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Russia: At Least 133 Dead, "Death Toll Will Rise Further"; Protesters Demand Release Of Hostages; Princess Of Wales "Touched" By Response; Biden Signs Spending Bill, Partial Government Shutdown Avoided. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 24, 2024 - 02:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to all our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Anna Coren, live from Hong Kong.

Well, Russia mourns the worst terror attack on its nation in decades. ISIS is claiming responsibility, but Putin blames Ukraine without evidence.

Israelis protest in Tel Aviv, increasingly impatient for the remaining hostages in Gaza to be freed. As negotiators work to secure a deal for their release.

And the Princess of Wales says she's touched by the outpouring support she's received following the announcement of her cancer diagnosis.


COREN: The death toll from the terror attack at a concert hall near Moscow is now 133. And officials say they expect it to go even higher Russia has declared Sunday a national day of mourning. People have been placing flowers and stuffed toy animals outside the hall to remember the victims.

Investigators say they've arrested the four alleged gunmen and seven other people. Russian state media says the suspects face life in prison if convicted.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting without evidence that Ukraine was involved in the attack. Ukraine strongly denies any such thing. The U.S. which warned of a terror attack in Russia weeks ago says there is no evidence whatsoever that Ukraine played a role. In fact, Vice President Kamala Harris says the U.S. knows that ISIS-K based in Afghanistan is responsible. And ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more on the attacks and the aftermath.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The burnt-out shell of the Crocus City Hall just outside Moscow, even half a day after the attacks, parts of the rubble still smoldering. The local governor surveying the places where gunman killed so many.

Two here and three there, Governor Andre Vorobyov asks. Three here, they say.

Hundreds of firefighters still on the scene of what Russian President Vladimir Putin called, quote, a bloody and barbaric. His security services on high alert.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In all regions of the country, additional anti-terrorists and anti-sabotage measures have been introduced. The main thing now is to prevent those who are behind this bloodbath from committing a new crime.

PLEITGEN: It was Friday evening when the attackers went on their rampage, firing at people, point blank, eyewitnesses say, killing men, women, and children, then setting the concert hall ablaze. Friends and family standing by hoping for news of their loved ones authorities searching for the many still missing.

I don't know what to do, this man says. Desperate for news of his wife. I feel completely hopeless.

Moscow's hospitals flooded with dozens of injured. Russian authorities say that death toll well likely continue to rise.

JOHN KIRBY, NSC SPOKESMAN: Thank you in advance for your patience.

PLETIGEN: The U.S. said it had warned Moscow about the threat of a terror attack and ISIS has claimed responsibility. But Russian authorities seem intent on blaming someone else. After several arrests overnight, the Kremlin pointing the finger at Kyiv.

PUTIN: All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those shot and killed people were found and detained, they tried to hide and move towards Ukraine, where according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.

PLEITGEN: Ukraine denies the allegations, Kyiv saying they had nothing to do with the attack.

Near the scene of the attack, many are laying flowers in memory of the victims. Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday a day of mourning promising a Russia united in grief and retribution and oblivion for those behind the attack.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.



COREN: Well, CNN's Clare Sebastian has reported extensively from Russia and joins us now from London. Clare, as we just heard, Ukraine has vehemently denied any involvement in this attack. And President Zelenskyy pointed the blame squarely at the Russian president for taking his eye off the ball.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. And a pretty strong winds from visited Zelenskyy. He called Putin miserable. He said that he's always looking for someone to blame. And crucially, he seemed to hint that in doing so, Putin had essentially forsaken his own people.

Take it listen to what he said.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They have brought hundreds of thousands of their own terrorists here on Ukrainian land to fight against us, and they don't care about what is happening inside their own country. Yesterday, as all this happens, instead of dealing with his fellow Russian citizens, addressing them the wimp Putin was silent for 24 hours, thinking about how to tie this to Ukraine. It's all absolutely predictable.


SEBASTIAN: They don't care what is happening in their own country. I think Zelenskyy is trying to get to the heart here of what is essentially an unspoken compact within Russia that Putin provides stability for his people in return, of course, for them accepting ever greater levels of state control, which, you know, I think will raise questions following this massive tariffs or attack the biggest in Russia in two decades. Obviously, the U.S. has been extremely clear that intelligence had emerged before their sources, telling CNN that a steady stream of intelligence suggesting that ISIS-K was determined to attack Russia had emerged since November.

