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Isa Soares Tonight

Ukraine Launches Drone Attacks On Russian Oil Refineries; U.S. House Passes Bill That Could Ban TikTok In U.S.; Haiti Gears Up For Transitional Council After Prime Minister Resigns; Israeli Strikes On UNRWA Food Distribution Site Left Five Deaths, According To Hospital Director; IDF: U.N. Relief Convoy Takes Detour Into Northern Gaza; 6 People And 12-Year- Old Kid Slain In West Bank And East Jerusalem, According To Palestinian Health Officials; Acute Aid Scarcity Causes Humanitarian Crisis To Worsen; Regarding Gaza Humanitarian Catastrophe, Blinken Meets With Borrell; Blinken Discusses The Need For Humanitarian Aid To Gaza; Israel Must Provide Additional Entry Points; Says Blinken; Russia's War In Ukraine; White House: $300M In New Military Assistance To Ukraine; Putin Reiterates Warning To Deploy Nuclear Weapons If Needed. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, Ukraine launches a major drone attack on

Russian territory as Vladimir Putin resumes its saber-rattling, saying Moscow is ready for nuclear war.

Then a major decision in the U.S. House as lawmakers vote through a bill that could ban TikTok in America. We'll have more on that reaction. Plus,

spiraling gang violence and swirling uncertainty over Haiti's future government. I'll be joined by journalists on the ground in the capital for

the very latest on the security as well as the political situation there.

But first tonight, major developments from Russia's war in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is boasting that his country has the most modern

nuclear arsenal in the world. This as Ukraine carries out one of its largest drone attacks since the start of the Russian invasion.

And that includes strikes on at least three oil refineries. We have also learned about a fourth refinery attack in Russia. But a Ukrainian official

has not confirmed that Kyiv was involved in that last attack. And in a new interview, Mr. Putin says his country is ready for a nuclear war if

Russia's existence is threatened.

But he says, quote, "there has never been such a need". Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins us live with the very

latest from Berlin. And Fred, this tough talk that we've heard in the last 24 hours or so President Putin, I'm guessing very much assumed for a

domestic consumption, right? With the elections this weekend in Russia.

How much did he focus in this interview on Ukraine, and any acknowledgement from him, Fred, on Ukraine attacks inside Russia?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there were no -- there was no acknowledgment of those attacks. A Ukrainian drones

inside Russia, very deep into Russian territory. But you're absolutely right, this is certainly something that Vladimir Putin said, pretty much

everything in that interview was for domestic consumption.

And essentially, the gist of what Vladimir Putin was saying was Russia is strong, do not mess with Russia. He said that he warned the United States

from sending troops into Ukraine, also warned Poland as well, even though neither of those countries have said that they even want to send troops

into Ukraine.

The Russian leader also saying that he believes very much right now that Russia is -- has a strong position and the initiative on the battlefield.

Let's have a look at what Vladimir Putin said.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Moscow's troops claiming there are on the offensive releasing this video purporting to show Russian clustering munitions,

destroying three Ukrainian combat choppers even though CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview with Kremlin-controlled media directly warning the U.S., don't send troops to help Ukraine, even

though the Biden administration has never even come close to saying they do that.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): We know what American combat troops on Russian territory are. They are interventionist,

he said, that is how we will treat it, even if they appear on Ukrainian territory.

And Putin even taking his threats nuclear, saying Russia would have the edge over the U.S. in a way using atomic weapons on land, in the air using

strategic bombers and at sea with Moscow's powerful fleet of nuclear-armed subs.

"From a technical point of view, of course, we're ready for nuclear war", he said, "the missiles are constantly combat-ready. Secondly, and this is

accepted by everybody. Our nuclear triad is more modern than any other triad, actually only us and the Americans have a triad."


Struggling on the battlefield, Ukraine says it has hit Russian oil refineries, including this one just over a 100 miles outside Moscow with

long distance drones. Putin calling this attempted interference in the upcoming Russian presidential election he's said to win by a landslide.

"The main goal is to, if not disrupt the presidential elections in Russia", he said, "then at least, to somehow interfere in the normal process of

expressing the will of citizens." Ahead of that vote and after the death and burial of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Navalny supporters say the

Kremlin's crackdown is escalating.

The former head of Navalny's anti-corruption foundation, Leonid Volkov assaulted and beaten with a hammer outside his home in Lithuania. Well, the

Kremlin hasn't commented so far, Volkov blaming Putin for the attack.

LEONID VOLKOV, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST (through translator): It was another obvious typical classic gangster hello from Putin, from the St.

