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CNN International: EU Leaders Reach Deal On Ukraine Aid Package; Farmers Throw Eggs, Block Traffic At EU Parliament Building; UK Media Reports: Hamilton Linked With Ferrari Move. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 08:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, HOST, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London, in for Max. Just ahead, a sigh of relief from Ukraine after the European Union agrees to an additional support package worth more than $50 billion. We're live in Kyiv. Outside the European Parliament in Brussels, there is a huge farmers' protest. Their grievances are brought on by the cost of living and they want to be heard. And sparks fly on Capitol Hill as U.S. lawmakers grill tech CEOs over online safety for kids.

We have a deal. That's the word from European Commission President, Charles Michel, after a summit on Ukraine aid. All 27 EU leaders agreed on the nearly $54 billion aid package to support Ukraine's war against Russia. Michel posted online that the "EU is taking leadership & responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake." The biggest hurdle the EU leaders had to overcome was opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Back in December, he blocked the funding.

Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Kyiv with the details. Fred, what has the response been from the Ukrainian government, and is this enough?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think first and foremost, there is a lot of relief, but then also, of course, a lot of happiness, if you will, on the part of Ukrainian officials. I think we saw Dmytro Kuleba, who said, look, the notion of there being fatigue as far as aid for Ukraine is concerned was certainly dispelled by the European Union today when that aid package was put through.

And I think for the Ukrainians, Bianca, this is really important on various levels. On the one hand, they need a lot of military aid right now. We've been speaking a lot to frontline troops on visits that we've had, too many of them, and all of them talk about ammo shortages, shortages especially of artillery ammunition. This is something where they hope that there can be some pretty quick relief.

Of course, the Europeans had said that they wanted to deliver to Ukraine a million artillery shells, like by March of this year. They already said they're going to not make that target by about half. But, nevertheless, now the Ukrainians know that additional aid is coming. Then the Ukrainians also know that in the long run, for the next couple of years, they are going to be receiving aid before their defense against Russia's assault that they're facing on multiple fronts here in this country. So, that for them means that as far as the longer term planning is concerned, they do have a bit of security there.

And then, of course, there is also the political realm, which is something that we've been talking about a lot. You have those issues right now within U.S. Congress for additional military aid, very unclear if there is going to be any additional aid from the United States come in before the election in the U.S. And so, now the Ukrainians have a win on that front, at least, where at least the European Union has now come together and shown that they are going to continue to support Ukraine.

I think that is certainly a big victory in the political sphere for the Ukrainians. You've seen some of that from the foreign minister of this country, from the President, from Volodymyr Zelenskyy as well, thanking the European Union. So, I think right now, for Ukrainian politicians, for Ukrainian society, they would say this has been a pretty good day, Bianca.

NOBILO: Fred Pleitgen, always good to see you in Kyiv. Thank you.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the country's army chief is reportedly out of the job. Two sources tell CNN that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will make the announcement soon. The sources say that Army Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi was called to Mr. Zelenskyy's office on Monday and told of his dismissal. This would be the biggest military shake-up by Zelenskyy since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. A reported rift emerge between the two men after the failure of Ukraine's counteroffensive last year.

And some unruly scenes outside the European Parliament today. Farmers from across Europe have been throwing eggs and stones at the Parliament building. Their tractors, at least 1,000 of them, are choking traffic in Brussels as well. The farmers say they're not paid well enough, and they are held back by unfair taxes and environmental regulations.


Police have been using water cannons to move the farmers back and put out the fires that they've started.

So, let's go right to CNN's Melissa Bell with more on these protests. Melissa, these protests have spread throughout Europe. How uniform are their grievances? And do you think that the protests we're seeing today in Brussels, when all the politicians are meeting, is likely to have any tangible impact?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, already, Bianca, we know that as a result of that anger that has deepened and spread really over the last couple of weeks and across Europe, specifically gaining momentum these last few days, they've already managed to force the issue on to a summit that was not designed to speak about stall initially. The aim was to gather on Ukraine. Now, leaders are also going to be discussing possible changes they might make to be able to relieve some of that anger that we've seen so loudly spilling out the streets.