And overnight, the White House National Security Council spokesperson as you noted, saying that there is no evidence that if Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.

COREN: Clare, some analysts are saying that this attack shatters Putin's promise of security to his people. What has been the response inside Russia? And will this hurt Vladimir Putin domestically?

SEBASTIAN: You know, I think there is a risk here. Obviously, Russia is not any promising security via obviously Putin, who's just been reelected for a fifth term, but spending more money not only, of course, on defense because of the war in Ukraine, but on internal security and law enforcement and I think there will be questions raised about why this was missed and why he publicly, President Putin publicly dismissed warnings that had come in advance of this from the U.S.

There is clearly an effort underway to prevent the blame being laid on Putin specifically through the propaganda machine. We're seeing Putin's chief propagandists pick up that suggested connection that he made in his address to the Russian people, to Ukraine and run with it. I want to read you one quote from one of Putin's chief propagandists,

the editor in chief of the RT network, Margarita Simonyan, who posted on Telegram. She said: Western special services already knew yesterday that the perpetrators resembled ISIS. That's why they decided to feed this version.

Again, she says they knew who the perpetrators were before their arrest. This is direct participation.

So very similar to what we see with the war in Ukraine, accusing the West of waging this war through the sort of Ukrainian proxy. A similar trope is being employed here. The propaganda machine suggesting that the West was somehow doing this via Ukraine. Obviously, no evidence of that whatsoever, but this is a critical tool that is used by the propaganda to provide this common enemy and to prevent the public ever blaming putin for any misfortune that might befall them, Anna.

COREN: Clare Sebastian in London, many thanks.

I'm now joined by Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center.

Michael, great to have you with us.

Why would Islamic State Khorasan want to target Russia?

MICHAEL KUGELMAN, DIRECTOR, SOUTH ASIA INSTITUTE: Actually, quite a few reasons. If you look back at speeches and pronouncements in statements from Islamic State leaders over the years that Russia is frequently singled out, there's many things that Russia has done over the years that have not gone down well with Islamic State. And indeed, Islamic State Khorasan, the affiliate base in Afghanistan.

And that ranges from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to its actions in Chechnya, to more recently, Russia's military operations against Islamic State fighters in Syria. So -- and more recently, I should say the Taliban in Afghanistan is a major rival of ISIS-K, Islamic State Khorasan. And the view of Islamic State is that Russia is friendly with the Taliban and in fact, back in 2022, Islamic State Khorasan stage and attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul.

So there's all kinds of reasons why this group would want to target Russia but its interesting, and we tend to think that it's the U.S. and its allies and partners that Islamic State wants to go after.


But it really has a lot of reasons to go after Russia as well.

COREN: So there is no doubt in your mind whatsoever that this was the work of ISIS-K?

KUGELMAN: Well, I mean, there's no such thing as 100 percent certainty in these cases. I should say that ISIS-K has not actually formally claim the attack. It was the parent Islamic State that took credit for the attack through its official channels, though I really would not be surprised if Islamic State Khorasan was involved with this. Just because for one thing, it is, I would say the most active potent affiliate of Islamic State today.

And it's been able to build itself up in Afghanistan, or it's been able to benefit from a lot of things. And that includes being in a situation where it's no longer being targeted by airstrikes, by NATO, which of course left the country many years ago. And it's really been able to build itself up and become quite active and potent.

COREN: Yeah. Michael, it was a number of U.S. officials that have said that it was specifically ISIS-K. This branch, as you say, based in Afghanistan at formed in, in 2015, as a result of the disaffected Pakistani Taliban and as you mentioned, it has been fighting vigorously against the Afghan Taliban. They haven't been able to seize any territory, you know, a foothold if you like. I mean, what is its modus operandi?

KUGELMAN: You know, it was really quite remarkable that if you look at ISIS-K, which indeed has been around for almost a decade, its been hit hard at all times by many different groups, whether you're talking about NATO forces that use airstrikes against it or the free Taliban Afghan military and, of course, now, the Taliban itself is going after ISIS-K hard, its a bitter rival of ISIS-K.

But its a group that continues to remain resilient. And I think that's another reason why we should be so concerned about it. And for until relatively recently, most of its attacks were taking place in Afghanistan, and in the region, Pakistan and it also carried out a few attacks in Central Asia. But now were seeing this capacity to project power and project threats well beyond Afghanistan.

