Return to Transcripts main page

Isa Soares Tonight

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy Visits Washington; U.N. Meets Once Again To Call For A Ceasefire In Gaza; U.S. President Joe Biden Calls Upon Congress To Approve Ukraine Funding; Football Club President Resigns After Punching Ref; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Thanks U.S. For Supporting Ukraine. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 12, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, we are following two major stories for you, both of which

have global implications. This hour, Ukraine's president in Washington, making an urgent appeal to Congress for more aid. He is meeting with U.S.

President Biden in the next few minutes. Can he convince them before time runs out? We'll have the very latest.

And in the next hour, the U.N. meets once again to call for a ceasefire in Gaza as entire neighborhoods lie in ruins, now thousands are falling ill as

infectious diseases take hold. The latest on this story in just a moment. But first, this evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is

fighting two wars, as he tours Washington today.

At home, he's been battling to defend his fledgling democracy from Russian domination. And abroad, he needs to win over hearts as well as minds in

U.S. Congress. A summit between Mr. Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden is said to be getting underway at the White House right now. We're seeing

them, expecting him to speak shortly.

We heard him arrive -- saw them arrive in the last few minutes. The war- time Ukrainian leader already met, as you've been seeing pictures throughout the day with lawmakers. The classified Intel indicates the

Kremlin is counting on the West to drop its support for Kyiv if a stalemate lasts through Winter. But Congress remains divided on an aid package with

Republicans reiterating they want a deal tied to border security. Whatever happens, Moscow says, it's going to be watching. Have a listen to this.


DMITRY PESKOV, SPOKESPERSON, KREMLIN (through translator): Of course, we will watch it very attentively. It's very important for everyone to

understand that tens of billions of dollars pumped into Ukraine did not help it to achieve any kind of battlefield success. This fiasco will be the

fate of any other tens of billions of dollars that Ukraine wants to be pumped into its economy.


SOARES: Meanwhile, there are reports of an attempted cyber attack in Ukraine, and Russia continues its heavy attacks in the Kherson region. For

the very latest, our chief international security correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in Zaporizhzhia this hour. And Nick, we have already

heard from some Republican lawmakers who seem, at least for now, unmoved by President Zelenskyy's impassioned plea for more funding. How is it

dithering and U.S. being perceived where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think with some degree of bafflement, frankly, I mean, obviously, Ukrainians fully aware

that the U.S. is a time-split, an imperil democracy. But possibly, soldiers on the frontline really confused to see this domestic political drama in

peril, their ability, potentially, to continue the defense of Ukraine.

And essentially, you know, remember, if Russia keeps moving forward through Ukraine, it's NATO's own borders that potentially become at risk for any

future Russian ambitions. And so, yes, there's a lot of anger we saw on the frontline over past few days, people really wondering quite what the next

step can be.

In fact, Ukrainian lawmakers suggesting that there may be issues with paying basic salaries for first responders or doctors if Congress don't

pass some kind of aid package before the end of Thursday, possibly maybe later in the week. Depends how long they stay before they go on the holiday


And then into January, where the financial crisis will bite even harder. U.S. officials have been warning that potentially air defenses may get hit

first. We're talking about billions needed here, because it's that which forms the bulk of Ukraine's military budget. How they pay for the munitions

has been a bleak picture here over the Summer, they did not manage to get the breakthrough during the counteroffensive, particularly near here in

Zaporizhzhia in the south that they had hopes to get.

And so, that has led to a lot of finger-pointing, briefings to newspapers by U.S. officials, Ukrainian officials, as to why what went wrong, how they

could potentially have done better. And it's led Russia to possibly to seize upon this pause.


You know, the unity of the West, until this moment, nearly two years into the war, that have been the outlier, really remarkable how consistent that

had been, how much aid has gone Ukraine's way. Now, that's beginning to fracture. Domestic squabbles over border control in the U.S. really

handicapping the Biden administration's bid to keep the aid flowing here.

Zelenskyy on Capitol Hill there, caught in a U.S. domestic political rile that is going to impact possibly his ability to retain his job. The fear, I

think really here that we're headed for a dark Winter months today, a sense with the cyber attack we've seen that Ukrainian security services have

pointed towards Russia as being behind.

It's impacted basic cellphone service in many cities. The capital here in Zaporizhzhia, they're going to be turning the street lights off by hand, it

seems. Normally --

SOARES: Right --

WALSH: It gets done by a cellphone service-related devices. So, a lot of impact here on the air sirens potentially as well from that. Many civilians

wondering and fearing this could be the beginning of yet more attacks on infrastructure during the Winter, Isa.

