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Ukrainian Commander: Order Given To Stop Defending Mariupol; Biden Admin Secures Baby Formula From Overseas To Address Shortage; Soon: First Funeral For Victim Of Grocery Store Mass Shooting. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 20, 2022 - 11:30   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost like a goodbye, he said, that's it thank you for the shelter Azovstal, the place of my death and my life. We have also heard from various ranking military officials inside one of them saying the war is not over, that the war has just begun and another one, as you had mentioned, the top commander saying please surrender, begging those soldiers that the fight for Mariupol is over to save their own lives.

And then this from a deputy commander, Kate, this is a video statement suggesting that there is much more afoot.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My commander and I are on the territory Azovstal plant, and operation is underway. I will not give any details. I'm grateful to the whole world and to Ukraine for support. See you.


MALVEAUX: And, Kate, perhaps the hardest thing for the family members of those inside is -- and those who have also been evacuated is just the not knowing whether they are among the dead, the killed, the wounded, those who are detained, or inside that steel plant. Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Absolutely. Suzanne, thank you so much.

Joining me now for more on this is retired General David Petraeus, a former CIA director, and former head of the U.S. military Central Command. It is good to see you, General. This order that Suzanne was just laying out that commander at the steel plant in Mariupol saying it's -- that to stop defending the city.

So, it appears -- even though it's still a bit unclear, it appears the battle for Mariupol might be over. I mean, there's -- the considerable costs for both sides, I think, is an understatement. It's hard to really encapsulate the costs that have been paid in the city. But is it clear to you, who wins and who's lost? Who really benefits from this battle in this key city in how long it's dragged out? GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET), U.S. ARMY: Well, there's a bit of a pyrrhic victory for the Russians, frankly. They have lost numerable soldiers and a lot of equipment. Yes, they will own the battlefield, but at the end of the day, the cost to them has been staggering. And I -- frankly, you know, these Ukrainian soldiers have been extraordinary.

They have just been as determined as one could ever imagine. This has been the Alamo of Ukraine. They have shown resourcefulness. They've shown creativity and innovation using that steel plant, and of course, all these tunnels and bunkers and so forth that were built into it back in the days of the Cold War very, very skillfully.

And I'm sure, again, that many of them are really quite reluctant to surrender but I think the high command has their interest at heart. They've done what they can do for this country and it's time for them to surrender, the Russians will hold them for a period and then touch wood, they'll be exchanged in a prisoner exchange with Russia.

But again, the cost to Russia has been staggering. There will be units now that will be freed up, of course, that can go into the fighting as Russia tries to expand the amount of territory that they control. And they're having some costly degree of success in the very southeast part of the country. And that's one to watch because that's where they still are on the move.

But then beyond that, I think the Russians are going to start to harden the front lines of the areas that they have seized, maybe even annex those areas into the Russian Federation and say, these are part of Russia now, and if you attack us, you now incur potentially, again, the nuclear -- they'll rattle that particular saber again. That's, I think, what we have to look forward to in the weeks ahead.

And also, of course, what can Ukrainians do while they have momentum still in the eastern part of the country, where they have counter- attacks against the Russians, push them out of artillery range of Kharkiv, and could perhaps turn to the southeast and roll up the flank of the Russians? I'm sure that's their hope.

Because once the Russians can harden these frontlines, and if they can incorporate urban areas in them, we know how hard it is to take urban areas because the Russians have struggled to do that, it really around the country with the exception again of Mariupol, and a couple of others in the south. But the Ukrainians would then have that challenge and that will be a difficult one. And that's where we'll see the war potentially enter yet another phase.

BOLDUAN: That also speaks to the bigger question of what do you think will define winning this war? What do you think should, General?

PETRAEUS: Well, it was -- it's a very, very good question because what has happened, I think, Kate, is that Ukraine has defined winning in different ways as this has gone on. I suspect in the beginning, that they and maybe the U.S. and many in the West would have defined winning as retaining some port of -- part of the Ukrainian territory from which they could conduct an insurgency or something, and clearly, they have achieved vastly more than I think most observers expected would be the case.


PETRAEUS: And, of course, all of us have reassessed. We've constantly done this process of oh, well, gosh, now, so what is winning now? And the challenge here is that for the Ukrainians right now, their definition of winning is at the very least retaking all of the ground that Russia has taken since the invasion on 24 February. And in some cases, it's to retake that part of the southeastern part of the country that was controlled by the Russian supported separatists, and also Crimea. And I don't know that those are achievable.

