days ago, he was indicted by the International Criminal Court, for instance, for war crimes.

More than a dozen deals were signed on joint projects to bring the two countries closer together. But you're right to say that there weren't any tangible results in terms of -- from the Russian point of view in terms of the Chinese giving a full throated support for the invasion of Ukraine, or on the provision of military aid.

And, you know, who knows what was discussed behind closed doors. And most of those discussions were in private, but in public at least, there were just general expressions of goodwill between these two countries as they move closer and closer together.

NOBILO: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you.

A major decision is coming from the U.S. Federal Reserve later on today. In a few hours, it will announce whether it's going to raise interest rates again and how high that hike will be. It's a delicate balancing act for the Fed as it tries to tame inflation and avoid spooking the markets already on edge about the banking system.

Who better to discuss this with then, CNN's Anna Stewart, who joins me now. Anna, it is a dilemma and a difficult balancing act. Where are they going to land on this?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: And I feel like with these decisions, there often is a balancing act, particularly when you're raising rates to try and tackle inflation. If you go too far too fast, then you can push an economy into recession. But it's got even more complicated as a result of the last few weeks of this turmoil, really, in the banking sector, particularly in the U.S.

Because part of the problem has been interest rates. So what do investors want to see from this meeting? I feel like there are three options on the table for the Federal Reserve. Number one, a big hike, half a percentage point. Now, this would look at the economic data. A tight labor market, high inflation, it is coming down, but it remains high. And it would just tackle that.

The second option is to read the room and think, well, that first option may really spook the market, so let's react with a smaller hike. But also try not to spook markets as much, particularly as they've come back in the last 24 hours. It feels like perhaps a banking contagion could be contained.

The third option is to do nothing and to make the banking issue the focus of today's meeting and leave the rate rise for later. But that could actually speak markets as well, because perhaps that would mean the Federal Reserve wasn't taking inflation seriously enough. So those are the three major options.

There's also, of course, the messaging around these decisions, which is just as important, if not more important, than the rate decision itself. And you'll be pleased to know the dot plot, the quarterly dot plot will be out today, we believe, and that will look at what the forecasts are for the rate rises going ahead. And I think that will be critical in terms of what investors see.

NOBILO: And just briefly, you hinted at stabilization after all of these concerns and this contagion spreading across global markets. Where do we stand with that now? Do you think that has been contained?

STEWART: I think we have to wait more than 24 hours, frankly, because markets been so volatile. But there has been huge coordinated action from the Federal Reserve, from the U.S. Treasury, also from some of the biggest U.S. banks. Eleven banks coming together to throw a lifeline to First Republic recently.

Yesterday, comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen certainly seemed to calm market nerves. We saw a big rebound, for instance, in First Republic, but we do probably have to wait a few more days to see whether it really has settled. But today is critical. So what happens today will be critical, I think, to know whether or not we can move on from this crisis of confidence as much as anything.

NOBILO: Anna Stewart, thank you so much.

A severe sandstorm has sent air pollution to hazardous levels in Beijing and several northern provinces in China. The storm blanketed Beijing in clouds of dust, sending the air quality index off the charts. Weather authorities are warning drivers to slow down due to low visibility, and they're urging people not to go outdoors for exercise or other activities.

The Israeli Prime Minister's office says that no new settlements will be established in areas previously evacuated in the West Bank under a 2005 disengagement law. This comes one day after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. was summoned to the State Department over the Israeli parliament's vote to roll back a part of that law.


It prohibits establishing settlements in the northern West Bank. A department spokesperson said the U.S. is, quote, extremely troubled by the move.

Uganda's parliament has passed sweeping legislation criminalizing identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It imposes punishment of up to 20 years in prison and was amended to include the death penalty in some cases. Human Rights Watch says the law would violate Ugandan's rights to freedom of expression and their right to privacy.

Larry Madowo joins us now from Lagos, Nigeria. Larry, in Uganda, homosexual acts were already against the law. So what impact do you think this new legislation is going to have on the lives of people inside Uganda?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, this law makes it extremely difficult to be gay in Uganda, period, because it criminalizes even identifying as LGBTQIA Plus. What it says is that there are only two binary genders, male and female, and anything else apart from that is illegal. Just identifying as LGBT will attract a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Homosexual acts, same sex acts will get life imprisonment and aggravated homosexuality, which is this new thing they invented that will get the death penalty in Uganda. Again, this was passed by a large number of members of parliament in Uganda, but it still has to go to President Museveni for assent. He's likely going to sign it into law because the Latania (ph) general and his prime minister were in parliament and they said that they supported, they're fully behind it.