SOARES: Nick Paton Walsh for us this hour in Zaporizhzhia, good to see you, Nick, thank you. Well, the U.K. and Norway say they will work together to

boost Ukraine's Navy. They have announced a new coalition. They say two mine-hunting ships, amphibious vehicles and coastal rating votes are being

sent to Ukraine, and they will work to develop the Ukrainian Marine Corps.

To discuss this, I'm joined live from Oslo by Norwegian Defense Minister, Bjorn Arild Gram. Minister, thank you very much for taking the time to

speak to us. Let me pick up with that, with that coalition that both Norway and U.K. are leading. What is the aim of this coalition? Why now, two years

into this war, sir?

BJORN ARILD GRAM, DEFENSE MINISTER, NORWAY: Well, we want to help Ukraine build a lasting Naval capability. The defenses of their rivers, coast, and

sea areas is of utmost importance. Both in protecting Ukraine from missile attacks from the Russian Black fleet. It's important to push that further

back, but also to secure open sea routes and the freedom on navigation at seas, and secure that Ukraine can continue to export grain for the world


SOARES: And as you've been seeing, Minister, just following off from my conversation with our Nick Paton Walsh in Zaporizhzhia, the focus today is

on President Zelenskyy, who has been making, and continues to make an impassioned plea to U.S. lawmakers for more funding for Ukraine. What would

it mean, Minister, if that funding from the U.S. doesn't come through?

GRAM: Well, United States has been absolutely instrumental, crucial, in the support for Ukraine and their fight against Russian aggression. Both

financially and with weapons, but also to coordinate the international support for Ukraine. You have to understand that there is an ongoing

political process in United States. I am still hopeful and confident that America will continue to support Ukraine in the long term.

SOARES: You're confident and hopeful, but can -- I mean, can Ukraine win this war without the U.S.?

GRAM: Support from the United States is very important. At the same time, Norway and the rest of Europe is -- and other countries are trying to do

our part. And together, our effort is what's needed to help Ukraine win this war.

SOARES: I suspect for some lawmakers and what perhaps may not be helping some lawmakers in the U.S. is that the counteroffensive that Nick was

talking about, that there hasn't been much of a breakthrough. It's somewhat slowed down, being a stalemate. Is there an understanding, Minister, as to

why this counteroffensive hasn't met expectations? What are the problems?

GRAM: Well, the Russians have had time to dig in. They have really strengthened their defenses in their occupied territories. It's very much

use of minds among other things, and it takes time to break through this. But we have seen that pause did well, but has been in the Black Sea and

against Crimea, where Ukraine had several successful attacks on the Russian capacities.

SOARES: OK, so -- but do you -- what about ammunition? Because I know this is something that the EU had promised to deliver -- I know, we've been

hearing throughout from Ukrainians. Because earlier this year, European Union member states agreed to supply Ukraine with at least 1 million

artillery shells over the next year. That at least was what was promised, but it hasn't been delivered. Why?

GRAM: Well, it takes time to build up production capacity in the defense industry. A lot of companies are investing in the production capacity now.


At the same time, Norway and other countries are also placing huge orders, making a financial foundation for the defense industry to invest even more.

We also participate in this EU established program, OSA(ph) Program for coal-funding investments in production capacity. But it takes time, and in

the meantime, we have to dig even --

SOARES: Yes --

GRAM: Deeper in our own stocks to help support them.

SOARES: Right, so you say it's a lack of production capacity. The EU's chief diplomat, who you know, Josep Borrell has been telling -- has told

British Press that about -- I'm quoting him here, that 40 percent of the production is being exported to third countries. So, maybe what we have to

do to try and shift this production to the priority one, which is the Ukrainians. Does that sound about right to you, Minister?

GRAM: Well, I don't know about that numbers, but certainly, we have to focus on our support to Ukraine, and use the production capacity to support

them, while at the same time also take from our own stocks to support their fight.

SOARES: And now that I have you here, Minister, I want to ask you about a Norwegian-register tanker that was struck, I believe, by cruise missiles

that shot from a hugely-controlled area of Yemen. And I think this happened on Monday. What more can you tell us about this, Minister?

GRAM: Well, we, of course, strongly condemn this unprovoked attack on our civilian Norwegian-flagged vessel. I mean, global civilian shipping is a

cornerstone of international trade and global economy. And it's absolutely no reason that we should see an attack used as a tool for possibly

escalating ongoing wars. So, we strongly condemn this.

SOARES: Minister, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. Thank you very much, sir.

GRAM: Thank you.

SOARES: Well, Israel says it's closing in on Hamas strongholds in Gaza that unleashes new airstrikes as well as artillery fire. Heavy fighting is

reported in Jabalia Refugee Camp. The head of Gaza's Health Ministry says he has seen dozens of bodies in the streets. Also, new strikes in Rafah

near the Egyptian border where tens of thousands of Palestinians are sheltering after Israel urged them, of course, to flee there.