So it's that -- it's that resilience that really stands out and makes it so dangerous in my view.

COREN: Michael, a short time ago, the ISIS-affiliated news group AMAQ released a very graphic video of the attack. It's about 90 seconds long.

I mean, this is -- this is incredibly high profile for this group, for this specific branch. I mean, what will this mean, you know, for moving forward?

KUGELMAN: Well, I think go I hope that this will be a wake-up call to those that think that its time to move away from focusing on Islamic state. I think that there's tends to be this pattern of prematurely assuming that a particular terrorist group is dead and not a threatening more, this happened with al-Qaeda some years ago when number of policymakers were saying that the threat wasn't there.

And now, you know, there's been this tendency I think to assume that Islamic State is not really much of a threat anymore in that indeed the parent Islamic State lost its territory and the Middle East that it had for many years. And we haven't heard as much from the group as we used to, but there is this pattern of large global terrorist organizations may be struggling, but they have affiliates, they have regional affiliates that managed to remain strong. And I do fear that this attack from IS -- from Islamic State's

perspective was extremely successful and that it was a mass casualty attack. The Russians were not able to stop it. That could embolden the group. Both the parent Islamic state, as well as IS-K and it could prompt additional attacks, whether in Russia or elsewhere.

Again, IS-K has been linked to attacks, both successful and foiled in Europe and the Middle East in recent months. So, I think that its very important that we not be complacent about the threat posed by this group.

COREN: Yeah. A really important point. Michael Kugelman, great to speak to you. Thank you for your perspective

KUGELMAN: Thank you.

COREN: The prospect of a partial government shutdown is no longer looming over some U.S. federal agencies. Well, that's after the Senate passed a major funding bill in the wee hours Saturday morning president Joe Biden, later signed it into law, removing the possibility of some key government programs running out of money. Among other things, the bill provides funding for more border patrol agents at detention beds for migrants.


It also sets aside money for childcare, education, and cancer research, and it cuts aid to the U.N. agency providing aid to Palestinians. After allegations, some of its staff took part in the Hamas attack on Israel.

But another major funding battle could be coming down the pike. House Republicans are holding up the next round of military aid for Ukraine. Mr. Biden wants them to approve it.

The clock is ticking on a huge deadline for Donald Trump. The former president is now only one de, away from having to post nearly half billion bond in his New York civil fraud case. This week, Trump claimed he has the cash to cover the sum but his lawyer later clarified that he doesn't actually have that much cash on hand.

Investors did approve a deal on Friday that made his struggling social media platform Truth Social a public company, which could make him billions. But that is just the first of many steps before Trump could actually get his hands on any cash from such a deal.

Meanwhile, New York's attorney general is now taking steps to possibly seize Trump assets and properties if he can't pay up.

Ron Brownstein is CNN's senior political analyst and the senior editor for "The Atlantic". He joins me now from Los Angeles to discuss this and much more.

Ron, what will happen if Donald Trump can't or refuses to pay the bond? RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we have

seen from the New York attorney general that she is going to be very aggressive about using all the legal options that are open to her and I would expect her to begin the process of seizing assets if he simply is unable or unwilling to post the bond, there's no indication she is going okay do anything to try to let him off the hook and well see how far the courts let her go in that direction if it comes to that.

COREN: Turning to Congress, bipartisan efforts insured a government shutdown was averted. I mean, it's absurd to think that the U.S. government, Congress can even get to this point.


COREN: President Biden, he said that the agreement was, quote, a compromise and that neither side got everything at wanted. So I guess who are the winners in this $1.2 trillion spending package?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, the winners is kind of the governing -- the governing side of both parties. When you have divided government like this as Biden said, and as you suggested in the intro here, neither side is really going to win. The win is not closing down government.

What's striking about this is that House Republicans welcome for decades have been operating under what they have turned the Hastert rule, named after a former speaker in which they would only bring bill to the floor if it had support from not only a majority of the house, but a majority of their own members. They had abandoned, they had to abandon that again to pass this as they have really on every major kind of housekeeping bill they have past to kind of keep the lights on to avoid debt defaults and so forth.

A majority of Republicans voted against this. They needed Democrats to pass it, and it is just a measure of the chaos that has engulfed this very small house majority house Republican majority party as its majority continues to dwindle with another Republican, a young talented committee chair indicated that he is walking away within weeks, pushing up his retirement. So it really has just been chaos since day one. And it's not abating in any kind of meaningful way.