President Yoweri Museveni himself has called homosexuals deviants and said he's not sure if it's nature or nurture and accused western nations of imposing their practices on Africans, even though there's some scholarship that homosexuality predates colonization in Africa.

Homosexuality is illegal in about 30 of -- in more than 30, actually, of Africa's 55 nations. But this law in Uganda goes much further than any of them. And there's some concern that a lot of the rhetoric, a lot of defunding and sponsorship of some of these anti-LGBT and anti- abortion laws in Africa are actually funded or sponsored by Christian conservative groups from America, and which is why you see language that similarly mirrors what you've heard in the U.S. such as protection of traditional family values, which is something that translates very well in conservative Christian societies like in Uganda.

Because this law, Bianca, has a lot of support among the ordinary Ugandans who see homosexuality as something that's abhorrent because of the Christian values.

NOBILO: Larry Madowo, thank you for that report.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to decide within days whether to charge former U.S. President Donald Trump for his alleged role in hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But CNN is also learning more about what information was shared to New York's prosecutors. Let's bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's in West Palm Beach, Florida, near Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort. Kristen, what more are we learning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bianca. Well, right now where we stand is that the grand jury is currently meeting today and the big question is whether or not they are going to vote to issue an indictment for former President Donald Trump. And nobody really knows the answer to that.

It has been a sealed process, it is all behind closed doors and the timing on this potential indictment is unclear. What every indication has shown is that this is likely to happen. However, this process is still playing out. And I talked to a number of aides and advisers to the former president who say they are watching this closely, that they are at a point where they and the former president are resigned to the fact that this is likely going to happen.

And they are planning the next several steps as to what it actually looks like to run a presidential campaign with a former U.S. president who is currently under indictment. And we had an exclusive new reporting last night when it comes to this case.

I spoke to the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, his name is Clark Brewster, who said that he turned over communications between his client, Stormy Daniels and Joe Tacopina, who is Donald Trump's lawyer in this case from 2018, where they were essentially disclosing confidential information.

Daniels had gone to Tacopina and his firm asking them to represent her or trying to seek representation. And according to Brewster, there are a number of emails here in which Daniels gives over this confidential information. The reason this is important is it could potentially lead to a conflict of interest.

A judge is going to determine, look at these communications and determine if that's the case. If that means that there's going to be some kind of limitation on Tacopina in his representation of Trump or if he is disqualified from representing him at all. Because you have to remember here, the question is whether or not Daniels provided any information for Trump's lawyers that would give him a leg up in the case, but also that could harm Daniels in the future.


For example, if this was to go to trial, could Tacopina use that information against her or with her for her crossed -- testimony, if he was cross examining her, for example? So these are things that they are looking at right now. But again, another advancement in this case, as everybody is waiting to see what that grand jury decides to do.

NOBILO: CNN's Kristen Holmes in West Palm Beach, Florida, thank you.

Still to come, did he knowingly mislead parliament over those illegal lockdown parties? Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will answer before lawmakers in just a few hours. Why this could be a make or break moment for Johnson, just ahead.


NOBILO: He is no longer the British Prime Minister, but Boris Johnson is facing a make or break moment in his political career. In the next few hours, he'll testify before U.S. lawmakers -- U.K. lawmakers, rather, about whether he knowingly misled parliament about violating COVID lockdown rules.

Let's take a closer look at what's at stake here for Johnson.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Johnson, you made the rules. Surely, you must have known that they were being broken.

NOBILO (voice-over): Boris Johnson, out of office, but not the spotlight. The former Prime Minister to be grilled on live television by a panel of lawmakers on the scandal that destroyed his premiership, Partygate.

KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The hubris and the arrogance of a government that believed it was one rule for them and another rule for everyone else.

NOBILO (voice-over): Johnson will once again have to answer questions about these damning photos. Evidence that he and members of his government attended gatherings within 10 Downing Street while the country was under COVID-19 restrictions.

As the allegations hit the British press, Johnson categorically denied any rules were broken.

BORIS JOHNSON, THEN-BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: All guidance was followed completely.

I'd certainly break their rules.

All the guidelines were observed.

There was no party.

NOBILO (voice-over): But Johnson was forced to apologize after an internal report showed rule breaking did occur and he was fined by the Metropolitan Police.

JOHNSON: I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch.

NOBILO (voice-over): Now, the key question being considered is whether Johnson deliberately misled Parliament when he was Prime Minister. If found guilty, Johnson could be suspended as a member of Parliament, potentially triggering a by election where he could lose his seat, stymying his efforts to grow his reputation as an international statesman or return to frontline politics. Johnson maintains he did not intentionally mislead Parliament and has submitted a dossier in his defense where he claims the inquiry is highly partisan. His supporters say that he'll be vindicated and they see it an opportunity to clear his name.