The U.N. says Gaza has become hell on earth, as the death toll soars, warning of widespread hunger as well as disease. The U.N. General Assembly,

meanwhile, is expected to vote soon on a non-binding resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire. It also urges the unconditional release of all

hostages in Gaza.

And just a short time ago, the IDF announced that the bodies of two hostages had been recovered during a military operation. Our international

diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now with more. So Nic, what more do we know about these hostages and where they were found?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We don't know a lot. It sounds as if the environment in which they were found and was potentially

hostile environment. It was a special forces unit that recovered them, but the IDF is saying that two reserve units soldiers were killed during the

operation and several others injured.

Sergeant Major Zevgador(ph) was one of those hostages who have been killed, and the other was a 28-year-old young woman Edin Zachariah(ph), she had

gone to the music festival and Raym(ph) was there with her boyfriend when the attack happened.

She managed to call her father from the site of the attack, and that was, of course, the last time that he heard from her. By that stage, her

boyfriend had been killed. She'd already been shot, injured in the upper body, and now, we know she was dead. We don't know when she died or --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Whether she recovered from those injuries and received others, we don't know how the sergeant major died either. But it does sound as if

some of the territory that their bodies lay in was contested in some way.

SOARES: Let's talk about what we've been seeing. We've seen some intense fighting in the last kind of 48 hours, particularly in northern Gaza. We

know we have been reporting, of course, as the IDF pushes further south. But northern Gaza seems to be where the intensity of that fighting is,

particularly around the Jabalia Refugee Camp, and I think we've got new footage to show our viewers. Talk to us about these two strongholds in the


ROBERTSON: Well, the IDF has sort of been in the north of Gaza now for well over a month --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: But they've been closing in, and they've been saying for a long time, you know, a month ago, they were saying that Hamas had lost their

operational command there or essentially lost control of the area. But there are still pockets of resistance and the IDF, and I think what we're

beginning to see these images of detainees being collected either, sort of semi-strip naked in --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: The streets or whoever is indicative of the fact that the IDF is getting closer to groups of Hamas or suspects, because we don't know if

they're all Hamas or many of them might be --

SOARES: Yes --


ROBERTSON: Just innocent civilians, but swept up in these operations. But Jabalia and another area are a couple of miles away in the northern part of

Gaza, is where the IDF says that they're getting stronger control, but that's where -- that's where the Hamas holdouts are, these command and

control centers. And I think just today, the defense minister was saying they're taking more and more control in the eastern part of the north of

Gaza. But I think the lessons about what may happen in the south have been written in the north.

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: The widespread destruction, the removal of people from their homes, and the long period of time that it takes for the military to

actually get to all these Hamas operatives, who, until very recently, very recently, are still --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: Able to fire rockets out of that area. And the IDF today saying that they were able to take control of a rocket launch area that would have

been launching into just over the border inside Israel.

SOARES: And very briefly, because we're running out of time. I mean, what are you hearing from your contacts? Of course, you were in Israel, covered

the story for us for seven weeks, roughly. Did -- in terms of strategy from Israel here, Nic, they're going further south, at least, it seems. What is

the plan? What is the strategy? How far south are they going to go?

ROBERTSON: Well, this is where the contention comes to the White House at the moment. Prime Minister Netanyahu referenced this today. He said, you

know, good support for the United States allowing us to get this far.

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: But actually, we disagree on the day after Hamas, and we've heard this from President Biden very clearly now, saying that there's

ammunition and support for Israel internationally, that Netanyahu is wedded to a right wing government that doesn't support a two-state solution. The

inference being form a different government that does accept a two-state solution.

And I was speaking to a regional diplomat just today here in London whose country is very close to the situation, and the disappointment to the U.S.

position thus far, but the belief that a two-state solution is the -- is one of the only ways out of where we are today.

So, it does sound as if President Biden is beginning to go public with what he's been saying behind the scenes. And this is -- this is perhaps a

dividing or the beginning of a division of the ways and may open the door to more advance, meaningful discussions about what can happen.

SOARES: And that's what we've seen today, Biden telling donors that Israel is losing support, and we'll see whether that -- what -- how that shift in

terms of the language and the war indeed. Thank you very much. Well, infectious diseases are now spreading through Gaza. Chicken pox,

meningitis, respiratory infections as well as hepatitis.

These are just some of the diseases Gaza's crumbling health system is trying to deal with, according to the W.H.O. They're also reporting

thousands of cases of diarrhea among children under the age of five, as the region heads into Winter and Israeli siege and offensive continues, aid

agencies are warning this is just the beginning.

