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Death Toll in Moscow Attack Climbs; Protesters Demand Release of Hostages; Princess of Wales Touched by Response. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 24, 2024 - 03:00   ET




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

Ahead on CNN Newsroom, hours after the worst terror attack on Russian soil in decades, Vladimir Putin attempts to link Ukraine to the massacre, a claim the U.S. and Ukraine say is untrue.

Israel's defense minister will travel to The White House to discuss efforts to retrieve the remaining hostages in Gaza as their families plead for their release.

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

Russia says the death toll from Friday's concert hall terror attack will go higher. So far, officials say 133 people were killed and more than 100 others injured. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday a day of mourning. Outside the venue, near Moscow, people have been leaving flowers and stuffed toy animals.

It's the same in other parts of Russia, like this spot in St. Petersburg. Russia says it's arrested the four gunmen who carried out the attack, and survivors are telling harrowing stories of how they escaped.


MARGARITA, TERROR ATTACK SURVIVOR: First, people ran, the door opened and I saw it was leading to the street. My husband grabbed me and we got outside. The rest who were following us, they came to a lower floor.

ANASTASIA RODLONOVA, TERROR ATTACK SURVIVOR: It is unbelievable. You understand only now that you were lucky, really lucky. I came home. My coat was covered in blood. Apparently, someone shielded me with his body. There were people running behind me, and they were effectively covering me my relatives and those who are running next to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Russian President Vladimir Putin is suggesting without evidence that Ukraine played a role.

Well, meanwhile, the White House says Ukraine is not involved in any shape or form in the Moscow attack. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says the Kremlin's allegations are part of Mr. Putin's standard playbook, which is to blame others for Russia's own problems. Mr. Zelenskyy also says it's something anyone could have seen coming.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: 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 country. Yesterday, as all this happened, instead of dealing with his fellow Russian citizens addressing them that when Putin was silent for 24 hours thinking about how to tie this to Ukraine. It's all absolutely predictable.


COREN: Well, CNN's Clare Sebastian has reported extensively from Russia she joins us now from London. Clare, as we just heard, Ukraine vehemently denying any involvement in this attack. Tell us more.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Strong words there from President Zelenskyy, and I think he gets to the heart here of Putin's relationship with his people, essentially an unspoken compact for the last almost quarter century that he provides security, he's the security guy, in exchange for them staying quiet and accepting ever greater levels of state control over their lives.

This, I think, will raise significant questions about why it was missed, why the U.S. warnings and the lead-up to this were publicly dismissed, and of course Putin is claim in his address to the Russian people on Saturday that there was a Ukrainian connection, that that was a, quote, window being made available to attackers to escape through the Ukrainian border flies in the face of that ISIS claim of responsibility and the U.S. saying that, there's no reason to doubt it and that no Ukrainian involvement, whatsoever.

But I will say, inside Russia, the wheels of the propaganda machine are in motion. They have picked up that Ukrainian connection and are running with it, and even taking it even further. Take a listen to one of Putin's chief propagandists, a very regular figure on Russian state T.V., Vladimir Solovyov.



VLADIMIR SOLOVYOV, RUSSIAN STATE MEDIA ANCHOR: When the Americans start telling us, no, it's not Ukraine. They are partly right. It's not the Ukraine, but it is them. Is there special services working through various sources, various methods, carried out a terror attack, using and deeply calculating a reaction, or more accurately, to spark a specific reaction from Russia.


SEBASTIAN: He doesn't really cite any evidence. The only evidence that he cites in the lead up to this is a claim from former President Trump in 2016 that Obama was the founder of ISIS, but this is the information that the Russians have fed. An anti-western rhetoric is a very powerful propaganda tool to prevent any blame for any misfortunes that Russia ever being laid on President Putin. Anna?

COREN: Claire, there's obviously concerns that this attack could escalate the war in Ukraine, and we are hearing in the last few hours of more Russian strikes on Ukraine, including in Kyiv. What are you learning?