COREN: Well, I guess the far right lost badly and we heard from Marjorie Greene Taylor calling the deal atrocious and a betrayal. It would appear that the far right around for revenge and is Mike Johnson, I should say, is he in the firing line?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, I -- you know, it'd be interesting to see. I mean, they are down to a two. Once Gallagher leaves, I mean, two member -- two Republicans voting with all the Democrats could depose the speaker but this is a -- this is the furthest right speaker out of each iteration keeps moving further in that, in direction. And I think mike Johnson has the support of Trump.

So I suspect that Republicans in the end although who can really say a logically, you would think they would keep him there you know, its interesting that Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks this was a defeat and obviously it was in the since that the far-right militant edge of the caucus did not get what its once, but what Republicans have learned really well with 30 years of experience going back to Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, is that shutting down the government simply is not a tool that can allow you to get what you want.


All it really is like kind of holding a grenade while it goes off in your hands, and Republicans have kind of learned that there is no point in kind of going down that road at least enough of them to join with the Democrats they keep the government open. Greene is frustrated, but what she's really frustrated about is that they can't get what they want without unified control.

COREN: Ron, I guess there's two pieces of legislation that's still pending. The agreements on border security and then that vital aid package predominantly for Ukraine. When will that next be addressed? And has there been any change in sentiment on Capitol Hill?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, both of those bills tell you the same thing. This is a Republican Party that is now under Donald Trump's thumb. The border bill that was negotiated by one of the most conservative members in the Senate really had no concessions to Democrats. It was -- it was a security -- it was overwhelmingly a security bill.

I mean, in previous immigration negotiations in 2013, in 2006, tougher security was balanced against a pathway toward legalization for some portion of the undocumented community. This was only enforcement and yet with Trumps opposition, it died in the Senate because House Republicans said they would not take it up.

The Ukraine issue is, is the same thing. There's clearly a majority in the house to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel as the Senate did on a bipartisan basis. But in this case, Mike Johnson has been holding to the Hastert Rule of not bringing it up when a majority of Republicans would vote no.

In the end, he has signaled that he had some point is willing to bite the bullet and do so, but it will again require him to pass a bill that in all likelihood of House Republicans vote against last September, a majority of House Republicans are already voted against Ukraine aid. A majority of Senate Republicans have voted against Ukraine aid.

I mean, this is an emphatic closing of the door. I think on what has been an international is consensus in the Republican Party dating back to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, that the U.S. must be the leader of the free world. Certainly that was the view of Nixon and Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.

You now see that as a casualty, another policy casualty of Trump's ascendance in the party.

COREN: Yeah, that's frightening. Ron Brownstein always great to get your analysis. Thanks for staying up to speak to us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me. COREN: We're learning more about high-level talks to free hostages held by Hamas. What issues are still holding up the deal? That's ahead.



COREN: U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. He spoke during a visit to the Rafah border crossing on Saturday and called the long lines of blocked aid trucks a moral outrage.

He says, the U.N. will continue to work with Egypt to streamline the flow of aid into Gaza. Meanwhile, hundreds of people rallied in Tel- Aviv on Saturday, calling for the release of hostages still held in Gaza, including Adina Moshe, a survivor of Hamas captivity, who slammed Benjamin Netanyahu for abandoning the hostages.

Some protesters listening to her speech also criticized the prime minister.


YOSSI SHAPIRO, PROTESTER: Corrupt government is declining to bring the sides to negotiating table, and close a deal to return the hostages. And we believe that the government has to go because this is the government that led us in the war, that led us to a point of complacency, and will not be able to take us to a place of progress.


COREN: Well, top officials from the U.S. and Israel have been in Doha trying to work out a hostage deal with Hamas through mediators.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has the latest on the negotiations.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're being told that steady progress was made. But there are still differences to be worked out. This coming from a source briefed on the matter saying that the CIA Director Bill Burns leaving Doha on Saturday night.

Now we also understand from a diplomat whose close to these talks that the Israeli security chiefs also leaving on Saturday night, but they've left technical teams in place.

Now the past when technical teams have taken over, it's either to hammer out the details or its time to wait for some kind of response from Hamas. We don't know which is the case on this particular occasion.