Earlier, I spoke to Marie-Aure Perreaut, an MSF emergency coordinator in Gaza. I began by asking her what conditions were like where she is. Have a



MARIE-AURE PERREAUT, MSF EMERGENCY COORDINATOR IN GAZA: I am in Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al Balah in the middle of Rios(ph) -- of Gaza, which is

just as apocalyptic as the rest of Gaza at the moment. Yes, Gaza is just coming under heavy fire in every corner of it.

SOARES: And give us a sense of what you have been seeing in terms of the living conditions. Because where you are, in terms of Al-Aqsa Hospital, I

mean, we have seen strikes around that area in the last few days, particularly over the weekend.

PERREAUT: The living conditions, I mean, it can barely be described as living conditions anymore. People are displaced once, twice, sometimes

more. They just don't know where to go anymore. So from what I can tell from the hospital, as we see people coming in hospitals, not only in Al-

Aqsa, but every hospital across the south of Gaza, hoping that this would be a safe shelter.

And by now, we have enough examples from the north, knowing that this is just not the case. So, it's extremely difficult. Water is missing, food is

missing --

SOARES: Yes --

PERREAUT: Shelters are overcrowded, the hospitals are overcrowded. It's just -- yes, it's just very tough.

SOARES: And Marie-Aure, just tell us in terms of, you know, the living conditions or the lack of living conditions, I should say. Everyone is

packed into a very small space, right? And temperatures are getting colder. I've heard from our correspondents, I see many people wearing

coats. And the concern, of course, is that with that, the increase -- could lead to increase of diseases. Talk to that.

PERREAUT: So, first, it's to say a lot of people actually don't have coats. A lot of people evacuated in a rush from north Gaza or from their houses

elsewhere in Gaza and just couldn't bring their -- yes, their personal belongings with them.


So, a lot of people are actually really cold outside. It rained just now, just about an hour ago, and you can see the streets are full of mud. In

terms of -- yes, of course, impact on health, we, as MSF, we're operating in different health centers especially in Khan Yunis over the past weeks,

where we were seeing mostly diseases linked to respiratory tract infection, with diarrhea, with skin disease, such as scabies, and all of these are

pure illustrations of the extremely tough and precarious living conditions.

Those very health centers that were operating in Khan Yunis have been ordered to evacuate. So, we also had to stop providing support to those

health centers. So, the patients that we were seeing there on top of living in just horrendous conditions, just don't have access to healthcare


Half of the patients that we were seeing there were children under the age of five. So, it's all those children who are still living in these

conditions facing multiple evacuation orders in the south, and now just do not have access to healthcare on top of it.

SOARES: Yes, and in the meantime, we have heard doctors basically telling CNN, Marie, that hospitals in Gaza are under siege and under fire. And on

this, we have heard from your team that one of MSF's surgeons was injured, I should say, inside a Delano(ph) Hospital in north Gaza by a shot fired,

according to your team, from outside the facility. What more do you know about this?

PERREAUT: It's -- so, first, I know that he's recovering. So, that's a good news. It's been -- it's been very difficult on MSF staff lately. We've lost

police already in that same hospital in November. So, it's been -- it's been very brutal for our police here at MSF. So, he's recovering now, but

it's just another example of the brutal attack on a hospital and a blatant violation of international humanitarian laws.


SOARES: Palestinian health officials in the West Bank say seven people were killed today during an Israeli military operation in Jenin. They say some

were killed in a drone strike. Israel confirms it used drones in the raid, saying it targeted terrorists who were hurling explosives and firing at

Israeli troops.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society says more than a 100 people were arrested. Still to come tonight, more on Volodymyr Zelenskyy's visit to Washington.

The Ukrainian President urges lawmakers to free up funds for the fight against Russia, as declassified intelligence gives some insight into how

that war is going.

Plus, Russia's jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny is a no-show in court. Why his spokesperson fears his life may be on the line. That is

next. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: For the second day in a row, Alexei Navalny has failed to make a remote court appearance, adding to the concerns about the jailed opposition

leader's safety. His trial has now been postponed. On Monday, his team said he had been missing for six days. They say they're worried about where he

might be, and of course, in what condition.

The U.S. State Department says that Russian government is responsible for that -- what happens to Navalny. But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov

says Russia will not and cannot monitor prisoners. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Berlin.

And so, Fred, there are some growing concerns about his whereabouts and about his safety. What more are you hearing? What is his family telling


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think -- well, I think there're certainly are in the family, of course, obviously is

also very concerned about his possible whereabouts and also for his safety. In light of the fact, also, that he's had some serious health issues --

SOARES: Right --

PLEITGEN: Isa, over the past couple of weeks. In fact, we've heard that he fainted in his jail cell about a week ago and had to be put on an IV.