Petersburg gangster, Vladimir Vladimirovich(ph). Hello to you, too. What else can I say? Continue working against Putin? That's what needs to be

done. Let's go on.

PLEITGEN: And Lithuania's Intelligence services believe the attack on Volkov was likely quote, "Russian organized". All this as the war in

Ukraine continues and civilians bear the brunt of Moscow's full-on invasion. Several killed and dozens wounded by a Russian drone and missile

attacks in the past days.


PLEITGEN: And those drone and missile attacks, Isa, they've been going on of course, for a very long time, all is already on the territory of

Ukraine. Ukrainians continue to say that there's a lot of civilians, obviously who are being killed and injured in those.

Also quite interesting today, the top general of the Ukrainians coming out, and he says that right now the situation for the Ukrainians is very

difficult on the battle front. He says there are several areas of the frontlines where the Russians risk breaking through those Ukrainian lines


The Ukrainians say they are reinforcing those, but of course, in all of those on all of this, the main thing for the Ukrainians is they are saying

they need more military aid from the U.S. and from its allies. Obviously, after that aid that was promised to them yesterday by the United States,

they're looking for Congress at some point to pass that large supplemental package to make sure that the Ukrainians get more aid as the year goes on.

SOARES: Yes --


SOARES: The 60 billion still very much hanging. Fred Pleitgen there for us in Berlin, appreciate it, Fred. And throughout this hour, we will be

tracking these developments from Russia's war in Ukraine. Later, you can hear from former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk here, will

be live for us from Kyiv.

That's in about 20 minutes or so time. Well, the U.S. believes a Kenyan peacekeeping mission to Haiti should proceed without delay despite comments

from a Kenyan official the deployment is on hold until a new Haitian government is in place. Haiti hopes to have a transitional council in place

soon after Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned following widespread gang violence.

Henry claims that Haiti's constitution mandates that he sign off on the transitional council, which will be put in place by regional Caribbean

leaders. But a prominent gang leader says his coalition would not recognize any government put in place by foreign powers.

Well, Haiti's future, really political future in limbo. I want to get a sense of the mood in Port-au-Prince. I like to bring in journalist Harold

Isaac who joins us now from Haiti's capital. Harold, welcome to the show. I wonder if you can give me a sense of the mood now that the Prime Minister

Henry has resigned. Has it brought calm to the capitol? What's the mood like?

HAROLD ISAAC, JOURNALIST: Well, we've been having a bit of a reprieve at least for the last 72 hours with fuel coming out of terminal -- seaport

terminals, then allowing gas stations to resupply folks and having people being able to go and just to markets and supermarkets and get supplies. It

was a difficult two weeks before that obviously.

SOARES: And we've just seen in the last few minutes as you have been talking here, that the U.N., United Nations says that starting this

Wednesday, Harold, it is reducing its footprint on non-essential personnel in Haiti. I'm just going the read while you're with me, part of what the

U.N. says to CNN due to the volatile, it says, "security situation in Haiti, and based on the outcome of a revised security risk management

process, we will be reducing the footprint of non-essential personnel.

The U.N. is not leaving Haiti. Colleagues who carry out life-saving missions will remain in Haiti, continue operations. We continue to monitor,

assess the situation closely." You said that there's some sort of reprieve. We have heard from the political aspect of this, Harold, that a source --

from a source close to Prime Minister -- outgoing Prime Minister Ariel Henry, that he fully intends to return to Haiti.

And he says that Haiti's constitution requires his sign off on a transitional council. How will that be received? How are those words

potentially being received there?


ISAAC: Well, it's unclear whether or not Premier Henry, former Premier Henry will be able to come in physically into Haiti. The situation is very

volatile, as you can tell, with the evacuations that are continuing, and even, you know, the news you just broke --

SOARES: Yes --

ISAAC: About U.N., non-essential first for now. But Ariel Henry coming back to Haiti right now, it's unclear how feasible it will be for him.

SOARES: Well, the gang leader -- we had a photographer on the ground there who spoke to a gang leader -- to the main gang leader, I think he's being -

- he's known as "Barbecue", and he says that he wants a seat at the table. I mean, how is that -- is that even possible? Is that even likely with this

transitional council here? What do you make of that?

ISAAC: Well, the formation of that council itself seems to be rather complicated at this stage, although several different political stances, if

I could say, or factions have agreed to participate. But having the leader of his coalition called Living Together, they've being part of it, it

wasn't the case in Jamaica, so it's unclear how it'd be integrated, but that remains to be seen in the coming hours as the situation remains rather


SOARES: Give our viewers around the world a sense of what Haitians want to see. Politically, what do they want?