Then what we did here from this diplomat was that there were some areas where there is still a difference of opinion, specifically on the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and also on Israeli military repositioning in Gaza. Now, we do know that Hamas has said previous mislead during these negotiations that they want all of the Israeli military to leave the Gaza strip when there is a temporary ceasefire in place, something which the Israeli government and military he has said is simply not possible for them to do.

So what we are hearing is steady progress, but there is a fact that still needs to be worked out. Now, we also know on Sunday that the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will be heading to the United States on the invitation of the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

He'll also be meeting we understand what the U.S. secretary of state, and also with the national security advisor, Jake Sullivan. The topic we're being told is the hostages in Gaza, how to get those hostages out and also how to make sure more humanitarian aid can get into Gaza, given the fact that the U.N. is still warning of an imminent famine in parts of the Gaza Strip.


There will be a separate Israeli delegation that will go and the Biden administration will try and convince them that there are alternatives this to this major ground offensive in Rafah that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they will be carrying out shortly.

Now, also, there was so another tragedy in Gaza City at the Kuwait roundabout. This is an area where we know many desperate people are waiting for food. It's an area where some of the aid convoys come through, which is why people are congregating. They're hoping to be able to get some food or water.

Now we hear from officials in Gaza that 19 people were killed and more than 20 injured. They say that if the Israeli military opened fire on those people that were waiting for the aid convoys to come through. Now, as we often have in these cases, we have a very different narrative from the Israeli side, the military saying they are reviewing the incident, but they say that they were helping this convoy and the convoy was attacked and looted and they did not open fire.

So as we often see, two very different narratives to what happened. But at the end of it all, there were many deaths and many desperate people still waiting for food and water

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Doha, Qatar.


COREN: Worldwide support pours in for Princess Kate after her heartbreaking cancer diagnosis. We'll hear from some of the well- wishes just ahead.


COREN: Welcome back.

Well, Russia says it's arrested of the four gunmen who carried out a terror attack on a concert hall on Friday night.


One hundred thirty-three people were killed and the say the death toll will rise. This is what the venue looks like now, after the shootings and a massive fire. Crews are searching the debris for the bodies of more victims.

One survivor says the attackers did not say anything as they gunned people down.


ANASTASIA RODIONOVA, TERROR ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): They were just walking and shooting as they went along. There were five or six of them. They were just walking and shooting.

They did not shoot upwards. They did not scream. They did not say everyone lay down. We will kill you they were just walking and gunning down everyone methodically in silence.

Sound was echoing and we could not understand what was where.

It is unbelievable. You understand only now that you are lucky, really lucky. I came home. My coat was just covered in blood. Apparently, someone shielded me with his body.


COREN: Russia has declared Sunday a day of mourning. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The prince and princess of Wales, quote, enormously touched by the public support she has received after revealing she's been diagnosed with cancer and is in the early stages of treatment.

Well, that's according to a statement from Kensington Palace. It says the couple is extremely moved by the peoples warmth and support. The statement comes as good wishes and sympathies have been pouring in from around the world.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a fellow mom, I think everyone should just give her a little space. Obviously, the kids are going to have a really tough time with this, and any child would.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's been a surprise. I think there's a lot of conspiracies and rumors and whatnot, which is horrible. I think now it's come out, so they'll be forced to say it, was maybe she shouldn't have had to be, but yeah, it really is sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had this experience with my own father. So I know how it feels. I wish her best of luck and hope she recovers very soon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really brings that she's felt to be able to share that, and to give other people hope that are going through the same journey as her.


COREN: Well, joining me now is CNN royal historian Kate Williams, live from London.

Kate, great to have you with us.

This two-minute video message issued by the princess, it certainly puts an end to weeks of rumor and speculation about Kate's whereabouts and health. I mean, do you expect this outpouring of support to continue for the rumor mill to stand up again.

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: Yeah, I was just saying there's been this huge outpouring of support. Kate said how touch she's been by all these messages and all over the world. If celebrities, politicians. I mean, it really has been an incredible outpouring of support and Kate's announcement on Friday, I don't think anyone it could have expected it.

I think people there were all these conspiracy theories. You say it was very distressing. Many of them, very cool. What we've already seen, some people who've been involved in them on social media apologizing. I do think that we are going to have a stop to these conspiracy theories for the moment. I think that's certainly perhaps within a month or so. Kate may have to do another update saying, I'm still feeling better and perhaps I back to work at this point because we haven't got a timeline as to when she say she will be doing events.

