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Interview with Silvercup Studios Chairman Alan Suna; To Safeguard the Colorado River, Three States Reach a Monumental Consensus; "Wall Street Journal" Reporter Currently Appearing Before Russian Court; Russia's War on Ukraine; Interview with Retired U.S. Army, Former CIA Director, U.S. CENTCOM Former Commander, and KKR Global Institute Chairman David Petraeus; Ukraine Disputes Claims that Bakhmut has been Captured by Russia; US Drug Overdose Deaths Reached a New High. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 23, 2023 - 10:30   ET



ALAN SUNA, CHAIRMAN, SILVERCUP STUDIOS: And we -- if we don't embrace change and work with it, and compromise to work within the change that are, you know, hoisted upon us, we will never move forward. Whether it's with writers and their employers or it's a, you know, level of the Congress and the president.

Life has changed, the world has changed. Whoever anticipated that there would be a war in the Ukraine? I certainly didn't. And it's impacted, you know, the rest of the world and it is continuing, the world is ever changing. So, we just need to embrace change, compromise, and move forward for everyone's benefit.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Compromise, hard to come by. Much -- as needed now as ever. Alan Suna of Silvercup, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in. Thank you.

SUNA: Thank you. Good to see you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: So, it is the liquid lifeline to the U.S. west but it's been drying up. Now, in a historic agreement to try and save the Colorado River.

Drug overdoses deaths soaring. So, what drugs are to blame for this trend?



BERMAN: This morning, a historic deal has been reached to protect the Colorado River. Three states, California, Arizona, and Nevada have agreed to conserve at least 3 million acres feet of water supply over the next four years, that's around 10 percent of the water that those states receive from the river for drinking water, irrigation and power generations. In exchange, the states will be compensated with about a billion dollars in federal funding.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov has been covering this and has the details for us. This is a deal that really had to be made, Lucy?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, it's not final yet. It still needs a federal environmental review. The upper basin states still have to sign off on it. But it is a significant breakthrough, John, and one that comes after months of very difficult negotiations, stalemate in fact, several missed deadlines. Last time we were on air talking about this, the federal government had actually threatened to basically make these unilateral cuts across the board if states could not reach some sort of agreement. And this deal, announced yesterday, it should, at least theoretically, prevent that.

Now, under this new agreement, most of the reductions would be made by water districts, they'd also be made by farmers, cities, as well as native American tribes in California, Nevada and Arizona, which would essentially take less water from the river in exchange for about $1.2 billion in federal grants. And as you pointed out, it would save about 3 million acres feet of water from now through 2026. That is a lot. That is enough to supply 6 to 9 million households per year.

But this deal doesn't necessarily go far enough. The proposed cuts amount to about half of the reductions that were initially called for by the federal government. That said, it would still slash a significant amount of the total water use in the lower Colorado basement -- basin which is a historic reduction that will likely trigger significant water restrictions on the region's residence as well as farmland. This is a very important farming area that's being affected here.

And of course, we have to keep in mind, the Colorado River is the lifeblood of the region. It supplies water to more than 40 million people across seven states. But the amount of water flows has shrunk significantly in recent years by one-third from its historical average. This is because of drought, population growth, climate change. And because of that mega drought, the river's reservoirs, we're talking about Lake Powell, Lake Mead have declined dramatically. The water there -- water levels at those reservoirs have gotten so low that there was concerned that the dams would actually stop generating power.

And so, this deal would also allow for the federal government to make additional cuts if the reservoir levels dropped further. But it doesn't necessarily solve the problem of climate change and water overuse. And so, experts say if anything this is a positive step in the right direction that buys a bit more time while we scramble for a more sustainable solution. John.

BERMAN: That's a step in the right direction, but still asking a lot of this very important river. Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much for being with us.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, happening right now, the wrongfully detained "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Evan Gershkovich, is appearing in a Moscow court. Details on what this all means for his pre-trial detention and whether he will be released any time soon. We're going to have updates on that. Also new this morning -- we're going to have that and much more, coming up.



BOLDUAN: New in this hour, a hearing for "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Evan Gershkovich, is happening in Russia right now. This is all related to whether his pre-trial detention will be extended beyond May 29th. Now, Gershkovich last appeared in court in April, and that is when he asked that his detention be under house arrest rather than in jail, that appeal was denied though at that point.

The Biden administration has declared him wrongfully detained in Russia. He faces up to 20 years in prison on espionage charges, charges that he and the U.S. government deny.


BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Kate.

This morning, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region reported overnight drone attacks in his city. Belgorod right here, over the Russian border from Ukraine. A video geolocated by CNN, does show smoke rising above the city, you can see the smoke rising right here. No injuries have been reported from that strike.

So, as we said, Belgorod is inside Russia, you can see it up here. There have been other reported attacks inside Russia over the Russian border from Ukraine carried out by a group that calls itself the Freedom of Russia Legion, these are Russian, Ukraine says, that are fighting against the Russian government. You can see the attacks took place in Grayvoron up here, in Kozinka across the Russian border here. We have some video which purports to show some of the aftermath.


You can see smoke rising here in Grayvoron. And then in Kozinka, the other city, you can see some kind of operation underway here with these military vehicles.