ISAAC: Well, honestly, you know, in the past few hours, we could see what the folks, you know, here are trying to get. They're trying to go by their

daily lives. They're trying to, you know, provide for their families. They're trying to get a little bit of a job, a little bit of a food.

So, you know, it's politics, it is important, you know, in what leads the country. But for people here, it's the day-to-day that matters the most.

SOARES: Yes, indeed, and we know that many people being hunkering down because of the violence we spoke to the World Food Bank, who were telling

us -- WFP, I should say, there were saying that many people hunkering down because of fears of gang violence, especially in Port-au-Prince.

But I want your reaction to what we've heard in the last 24 hours or so, that U.S. Marine unit specializing in terrorism has been deployed to Haiti.

How would that be received?

ISAAC: Well, they've been deployed from what I understand in the vicinity of the embassy to protect American personnel. But that is not related or

not coming for the Haitian people per se, they're protecting their assets and their interest.

And people here have grown rather cynical with regards for the American stunts, which for many years has tried in various ways to lead from behind,

stay away, stay clear from it, because folks here had a lot of hopes on, you know, maybe the Americans having deployed militaries to bring back

control so that you don't see the scenes you've seen in the last few days. But that we -- I don't think anybody expects it to happen any time soon.

SOARES: Yes, and so, on that point, I mean, it is Kenyan-peacekeeping mission. How has that been received?

ISAAC: Well, it's unclear, as far as we can tell, they pledged to come and now we're hearing that it's on pause, so, you know, Haitians have been in

that cycle with various degrees of intensity --

SOARES: Yes --

ISAAC: Since October of 2022, and even the government itself had asked for international military or police support to help deal with the gang

violence. And that has yet to happen for, you know, so many various reasons. So you know, regular Joes here and regular folks, they don't have

I think unrealistic expectations at this point.

SOARES: Harold, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, I'm sure we'll stay in touch. Harold Isaac there from Port-au-Prince. Thank

you, Harold. Well, the U.S House has finally done it, passing a bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S. or forces Chinese-linked parent company to

actually sell it off.

The final vote was 352 to 65, and all this, despite opposition from Donald Trump, but not everyone was on board. Here's some -- what U.S. lawmakers

said on the House floor, including those worried about what happens if TikTok gets sold to one of its rivals. Have a listen.


REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Our intention is for TikTok to continue to operate, but not under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): This is a common sense measure to protect our national security.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is not an attempt to ban TikTok, it's attempt to make TikTok better, TikTok to a winner, a winner.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Who will be the next to control the data of over 170 million Americans? Are we going to trust Mark Zuckerberg

to control their data? I certainly don't.


REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): If we're going to address this issue, we've got to take the same approach to all social media platforms. We can't just

single out one.


SOARES: And the bill heads to the Senate next. U.S. Intelligence has warned TikTok could be used by China to influence elections, and we need to

mention China bans Facebook and X and puts major restrictions on other apps. Still Beijing is not happy about this, as you can imagine.

Here was their Foreign Ministry's spokesman, answering a question from CNN before today's vote. Have a listen.


WANG WENBIN, SPOKESPERSON, FOREIGN MINISTRY, CHINA (through translator): Even though the U.S. has not found evidence on how TikTok endangers its

national security, it has never stopped going after TikTok. Such practice of resorting to acts of bullying when one could not succeed in fair

competition disrupts the normal operation of the market.

It undermines the confidence of international investors and sabotages the global economic and trade order. This will eventually backfire on the U.S.



SOARES: Well, we are watching reaction from Wall Street and Washington today. Our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju is live on Capitol

Hill, and business writer Clare Duffy is in New York. Manu, to you first. I mean, I know there's still a hurdle here with the Senate yet to vote.

But just explain to our viewers why Congress -- and we heard -- we heard some voices there, felt they needed to act now. What alarm bells, and

examples were raised regarding China or data privacy here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, national security officials have been briefing publicly and privately to these members,

telling them about the national security concerns that they had, the potential that Americans data could be breached, could be accessed,

exploited by the Chinese Communist Party.

And that is one big reason why many of them voted here overwhelmingly. You rarely see something so overwhelming in the United States House on an issue

such as this, a contentious one that affects a significant amount of voters in an election year, this vote was 352 to 65 majority, both the

House Democrats and House Republicans voted for it.