And to your question on uniformity, I think what's been interesting about them is how each country has its specific demands. For instance, farmers in Eastern Europe have been protesting partly the influx of cheap Ukrainian grain and agricultural products they've been having to compete against. This as a result of all the quotas and levies being lifted since the war began. Farmers more to the west have been -- seen amongst their principal grievances issues to do with environmental changes and hikes on fuel tax, for instance.

So, there is that difference geographically. But then, what unites them on this is anger, as you mentioned, Bianca, against the European Union, and what they say is both the EU's tendency to constrain them in terms of what they can and can't produce, how they can and can't produce things through environmental regulations, red tape, bureaucracy, norms, and even as it fails, they say to protect them from the unfair competition that comes not just from places like Ukraine, but Latin America as well.

So, a great deal of common felt -- commonly felt anger across the European Union. And of course, no surprise, it is now in Brussels, that it has converged all eyes very much on what European leaders might announce in the short term to help their farmers. Bianca.

NOBILO: Melissa Bell, thank you very much.

Some big news from the world of sports just in to CNN, speculation growing over the future of Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton. UK media reporting that he appears set to join Ferrari for the 2025 season. The 39-year-old British driver is currently with Mercedes. Hamilton is a seven-time world champion.

And CNN's World Sport's Amanda Davies joins me now live with more. Amanda, what's your reaction to all this? Is this coming as a huge surprise?

AMANDA DAVIES, ANCHOR, "CNN WORLD SPORT": Yeah, so much for a quiet Formula 1 off-season, Bianca, Lewis Hamilton, the most successful driver on the Formula One grid, as things stand with those seven world titles, as you rightly mentioned. He has been with Mercedes since 2013. But, over the years, there has been this on and off speculation that he may be linked, may join Ferrari, one of the most storied historic teams on the grid. He has always talked about his appreciation and admiration of what they've achieved over the years. He appeared in a documentary just at the back end of last year, paying tribute to the great Michael Schumacher, the driver who won five of his seven world titles with Ferrari.

And the romantics within the sport and beyond have often talked about how fantastic it would be if Lewis Hamilton was to move to the Scuderia Ferrari to then take on that mantle from Schumacher and claim that what would be record-breaking eighth title. He signed, though, a new two-year deal with Mercedes last summer, which people expected him to see him through till 2025. But now, we have this growing speculation that this move could be on the cards for 2025. As things stand, neither Ferrari nor Mercedes have said anything concrete. But, we've got plenty more coming your way in World Sport at the bottom of the half hour.

NOBILO: Amanda Davies, thank you so much. And as Amanda says, do stay tuned for World Sport, which is coming up in about 20 minutes' time.

To the Middle East now where the U.S. is stepping up attacks on Iranian-backed militants. The U.S. carried out airstrikes against a drone launch site inside Yemen on Thursday, coming just days after a Houthi missile came within a mile of a U.S. warship patrolling the Red Sea. U.S. intelligence officials believe Iran is becoming concerned about the heightened tensions across the region. Iranian leaders are said to be worried that the militias that they back could drag Tehran into a direct conflict with the United States.


Our Natasha Bertrand is all over this at the Pentagon with the latest for us. Natasha, obviously, the more that attacks increase between Iranian proxies and U.S. in retaliation and to deterring response, the greater the likelihood of more fatalities and an escalation. Is there anxiety within the Pentagon about that, as well as we're hearing murmurs from inside the Iranian camp?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Absolutely. And I think this is exactly why you've heard so many senior U.S. officials as well as the President himself emphasize that the U.S. does not want to get into a direct conflict with the Iranians. They're trying to de- escalate tensions in the Middle East and not escalate them. But still, they have to respond, of course, to this attack that was carried out by these Iran-backed militant groups against this outpost in Jordan that killed three American servicemembers on Sunday.

And so, what we're learning is that the Iranian leadership was actually surprised that that drone attack managed to kill Americans, and they were not necessarily pleased by it. Yes, Iran supports, trains, funds, provides equipment to its proxy groups all over the region, but it doesn't have perfect command and control over them. And we're told that the goal of their operations and their support of these proxy militias is mainly just to harass U.S. and coalition and Western forces in the Middle East with the hopes of driving the U.S. presence out of the region, but killing American servicemembers, that is clearly a very significant escalation, and it backs the U.S. into a corner in a way that the Iranians didn't necessarily want to see, because it forces them, the U.S., to try to come up with a response that is very, very significant.