But Wednesday is a make or break moment for Boris Johnson's turbulent political career and legacy. One his critics hope will snuff out any chance of a political comeback.


NOBILO: Google doesn't usually play catch up, but the company is doing just that with the rollout of its new artificial intelligence chatbot called Bard. Bard is meant to rival ChatGPT, but Google acknowledges that the program still has a lot to learn and says that continued feedback from experts and users will help the tool improve its responses.

To experience the new chatbot, you have to sign up on a waiting list. It's been rolled out first in the U.S. and U.K.

It may seem like a strange investment, but Wall Street investors are buying up dry land hoping to make a profit. Find out why that's making farmers angry.


NOBILO: Today is World Water Day, but in parts of the U.S., the focus is on dry land, and that's attracting the attention of Wall Street companies. Lucy Kafanov explains.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cibola, Arizona, is a place few are likely to have heard of. Home to some 300 people, this windswept community is a tiny oasis in the Sonoran Desert, sustained by water from the Colorado River.

But this rural corner of the American West has caught the eye of East Coast investors. Much of this farmland now belongs to Greenstone, a subsidiary of the financial services conglomerate MassMutual.

(on-camera): So what does investment firm want with farmland like this?

HOLLY IRWIN, LA PAZ COUNTY, SUPERVISOR: They want it for the water. They want it to make money, you know, off the water rights that are attached to the land.

KAFANOV (voice-over): La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin is fighting Greenstone's recent sale of Cibola water to a growing Phoenix suburb more than 200 miles away.

IRWIN: And make millions off of it, you know, at the expense of what it's going to do to our communities in the future and the precedents it's going to set. It's opening Pandora's box, and who is going to be the next one in line to roll the dice?

KAFANOV (voice-over): A lawyer for Greenstone told CNN its plan was subject to public review approved and that it will have no impact on the potential of cities along the river to grow. But it's not just happening in Arizona.

(on-camera): Wall Street firms have been snapping up properties up and down the Colorado River, not so much for the land, but rather for its precious water rights. It's a growing interest in an increasingly scarce natural resource, with investors betting big on a major payoff.

MATTHEW DISERIO, PRESIDENT, WATER ASSET MANAGEMENT: It's a trillion dollar market opportunity.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Matt Diserio is president of Water Asset Management, an investment firm headquartered in this New York City building, which has also been buying water rights in states along the Colorado River. Diserio described its strategy in 2020 interviews with institutional real estate and Fintech TV.

DISERIO: Water, we believe, is the resource that is defining the 21st century, much like oil defined the last century.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The company did not respond to CNN's specific inquiries, issuing a statement that said, it was proud of its investments and will manage assets in a manner that contributes to solutions to water scarcity.

TRAVIS LINGENFELTER, SUPERVISOR, MOHAVE VALLEY COUNTY: They come out west, they purchase and pick up cheap rural agricultural land. They sit on it for a little while, and then they're trying to sell the water.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Mohave County Commissioner Travis Lingenfelter says a number of large east coast investment firms are trying to get in on the action. His is one of three Arizona counties that sued the federal government to block the Cibola water transfer.


LINGENFELTER: If they're coming after a portion of our only water supply on the river for many of our communities, we have to fight it.

ANDY MUELLER, GENERAL MANAGER, COLORADO RIVER DISTRICT: They're drought profiteers. They're trying to suck the very lifeblood out of these communities for their own financial benefit.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Andy Mueller is tasked with helping to protect Colorado's share of the river and says the full scale of the land purchases is difficult to track because investment firms use different names to disguise ownership.

MUELLER: It's a very unpopular move to come from New York and invest in real estate, in irrigated agriculture with the intent to dry it up and watch it blow away. It's all about making money.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Under a pilot program, the federal government has dedicated $125 million in drought relief funds to pay Colorado River farmers and ranchers to conserve water by not growing crops on their land.

Something Former State Senator Kerry Donovan worries investment firms will take advantage of.

KERRY DONOVAN, COPPER BAR RANCH, RANCHER: That's where I think we start to see this investment speculation. These outside landholders get big dollars to grow nothing, and that's when we start to see farm and ranchers go away.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Her efforts to strengthen the state's anti- speculation laws failed, leaving her and other ranchers worried about how Wall Street will influence their future.

DONOVAN: It's not their land. It's not their legacy. It's their bottom line. And their -- by law, they're responsible to make money for their clients. My family's brand is on the barn behind me. This is my family's land. It's our legacy. We work to keep it this way. That's a totally different mentality than a New York investment firm.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Western Colorado.

NOBILO: Thank you for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next.