And I caught up with several of those supporters and detractors afterwards. The supporters made clear that the national security concerns trumps all



REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Well, we're not turned down -- not turning off TikTok, we're saying you've got to sever your ties with Communist China.

The number one concern is it's a security threat, because they're going to have everybody's personal data that's on it, one. Two, I think it's

corrosive for our youth.

And I don't think that's grounds enough to say you can't have TikTok. But when you look at the increase in depression and the increase of mental

health issues that our youth -- TikTok is a factor in the end.


RAJU: And as you mentioned, Isa, there is a question in the United States Senate about how exactly this will get done, because some of the top

Democrats and Republicans have their own ideas about this -- are seeking some changes, some of them are not certain.

But whether this will actually run is consistent with the U.S. constitution because of its naming of a specific company in the underlying legislation.

So, there could be some changes, it could take some time, and the Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, who actually schedules votes on the Senate

floor was non-committal about moving ahead with this.

So, it's raising a lot of questions, but ultimately, will this get done? And it will get harder, undoubtedly, as it gets closer to election day.

SOARES: Oh, I imagined --

RAJU: Isa --

SOARES: So, Manu, do stay with us. Let me go to Clare and talk about the business aspect of this, Clare. Because the U.S., TikTok market is

absolutely huge, 170 million Americans use the apps. So, how would this ban would -- how would it work in practical terms really?

CLARE DUFFY, CNN BUSINESS WRITER: So, Isa, if this bill were enacted, TikTok would essentially have about five months to separate itself from its

Chinese parent company ByteDance, likely by selling to a new American owner.

And if it doesn't, it will be banned from U.S. app stores, and app store operators like Apple or Google could face serious fines if they don't

comply with the law. Now, I think it's unclear whether ByteDance would really be willing to divest itself of TikTok, this hugely popular app.

And even if it was, it might have a hard time finding a new American buyer. Many of the top U.S. tech companies are already facing regulatory scrutiny

for their size and market power, and that can make it harder to make such a major acquisition.

Now, TikTok itself clearly indicating that it continues to plan to try to fight this bill. The company saying in a statement earlier today,

"following this vote, this process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason, it's a ban. We are hopeful that the Senate will

consider the facts, listen to their constituents and realize the impact on the economy, 7 million small businesses and the 170 million Americans who

use our service."

Now, if TikTok were to try to challenge this bill, assuming it gets signed into law, that could lead to a whole, you know, long process of legal

battles over this thing. So, I do think for TikTok users, at least for today, the bottom line is that they're not going to see this app disappear

from their phones any time soon, Isa.


SOARES: Yes, and I wonder if you can branch it out for us, Clare, I mean, could other countries follow suit here?

DUFFY: Right, so, the U.S. wouldn't be the only country to enact a TikTok ban. You have a small handful of others, India, Nepal, Pakistan, who have

all previously issued bans. And we don't have any specific evidence at this point that there are other countries considering following the U.S.' action

here and considering a potential ban of TikTok.

But other countries have taken cues from the U.S. on TikTok before. For example, when the U.S. said that government-issued devices could no longer

download the app, we saw a number of other countries take similar action. So, I do think maybe, perhaps it's not an outright ban, but you could see

other countries considering additional restrictions on TikTok in the wake of this U.S. action.

SOARES: Clare Duffy for us there in New York, Manu Raju, thank you very much. And still to come on the show tonight, surprising move by the Georgia

judge presiding over the election interference case against Donald Trump and his co-defendants. Why the former president's attorney is applauding

the judge's decision. We'll have more on that.

Also, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza any time now. Of course, we will bring you his

remarks live.


SOARES: Welcome back. A judge is throwing out some of the charges against Donald Trump and his co-defendant in the Georgia election subversion case.

And just to be clear here, because this is important. The case alleging that the former U.S. President broke the law in Georgia while trying to

overturn the results of the 2020 election will continue.

Judge Scott McAfee has thrown out some of the charges, but the rest remain intact. The judge is yet to rule on ethics allegations brought against

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. CNN's Marshall Cohen is with us. Marshall, good to see you again. So, six of the 41 counts from what I

understand have been thrown out. Just explain why the judge decided to dismiss it and what grounds?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Isa, the judge said there was a defect in the indictment that was fatal to these six charges. But like you

mentioned, the rest of the case stands, the rest of the case is moving forward, it's not affected by this decision.


So, these six counts were all about various attempts by Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies in Georgia to pressure and cajole officials

in that state to overturn the results. And the specific law that prosecutors tried to use against Trump and the other defendants was that

they accused Trump of trying to solicit those officials to violate their oath of office.