She said as soon as possible, but we don't know exactly. We were told in January it would be after Easter, but that's before they knew they had can -- that she had cancer. I think that we are we will have to more updates, but I'm hoping that now she's given this announcement, she will be left alone to recover to be with her family for at least a month because what she's going through is really tough.

COREN: You'd have to say that obviously, Kate, and, you know, she's advised and you presume she has a pr team. They handled the announcement incredibly well by informing the public. But the lead up must admit was pretty shaky with that edited photo on Mother's Day. I mean, surely a hold responsibility for this information vacuum that was created.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that's exactly right. I think it was bungled. I think that Kate had gone through a lot with that operation and then the cancer diagnosis, which we understand came about a month after her operation late February and what she needed was to be protected. And instead, we have this strategy, the radio silence, William disappearing from engagements and into that vacuum. All these conspiracy theories rush.

Now, of course, there's no justification necessarily for the speculation, but still at the same time, I think a few updates from Kensington Palace, perhaps a little thank you for the cards and messages would have stymied it and William I think, should have kept going to his engagements. And it's difficult, but the really was going wild and I think there really was no choice but for Kate to come out and do this message.


And it's really interesting, isn't it the way she chose. Normally, that type of message comes as a statement in Kensington palace. That's what happened with the king. It came as a statement with Buckingham Palace.

She did her video message. I think she wanted to do a video message which is unprecedented for Kate, and really reminds you of how the Queen used to address as in times of crisis, COVID, the death of Diana, it was unprecedented and I think she wants to speak directly and say, this is me. I'm taking hold of the narrative, and I am as I say, getting better.

And I think it was a -- she really took the narrative back after all these being the subject of new stories in a way she would never would have wanted to be.

COREN: And you're right, it is taking the power back.

Kate doesn't say this explicitly in her message, but you would have to assume one of the unspoken messages was back off. What others did you read between the lines?

WILLIAMS: Yes. I think that the key message of her video message was I'm here, these conspiracy theories aren't true. This -- we've told you the truth. I was having an operation and since then I've been dealing with cancer diagnosis and my priority as she reiterated was my family.

She's always put the children first. She's always seen herself as a mother first. And this was really vital for her saying, we've been trying to talk to my children who are 10, 8, and 5 in a way they understand were waiting to the end of we understood they waited to the end of the school -- school terms so that they could tell children at home.

And some sources have been speaking to one of our newspapers today, "Sunday Times" saying she wrote it by herself. She wrote it swiftly and it wasn't necessarily responding to all the drama that's over the past couple of weeks. But it was because she knew she had a public figure and she felt she had a leadership role.

I think this is the thing, Kate's not the king. She's not the head of state. We don't need to know about our timeline, but still the level of concern with her, she is the royal families biggest star. I have to say, and people want to know where she was -- where she is and they feel that she's a vital lynchpin to the royal family.

COREN: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Kate Williams, great to get your insights and thank you for joining us

WILLIAMS: Good to see you.

COREN: Well, still to come, more revelations from prosecutors about a popular parental bloggers sentence for aggravated child abuse. Those details just ahead.



COREN: Prosecutors in Utah have released some disturbing videos and documents in an aggravated child abuse case involving a popular online parenting blogger and her business partner.

CNN's Camila Bernal has more on what prosecutors revealed.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities are saying these two women fully believed that the abuse was necessary to teach these children how to repent from imagined sins and to cast evil spirits out of their bodies. You know, this graphic new evidence includes videos those photos, and even Ruby Franke's hand-written journal entries detailing this horrific abuse.

In one of the newly released videos, we see that moment where Franke's 12-year-old son asked for help. This is after he climbs out of a window and goes to a neighbor's house asking for food and water and asking to be taken to the nearest police station. The evidence release shows the duct tape around the child's ankles and the wrist, and we of course know that that neighbor called police and described all of this.

Additional video also shows when police went to Jodi Hildebrandt's house and found Franke's nine-year-old daughter. Authorities describing the child as petrified and she was hiding in a closet, as well as malnourished. You can see in the video first responders trying to talk to her and even giving her some pizza. You know, sadly, the journal entries also detail months of abuse and it includes making the children's stand and sleep outside, making them do wall sits, shaving the girl's head anyway good at times with holding water, food, and oxygen.

