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At This Hour

Ukraine Claims Hundreds Of Russians Killed In Missile Strike; Pope Benedict XVI Lies In State Ahead Of Funeral; COVID Surge In China Overwhelms Hospitals. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 11:30   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ukraine's military says hundreds of Russians have died in a missile strike that hit a building housing Russian forces in the occupied Donetsk region. Ukraine is not claiming the responsibility for that attack.

Meantime, Russia wanting dozens of killing strikes across Ukraine. CNN Ben Wedeman is live in Kyiv with the latest. Ben, walk us through what you've seen in the last 24 hours.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the last 24 hours, we've seen Kyiv coming at once again under these drone strikes. The Russians are using Iranian Shahed-135 drones which explode upon impact.

Most of them are being intercepted by air defenses, but some are getting through. And the authorities here in the capital are telling residents to conserve on their consumption of electricity due to the damage caused to the power system.

But there's lots of talk in the capitol now about this strike on Makiivka which is a town in the Russian-occupied Donetsk, a region where according to both Ukrainian and Russian sources just shortly after the beginning of the New Year, early Sunday morning, there was a strike on a vocational school in Makiivka that was housing Russian soldiers. The Russian Defense Ministry itself is saying that 63 Russian soldiers were killed in this attack.

The Ukrainians are being somewhat coy about claiming responsibility for it, although the ministry -- the defense ministry is saying as many as 400 Russian soldiers were killed in this strike and 300 others were injured.

Now, there is some criticism being directed at the authorities by military bloggers in Russia, who say that one of the reasons for the high casualty numbers in this incident is because the vocational school contained a large cache of ammunition, Jessica.

DEAN: All right, Ben Wedeman for us, thank you so much for that update. And joining me now is retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He was a former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs. It was great to have you with us.


The mayor of Kyiv is saying these strikes overnight have once again damaged the city's infrastructure -- in energy infrastructure. We heard what Ben was laying out there. Authorities urging residents to cut down on their power use. This is obviously the Russian strategy right now. How effective do you think it could be?

KIMMITT: Well, it could very well be effective if President Zelenskyy is not able to keep the sport of the people behind him. It's important to understand the Russian strategy is not to defeat Ukrainians on the battlefield, but now he's trying to break the will of the Ukrainian people in the cities hoping that that pressure will cause President Zelenskyy to change his strategy and perhaps push to the negotiating table.

DEAN: Right. And so far, it has not but certainly, they continue to really drill down on that. And we know that President Zelenskyy made his first address of the new year. He laid out where he sees the war. Let's listen to a little of that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our sense of unity, authenticity, life itself, all these contrasts dramatically with the fear that prevails in Russia. They are afraid. You can feel it. And they are right to be afraid because they are losing.


DEAN: Because they are losing. What do you make of Zelenskyy's claim there?

KIMMITT: Well, I think he's absolutely right. The fact is, since the Russians are not winning, they are losing.


We're in a meat grinder. First World War trench type of warfare going on there. And if the Russians cannot show progress, if the Russian milbloggers who have such an effect on what's being read and said inside of Russia, if the Russians can't make progress, they are losing their fight.

DEAN: That's such a good point. And I want to zoom out for a moment. Because just to remind everyone, next month's going to mark one year since the Russian invasion began.


DEAN: And Zelenskyy has made it abundantly clear time and time again, his goal is nothing short of victory on the battlefield. Where do you see this going? What does Ukraine need now to win this fight?

KIMMITT: Yes. Well, let me do a lot of self-promotion. I wrote an article on this very issue for the Wall Street Journal about a month ago. I think what needs to happen during the wintertime is that NATO and Ukraine need to reset. They need to resupply. They need to retrain. They need to get everything they need for the spring offensives.

On the other hand, they need to continue to fire HIMARS and long-range artillery at the ammunition dumps, the supply convoys -- the supply dumps to prevent the Russians themselves from resupplying with both material and men. So, I think if the spring comes and Ukrainians are stronger and the Russians are far weaker, then Zelenskyy has a chance to make some progress next year, although I don't think the war would end by the end of the year.