Essentially, to pressure them to violate their oath by overturning the results and breaking the law in that respect. So, six charges were thrown

out, three of them were against Donald Trump. So, he was originally facing 13 charges in Georgia, now, only ten.

And also, some of the other beneficiaries of this decision today from the judge are Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani, the right-wing lawyer,

John Eastman and the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who also saw some of their charges thrown out today. Isa.

SOARES: So, potentially, what I'm hearing is potentially a setback then for prosecutors here. What does this mean though in terms of the timing of the

case? Is this a complication? Does it slow it down or factually, does it expedite it?

COHEN: Well, the prosecutors can decide what they want to do. The judge made it clear that if they want to appeal his decision to throw these

charges out, they can appeal. That would definitely slow things down. They also could go back to the grand jury, Isa, and try to secure a new

indictment on these charges and to try to make sure that it is crafted in a way that can hold up in court.

So, that could possibly prolong this process. But hanging over all of this is a separate effort by the defendants to disqualify the district attorney

over allegations of a conflict of interest. We're all waiting with bated breath for the judge to issue his decision in that matter, which could

possibly see the district attorney disqualified from the case altogether.

So, developments are coming in fast and furious here. No one is expecting a trial here any time soon. But a major development today in Georgia.

SOARES: Indeed, and we appreciate you breaking it all down for us. Marshall Cohen, thank you. And closing arguments are going on, in fact, right now in

the trial of James Crumbley, he is charged with involuntary manslaughter after his son, Ethan killed four classmates and wounded seven other people

at his Oxford, Michigan High School, that's in 2021.

James Crumbley faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors alleged he ignored his son's struggles with his mental health and failed to

properly secure the firearm used in the shooting. He pleaded not guilty and did not take the stand in his own defense. His wife, Jennifer, was

convicted of the same charges last month, the first time a parent of a school shooter has been held directly responsible for the death of victims.

Well, it promises to be one of the longest -- turn well, most combative presidential races in U.S. history. The rematch between President Joe Biden

and former President Trump is, well, now set. Biden and Trump became their parties' presumptive nominees almost eight months before election day by

winning their respective primaries on Tuesday in Georgia, Mississippi, as well as Washington State.

It's the first rematch between a current as well as former president since, well -- let me drop that down for your records, 1892. And still to come

tonight, the U.N. Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees is reporting a deadly Israeli attack on one of its food distribution sites in Gaza.

We have the very latest for you. Plus, Ukraine is seeing some victories this week, both on as well as off the battlefield. Details ahead on what

the Biden administration's new weapons package means for Ukraine's war effort. Both those stories after this very short break. You are watching




SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.

A hospital director in Gaza says five Palestinians were killed after an Israeli strike hit a food distribution center in Rafah. The U.N. and -- let

me say that again, the U.N. Agency for Palestinian refugees runs the site and says one of its workers are among the dead. UNRWA also said it shared

the coordinates of its facility with Israel just yesterday. CNN has reached out to the IDF and we are waiting for a response.

Israel, meantime, says it's working on a pilot program to get more aid to Northern Gaza where starvation is particularly acute. It says, a U.N. aid

convoy entered Gaza through a new route on Tuesday.

We are also seeing a surge in violence in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. Health officials say, six Palestinians were killed by Israeli

forces in separate incidents, including a 12-year-old boy in Shuafat Refugee Camp. And we want to warn you, the video that we're about to show

you is disturbing.

The boy holds a lit firework above his head, then a gunshot is heard. He falls to the ground, just as the firework launches from his hand into the

sky. An Israeli police spokesperson says an officer fired toward a suspect who, "Endangered forces while firing aerial fireworks in their direction."

The toll also includes two Palestinians killed outside a hospital in Jenin in the West Bank, as well as a 15-year-old boy suspected in a stabbing

attack at a military checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

While U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been taking part in a meeting today on humanitarian relief efforts for Gaza. We are expecting to

hear from him at any time this hour, in fact.

I want to bring in our Alex Marquardt in Washington for details. And Alex, we have seen this week, U.S., Jordanian militaries conducting another round

of airdrops in aid in Northern Gaza. We've also heard the U.S. announced last week the creation of this floating pier to deliver this much needed

critical aid. What are we likely to hear today from Secretary Blinken?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this could be really interesting, Isa. Of course, the European Union and

the United States are very much on the same page when it comes to so many issues, whether it's Russia, Ukraine, China, et cetera.