But we do need to keep in mind, again, that this is about what President Zelenskyy and his people can accept, not what we are saying, well, you know, maybe you ought to give up part of your country, and you can get a peace agreement in this. He's the one who has to decide. And keep in mind as well, that he has said that he will put the terms of any agreement with Russia to the people in a referendum. And he's got to be certain that they will accept that.

So, this redefinition of victory as the war has gone on, and as the Ukrainians have shown themselves to be so impressive, and the Russians have so underperformed, that process still does continue. I fear that the objectives, particularly of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people especially if it's to expel them from Crimea, on top of everything else, may prove to be more than are achievable.

BOLDUAN: General, it's great to have you on. Thank you so much for spending some time with us.

PETRAEUS: My pleasure, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Amazing perspective from General David Petraeus right there. Coming up for us. The head of the FDA offering an updated timeline for when baby formula could be back on store shelves and things could be back to normal for families across America. What parents can expect now? That's next.



BOLDUAN: There are great efforts underway for sure to fix the baby formula shortage across America but so far, the crisis is not better. And the numbers show you that. Last week, the latest measure 45 percent of baby formula products nationwide were out of stock.

As for the efforts to help, the Biden administration says it is flying in from overseas right now, a huge batch of formula coming from a Nestle plant in Switzerland. The FDA commissioner is on Capitol Hill and telling -- told Congress that parents will see relief soon.


DR. ROBERT CALIFF, FDA COMMISSIONER: I can assure you FDA has been working tirelessly to address this issue. So within days, it will get better but it will be a few weeks before it works back to normal.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now for more on this is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Doctor Wen, the FDA commissioner also said this. I think we're on track to get the Abbott plant, which is the one that we've been so focused on, open within the next week or two weeks, most likely at the outer bound of two weeks. Based on that, do you think parents should see this as the end is in sight?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we have still some time to go before the head-to-end. And I think we need to address also what happened here. Essentially, what happened is we have an oligopoly, where there are four companies that are dominating the market. And so when one goes down or is not producing enough, then we have a substantial shortage and not enough resilience that's built up.

And right now, there needs to be something that's done urgently, I think reimportation from other countries, is what's going to address our issues most acutely because by the time this Abbot plant comes back online and starts ramping up production, we're talking weeks, and parents are really desperate right now.

BOLDUAN: And they are desperate and turning to desperate measures. But one thing that is worth discussing, though, are comments that I've seen, I think you've probably seen as well, of people thinking that the simple solution here is that the mother should just be breastfeeding their children again. And that is not possible for many families.

WEN: That's exactly right. So breastfeeding, of course, is the best source of nutrition. The only problem is not every woman is able to produce the supply that their baby needs. With both of my little kids, I needed to supplement with formula, especially my first child, I had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding.

And no matter what I did with my diet, or even special herbal teas, or trying to pump around the clock, I wasn't able to produce enough milk and that's why I needed to supplement with formula. And the other thing too is a lot of women have stopped breastfeeding by the time that this baby formula shortage hit and so they can't restart their lactation so quickly.

And so I think the last thing that we should be doing right now is shaming women somehow and saying that, while women just go and produce more breast milk, we should be looking at this dire needs that families are facing, which is specifically that formula is what their kids need. It's the one food that babies need in order to survive. And we have to fix that dire shortage.

BOLDUAN: And when we talk about this shortage, and people are looking for answers, I think what's kind of so galling about it is this kind of just gets to the basic functioning of society, I mean being able to safely feed infants. And if you can't do that in America, and if the government can't prevent this from becoming such a crisis, what does that say? [11:45:00]

WEN: I just don't think that any of us as parents could have seen this coming. I mean, I can't imagine. I have now a two-year-old and a four- year-old, I can't imagine if I were unable to feed them before of all the worries that parents have. So I think going forward, there need to be some really hard questions asked, to me, why is it that there are only these four big companies that are dominating the market? Can we do more to increase competition?

Also, the regulatory process that are there, what can we do to strengthen them so that we can predict when these problems occur? I think we need to take a hard look because this is happening with baby formula, but what are the other supply chain issues that we also have to build resilience around too.

