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Mike Lyons Is Interviewed About Ukraine's Counteroffensive; UPS Workers Voting On Strike; Brett Eagleson Is Interviewed About LIV Golf And The PGA Tour's Deal. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 09:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This might impact Ukraine's counteroffensive.

And this could be the largest work stoppage in U.S. history. Why hundreds of thousands of UPS employees may soon be on the picket line.


BERMAN: So this morning mass evacuations and rescues in the Kherson region of Ukraine after the collapse of a critical dam in the southern part of that country. Floodwaters spread across the center of that city. Some parts entirely cut off.

A Russian-appointed mayor in the area outside the city, Ukraine controls the city itself, but Russia, the region around it, that mayor said at least seven people are missing.


Ukraine and Russia both are blaming each other for the collapse. It's still unclear who might be responsible for the dam's destruction.

Now, as this is happening, U.S. and western officials see signs that Ukraine's long awaited counteroffensive against Russia is beginning and they've noted a substantial increase in fighting in the eastern part of the country over the last 48 hours.

With us now is retired Army Major Mike Lyons.

Major, great to see you here.

I want to start with the impact that the flooding might be having. This is what Kherson looks like in the southern part of the country. You can see the streets flooded, water up over some of the houses here.

Let me show people where that is. That's right here. The Dnipro River is -- of course is here. So, talk to me about how the existence of this flooding, this dam being gone now, how that might impact the fighting.

MAJOR MIKE LYONS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, it's going to close this gap of where the counteroffensive could take place. I've always said that the counteroffensive has got to come in this way to try to threaten Crimea and to fight Russian troops going in this direction here.

Now, with this dam being exploded here, this has become completely unpassable. There's no way that the Ukraine military can navigate the Dnipro River at that point. So it pushes this fight now further to the north and further to the east.

This is why, you know, Russia, from their perspective, thinks it's a good thing because they have abandoned those positions. Had the Ukraine military dropped that dam let's say eight months ago, they could have trapped a bunch of Russians, but that hadn't been the case right now. So advantage Russia somewhat because of this.

BERMAN: So, if Ukraine wants to push in now to this region, where would they have to - let me clear this out - where would they have to do that from?

LYONS: I still think they have to come in this direction. They have to figure out a place where they're going to ford that Dnipro River with either bridging material or helicopters, ways to get troops across.

But we're really going to define what this counteroffensive looks like. It's not going to be a battle of the bulge. It's not going to be a typical large formations of tanks like we've seen in history. This is going to be an asymmetrical warfare, guerrilla tactics. I think they're going to get troops well deep into these areas here and try to disrupt Russian supply lines, get a large number of Russian troops to surrender as such and then - and then have somewhat of a victory there, have somewhat of a foothold.

Then in 90 to 120 days, when the Abrams tanks and the Leopard tanks and all the other good stuff coming from NATO arrives, then they can have a much more effective counteroffensive that comes back up through this area. And in all - at all time threatening Crimea. That is the issue, Russia has to have Crimea.

BERMAN: Let me - let me pull out here a little bit and give people a sense of where you're talking about. This is Crimea, which Russia has occupied since roughly 2015.


BERMAN: You're saying that Ukraine now will operate in this area right here. How important is it for the Ukrainians to break what we've been calling this land bridge between Russia and Crimea?

LYONS: Very important. It will disrupt lines of communication, lines of supply. We know Russian soldiers in that area are in the defense, active defense, and they'll have somewhat of an advantage. They've been preparing those positions for months.

However, we know they're not motivated. We understand that there's been troops that have been surrendering and the like. So, this is going to give them their best advantage.

I - again, the counteroffensive is something that Ukraine can't lose. And the - you know, the president keeps talking about it's going to happen here. You know, they get to pick the time, they get to pick the place. But the bottom line is, they've got to be successful at it.

BERMAN: Let me just ask, from a tactical standpoint, when you see regions flooded like this, how difficult or maybe impossible is it to operate at the platoon or battalion level?

LYONS: Impossible. There's nothing at the platoon or battalion level that will allow them forwarding any of this equipment with heavy type of military equipment. That's just not going to happen. I mean the chances of it doing - of it before the flood were low because of the challenges of the tides. Now it's virtually become impossible.

So, again, so from Russia's perspective they can now focus their troops to the north knowing that's really the only place the attack can take place.

BERMAN: Really has to move, at least in this direction for now.


BERMAN: Major Mike Lyons, great to see you. Thank you very much.


SIDNER: It is a deal not even the professional golfers saw coming. After a year-long bitter feud, PGA Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf will merge. It's causing excitement for some players but also frustration for the families of 9/11. Coming up, we'll talk to a man whose father was killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Why he says he feels betrayed by the agreement.

Plus, opening statements began in the trial against Scott Peterson, the school resource officer who stayed outside during the Parkland school massacre. The details on that just ahead.



BOLDUAN: And 340,000 UPS workers could soon be on the picket line. They are voting this week on whether to authorize a strike if their union fails to reach a new contract agreement with the company by the beginning of August. A nationwide UPS strike would be the largest work stoppage in U.S. history.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich, she's looking - looking into this.

What is at the heart of the negotiation and holding things up right now?



YURKEVICH: Six percent of U.S. GDP moves by UPS truck. So you have now 340,000 union workers at UPS voting this week on whether or not to authorize a strike if the two sides can't come to a deal by August 1st.

And what is at the heart of this? The union says they're asking for better wages, better benefits, but also better working conditions. Remember, these are the people who worked throughout the pandemic. They were essential workers. The union is asking for basic things like air conditioning in UPS trucks. So that is - that's a health hazard for people who are driving.

We know that the two sides are meeting this week and UPS says that they want to come to an agreement before that August 1st deadline.