All right. Joining me now to talk about what all this means and where things stand right now, General David Petraeus, former CIA director, former commander of U.S. CENTCOM, among a number of other posy whole (ph). He is now the current chairman of KKR Global Institute. General, great to see you. Thank you so much for being with. When we talk about these operations taking place over the border inside Russia, what the significance of this?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY (RET), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR, FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTCOM, AND CHAIRMAN, KKR GLOBAL INSTITUTE: Well, the significance of this is that it's a major distraction for the Russians at a time when they were trying to celebrate the final victory in Bakhmut, the city that they've largely destroyed. There's still a tiny Ukrainian element that defending a remnant of that. But of course, that was one of the major objectives of their winter offensive. The rest of which objectives were not achieved.

So, really, the big picture here, and we shouldn't lose sight of it as we focus on this little skirmish by these militia elements, the legion, which again are pro-Ukrainian Russian -- all Russian forces that have certainly distracted the Russians. There are elements that are having to respond to this as we speak.

But the bigger picture is that we're in a moment of transition. The Russian winter offensive has culminated. It did not achieve all of its gains. The final "Victory" in Bakhmut, notwithstanding. And oh, by the way, on the flanks of Bakhmut, the Ukrainians have been counterattacking and taking those back from Russia. And you have the head of mercenary Wagner group, Prigozhin, who's saying that he's going to withdraw his forces from Bakhmut by 1 June and give them two months of retraining and relaxation and so forth.

So, a very tenuous situation there even as they are claiming this great seeming victory. But what we should look ahead to, of course, is this looming and very important Ukrainian counteroffensive. What we're seeing so far are counterattacks. The counteroffensive is hugely important, this will use the additional Ukrainian brigades that have been trained and equipped largely now with western tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, and so forth.

And there is an enormous amount riding on this. I personally think that this is going to be really quite successful. I think that the Russian forces have beaten up very badly. They're no longer cohesive. They're not coherent in terms of command and control. Russian commanders have been replaced every few months. The individual replacements that aren't well-trained, aren't well-equipped. The units, again, are not very well disciplined. And they're going to have to withdraw under pressure of this Ukrainian offensive, the most possible tactical maneuver, and I don't think they're going to do well at that.

The Ukrainian forces on the other hand, they have not been in combat for 15 straight months the way the Russians have. They have not sustained -- these units have not sustained the losses that the Russians have. They have been in training in Germany, Eastern Poland, Ukraine, U.K., and elsewhere. And very well-equipped, disciplined, cohesive, and of course, they're fighting for Ukraine's war of independence.

And so, I think the implications in this are going to be very substantial. I do think that the Ukrainians are going to do better than a lot of analysts assessed they will. And that's hugely important because of the overall importance of keeping western support for Ukraine, and ultimately convincing Putin that he is not going to be able to out-suffer the Ukrainians, the Americans, and the Europeans.

BERMAN: General, very quickly, this counteroffensive is something that has been discussed for quite some time, more publicly, I imagine, than many military commanders would like. What's the wait at this point?

PETRAEUS: Well, the wait at this point, there are two factors. President Zelenskyy has been open about one of those. There are still some western tanks and other systems that they'd like to get into their units before they launch this. The other is very significant as well. You have to wait for the ground to get dry and firm, and the ground is still quite damp and moist, and therefore tanks, track vehicles would get mired if they go offroad and they have to go offroad.

The major obstacles, defensives and so -- defensives belts and so forth are focused on the roads. The Ukrainians will have to get off of those roads, crack through -- breakthrough the Russian fortifications, get them on the run, as they said. Try to create disarray in these units that are now quite battered, beaten up, and not particularly coherent. And then, I think, they can achieve their ultimate offensive of separating the ability of the Russians to resupply Crimea along the southeastern coast of Ukraine by driving all the way to the sea there.


BERMAN: General David Petraeus, always great to get your insight and help understanding the bigger picture. Thank you. We look forward to speaking with you again.


BOLDUAN: With the pandemic, the country saw a surge of drug overdose deaths in the United States. And now, the drug-related deaths continued to surge. What experts believe is behind this. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Drug overdose deaths in the United States surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new data now suggests that deadly trend is reaching record levels.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard is looking at this. She's joining us now. Jacqueline, what does this new data say? What kind of picture does it paint here?


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Well, Kate, what we can learn from this new data is that the synthetic opioid fentanyl is definitely still playing a role in this rise in drug overdose deaths. But also, we're seeing a rise in meth-related deaths as well.

So, when you look at the five most frequent opioids and stimulant drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the year 2021, that's the most recent year for which data are available, you see on this chart, fentanyl is right up there with 21.6 deaths per 100,000 people. But it is followed by meth which surpassed cocaine as the second most common drug involved in these deaths. Then cocaine, then heroin, then oxycodone. So, that's where we are when it comes to the types of drugs driving this rise in overdose deaths. And with fentanyl, we know it's a deadly synthetic opioid. It's about 100 times more potent than morphine, about 50 times more potent than heroin. But also, we have to remember, it's not the only factor driving this trend. There's also the rise in meth-related deaths. And we're also seeing an impact on social factor, like stress, job loss, unstable housing. So, all of those factors play a role in this complex situation. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Jacqueline. I was just thinking, just -- all -- when we see what fentanyl has just done to so many communities. This data is really important, really eye-opening for everyone, really. Thanks for bringing it to us.


BERMAN: All right. A U-Haul with a swastika flag inside crashes into gates outside the White House. We have new details coming in about the arrest, the charges, and the suspect behind the wheel.