Now, Franke pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse. She was initially charged with six counts, but then pleaded not guilty to two of the counts as part of a plea deal to testify against her business partner.

And Hildebrandt in her own plea agreement also pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse. They were each sentenced to four consecutive sentences of one to 15 years in prison. But it's now the Utah board of pardons and parole that will oversee the length of their prison sentence. CNN has reached out to their attorneys for comment about the newly

released evidence.

Camila Bernal, CNN, Los Angeles.


COREN: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris made a case for stronger gun control laws on Saturday at the site of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.

She visited Parkland, Florida, with 14 students and three staff members were killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in 2018. She met with victims, families and spoke about the importance of red flag laws which allow courts to remove guns from those who might harm themselves or others.

Harris said, most states do not have red flag laws and urged leaders to implement them saying quote, we must do better.

Still to come, Colombian men are going back to school for a different kind of lesson. How to break through gender stereotypes and nurture their families, that's next.



COREN: One hundred and ninety countries around the world marked Earth Hour on Saturday with landmarks like Sydney's Opera House switching off lights for one hour. It's a way to show support for the environment and raise awareness about climate change/

In Paris, the Eiffel Tower, unplugged powering down at the designated 8:30 p.m. local time. Lights only say it off for seven minutes rather than the hour that is usually observed.

While several landmarks in India participated in the events which started in 2007, this is a historic railway terminals in Mumbai. Well, in the capital New Delhi, typically brightly lit Howrah Bridge went dark as well, showing solidarity with the movement to save the planet.

In the Colombian capital Bogota, a new kind of school is thriving. It's teaching men how to be better fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, challenging a country's deeply held ideas about machismo and gender roles.

Stefano Pozzebon explains in CNN's ongoing "As Equals" series.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice-over): Open, clean, moisturize, close it and they're all set. It sounds simple, but the impact can be massive.

This is what a care school for men looks like. And more than just learning how to change diapers, this is a place where Colombian men can learn how to be better husbands, fathers and sons.

JUAN DAVID CORTES, FOUNDER, HOMBRES AL CUIDADO (through translation): We can all say it at the same time, first thing we are told is that men don't cry.

POZZEBON: And that includes, for example, learning how to tie a ponytail.

CORTES (through translation): Combing hair is not just combing hair. It's about the emotional connection that you create. Investing in men learning about care will allow us to assume this responsibility at home and yet I don't lose masculinity.

POZZEBON: That care, something Colombian men just like these didn't really know how to give. During the pandemic lockdowns, many looks for help as they were unable to look after their families. Domestic violence reports in the country also soaring.

Colombian women are disproportionately in charge of household chores and of raising children. And projects like these are already having an impact.

According to research from Bogota City Hall shared exclusively with CNN, men who said they were entirely responsible for household chores roughly doubled since the project was launched in 2021.


The transition from classroom to the real world is fast.

Harold Pardo is a father of four, and he is the one in charge of the school run.

HAROLD PARDO, COLOMBIAN FATHER (through translation): Have you got homework to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Yes I do, in English.

POZZEBON: That is change. Like many Colombians, growing up, Harold was not as close to his father as he is now to his children.

Will you have wished that your dad had done a course like the one you did yesterday?

HAROLD PARDO, COLOMBIAN FATHER (through translation): Of course. They should do it to see where they come from and where we, the new generation, are going instead. I'd like to see how that generation reacts to what we are doing balancing the scale.

POZZEBON: But, it's not all family care for Pardo. He is studying to work in healthcare administration. And once a week, he and his friends gather for a retrial of Latin American manliness.

PARDO (through translation): In the football team we're fathers, sons, brothers. We talk about our responsibilities at home. My teammates would be happy to take a course and be more aware. POZZEBON: But, even here, the tables are turning. Soon enough, Pardo says, they could be gathering for playdates and changing diapers.

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota.


COREN: A dramatic conclusion to the Australian grand prix a short while ago. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz won the race, with teammate Charles Leclerc coming in second. Red Bull's world champion, Max Verstappen started on the poll but was forced to retire on lap four. Verstappen complained he had, quote, lost the car before flames leaped out of the vehicle from a brake problem. It was the Dutchman's first retirement since the race at Albert Park two years ago. He certainly is lucky.

Well, thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren. I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM after this short break. Stay with us.