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At This Hour

Ukrainian Forces Surrender At Mariupol Steel Plant; Pediatric Group: Cows Milk An OK Formula Substitute For Babies 6 Months+; Congress Holds First Public Hearing On UFOs In Decades. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired May 17, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Developing at this hour. Ukraine's military ordering the last of its fighters holed up at the Mariupol steel plant to surrender, hundreds being evacuated from the site of the bloodiest battle so far of this war. The plant is now in full control of Russian forces. CNN's, Melissa Bell live in Kyiv. She's tracking all of this for us. Melissa, what is the situation in Mariupol right now?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an extraordinary tale, as you say, those Azovstal fighters had become such an important symbol of -- for Ukraine, not simply of its resistance in Mariupol but of course, more broadly, of its fight against Russia. The fact of that surrender of its fighters that the Azovstal steel plant, a blow to Ukraine militarily, but of course, their fate now hanging in the balance of what remains delicate and tense in ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

We know that those evacuations are underway. We've got the images of those evacuations, some of those released by the Ministry of Defense, the Russian Ministry of Defense who speak of the fact that they're going to be treated according to the rules of international law. But clearly, at this stage, we are talking of prisoners of war, who become the subject then of negotiations.

And within those evacuations, you're talking about hundreds of families who are desperately waiting to hear whether or not their loved ones are amongst those that have been evacuated and whether or not those negotiations will allow them to come home.

We've been speaking here on the outskirts of Kyiv to one family, a mother Tatiana (PH), and her daughter who haven't seen their husband and father in weeks. They went shopping this morning because they heard on the evening news last night that these evacuations had begun in the hope that their father and husband might come home. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE1: Speaking a foreign language. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE2: We still hope that he'll return, that this will happen. We've been waiting for it for so long. We love him very much and waiting for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE3: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE2: I really want my dad to come back. Our family has been through so much since 2014. Poor dad really.


BELL: Right now, the whole country waiting to hear whether those negotiations will allow them to come back. President Zelenskyy speaking of the fact that this was a matter that required delicacy and time, and the outcome is far from certain, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's the important part about this, right? It's good to see you, Melissa. Thank you very much.

Joining me right now for more on this is CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst. General, I just wanted to get your thoughts on everything that Melissa really laid out well about what -- how this is ending with, in terms of Ukraine finally ending its defense of the Mariupol steel plant. I mean, this was really the last holdout for that city, so what does this -- what does this victory mean for Russia and Ukraine?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it was a bitter, bitter victory. Truthfully, because the Ukrainian fighters stayed so long and tied down so many Russian fighters. There were estimates, Kate, of anywhere from 12 to 14,000, Russians who were attempting to attack the Mariupol plant while you know those, probably about 1000 or so 1500 fighters were inside.

And those forces from the Russian army that were tied down there could not contribute to any of the other actions in the Donbass. So this was -- you may call it a victory because, after 79 days, I think it was, they finally gave up the plant and got their wounded -- hundreds of wounded out of there.


HERTLING: But truthfully, this was a bitter pill for the Russians. They could not execute the kind of plan they wanted to have that established a supply line between Rostov-on-Don in Russia all the way to Odessa because Mariupol was a barricade and stop that from happening.

BOLDUAN: And, General, also just kind of the state of Mariupol, I mean, just literally utterly devastated is how it is now left for Russia to take control. How does that -- how does that play into how useful Mariupol is even though it is in the strategic position that it's in?

HERTLING: Yes. Well, when you look at the roads and the railroads that are next to the steel plant, Kate, that was what was so exciting for the Russians. They needed those roads to have that line of communication. But it was also a psychological approach to this whole thing. If you look at the map and you see Mariupol right next to the conflict zone that has existed since 2014, Russia has never been able to capture this town over the last eight years.