SEBASTIAN: Yes. Kyiv, according to the city military administration, targeted for the third time in four days. But also this attack overnight seems to have targeted the western city of Lviv. And we're hearing now from Poland that a Russian cruise missile, they say, violated their airspace.

The object flew into Polish airspace, they say, near a village near the Ukrainian border and spent 39 seconds in it. It was observed by military radar systems, they say, an aircraft, including Polish and allied aviation, have been activated to secure the safety of Polish airspace.

This is not the first time this has happened. Obviously, there has been activity near Lviv before, and Poland has said before that its airspace has been violated. But Poland is a NATO country. We are expecting to hear more on this in the next hour or so. So, significant showing the danger as Russia steps up these attacks, including and in particular using bombs dropped from its own aircraft, which is something that we've seen increasing in this war so far.

Having said that, we're not hearing of any casualties on the ground at the moment, either in Kyiv or in Lviv. It seems that air defenses were relatively efficient in averting this attack overnight. Anna?

COREN: Clare Sebastian in London, thank you for the update.

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, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, there are actually quite a few reasons. If you look back at speeches and pronouncements and statements from Islamic State leaders over the years, 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. 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 staged an attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul.

So, there's all kinds of reasons why this group would want to target Russia. And it's interesting that 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. But I should say that ISIS-K has not actually formally claimed 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, you know, 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, where 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: Yes. 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. It formed 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, a foothold, if you like. I mean, what is its modus operandi?

KUGELMAN: It's really quite remarkable that, if you look at ISIS-K, which indeed has been around for almost a decade, it's been hit hard at all times by many different groups, whether you're talking about NATO forces that use airstrikes against it, or the pre-Taliban Afghan military. And, of course, now the Taliban itself is going after ISIS-K hard. It's a bitter rival of ISK. But it's 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 we're seeing this capacity to project power and project threats well beyond Afghanistan. So, 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 incredibly high-profile for this group, for this specific branch. I mean, what will this mean, you know, for it moving forward?

KUGELMAN: Well, I think, I hope that this will be a wake-up call to those that think that it's time to move away from focusing on Islamic State. I think that there tends to be this pattern of prematurely assuming that a particular terrorist group is dead and not a threat anymore.

This happened with Al-Qaeda some years ago, and a number of policymakers were saying that the threat wasn't there. And now 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 in 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 maybe struggling, but they have affiliates, they have regional affiliates that manage to remain strong. And I do fear that this attack from Islamic State's perspective was extremely successful in 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 ISK, and it could prompt additional attacks, whether in Russia or elsewhere.

And, again, ISK has been linked to attacks, both successful and foiled in Europe and the Middle East in recent months. So, I think that it's very important that we not be complacent about the threat posed by this group.

COREN: Yes, a really important point. Michael Kugelman, great to speak to you, thank you for your perspective.

KUGELMAN: Thank you.

COREN: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is heading to the U.S. this week for meetings with top officials including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The White House says the two will discuss the humanitarian crisis and the efforts to free hostages in Gaza.

It comes as the CIA director wraps up hostage negotiations in Doha between Israel and Hamas. Israel has reportedly agreed to a so-called bridging proposal from the U.S. regarding the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released for every hostage held by Hamas.

Well, that's according to CNN Analyst Barak Ravid. He says the delegations are now waiting for a response from Hamas.

Hundreds of people rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday calling for the release of hostages, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YOSSI SHAPIRO, PROTESTER: The corrupt government is declining to bring the sides to a 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 into the war, that led us to a point of complacency, and will not be able to take us to a place of progress.


COREN: Meanwhile, 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.

Some U.S. federal agencies can breathe a sigh of relief after a partial government shutdown was avoided at the last minute. But another big funding battle involving the war in Ukraine is still looming ahead.

Plus, the D.A. prosecuting Donald Trump for election subversion in Georgia is defending herself after she avoided being disqualified in the case. We'll have more on that later in the hour.