Now, at this point, we don't know just how the U.S. is going to respond. One response is expected in the coming days at the soonest, but it is going to be multi-level. It's going to be potentially sustained over time, and it's likely not going to be contained to a single country event. And so, the response here is going to be significant, but it's going to be contained enough, according to officials, where the U.S. doesn't get embroiled in a hot war with the Iranians.

NOBILO: U.S. National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much. Israeli forces have left the grounds of a hospital in Khan Younis

after entering the complex Tuesday. That is according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. The aid group says IDF troops entered its nearby PRCS headquarters for a third time, but have since left. And Israeli tanks are now stationed on the street outside. The IDF confirmed its operations continue in the embattled city in southern Gaza, and said it struck a long-range missile launcher.

Jeremy Diamond is live in Tel Aviv. Jeremy, do we have a good understanding of what the IDF was trying to achieve in the hospital in Khan Younis, and also at the headquarters of the Palestine Red Crescent?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, this all comes in the context of this kind of major offensive that has been underway in the western part of Khan Younis for a little over a week now. We have seen as the Israeli military has claimed success in "dismantling" Hamas' command and control infrastructure in northern and central Gaza, and they are very much trying to accomplish the same thing in southern Gaza as well.

But, it's important to note, of course, that this offensive is coming to an area where there are thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been sheltering in the vicinity of these two hospitals as well as the Palestine Red Crescent Society headquarters, which are all kind of located in that same area of western Khan Younis. The Palestine Red Crescent Society says that Israeli tanks have now left to the compound of Al Amal Hospital in Khan Younis. But, they did say that the Israeli forces once again entered the PRCS headquarters today.

The Israeli military, for its part, says that it has been engaged in heavy intense fighting with Palestinian militants in Khan Younis. They describe it as close-quarter combat in which they say they killed several Palestinian militants. There are also ongoing operations, they say, in central and northern Gaza as well. But, of course, this is all quite a precarious situation, and it's unclear exactly how much longer this Israeli military offensive is going to last or exactly what their targets are, as they have been raiding these various facilities. But, it does certainly seem to be a moving target and something that is very much still ongoing. Bianca.

NOBILO: Jeremy Diamond, good to speak to you live in Tel Aviv.

Still to come, a dramatic apology, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg says sorry during a fiery hearing on Capitol Hill. All the details are coming up.




NOBILO: Top social media executives endured searing criticism on Capitol Hill on Wednesday over concerns for online safety for children. The heads of X, TikTok, Snap, Meta, and Discord, testified about efforts to block material that damages young people's mental health or exposes them to sexual exploitation. It was clear there was an urgency from lawmakers to address this issue.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Online child sexual exploitation is a crisis in America.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Every parent I know and I think every parent in America is terrified about the garbage that is directed at our kids.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): To some extent, your platform has become a killing field for the truth. Hasn't it?


NOBILO: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed back against some of the criticism from lawmakers. But, in a dramatic moment, he stood up and personally apologized to families of people harmed by social media.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You're on national television. Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your product? Show him the pictures. Would you like to apologize for what you've done to these good people?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, META: I'm sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things that your families have suffered.


NOBILO: Let's take a closer look now. CNN's Tom Foreman joins us live from Washington. Tom, you've been following this. Are we witnessing something meaningful here, or is it that the tech CEOs are playing their role of seeming cowed and apologetic but also defensive, and then lawmakers trying to be bold and show that they know their stuff and -- horrified by social media but nothing will actually change? Are they doing a dance, or is this actually going to change something?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's always a risk in Washington, of course, that it is just a dance. But, we've had a lot of these hearings before that it fit more the mold you laid out there of the lawmakers posing sort of tough questions. And the tech giants saying, oh, pish posh. Take it easy. We'll have it under control.

Yesterday, really felt different. First of all, you had Democrats and Republicans who can barely speak to each other, who were absolutely in lockstep in going after these tech giants. And the tech giants, as much as they wanted to offer defenses, they really didn't get much said. That seemed like much of a defense because so much of what they were trying to defend seemed indefensible.