So, it is truly sort of a -- it's called sometimes the eye of the Azov Sea. It's a beautiful city, a million people in the population, and they resisted occupation during that time from 2014 to today. So it was a victory that the Russians could never achieve. It is one now that it's going to be difficult for them to use those supply lines because the roads, the railroads, the transport routes have all been damaged, as has the steel factory of Azovstal.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Ambassador, to another important development today, Finland and Sweden, they've announced that they will be handing in their NATO application, Wednesday. The two countries just announced it this morning in a press conference.

And President Biden just announced that he's going to be hosting the leaders of Finland in Sweden at the White House on Thursday. What is the importance of this face-to-face in this moment? What's the message that you think the White House is trying to send when they -- when they meet?

JOHN E. HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, the White House is saying to Finland and Sweden that the United States will support their application for membership in NATO. And their application is an extremely important event. It underscores that two countries long known for being neutral for not being non-aligned decided that Putin's foreign policy is a direct danger to them.

And while they have strong militaries, they need the protection of NATO. This is a reminder to all of us that Putin's aims don't end in Ukraine if he were to succeed there so that's why we've got to stop Putin in Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And in the very -- most immediate thing, NATO also needs to get past the security concerns that Turkey says it has that could be a wrench in the -- a wrench in the plans for both Sweden and Finland, much more to discuss there. Ambassador, it's good to see you. Thank you for coming in. General, thank you as always.

Coming up for us, America's baby formula shortage. It drags on and on. Real relief could still be weeks away. Now, America's leading pediatric group is out with a new recommendation and a big change for parents of young babies. Details next.



BOLDUAN: Now, to the critical baby formula shortage in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics has now issued new guidance saying that whole cow's milk is an option for babies if families are running low on formula, adding that it's not ideal, but it's better than diluting formula with water which we've heard so much about how dangerous that is.

And also, the Academy of Pediatrics also saying that cow's milk should only be offered to children over six months old. A big change the pediatric group is seeing -- sees this as a temporary solution to try and help families struggling nationwide with this formula crisis. The company at the center of the shortage announced an agreement with the FDA to restart their plant, but it will be at least six weeks for products to then arrive on store shelves.

Joining me right now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen for more on this. Dr. Wen, what do you think of this new recommendation coming from the American Academy of Pediatrics?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, the American Academy of Pediatrics is not saying that it's ideal. They're not saying that they're recommending for children six months and older to be getting whole cow's milk, but they're responding to the desperation of parents for hearing their babies crying in the middle of the night because they're so hungry.

And what we're also seeing is that parents are doing things out of desperation that are unsafe, for example, diluting formula with water or making their own homemade formula that could have the possibility of contamination. So, just to be clear, whole cow's milk is harder for babies to digest. It also does not contain the recommended type of nutrients and should be used very sparingly.

So, I hope that parents will use it only in really dire circumstances. Also, remember that an 11-month-old is probably pretty close to a 12- month-old and so it might be more OK to give them whole cow's milk compared to a six-month-old where it should really be used only if there are really no other options.

BOLDUAN: And really just seeing the FDA move in this direction as they acknowledged this, again, that this is not an ideal recommendation, really just shows how serious this formula shortage is and what a danger this can pose a children's health as it drags on.


WEN: Absolutely. And we know that babies need to be fed constantly. And there are children with special needs, who need special types of formula because of allergies or metabolic deficiencies that are really struggling at this point. And so I just would highly recommend that people look at the resources that are there from their pediatrician and from their local hospitals, especially for children with special needs.

And also, for families to try everything they can to avoid these measures that are really unsafe, like making homemade formula or trying to stretch out the formula supply by adding more water. That's really not safe.

BOLDUAN: There's some news today on COVID I wanted to ask you about too, Doctor. When the FDA just gave the green light for Pfizer's boosters, for -- booster shots for children ages five to 11, it's important, of course, when any of these authorizations come through, but do you think boosters should be the focus among young kids considering how few of them even have their first shots?

WEN: Right. And that's the key that more than 70 percent of children five to 11 have not yet had their first two doses. And we should really be focused on getting the initial doses to these children to give them that initial level of protection.