BOLDUAN: It's a good question. It truly is. Really, quickly on COVID. We are seeing cases rising all over the country now, Dr. Wen, so a lot of people are getting and will be getting COVID in this moment. Thanks to vaccines, we are not seeing hospitalizations, and deaths jump like they did before.

And for many people, this is turning into very something similar to you know, the cold or flu. But what still sets COVID apart and these illnesses apart are the isolation rules that keep you out of work and out of school for so many days after you test positive for COVID. And that's what makes this not like the flu. How long do you think that we treat it this way considering that people don't think this virus is leaving us anytime soon?

WEN: I think we have a decision to make as a society, which is what is it that we are prioritizing? If we're saying that we want to prevent infection, then we do have to keep on isolating and quarantining contacts and all these other measures because we have to keep down case counts and that's how we do that.

But if we start saying what we really value is reducing hospitalizations and severe disease, then I think we may need to think about changing some of our isolation guidelines and really focusing on protecting the most vulnerable and also getting treatments to people. So instead of just focusing on preventing infections, how do we prevent severe illness if there is a surge in infection? Maybe we've searched treatment, search, testing, and other things, other tools that we actually have readily available now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, a conversation that does need to be happening across America right now. It's good to see you, Doctor Wen. Thank you. Coming up for us. The first funeral for a victim of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, it's about to begin. A beloved church deacon, Heyward Patterson will be laid to rest today. We're going to head to Buffalo next.


[11:50:00] BOLDUAN: Moments from now, the first funeral service will begin for one of the 10 people killed in the racist attack in Buffalo, New York. And we're also getting new details at this hour about who the alleged mass shoot -- mass shooter revealed his plans to in an online chat room just 30 minutes before that attack. Let's go over -- get over to CNN's Brian Todd. He is live in Buffalo. And, Brian, this is the first of what sadly will be 10 funerals in the wake of this shooting. What are you hearing there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate, it's a very emotional and somber day here in Buffalo. As you mentioned the first funerals, beginning in just minutes, the first one starting at about noon is that for Heyward Patterson, the deacon of the State Tabernacle Church, not far from here. We talked to people who knew him, he's remembered as a wonderful kind, very generous with his time, he would pick up older people to take them to the Tops Supermarket and then back home.

I did speak to one person who knew him, Geneva Smith-Johnson. She is the owner of a tailoring and fashion store not far from here. He was a regular customer. And she knew actually five of the victims who died in this but she talked to me about Heyward Patterson. Here's what she had to say.


GENEVA SMITH-JOHNSON, KNEW 5 VICTIMS OF BUFFALO SHOOTING: He was a very sharp dresser. He was a very pleasant man. He always had something encouraging to say to you also. I am angry it happened. I am angry. But it's just -- it's like, it's unreal. It's believable that this is -- this has happened. It's just unbelievable.

TODD: Can you forgive?

SMITH-JOHNSON: I'm a Christian. You have to. It's mandatory for us.


TODD: Geneva Smith-Johnson, as we mentioned, just feeling some really acute pain this morning because she knew four other victims of this attack. This comes as we get more news about the shooter's attack plan. CNN has learned that at least 15 people logged on to this private chat room that he set up 30 minutes before the attack where he posted his attack plans.

This was a chat room that he set up on the app Discord, and he invited just a select few people to join it and view his attack plans. We know that at least 15 people signed up to look at that, that's according to a source familiar with knowledge of the Discord investigation. And you can bet, Kate, that the FBI is going to be going after those 15 people to see what they knew.

BOLDUAN: Brian, thank you so much for the update. We're going to be watching this funeral. As these funeral services will be beginning, we'll be watching those closely. Thank you, Brian. Coming up for us. Another huge economic hit for Americans right now, home and rental prices skyrocketing. Details -- the latest in a live report. That's next.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, another sign the inflation crisis is far from over. Today, it's the cost of buying or even renting a home. Housing prices had a record high in April, jumping nearly 15 percent since this time last year. CNN's Matt Egan is here. The bearer of bad news continuously for us, Matt. What's this -- tell me more about this.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, supply just cannot keep up with demand as you mentioned. Another record high for home prices of 15 percent, $391,000 nationally, that's the median home price. Now, we're also seeing mortgage rates go up pretty significantly at the highest levels since 2009. That's a big deal because the more money you spend on interest, the less you have for everything else. Let me just show you an example. If you borrow $300,000 a year ago, at those mortgage rates, your monthly payment was around $1,267.