DEAN: Yes, it will be like long and drown out and continue to go in that direction.


DEAN: All right. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, thanks so much for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

KIMMITT: Yes. Thanks for having me.

DEAN: A finer -- a final farewell to a legend. How Brazil is honoring soccer star Pele? We'll have a live report for you next.



DEAN: Pope Benedict XVI is lying in state at St. Peter's Basilica ahead of his funeral later this week. The former pontiff died on Saturday at age 95. Fred Pleitgen is live in Vatican City. Fred, what more are we learning about this funeral?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, it's the one after the funeral right now. And I can say that a lot of people have come through here to pay their final respects to Pope Benedict XVI. It was interesting that we got an update from the Vatican, and I'd say about three and a half hours ago and they said as of about three and a half hours ago, is that 40,000 people that pass through there.

So, you can see a lot of people coming here, wanting to pay their final respects. As you can see behind me that is still very much going on and we still have about an hour and 20 minutes to go before they close for the day here.

And that's something that's going to be happening in the past -- in the next couple of days as well. He's going to be lying in stay here until Thursday, and that is when the funeral is going to happen. If we look back to 2005, the last time that a pope died, John Paul II, that was a massive event. There were millions of people here in Rome who came here -- a lot of

pilgrims who came here, of course, also a lot of people came in from Poland. He was, of course, a Polish pope, and a towering figure in that country.

Pope Benedict himself requested that his ceremony be smaller, be humbler, and then that -- and that's certainly what it's shaping up to be. We do understand that there are some heads of state that are going to be attending.

But, of course, the big thing about the ceremony and the unique thing is going to be is that the current pope is going to be presiding over the funeral of his predecessor. And that's certainly something that is unprecedented in the Catholic Church.

We, of course, know that popes usually serve until they die. This pope stepped down around a 10-year -- a little under 10 years ago. And so, it's definitely something that's unprecedented. And it's still going to be a big, big ceremony and a big event. Not at the same scale as John Paul II but nevertheless, this is a big sea change is happening here in the Catholic Church, the end of an era, Jessica.

DEAN: For sure. And so unique to have Pope Francis, as you mentioned, presiding over the funeral of his predecessor. Fred Pleitgen for us in Vatican City, thanks so much.

Brazil is remembering a legend today. Thousands of mourners paying their respects to beloved soccer great, Pele. A 24-hour public wake now underway at the home of his former club in Santos. Stefano Pozzebon is there. Stefano, how are people honoring one of Brazil's most famous sons?

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Well, let me tell you, Jessica, seeing the live shots that Fred was just out of St. Peter's Square in Rome, it's remarkable how history has given us these two moments happening at the same time, two silver moments of people just walking in and paying their respects to two giants of their own areas and real icons of the 20th and the early 21st century.

Here in Brazil, it's a very somber moment. There is a slow Samba going on in the background, a Samba that Pele himself wrote. And that is everything I need to say to let you understand how -- what a -- what an icon offer Brazilian is. He actually was an ambassador for the country.

We've seen a few VIPs coming in already. The president of FIFA for example. And, of course, the soccer stars who used to play with Pele back in the old days, in the 1950s and 60s.

And we expect the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to arrive here at the stadium between today and tomorrow, of course, 24 hours before the funeral cortege. And Pele, the soccer legend and the greatest player of all time will be laid to rest in a cemetery just too close by from the stadium in a private ceremony attended only by his family, Jessica.


DEAN: Quite the scene we're seeing there out of Santos. Stefano Pozzebon, thanks so much.


DEAN: Actor Jeremy Renner is in critical condition at this hour after being hurt in a snow plowing accident. Responding officers say Renner suffered a traumatic injury at his home in Reno, Nevada. He was the only person involved in that accident and investigators are now looking into its cause. Renner's publicist telling CNN Renner's family is with him, and he is receiving "excellent care."