COREN: It all went down to the wire, but the U.S. has dodged a partial government shutdown after the Senate passed a new spending bill in the wee hours of Saturday morning. President Joe Biden later signed the bill into law.

Kevin Liptak looks at the law itself and another congressional battle looming in Washington.


KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden's signature on this government funding bill does take the threat of a government shutdown off the table until September, and it really does punctuate what was quite a tortured saga over the last several months to secure a funding bill that would provide funding for the federal government for the fiscal year 2024.

And in this statement, President Biden emphasizes that this keeps the government open. He says it invests in the American people and strengthens the economy and national security, but he also acknowledges this was a compromise, and not everyone got everything that they wanted.

And you are seeing both sides emphasizing what they say they're getting out of this bill. For example, there are 2,000 new Border Patrol agents funded as part of this package, 8,000 more detention beds for migrants, and you hear Republicans emphasizing how this bill strengthened security on the southern border.

What you hear Democrats emphasizing is the billion dollars for federal childcare and education programs, like Head Start and the $120 million for cancer research, also included new money for Alzheimer's research.

What this bill also does is cut funding to the U.N. agency that's responsible for getting aid to the Palestinians. The Biden administration has accused some members of that agency of aiding Hamas.

Now, in that statement, President Biden does point to the next big funding battle on Capitol Hill, which is this fight over more aid to Ukraine. And you'll remember President Biden has requested $60 billion in additional assistance for Ukraine. That has stalled on Capitol Hill as many Republicans, particularly those closely aligned with the former president, Donald Trump, said they say that they won't approve any more assistance to Kyiv.

President Biden has said that this is necessary, and you are hearing ever more urgent calls from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has said that if American aid dries up, that Ukraine could lose this war.

Now, the House has gone on break for Easter for two weeks, so we won't see any movement on that Ukraine aid in that span. What we do understand is that the House speaker, Mike Johnson, has tasked members of the House with coming up with some options for providing that Ukraine aid, but it remains very unclear at this moment how that will move forward. And in this statement, President Biden says that it's time to get this done.

Kevin Liptak, CNN, Washington.

COREN: Well, the clock is ticking on a huge deadline for Donald Trump. The former president is now only one day away from having to post a nearly half billion dollar 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 to, you know, do anything to try to let him off the hook, and we'll see how far the courts let her go in that direction if it comes to that.

COREN: Turning to Congress, bipartisan efforts ensured a government shutdown was averted. I mean, it's absurd to think that the U.S. government, Congress can even get to this point. President Biden, he said that the agreement was, quote, a compromise and that neither side got everything it wanted. So, I guess who are the winners in this $1.2 trillion spending package?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. The winners is kind of the governing -- you know, the governing side of both parties. When you have divided government like this, as Biden said, and as you suggested in the intro here, you know, neither side is really going to win.

The win is not closing down the government. What's striking about this is that House Republicans, for decades, have been operating under what they have termed 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 minority of their own members.


They had to abandon that again to pass this, as they had really on every major kind of housekeeping bill they passed to kind keep the lights on to avoid debt default and so forth.

A majority 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 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 are out for revenge. And is Mike Johnson I should say, is he in the firing line?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, you know, it'd be interesting to see. I mean, they are down to a two -- once Gallagher leaves, I mean, two Republicans voting with all the Democrats could depose the speaker. But this is the furthest right speaker out of each iteration, keeps moving further in that direction.

And I think Mike Johnson has the support of Trump. So, I suspect that Republicans, in the end, although who can really say, logically, you would think they would keep him there.

It's interesting that Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks this was a defeat, and, obviously, it was in the sense that the kind of the far right militant edge of the caucus did not get what it wants. But what Republicans have learned over 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 to what you want. All it really is 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 to 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 Brownstein, always great to get your analysis, thanks for staying up to speak to us.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

COREN: Turning to another of Trump's legal cases, Fani Willis is defending herself. She is the district attorney in Georgia who is prosecuting Donald Trump's election subversion allegations. She recently avoided being disqualified from the case after a hearing revealed she had a romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor. He later resigned.