Obviously, the prison food, they say is something that's contributing to that.

He's lost a lot of weight, he's obviously been on hunger strike in the past. And also, quite frankly, Isa, he spent a lot of time in solitary

confinement in the jail that he's been in so far. And right now, the organization of Alexei Navalny, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, they

continue to say that they have no idea where he is.

And it's only sort of slice-by-slice that they're finding this out from the Russian prison service and certainly, not voluntarily from the Russian

prison service. In fact, today, when that remote meeting was supposed to take place, Alexei Navalny, once again, a no show. The people from the

prison service finally said that he had left the prison that he's been in so far, called IK6, which is about 150 miles east of Moscow.

Before that, they only said that he wasn't listed as being in that jail anymore. So, they know that he's left that one prison, but they don't know

where he's been brought to. Now, the only thing that they say they do know -- they do know is that he was supposed to be transferred to a jail with an

even tougher regime than the one that he's been in so far.

But they don't know which one that may be. Now, it's possible that he is in some sort of form of transition right now, that he's in that process of

transition. It's not unheard of for people inside jails who are in that form of transition to completely go off the radar for several weeks,

sometimes for several days, sometimes even more than a week, to just have absolutely no communications.

And to then, all of a sudden, pop up somewhere in some other jail, and their lawyers then have to find them. That process is currently ongoing,

but at the same time, it could also be that Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized. It could be that something else --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: Has happened as well. His legal team simply don't know, and that certainly is grave cause for concern, because, of course, we do know that

Vladimir Putin has just announced that he's going to run for re-election again, and we also --

SOARES: Exactly --

PLEITGEN: Know that the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Alexei Navalny has put up billboards in places like Moscow and St. Petersburg that will likely

anger the Kremlin --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: A great deal. So, right now, that concern certainly mounting and still no sign of Alexei Navalny, Isa --

SOARES: Yes, and I think on that point, Fred, context here is important and you just added that. You know, picking up from what Peskov said, Dmitry

Peskov; the Kremlin spokesperson, he said the Kremlin -- and I want to quote him here, Fred, for our viewers, "has neither the intention nor the

ability to monitor the fate of prisoners and the process of their stay in the relevant institution."

Does that mean -- do they really expect us all to believe they don't know where he is? I mean, this -- that is quite something. But the -- you know,

this is -- this is one of Putin's strongest opponents.

PLEITGEN: Well, I think that they're trying to make people believe that they don't know where he is, and I think that other part of what Dmitry

Peskov said -- where he said they don't have the intention of monitoring, as if --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: They're trying to say they don't care where he is at this point in time I think as well. However, of course, Alexei Navalny, very much a

potent foe of Vladimir Putin. We know that Vladimir Putin doesn't even utter Alexei Navalny's name when he's asked about the cases.

Right now, I think Alexei Navalny has sentences amounting to about 30 years on his head that he is serving, and there are still other trials that are

to come. So, certainly, they're bringing the full force of Russia's legal system against Alexei Navalny with trial after trial, and accusation after

accusation flying in there.

So, certainly, it does seem as though there is a big effort by the Russian state, which is, of course, led by Vladimir Putin --

SOARES: Yes --

PLEITGEN: To go after Alexei Navalny. So, there definitely is a lot of bad blood there, and I think that's something that also raises this level of

concern, especially as Vladimir Putin is heading into that election, which I think the folks from his Anti-Corruption Foundation have said they

believe that Putin wants that to be as smooth as possible.


Certainly, no interference from Alexei Navalny or his organization, Isa.

SOARES: Such important context from our Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. As always, thank you, Fred.

And still to come tonight, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Washington, hoping to break apart the partisan deadlock on U.S. aid to Ukraine. We will have more

from Capitol Hill. That is next.




SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is at the White House right now for talks with U.S. President Joe Biden. Earlier, he was on Capitol Hill,

hoping to convince U.S. lawmakers to send further aid to the war effort against Russia.

Aid has been held up in Congress, tied into partisan disputes over the U.S. Southern border. The Biden administration is trying to push that process

forward, in part, by releasing newly declassified intelligence on the offensive posture of the Russian military.

Natasha Bertrand joins us now with much more from the Pentagon.

So Natasha, as President Zelenskyy just said, makes the case for more U.S. aid. The U.S. now has its new intelligence on the war. Just talk us through

what it reveals.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so there were several different intelligence assessments that the U.S. declassified and released

today. All in an effort to show U.S. lawmakers, as well as the international community, writ large.