And this just in. 66-year-old former tennis star Martina Navratilova says she's been diagnosed with throat and breast cancer. Both are said to be in stage one of the disease. In a statement, Navratilova says she will "fight with all I've got." She battled and beat breast cancer in 2010. She won 59 Grand Slam titles during her illustrious tennis career.

Coming up. The FDA could decide as soon as this week on approval for an experimental drug to treat Alzheimer's. We'll have details next.



DEAN: Hospitals in China are overwhelmed with a surge of COVID patients. This video shows the entrance of a Shanghai hospital where the beds have been set up. Look at that. New cases have dramatically up since China rolled back its extreme restrictions. And starting Thursday, all travelers coming to the U.S. from China will have to show a negative COVID test.

Joining me now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, always great to have you on. I'm curious what you make of the growing numbers of countries requiring COVID testing from all travelers from China including the U.S.?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Look, I don't think that travel testing is a bad idea before you get on a plane. It's a good practice just to test to make sure that you're not potentially at risk for infecting others. But I also think that the most important thing that countries should be doing is actually what the U.S. is starting, which is, genomic surveillance.

That's something else that the federal government is going to be rolling out which is voluntarily testing the individuals who are coming in whom -- and if they end up testing positive, those sequences are going to be analyzed further to understand other new mutants, other new variants that we're seeing.

We need for the Chinese government to be a lot more forthcoming with regard to what they are seeing in their country. But in the absence of that, we in the U.S. and other countries, at least have to understand what are the variants that are emerging, and critically, are they still going to be responsive to the existing vaccines?

DEAN: Right, and that data is crucial in determining -- in determining that. What do you say to people who look at these new rules that they're putting into place that they're going to require testing for people traveling from China, but they're not requiring say masks on planes? Are those kinds of at odds with each other, or no?

WEN: Well, it depends on what the rules are for. Right now, the rate of COVID in China is extremely high. And so I think it does make sense to ask for there to be pre-departure testing if one in four people -- one in five people could be infected with COVID. And you do want to know that before boarding a flight.

But ultimately, we also have to think about the other protections that are necessary, including at this point, when there's so much COVID around us, I would definitely encourage and recommend for people to be wearing a high-quality, well-fitting ideally N-95 or equivalent when in crowded indoor settings. And that certainly includes airports and in high-risk settings, such as when you're boarding a plane or deplaning.

DEAN: I want to switch topics for just a second because we have reporting this morning that the FDA can decide this week whether to grant this experimental drug that's showing the potential to treat Alzheimer's. Can you walk us through what we know about this drug and the impact it could have if it's approved?

WEN: The biggest impact for this new drug, Aducanumab, is that it could slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. To emphasize, this is not a cure for Alzheimer's disease. That type of cure does not exist. But right now, by far, the vast majority of treatments for Alzheimer's are ones that reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's.

They don't reduce your likelihood of progressing to Alzheimer's or to have cognitive decline or other functions. And this is what this drug so far, in studies do show. And so, the FDA is going to go through this process this week of deciding whether to do accelerated approval and allow this drug to be given to a larger group of people while more evidence is being gathered.

Now importantly, accelerated approval could go one in -- one of two directions. Further studies could find that it is -- you know it is effective and that the benefits outweigh the risks or it could find the opposite and this drug would still be removed from the market after that.

And, of course, there's still the issue of pricing as well. There's a separate process through CMS that will determine the pricing and whether insurance is going to be covering this drug which also again it's going to affect the availability and access for many patients.

DEAN: And very quickly because we're almost out of time before you go, just -- this could make a big impact if it does work, right? This is pretty game-changing.

[11:55:00] WEN: Absolutely. And that's because we just don't have a lot of other options right now. And we're talking about 6 million people with Alzheimer's disease and their family and loved ones who could have a -- this could have a profound impact for those individuals if we're able to get more time for people --

DEAN: Right.

WEN: And to delay the onset of Alzheimer's.

DEAN: Right. Dr. Leana Wen for us, thanks so much for walking us through all of that. We appreciate it.

And we want to thank you for watching, I'm Jessica Dean. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right after the break.