But this is going to impact -- if this happens, this is going to impact so many Americans, millions of Americans. It's going to impact factories, offices, people who live in rural areas who rely on UPS to get their packages. August 1st is a ways away, but we have been hearing from the union. They've been touting this strike fund of $350 million that they have to help offset what the UPS workers would be losing in wages if they do end up going on strike.

BOLDUAN: Oh. I mean, look, just -- to put that out there again, the largest work stoppage in U.S. history.

YURKEVICH: Yes, ever.

BOLDUAN: What would that actually look like? I mean how - I mean it affects, as you were pointing out, every corner of the United States, every aspect of our lives, because so much moves by UPS. What would that look like?

YURKEVICH: UPS moves 20 million packages every single day. The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, could not pick up the slack. They would not be able to handle UPS' volume. Also the last UPS strike was in 1997 where 180,000 workers went on strike. This time if it happened it would be double that, 340,000 workers.

BOLDUAN: This is such a different time, right?

YURKEVICH: Different time.

BOLDUAN: Like how - like Amazon didn't even exist then when all of this - when all of this moves.

YURKEVICH: Basically just shows there's so much more volume traveling by mail, and UPS is handling a lot of it.

BOLDUAN: It's wild. All right, we're going to stay close to this. Thanks for bringing it to us, Vanessa. Really appreciate it.


SIDNER: A new report by the American Lung Association reveals how the U.S. can prevent 90,000 deaths within the next 27 years, and it all depends on the kind of car you drive. Also outrage after the PGA Tour announced it is unifying with the

Saudi-backed LIV Golf. What some golfers and families of 9/11 victims are saying about that merger.



SIDNER: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Saudi Arabia this morning. Overnight he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The State Department said they had an open discussion about stabilizing the Middle East.

Back in the United States, the golf world is in shock following the surprise announcement that the PGA Tour is now merging with Saudi- backed LIV Golf. The Tour announced the deal yesterday after a long, bitter feud. Many players say they didn't know the announcement was even coming. The PGA Tour held a heated meeting with the golfers last night.


JOHNSON WAGNER, 3-TIME PGA TOUR WINNER: It was contentious. There were many moments where certain players were calling for new leadership of the PGA Tour and even got a couple standing ovations.

But there was a lot of anger in that room from players, feeling like they can't trust what the leadership of the PGA Tour says anymore.


SIDNER: A group representing the families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks say that they are shocked and deeply offended by the merger, saying that PGA leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. The group has been very outspoken about LIV Golf, which is bankrolled by the Saudi government, claiming that the Saudi nation is largely responsible for the deaths suffered on September 11, 2001.

Brett Eagleson's father died on that day. His son joining us now.

Brett, thank you so much for joining us.

Can you first tell me what you immediately thought when you heard that the Saudi-funded LIV Golf would merge with the PGA?

BRETT EAGLESON, SON OF 9/11 VICTIM BRUCE EAGLESON: It felt like a gut punch. You know, I woke up, I read the news, just like every other family member woke up that morning. We were utterly shocked.

You know, just a month ago the PGA was in Senate offices talking about the atrocities of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, how any lawsuits against the PGA should be disqualified or dismissed based on their human rights abuses. You know, for 24 months we saw LIV argue about -- that the PGA is engaging in anti-trust and, you know, they're engaging in all types of these activities. And then we come to find out that lo and behold, behind closed doors, after using our talking points, our blood, sweat and tears, our FBI documents that took a Biden presidential executive order to obtain, the PGA cuts a deal with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to effectively increase their pay day.

Look, for 22 years 9/11 family members have been fighting this battle with no help from any -- really - really no help from any administration, from Obama, to Bush, to Trump. Finally we have documents that clearly call out the kingdom of Saudi Arabia financed and supported the 9/11 terror attacks. One of - one -- at least a dozen members of the government were said by the FBI to be - to be behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, one of which was a Saudi intelligence operative.

So, the hypocrisy by Monahan, by people like Jimmy Dunne is just - or Dunne, I should say, is just awful, it's atrocious. And the worst part of this is I've had to answer text messages and e-mails from literally, 50, 60 family members saying, what happened? You know, we thought that the PGA was an institution built upon integrity. We thought that the PGA had morals. We thought that they had ethics. And for 12 months they had just trashed -- trashed the kingdom's name and then they turn around and do this deal. It's just - it's just -- it feels like a gut punch.

SIDNER: Brett, why do you think they made this about face? Is it just in your mind about one simple thing -- money?

EAGLESON: It certainly seems that way. You know, one thing that I wanted to say, if the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States government want to settle or stabilize relations, like you had let - you had talked about on the lead-in. Tony Blinken is in Saudi Arabia right now.


It is a mistake to ignore the 9/11 community. We are not going anywhere. This kingdom of Saudi Arabia should have prioritized our interests over the interests of golfers.

Golf is a game. Golf - golfer -- the golfing community did not lose 3,000 Americans on 9/11. So, the 9/11 community is demanding a meeting with the chairman of the PIF. If they want to normalize relations, if they want to advance and, you know, improve the relations and use golf to, you know, move that country's relationship forward, they should be talking to us, and they should be addressing the atrocities that that country committed 22 years ago.

SIDNER: Brett, thank you so much for coming on and explaining where you stand on this and you did mention all the political ties that the Trump White House, the Biden White House, all talking with the Saudis, Antony Blinken there now, and your frustration with what has happened here. I appreciate your time, sir.

EAGLESON: Thank you for having me.


BERMAN: A code red. Dangerous smoke blanketing parts of the U.S., creating some of the worst air quality conditions in the world.

And we are standing by for an update from the Vatican. Pope Francis undergoing abdominal surgery right now.