But now the embattled D.A. is defending her credibility, saying she is not embarrassed by their relationship and that she has not done anything illegal. And Willis says she does not believe the case against Trump and 14 co-defendants has been hindered.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: All while that was going on, we were writing responsive briefs. We were still doing the cases in the way that it needed to be done. I don't feel like we've been slowed down at all. I do think that there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming.


COREN: Russia says it's arrested the four men who carried out a terror attack inside a concert hall. As officials say, the death toll from that attack is sure to rise. An update next.

Plus, worldwide support pours in for Princess Kate after her heart breaking cancer diagnosis. Next, her message to her well wishes.



COREN: Welcome back. The death toll from Friday's terror attack on a concert hall near Moscow stands at 133, and Russia says it will rise further. Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday a day of mourning.

Well, this is a live shot outside the venue near Moscow where people have been leaving flowers in memory of the victims.

Inside the hall, a look at the destruction from the shooting and massive fire, crews there cleaning debris and looking for more victims.

Well, Russia says it's arrested the four gunman who carried out the attack. ISIS has claimed responsibility, but Vladimir Putin is suggesting without evidence that Ukraine played a role.

The United States, which warned Russia about a possible attack, says there's no evidence Ukraine was involved, and Ukraine is firmly denying any role in the attack.

The Prince and Princess of Wales are, quote, enormously touched by the public support she has received after revealing she has 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 people's warmth and support. The statement comes as good wishes and sympathies have been pouring in from around the world.

Well, joining me now is CNN Royal Historian Kate Williams from London. Kate, great to have you with us.

This two-minute video message issued by the princess 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 or for the rumor mill to start up again?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN ROYAL HISTORIAN: Well, yes. As you're saying, there's been this huge outpourings of supports. Kate said how touched she's been by all these messages from all over the world, you know, from celebrities, politicians. I mean, it really has been an incredible outpoured support.

And Kate's announcement on Friday, I don't think anyone could have expected it. I think people -- there were all these conspiracy theories, as you say, it was very distressing, many of them very cruel. We've already seen some people who've been involved in them on social media apologizing. And I do think that we are going to have a stop to these conspiracies theories for the moment.

I think that certainly, perhaps within a month or so, Kate may have to do another update saying, I'm still feeling better and perhaps I'll be back to work at this point, because we haven't got a timeline as to when she's saying 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 that she had cancer.


So, I think that we are, we probably will have to have 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 is going through is really tough. COREN: You'd have say that obviously, Kate, and she has advised, and you presume she a P.R. team, they handled the announcement incredibly well by informing the public. But the leader must admit was pretty shaky with that edited photo on Mother's Day. I mean, surely they 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 the 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 these speculations, 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, and it really was going wild. I really think there 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 from Kensington Palace. That's what happened with the king. It came as the statement from Buckingham Palace. She did her own video message. I think she wanted to do a video message, which is unprecedented for Kate.

And really reminds me of how the queen used to address us in times of crisis, COVID, the death of Diana, it was unprecedented. And I thinks 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 -- you know, she really took the narrative back after all these being the subject of news stories in a way she would never would have wanted to be.

COREN: 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. We've told you the truth. I was having an operation. And since then, I've been dealing with the cancer diagnosis and my priority, as she reiterated, was my family.

She's always put the children first. She has 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 ten, eight and five in a way they understand, were waiting until the end of -- we understood they waited until the school term so that they could tell the 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 is swiftly, and it wasn't necessarily responding to all the drama, the theories, over the past few couple of weeks, but it was because she knew she had a public figure and she felt she had the leadership role.

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

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

WILLIAMS: Good to see you.

COREN: Hong Kong's second national security law passed last week is now in effect. Critics warn that it aligns the city more closely with mainland China, and could deepen an ongoing crackdown on dissent.

CNN's Kristi Lu Stout has this report.


KRISTI LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the streets of Hong Kong, we ask a simple question, do you support or not support Article 23?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

STOUT: No idea?

Yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm really sorry.

STOUT: We ask in English. We asked in Cantonese, no comment.

Article 23 is Hong Kong's controversial new homegrown security legislation. It includes a range of new national security crimes, including treason, espionage, external interference and disclosure of state secrets.

It carries sentences of ten years for crimes linked to state secrets and sedition, 20 years for espionage and up to life in prison for treason, insurrection, sabotage and mutiny. Officials point out that many western countries have similar legislation and say it will fill loopholes in the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after mass anti-government protests.


JOHN LEE, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE: We still have to watch out for potential sabotage, undercurrents that try to create troubles. STOUT: In 2003, Article 23 was shelved after an attempt to enact it drew half a million residents onto the streets in protest. No such scenes of opposition are expected this time around.

Beijing's national security crackdown has transformed Hong Kong. Dozens of political opponents have been arrested, civil society groups disbanded, and outspoken media outlets shut down.

Former opposition lawmaker Emily Lau was among the protesters in 2003. She's no longer marching, but has a message for Beijing.

EMILY LAU, FORMER OPPOSITION LAWMAKER: I want to tell Beijing there's no need for such stern treatment. I don't think Hong Kong will go back to the turbulent past and I think people want to look forward to a safe and peaceful and free future.

We want Hong Kong to prosper. We are part of China. I've never disputed that but we are different from the rest of China. But the difference is getting less and less, which is very sad.

STOUT: Critics say the law could have deep ramifications for the city's status as a global business hub. The U.S. State Department says it is concerned by the, quote, broad and vague definitions of state secrets and external interference that could be used to eliminate dissent through the fear of arrest and detention.

The Hong Kong government rejects that criticism as biased and misleading, with Security Secretary Chris Tang pointing out there is strong public support.


STOUT: But on the streets, it's hard to tell.

Kristi Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


COREN: Well, legal scholars and business figures have told CNN that they are worried about the harsh penalties and broad definitions in the new law. According to the Hong Kong government, cases will be handled, quote, in accordance with the law.

When we return, reservoirs are drying up in Chile. How residents are coping with a years-long drought, that's next.

And in the U.S., winter seems to be taking a better late than never approach. The latest on the winter storms dumping heavy snow in the first week of spring.

Stay with CNN.


[03:45:00] COREN: 190 countries around the world marked Earth Hour on Saturday with landmarks like Sydney's Opera House switching off lights for an 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 the designated 8:30 P.M. local time. The lights only stayed off for seven minutes rather than the hour that is usually observed.

Well, several landmarks in India participated in the event which started in 2007. This is a historic railway terminus in Mumbai.

While in the capital, New Delhi, the typically brightly lit Howrah Bridge went dark as well. India's presidential palace took part in the event showing solidarity with the movement to save the planet.

Some people in Northern Chile are being forced to ration their drinking water because of years-long drought in the region.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has this report.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Reservoirs in Northern Chile don't look how they should. Years of drought in the Andean nation has left reservoirs bone dry and locals with limited water access. One has completely dried out.

Heriberto Perez raised his livestock here. He says he doesn't have enough water to give to his animals.

HERIBERTO PEREZ, CHILEAN GOAT FARMER: It's really bad. It hasn't rained. It's critical. I managed to get some water from a well over there because I have no water to give them. It makes me sad because my animals are thirsty. All of us human beings have to have water.

ROSALES: In the country, the drought has affected many signs of life. According to 2023 data from the World Resources Institute, Chile is facing extreme water stress using more than 80 percent of its available water resources.

PEREZ: It is very difficult. The water situation is critical. I hope God remembers the rural poor and the farmers.

ROSALES: The lack of water is leading people to limit how much they drink in a day, says one local resident.

MARIA LUISA, COQUIMBO RESIDENT: We consume very little water, so we have to plan well to have enough water for the week.

ROSALES: Central and Southern Chile have had rainfall helping refill reservoirs. However, the north has had very little and remains dry.