But there is a real divergence, specifically when it comes the high representative, Josep Borrell, who is here in Washington today and the

United States. And so, I will be looking to see how much of that daylight between these two key partners is really on display because they have two

very separate views of what is going on in Gaza and what needs to be done.

Borrell has criticized, openly, the United States for continuing to supply weapons to Israel for its campaign in Gaza against Hamas. While, of course,

the U.S. is still complaining that Israel is not doing enough to get an -- aid into Israel -- into Gaza, rather. Borrell very openly, at the United

Nations, just yesterday, saying that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. The U.S. hasn't gone nearly that far.

So, I would expect, Blinken to stick to his guns, essentially, to continue with this increased criticism that we have heard the past few days from

administration officials, including the president, that there are, "No excuses for Israel not to allow more aid into Gaza."

Blinken will likely tout what you just mentioned that another land border is being explored. We learned from the IDF that Gate 96, as they're calling

it, was opened yesterday to allow just a half a dozen U.N. World Food -- excuse me, World Food Programme trucks into the Gaza Strip --

SOARES: Alex, I'm -- I have -- I'm going to interrupt you because I can see from the corner of my eye Secretary Blinken. Do we have Secretary Blinken?

Can we hear him? Let's go to him.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In Gaza to enable us to help surge humanitarian assistance to those who so desperately need it. A short while

ago, I did a video conference with colleagues from Cyprus, from the United Kingdom, the UAE, Qatar, the European Union, and the United Nations to

coordinate our efforts in getting this maritime corridor up and running. We're also, of course, working with Israel on this.

When established, this corridor will enable the distribution of up to two million meals every single day, as well as medicine, water and other

critical humanitarian supplies. Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada are also supporting this effort.

Now, this is something that's going to take time to actually put in place, although we're working on it as expeditiously as possible. And I want to

emphasize, it is a complement to, not a substitute for other ways of getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza. And in particular, overland

routes remain the most critical way to get assistance in and then to people who need it. But this will help close the gap, and it's part of our all of

the above strategy to make sure that we're doing everything possible, by every means possible, to serve support to those who need it. By land, by

sea, by air.

As you know, the United States has been leading efforts from the very beginning to try to ensure that assistance gets to those who need it. We've

had significant ups and downs, periods of interruption, disruption. And having said that, we're also seeing right now humanitarian assistance

through Rafah and through Kerem Shalom getting back to levels that we have gotten it to some weeks ago, about 200 trucks a day.

Yesterday, for the first time, the World Food Programme was able to resume aid delivery to Gaza. Morocco made its first humanitarian assistance

delivery through Kerem Shalom. This week, the first shipments to North Gaza through a new crossing at the 96th gate began. We have flour that flowed

from Ashdod Port. We're working to make sure that inspections are accelerated and road repairs move forward so that we can also increase the

flow that's going from Jordan into Gaza, that's a critical route for supplies.

So, there's movement and we've -- and it's positive, but it remains insufficient. Israel still needs to open as many access points as possible

and keep them open to make sure that things are flowing in a sustainable way.

Increase the scanning capacity, the inspection capacity, particularly at Kerem Shalom where more can be done to get more aid in more quickly. Easing

unnecessary restrictions on key products. Having greater clarity and predictability on what can get in and what can't. There's a legitimate

issue here about dual use items, but we need to see much greater clarity, much greater consistency on what these are.

And of course, as we have said all along, while it's vital to make sure that things are getting into Gaza, once they're in, they have to get to the

people who need them. And so, distribution within Gaza remains a critical function there.


Improving communication, improving deconfliction with the humanitarians, particularly with the United Nations, with local community leaders remains

important work and work that is still in progress.

The bottom line is we need to see -- as we've described it, we need to see flooding the zone when it comes to humanitarian assistance for Gaza. This

will have a number of, I think important merits to it. First and foremost, it will bring comfort to people who so desperately need it. But beyond

that, one of the challenges that we have now, that you're seeing now, is that lawlessness, insecurity, all of that pervades in Gaza, combined with


When you put those things together, you have situations where aid goes in and then people immediately charge at the trucks. And you see looting, you

see criminal gangs get in the act, and again, just, ordinary civilians who, in the absence of sufficient aid, may believe that their only chance to get

a piece of bread is to go at the one truck that they see coming in.

When you have a sustainable, predictable, confident supply of assistance going in, that will give people confidence that food is there. It will keep

coming. They can rely on it. That will also decrease both the overall insecurity, sense of lawlessness, prices will come down for goods that are

being looted and then sold on the black market, and that will undercut the gangs that are engaged in that practice.