BERTRAND: Ukraine's war against Russia has severely degraded the Russian military, which is really a good return on investment for the international

community's support for Ukraine.

In one intelligence assessment that was declassified and provided to Congress today, the U.S. assessed that the Russians lost 87 percent of the

forces in their standing army over the last 1.5 years of the war.

That is a staggering number, essentially 315,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded as a result of this conflict. And that really shows,

according to U.S. officials, just how successful the Ukrainians have been in really degrading the Russian military there.

And in another assessment that was released earlier today, the U.S. found that just since October, in the last two months, the Russians have suffered

13,000 casualties as part of their broader war, broader effort in the war in the east against Ukraine.

And so while it may seem, at this point, like there is a stalemate -- and many officials have used that word to describe the last several months of

the war -- there does seem to be a perception by the U.S. that this is still, of course, a war very much worth fighting,

Just because of how much the Russians are being degraded in the Zaporizhzhya.

SOARES: Natasha Bertrand for us there with the very latest, thanks, Natasha.

And back to our one of our top stories this hour, the crisis in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces now claim to have destroyed a Hamas rocket launch

post, as well as a weapon factory in northern Gaza.

Israel's defense minister says Hamas' last two strongholds in the area are now encircled. Food and fuel shortages in Gaza are putting 2.2 million

Palestinians at risk of dehydration as well as starvation. And there are growing concerns about the spread of disease, as people there face

devastating humanitarian conditions.

Well, Israel has started carrying out security checks on aid for Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing. But when it comes to letting aid into Gaza

directly from Israel, an official with Israeli government says, that is not on the table for now. Alex Marquardt is there for us.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This Kerem Shalom crossing opened earlier on Tuesday for Israel to inspect aid trucks

for Gaza. You can see here, trucks coming in from the Egyptian side to be inspected by the Israelis.

Now this will, in effect, double the amount of aid allowed into Gaza. But it does not necessarily mean that more aid will actually get into Gaza.

Israel has been very strict about inspecting all of the aid that goes into the Gaza Strip.

Until now, there has been only one inspection point. This is now the second one. Once these trucks are done being inspected, they will then go back out

to Egypt and go up to the Rafah crossing, which is where all of the aid has been crossing into Gaza since this war began.

But there is no guarantee that all the trucks can actually get in because of the bottleneck at the Rafah crossing. That crossing is not built for a

huge number of trucks.

And then we've seen a real catastrophe on the humanitarian level in the southern part of Gaza, with hundreds of thousands of people who've been

displaced, desperate for aid with no shelter, no food, and the heavy fighting that's made aid distribution so difficult.

A major question now is, when will Israel allow aid to flow directly from Israel through this crossing into Gaza?

For now, I'm told that is not on the table, that it's a decision that the Israeli government has to make. And for now, they've not approved that --

Alex Marquardt, CNN, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel.


SOARES: Thank you, Alex.

Well, the United Nations General Assembly is expected to convene in the next hour. And they are expected to vote on the draft resolution demanding

an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. We will update you, of course, as soon as that happens and it gets underway.

Harvard's top governing body now, issuing a statement in support of the university's embattled president. It signals Claudine Gay will keep her

job. We've heard calls for her to step down after her controversial testimony on anti-Semitism on Capitol Hill, with the presidents of MIT and

the University of Pennsylvania.

UPenn president, Liz Magill, resigned, if you remember, on Saturday, after powerful donors threatened to pull their gifts to the Ivy League school.

And still to come tonight, the fallout from a shocking attack on a Turkish football league referee. We will explain next.




SOARES: Well, it has been described as a shameful night for Turkish football, after a referee was punched in the head by a club president.

Here, you can see the shocking scene. This is the president of Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca storms the pitch after the match and punches referee Halil Umut

Meler. The referee was also kicked as he lays on the ground, as he lay on the ground there, while some players and officials tried to protect him

from the onslaught.

Faruk Koca, who was among three people arrested, has this afternoon quit as president and all league matches have been suspended. Let's bring in Darren

Lewis, a CNN senior sports analyst.

Darren, good to see you.

So he's -- the president's now has stepped down. I mean, I wonder if there is a legal case against him.

What kind of punishment are we likely to see here?

DARREN LEWIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Being arrested along with two other individuals. So it would be the case that the football authorities will

wait to see what the criminal proceedings, how they do develop.

But as you suggest a second ago, it is an incident not only shaming Turkish football but world football, as well, because it's been for some time real

concern about the rhetoric directed toward officials in professional football and at grassroots level.