In fact, Zuckerberg, at one point, said -- he said, it's my understanding that we don't allow explicit content on our platforms. And the room actually laughed at him, because anybody in the room could have picked up their phone and said, give me two minutes and I will go to your platform and I will find some kind of explicit content, explicitly violent, explicitly suicidal, explicitly sexual. Everyone knew that that was complete nonsense.

So, in this sense, the momentum was so apparent yesterday, and you could see a lot of these lawmakers saying, yeah, we think maybe we actually can do something here, again, some of the biggest, wealthiest, most powerful companies in the world.


NOBILO: Tom, Zuckerberg said that there wasn't data that could demonstrate the causal link between social media platforms, like his own, and the detrimental impact on children. We know the reasons why, because it's very difficult to test that and have controls, etc. Do you think people like Mark Zuckerberg and these other CEOs, are they truly evangelists for this, and they actually don't see the pernicious impact it's having and really believe it's more positive than negative, or is there something more cynical going on?

FOREMAN: I think it's really easy for anybody in any field to like the information that supports their position. Yes. You are absolutely right, Bianca. You can find studies that say this is definitely a significant cause of problems. Others can say, well, not so much. But, the problem is, when you're sitting there in front of a bunch of families who really have very compelling cases, to say, my child was bullied through social media and driven to suicide, my child was depressed and became more depressed because of what happened on social media, my child was interested in suicidal thoughts or body image issues, and social media algorithms fed the more and more and more information until it led to disaster. Those cases seemed pretty well established.

And even some of the lawmakers said, look, we're not saying social media is all bad. But, you have been promising for years to bring this under control. And as an industry, you have failed, and there should be some accountability. And it's all -- it all goes back to the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in 1996 here which basically said these companies cannot be sued over content that's generated by users and put on their platform. And these lawmakers are saying that is just too much of a blanket protection that allows the companies to say, well, it's not our fault. It's not our fault.

In effect, imagine if the auto industry were that there are no speed limits. There are no safety measures, or no airbags, no seatbelts, no turn signals, nothing, unless you want to add them. And the auto industry said, yeah, we'll add what we think we need. The lawmakers are saying clearly that's not enough. There has to be something more.

NOBILO: Yeah. That's a really valuable thought experiment, I think, because logically, there is no reason why they shouldn't have responsibility. I think before it was just a practical and feasibility issue that they felt that they couldn't actually respond or have that responsibility in practice. But, Tom Foreman, I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for joining us. FOREMAN: Good to see you, Bianca.

NOBILO: And still to come, a ship carrying millions of dollars' worth of livestock is anchored off the coast of Australia. Why the vessel had to divert its path through the Red Sea?


NOBILO: The Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which we mentioned earlier in the show, have had an unexpected consequence for a ship full of livestock.


Right now, more than 14,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle are stranded in a ship off the coast of Western Australia in the middle of a heatwave. 15 days into its trip to the Middle East, the ship had to divert from the Red Sea because of security concerns. It had to go right back to where it started, Australia. A veterinarian and cattle expert are on board the ship to make sure that the animals are healthy and safe. And Australian authorities are organizing a quarantine for the animals if they return to shore.

A new poll shows Joe Biden pulling ahead of Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup, driven in large measure by a growing gender gap. The new survey by Quinnipiac University shows President Biden with a six-point lead over former President Trump. That lead is boosted predominantly by female voters which led some conspiracy theorists to mention the, you guessed it, Taylor Swift effect. Late Night comedians were quick to poke fun, with Seth Meyers mocking some conservative hosts who have gone after Swift who was dating professional football player Travis Kelce.


SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": You crack the case. America has never seen a popular musician go on tour. So, lots of records and (inaudible). The signs are all there. Let me get on my wiper. Joe Biden is the 46th President. He is running for his second term. 46 times two is 92. Travis Kelce's number is 87. 92 minus 87 is five. What has five sides? The Pentagon.


NOBILO: Absolutely brilliant. I love satire. He makes such valid political points.

Well, thank you for joining me here on CNN. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next, and I shall see you tomorrow.