Having said all of that, even as we work to surge humanitarian assistance by every means necessary, the most effective way to really get that done is

with a ceasefire and having an environment much more conducive to getting the aid through.

There's a very strong proposal on the table right now. The question is, will Hamas take it? Does Hamas want to end the suffering that it's

provoked? The question is there, but I can tell you that we're intensely engaged every single day, almost every single hour with Qatar, with Egypt

to see if we can get a ceasefire agreement that will get the hostages out, get more aid in, and create a pathway, perhaps, for a more lasting secure


Hostages remain front and center on our minds and in our hearts. We just learned that one of the dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who we believe was taken

on October 7th, Itay Chen was in fact killed on October 7th. I've met with his family multiple times over the last several months. I spoke to them

yesterday, to Ruby, to Hagit, there are no good words. No one should have to go through what they've gone through and what the other hostage families

continue to go through. It's another reason why getting the ceasefire would be so crucial to enable us to bring the hostages home.

The President has made clear that ensuring the supply of humanitarian assistance, doing everything possible to protect civilians has to be a

priority. It can't be a secondary consideration. So, to that end, I would simply say, where there's a will, there's a way. We look to the government

of Israel to make sure that this is a priority. Protecting civilians, getting people the assistance they need. That has to be job number one even

as they do what is necessary to defend the country and to deal with the threat posed by Hamas.

Happy to take some questions.


BLINKEN: Matt (ph).

MATT (PH): Mr. Secretary, hello. How are you? So, I -- two things, very briefly. One, I -- you guys have been talking for a long time, months and

months and months now about the need to get more aid into Gaza. So, I'm just curious about what this meeting today was. Did it accomplish anything,

or did any -- were any decisions made about speeding up the maritime corridor, or what was the -- was this a broader that had more -- broader

thing that had more to do with that?

And then secondly, it's no secret that the differences between President Biden and his administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu and his

government have gotten bigger, larger over the course of the past couple months, but particularly over the course of the last several weeks or days.


And I'm curious to -- you know, you are unhappy with the pace of the aid deliveries and what Israel has done in terms of speeding assistance into

Gaza. But also -- but when you combine that with the actual combat that's going on the ground, can you see a point where it comes -- where the United

States, where the Biden administration says, look, enough is enough? And then, if that does happen, what would that mean? Thank you.

BLINKEN: Matt (ph), thanks. In terms of the meeting today, the focus was on the maritime corridor and the pier, the dock that we'll be building that

the President announced in the State of the Union. So, what we were talking about today was with the countries that are directly participating in both

helping to establish that pier, that dock, but also putting in place the system to collect assistance, and then to send it off by sea to the dock

that we'll be building.

So, that's what this was about, and it was really following up on the President's State of the Union message. Following up in very concrete ways

to get this moving, to get this off the ground. And as I said, the military is also working intensely on this. We want to get this up and running as

quickly as possible, but it demands tremendous coordination among the donor countries and among the participating countries, and of course with Israel.

So, that's what we're focused on today.

And again, I want to emphasize that this effort is vital but it's, again, a compliment to not a substitute for other means of access for humanitarian

assistance to Gaza, and notably the overland access.

As to the second part of your question, I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals. We've been working closely with the government of Israel,

but also many other countries to try to make sure --

SOARES: You have been listening there to Secretary Blinken who held -- who said at the top that they held a video conference with several countries,

Cyprus, Qatar, the U.K., U.N., UAE, as well as the E.U. on efforts of -- for this maritime corridor for this pier that was announced, of course, at

the State of the Union by President Biden.

He said that when established, this will provide 2 million meals every single day. He said -- Secretary Blinken then said, it's going to take time

but they are working, his words, expeditiously. He said this would be a compliment to and not a substitute for other means of access in means, in

terms of overland routes by land, of course.

Alex was listening in -- Alex Marquardt listening in. So, we don't have, Alex, a timeline yet of when this is going to go ahead. But we did hear

Secretary Blinken asking -- telling Israel -- asking Israel, I should say, to open up more access in imports. This is -- this was important.

MARQUARDT: It was, Isa. In fact, the Pentagon actually said yesterday that they expect that pier, that dock, as Blinken just called it, to be

operational within 60 days. There are already U.S. Army vessels that are sailing from Virginia towards Gaza to start building that port, that pier

that the U.S. expects to involve around 1,000 U.S. troops.