The lowest level of football, where even teenagers are refereeing but are subjected to bad language and, in some cases, violence from watching


Now we have this situation involving a senior figure at a Turkish football club. You say he's resigned. He has done and he's cited not wanting to

bring any more harm to his family, the community, the club and the club's fans. But the damage has been done, Isa, and there are real repercussions

that will follow this.

SOARES: What has been the reaction, Darren, to this incident not just in Turkiye but beyond?

LEWIS: Well, as I say, the Turkish president Erdogan he has already condemned it. The referees have gone on strike in Nakivi (ph). The

referee's association has said that referees cannot be called to take the pitch until changes are made.

All Turkish football has been suspended indefinitely. And outside of Turkiye, as you suggest, beyond, there has been a real reaction because

other refereeing associations have signaled their willingness to show solidarity with Meler.

And they are looking for active changes to be made. Just one final note on that, here in England, referees are trialing body cams, cameras that they

wear with their uniforms, so that they can see whether or not, in real time, the problem is as bad as it seems. The pictures tell the whole story,


SOARES: Darren, I mean, is this a watershed moment?

You're talking about referees and what they've been seeing and those training.

Are we going to see, do you expect to see referees mobilizing in different leagues because of this or trying to bring about change because of this?

LEWIS: Yes, I do. I do believe this is a watershed moment. I do think that referees in leagues around the world will rally in support of Meler. He's

37 years of age, he's one of the top referees in Turkish football. He's a UEFA referee.

That means he operates at the highest level in Europe in football and a FIFA referee. So he operates at the highest level in world football. He's

taken charge of big matches. He will continue to do so. But now, there will be demands for measures to protect him and others in the middle of the

field when a football match takes place.

SOARES: Do we know how he is doing, Darren?

We saw video of him in the hospital, I think it was pictures of him in the hospital.

Do we know how he's doing?

LEWIS: Well, he is recuperating. The hospital, itself, says that he had been expected to be released today. We saw pictures of him lying in his

hospital bed. You can see them there on the screen with a neck brace.

He's been taking calls from well wishers and high-level officials throughout football or through today. And yet, there will be an increased

attention on him. But he would want that to be on his colleagues as well and to everyone else. We do, of course, wish him well.

SOARES: We do, indeed. Darren Lewis, really appreciate it. Thank you very much.

If you are just joining us, in terms of top story this hour, of course, we've seen Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the U.S. He not only

is on Capitol Hill earlier today, trying to convince, of course, we saw video of him arriving as he tries to meet President Biden.

He's trying to win the hearts and minds in the U.S. Congress, as we've been showing. We saw pictures of him earlier meeting with those in U.S.

Congress, trying to appeal to them to keep that U.S. funding coming in to fight the war, which has become, as we heard from our Nick Paton Walsh

earlier in the show, from Zaporizhzhya, a bit of a stalemate.

So this is a personal appeal, really, by -- oh, here we go, we've got video now of President Biden with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president Volodymyr

Zelenskyy. Let's listen in.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Mr. President, welcome back.



BIDEN: And the Oval Office. And it's great to be at your side once again. We are going to stay at your side. You know, we stand at a real inflection

point in history. I know you and I have talked about this, where the decisions we make now are going to determine the future for decades to

come, particularly in Europe.

This is one of those moments. Congress needs to pass a supplemental funding to Ukraine before they break for holiday recess, before they give Putin the

greatest Christmas gift they can possibly give him.

And so because we have seen what happens when dictators don't pay the price for the damage and the death and destruction they cause and they keep going

when no price is paid.

The threats to America, to Europe and the world will only keep rising if we do not act. I intend to act. The American people, Democrats and Republicans

alike, I think understand this and they understand the very real fight that is going on right now.

In the winter, this winter, Putin plans, once again, to bombard Ukraine's electric grid and intends to, with rockets, plunge families into darkness

in the coldest part of the year and doing great damage.

We can't and won't let him succeed. We must not let him succeed in that. Mr. President, I call on Congress to do the right thing, to stand with

Ukraine, to stand up for freedom. And I want to thank you for being here. You will help the cause and I don't want you giving up hope.

ZELENSKYY: Thank you so much. Mr. President. Your journalists are really lucky to be here at the White House today, to share some very important

messages. Thank you for the invitation.

And I would like to thank America and our partners for the support. Today, the special day, it's a special day for Ukraine. (INAUDIBLE) today our land

forces, almost 600,000, incredibly brave Ukrainians, (INAUDIBLE) on the battlefield and they were (INAUDIBLE). This is their day.

And they prove every day that Ukraine can win and our forces are advancing and we've successfully defeated Russia in the Black Sea. And Russia is

hiding their (INAUDIBLE) of its naval fleet in remote bases.

And meanwhile, Ukraine has set up an expert corridor in the Black Sea that's really boosting our quality and global food security.