That said, there are about 8 million children who are fully vaccinated, some of them may have chronic underlying medical conditions, or otherwise, their parents are just really worried about them getting COVID and so I think giving them that additional option to get the booster is a good one.

And so we'll wait for the CDC later this week to make their recommendation. And I also hope the CDC will give a nuanced recommendation. So for example, if your child was fully vaccinated, and then recently had COVID, maybe these are the kids who can hold off on getting a booster shot at this time.

BOLDUAN: The FDA also just cleared the first over-the-counter test for COVID, flu, and RSV. It caught my attention. What do you think of this?

WEN: I think it's a step in the right direction, especially coming into cold and flu season, people are going to have the sniffles, especially if they're vaccinated, they're probably not going to have very severe symptoms, even if it's COVID. And so being able to sort out if what you have is COVID, flu, or RSV, or none of the above, I think that'll help.

And it will also help people to better plan when they go see vulnerable individuals so that they can take a test in advance and make sure that they are sparing those around them who are particularly susceptible to severe illness due to COVID-19.

BOLDUAN: And here in New York City, they just announced that the city has now reached its high COVID alert level. Again, the health commissioner in announcing this is encouraging people once again on all New Yorkers to wear masks in all indoor -- public indoor settings once again. But if we're back up at a high level, he's all -- they're also not bringing back or recommending a mask mandate in the face of this. What do you think of that?

WEN: I think it's really difficult to impose a mandate but at the same time, just because the government is not requiring you to wear masks doesn't mean that you shouldn't wear masks. And I would really recommend it for people if the -- if you're living in an area like New York City or somewhere else where cases are going up, and you're particularly susceptible to severe illness, make sure that you are wearing a high-quality mask.

Don't just wear a cloth mask or even a three-ply surgical mask. Wear an N95, KN95, or KF94 whenever you're in crowded indoor settings. Get a test before you're gathering with other people. Same-day rapid tests are very good for that purpose. And before you go see vulnerable individuals like visiting grandma in a nursing home, make sure that you're testing as well to protect those people who really are the most susceptible to severe outcomes.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Doctor Wen. Thank you.

Coming up for us, a turn now to Capitol Hill, and UFOs on Capitol Hill, Congress just wrapped the first public hearing in decades on the matter. What did they learn? That's next.



BOLDUAN: Pentagon officials testifying on Capitol Hill today at the first public hearing in more than five decades on UFOs. The Pentagon rolling out a previously classified video of what's described as an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena speeding past a military jet. CNN's Kristin Fisher, she joins us now. She's been watching all this. Kristin, what did we learn in this hearing?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Kate, we've waited more than half a century since the last public hearing on UFOs, and this one was over in just 90 minutes. It was very quick. Not a ton of new information, which was to be expected. But, Kate, the Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, Scott Bray, did confirm the authenticity of two videos that were taken by Navy pilots of UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomena. Here's one of those videos that he showed in the hearing moments ago.


SCOTT BRAY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NAVY INTELLIGENCE: What you see here is an aircraft that is operating in a -- in a U.S. Navy training range that has observed spherical objects in that area, and as they fly by it, they take a video.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): And is this one of the phenomena that we can't explain?

BRAY: I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.


FISHER: And so in the video that was actually shown in the hearing, you could see this small spherical object fly by at a very high speed. And you just heard the deputy director of Naval Intelligence saying he does not have an explanation for what it is.


FISHER: And in the report released last summer by the Director of National Intelligence, they say that military pilots reported 11 instances of very close encounters with these UAPs. And so that's really what this hearing was about today to highlight that this is not just some kind of joke or conspiracy theory, but it poses a real threat to Navy pilots and also potentially our national security. And, Kate, that's something that members of this subcommittee are hoping to learn more about when they head into a closed classified session in about 10 minutes.

BOLDUAN: All right, let's see what comes out if anything. It's good to see you, Kristin. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And thank you all so much for being here. INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts after the break.