RENE CARVAJAL, PRESIDENT, QUALTAPIA RURAL DRINKING WATER COMMITTEE: It has not rained in our area for years. A few years ago, only 15 milliliters of water was recorded. ROSALES: One goat farmer says her business at home is no longer working due to the lack of water.

JACQUELINE ARAYA, CHILEAN GOAT FARMER: If we had water, we would all have a different life. I don't think it's just us. It's all the people here.

ROSALES: Isabel Rosales, CNN.


COREN: And in the U.S., it appears winter is making up for some lost time. More than 20 million people are under winter weather alerts as two winter storms move across the country, one over the northeast and New England and another through the northern plains and Midwest, where some cities could get more snow in the first week of spring than they saw all winter.

Minneapolis could get up to 14 inches of snow by Tuesday, eclipsing the 11 inches it saw over the entire winter, which was, by the way, their warmest winter on record.

Well, the race is on to pick the winning lottery number in the U.S. Still ahead, the latest on that billion-dollar Mega Millions jackpot, that's next.



COREN: American basketball phenomenon Caitlin Clark is leading Iowa to the next round of the NCAA's Women's Basketball Tournament. After she scored 27 points in the showdown against Holy Cross on Saturday, the number 16 seed Crusaders held their own early in the game before falling to the Hawkeyes 91-65.

Well, Clark is the all-time top scorer in the NCAA's Division 1, with the career points total just shy of 3,800. Iowa takes on West Virginia next.

Well, Baltimore Orioles fans are mourning the death of the team's owner. Peter Angelos died on Saturday, according to his family. They say he had been sick for several years, adding, quote, the family thanks the doctors, nurses and caregivers who brought comfort to him in his final years.

Angelos had owned the Orioles since 1993, but agreed in January to sell the team in a deal that still needs to be finalized. Peter Angelos was 94 years old.

A dramatic conclusion to the Australian Grand Prix a little while ago, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz won the race with teammate Charles Leclerc coming in second.

Well, Red Bull's world champion, Max Verstappen, started on the pole but was forced to retire on lap four. Verstappen complained he had, quote, lost the car before flames leapt out of the vehicle from a brake problem. It was the Dutchman's first retirement since the race at Albert Park two weeks ago.

Well, there was no jackpot winner in Saturday night's Powerball drawing in the U.S., pushing Monday's lottery prized $800 million.


But that's nothing compared to the Mega Millions jackpot, which is now more than a billion dollars after no one picked the winning numbers on Friday night. The next drawing is Tuesday.

CNN's Polo Sandoval explains these big prizes seem to be becoming more common.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in the U.S., lotto jackpots exceeding $1 billion used to rare, not anymore, especially actually look at the numbers that have been laid out by financial comparison website, Nerd Wallet. They conducted a recent analysis and found that eight of the ten largest lotto jackpots in history have been reached in just the last three years. And half of those eight we actually saw in 2023.

And then there's the other question of why we're seeing these on a more frequent basis. Nerd Wallet also trying to answer that question. Well, for starters, both major lotteries, Mega Millions and Powerball, they changed their rules of the game, making it even harder to win. So, every time there's no winner, that jackpot amount will basically increase, and it continues to happen until there is an actual winner.

Rising interest rates here in the U.S. may also have something to do with it. They affect the advertised jack pot amounts, which are actually based on annuities. Remember, anybody who wins, it's usually given that options of either getting that lump sum cash amount or several annuities over several years.

And then, finally, there are simply more people playing the lotto. Nerd Wallet finding that every time the jackpot amount exceeds $1 billion, usually people who may not be playing the lotto might think twice and actually will buy a ticket.

And because of that, there are essentially more people playing, and all those sales, portion of those actually going into the jackpot, but the odds are still so poor that it doesn't necessarily matter how many people are playing.

Mega Million is estimating that the odds of winning in Tuesday's drawing 1 in over 300 million.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

COREN: Let's still buy a ticket. Thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren.

Newsroom continues with Kim Brunhuber after this short break. Stay with CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)