But Blinken not really putting any spin on that pier here. Saying, in any way, shape or form that that's going to be a replacement for those overland

crossings. In general, he's saying that the movement is positive, but it's insufficient. And he is clearly holding Israel responsible there for not

doing enough to open up those overland crossings. Those border crossings.

There are only two open right now. There's a third that is being experimented with, and Blinken clearly saying that Israel needs to do as

much as possible to not just open up those overland crossings, but to keep them open. We have seen one of the most important ones, Kerem Shalom,

obstructed by protesters in the past few months that had a significant impact on blocking those trucks going into Gaza. Isa.

SOARES: Yes, keep them open and ease restrictions. Alex Marquardt, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

We're going to take a short break. Be back after this.



SOARES: And more now on our top story, the newest developments from Russia's war in Ukraine. A new weapons package from the U.S. could help

boost Ukraine's efforts after months of the Biden administration warning, of course, that there was no money left. The White House announced on

Tuesday, this time on the show here actually, that the new military aid is worth up to $300 million. And this comes, as we told you, at a time when

Russian President Vladimir Putin is boasting that his country has the most modern nuclear arsenal in the world.

I want to turn now to Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk, who is well known face, who joins us now here from Kyiv, in Ukraine.

Andriy, welcome back to the show. Great to see you. I wonder if I can get your reaction, first of all, to the Biden administration's new package of

aid, this 300 million. We've been told, it includes artillery, ammunition, anti-craft missiles and so forth. How significant, Andriy, in your view is

a safe package?

ANDRIY ZAGORODNYUK, FORMER UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: It is significant because it's the first one in the -- in this year. So certainly, there's

been a massive shortage of ammunition in the front right now. There's been rationing, like, severe rationing of munitions. And, obviously, whatever

comes from United States tremendously helps.

There's been a substantial effort from Europe to collect the ammunition for 155 millimeters. But there are certain types of ammunition which only

United States make. And so, you know, in certain ways, the U.S. is irreplaceable in that respect.

SOARES: I'm keen to get your thoughts on the battlefield developments because in the last few hours, in fact, Andriy, Ukraine's army chief says

that the Russian forces may try to advance into Ukrainian combat formations. Adding that the overall operational situation on the eastern

front, he says, is quote -- in his words, "Difficult." Just give us a reality check here.

ZAGORODNYUK: It's been difficult all the time. Russians have -- I mean, all the time over the last couple of months.


ZAGORODNYUK: Just sending a very small groups of people to attack Ukrainian positions because they cannot use lots of armored vehicles and tanks

because they're destroyed by Ukrainian drones. The drone war is happening on a full-scale, probably -- not probably, but certainly unprecedented in

the history of all wars. I mean, because the drones are essentially canceling many of the operational doctrines which existed by now. So,

that's a new -- a completely new type of the war.

So, to appoint (ph) that, Russians is just sending people. They're sending people, they're losing lots of people, probably 70 percent, in some cases,

of the people who they sent to -- for -- to the attack, they don't come back and they don't stay on -- at the end goal, but some of them do. And

they try to occupy our position. So, it's extremely massive and extremely brutal war right now in -- happening.


ZAGORODNYUK: And they also have advantage of the ammunition for the artillery, like, several times. So, they actively use that as much as they

can. But the progress is incremental and it's very small. We're talking about maybe hundreds of meters, tens of meters in some cases.


ZAGORODNYUK: So, the amount of effort is obviously huge comparing to the program.

SOARES: Yes. And as you're talking, Andriy, I'm just looking at news coming into CNN because the E.U. has agreed on a proposal.


This is a proposal, by the way, at this stage for $5.4 billion package to step up its military support for Ukraine. Your reaction to this proposal?

ZAGORODNYUK: There's been expected and the E.U. is stepping up as the, actually, a very ambitious player in Europe for defense, because they're

clearly afraid that if Ukraine is not stopping Russia, if Russia is moving further, this will completely destabilize the architecture of -- the

security architecture in Europe.

So, they are very, very keen to step up and I'm very happy that we see that. Some European countries are signing bilateral agreements with Ukraine

on security support. So, we see a complete -- again, completely unprecedented European effort in this.

SOARES: Yes. And we are expecting the final decision on the funding proposal set, I understand, take place on Monday at the E.U. foreign

affairs council meeting. Andriy, we're running out of time. I appreciate, as always, having you on the show. Thank you very much.


SOARES: That does it for us for this evening. Do stay right here, "Newsroom" with the -- Jim Sciutto is up next. I shall see you same time

tomorrow. Bye-bye.