ZELENSKYY: Yesterday, I met with the IMF and World Bank and they seem impressed with Ukraine's economy's growth, of almost 5 percent. That is


Ukraine is gradually becoming less dependent on aid. And we are moving to the right, I think, right direction and I want to discuss with the

president how to strengthen it. Especially enhancing our air defense and ability to destroy Russia's logistics.

Our goals for '24 are clear. Take away Russia's superiority and disrupt their offensive operations.

And I think it is real and also, some of the important things, I met with the heads of American defense companies here yesterday.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, it's really powerful companies. I thank them.

And thanks to all the workers, engineers, managers who build and -- and build the strength of American weapons, helping Ukraine boost the

development of arsenals of democracy.

President Biden agreed and we spoke about it in September to join weapons coproduction. It's very important for us and we will discuss how to speed

up this. We also need to work faster with the frozen Russian assets, over 300 million frozen assets from terrorists.

We should use it to protect against Russian terror. And I want to talk about some details regarding our (INAUDIBLE) E.U. integration. Ukraine

continues to reform its institutions, even during the war. It's very important for us that we are successful.

I think it's very important and people need to be confident that freedom is secure and strong enough to win.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

BIDEN: Thank you --


BIDEN: Before the press leaves -- whoa, whoa, whoa. Whoa. Hush up a second, OK?

I've got one more thing to say. I just signed another $200 million drawdown from the Department of Defense for Ukraine and that will be coming quickly.

Thank you.

ZELENSKYY: Thank you very much.



SOARES: They're being peppered with questions, as you saw there. But there was no response to those. But you heard a little snippet from both

President Biden and President Zelenskyy there at the White House, at the Oval Office.

President Biden saying to President Zelenskyy, right from the offset (sic), we are going to stand by your side as long, of course, as they can. This is

something we have heard from President Biden.

And he made it clear, the message is not just for the American people but also for those on both sides of the aisle in the U.S., basically saying,

the decision we make now are going to shape, pretty much, the next year.

He said, Congress needs to pass supplemental funding before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift he has ever had. So basically saying the

decision, this decision to pass this funding, $61 billion, will shape, of course, will be a gift with a cherry on top for President Putin.

So listen to what we heard from President Zelenskyy yesterday when he said the free world and the free world hesitates, that is when dictatorships


He also said that the American people, the Democrats and Republicans, understand what is happening, understand the threat. And he called on

Congress to do the right thing, he said, to stand for freedom. That was President Biden.

And then President Zelenskyy basically said that our forces are proving that Ukraine can win, saying that Ukraine is moving in the right direction,

talking about how Russia wants to destroy the logistics.

Which is something that we've seen and we heard today at the top of the show from Zelenskyy, from our Nick Paton Walsh, talking about how Russia

continues the heavy attacks in the Kherson region and attempted cyberattack in Ukraine.

Natasha joins us now.

Natasha, thanks for coming back. You heard both President Zelenskyy there and President Biden, making it very clear, at least President Biden there,

that he stands, the support is there, the continued support for Ukraine will be there. But of course, it is dependent on Congress here.

BERTRAND: Right, and I think the message that he was trying to send to lawmakers, to the world, was, what side of history do you want to be on at

this moment?

Because that is the kind of pivotal moment in history that we are at right now, in terms of providing this money to Ukraine.


BERTRAND: Especially with the looming winter months coming and with the attacks that we are likely to see, according to President Biden, according

to Zelenskyy, on Ukraine's electrical grid, which is likely to just make the suffering in Ukraine so much worse.

And so the question now, of course, is what Congress is going to do. Right now, it does not seem like they're going to budge, even with all of

Zelenskyy's pleas on Capitol Hill today. That did not seem to move House Speaker Mike Johnson, who said that he still needs to see that tangible

reform on the border.

And, you know, it doesn't seem likely that this is going to come together in the next few weeks. But look, President Biden reiterating that the U.S.,

regardless, stands by Ukraine and they are going to have to find the money somehow.

But it does not seem like, at this moment, anyway or at least not within the next couple of weeks, like it's going to be coming from Congress the

way that the president has obviously wanted it to be over the last several months. Isa.

SOARES: Indeed, Natasha Bertrand, really appreciate it.

If you're just joining us, we will bring you up to date with our top stories. You saw there, President Zelenskyy has been in D.C. throughout the

day. We saw him earlier on Capitol Hill. He just met with President Biden at the Oval Office.

We heard from both leaders, President Biden throwing his support, of course, behind President Zelenskyy and the fight for Ukraine, that clearly

he is saying it's not just for Ukraine but also for the rest of the world.

That does it for us. Thanks for your company. See you tomorrow.