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Azov Regiment Says Russian Forces Fired An Anti-Tank Weapon At A Car That Was Evacuating People From The Azovstal Plant; Explosion Damages Havana Hotel; Boris Johnson And His Party Suffer Setbacks In Local Voting In Britain; Manhunt Underway For Two Suspects; Philippines Preparing For Monday's Presidential Election; Small Irish Town Welcomes Ukrainian Refugees. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade, you're watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. Tonight, explosions have been heard around the Azovstal Steel plant where efforts to evacuate Ukrainian civilians continue. A blast at a hotel in Havana has ripped the face of a historic hotel. At least, eight people have been killed.

And British voters have had their say in local elections, and it hasn't gone well for Boris Johnson's Conservative Party. An evacuation effort is underway to help civilians escape from the Azovstal Steel plant in Mariupol, which right now is a bloody battleground. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia is quote, "not stopping its attacks on the compound." Ukrainian fighters say Russia has breached a ceasefire around the plant by firing an anti-tank weapon at a car trying to assist with the evacuations.

The steel plant is Ukraine's last stronghold in Mariupol, a city which has been largely destroyed by Russian forces. President Zelenskyy says Russia is committing torture by starvation, by blocking humanitarian aid into Mariupol. Well, meanwhile, Russia is putting its stamp on the city, changing road signs from Ukrainian to Russian, and restoring old Soviet monuments.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Kryvyi Rih and joins us now live. Nick, despite these violations of the ceasefire, U.N. and Red Cross buses are expected to help evacuate civilians. What's the latest at that steel plant?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I mean, that is the hope that the U.N. and the Red Cross are involved in this. What we've seen so far this evening are two separate buses carrying respectively, 12 and 13 civilians, including some children. According to Russian state media have come from the Azovstal Steel plant. Now, that is the Russian version of events. Of course, they are in charge of the area around the Azovstal Steel plant.

It's inside the plant that Ukrainian soldiers are still holding out. And when we first saw the first wave of over 100 civilians emerging from Azovstal, it was indeed into Russian hands, and from Russian state media that we got the first information. It is unclear, though, exactly where this next batch of 25 on the second wave of two buses are bound next. It may well be that they fall into the same mechanism that the first batch, earlier this week, did, and join the United Nations and the Red Cross later along their journey and are whisked out towards Ukrainian-held territory.

But there is a paucity of information about this. Again, a lack of trust, I think it's fair to say, and the specific evacuation while the first one occurred under a fairly substantial ceasefire. It does appear that as a consistent bombardment happening around Azovstal at the moment. So, different circumstances, perhaps, the same goal intended. But you have to remember this, Lynda, in the bigger picture, there are maybe a 100,000 civilians still in Mariupol.

Many want to get out, and this week, despite the enormous geopolitical machinations around this U.N. and Red Cross move, the U.N. said today on Friday, that since their effort began on Sunday, they've got about 500 people out. Now, that's going to contain possibly short of 150, even with this new batch, from Azovstal, the rest normal civilians trying to get out of Mariupol. That is not a lot.

And certainly, I think the volume that the U.N. and Red Cross were hoping to get underway hasn't occurred yet. And that should leave many concerned about whether if this really is a humanitarian corridor, Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, it certainly is. And Nick, several areas under Russian control are now undergoing a Russification of sorts. Flags, Soviet flags are being hang, new statues of Russian heroes are being rolled out in some areas, I understand. Even the currency is changing. What are you hearing?

WALSH: Yes, look, I mean, this is a process which has been slowed, somewhat predictable, perhaps. Given essentially, areas like Kherson, the first city that Russia occupied at the beginning of the war, has been declared by pro-Russian officials there as someone that's never going back to Ukraine that will be permanently part of Russia.


They introduced the ruble at the weekend, we understand, and their internet went off, and there have been suggestions that in fact, they've been switched now to a more Russian network. But in Mariupol, there's a Russian flag now over the hospital. This process of Russification, and essentially about returning to those areas, the predominance of the Russian language and Russia's control. And that also means the return in some places well of Soviet monuments, symbols, the clenched fist with a flame in it, that symbolized the Soviet victory over the Nazis.

This very much a sign of Russia saying these parts of Ukraine are theirs, ideologically, imposing their will and perhaps trying to tell the population that's left, many of them fled, that this is something that's not going to be reversed. I'm sure Ukraine's forces will have something possibly to say about that. That said, here is a story of somebody who survived the fighting in Mariupol, what we talked about earlier.

A Ukrainian Marine fighting for the other steel plant where there was heavy fighting in that port industrial city. And here is what he had to tell us about his injuries, and his time as a prisoner of war, held by Russia.


WALSH (voice-over): This is how Hlib's war ends, but if you told him he was lucky, he'd probably agree. He fought for Mariupol in the other steel factory, Illich since the war began, put tourniquet on friends, feel the heat of Russian tanks, blasting his building from just meters away. He survived, but only just here after 17 days as a wounded prisoner in Russia.

HLIB STRYZHKO, WOUNDED UKRAINIAN MARINE (through translator): Very often when I close my eyes, I see that moment when the tank was firing at me, and my side getting injured. On the day of my injury, one of my boys, a machine gunner was killed. Every time, it's personal. Every time, I heard it over the walkie-talkie or in person that someone was dead. It would conjure memories of him.

WALSH: His mind also in pieces, left grappling with fragments of the worst fighting in Europe for decades.

STRYZHKO: You know, there's a point when the brain accepts it, seeing the phosphorus missiles. Seeing aviation flying in. When this became normal, that was scary. We learned how to fall asleep with this accompaniment. Instead, it became scary to fall asleep in the silence.

WALSH: Two moments, though, haunt him here.

STRYZHKO: The first time I used tourniquet on my friend, and the second scene is this We saw aviation destroying whole hangars, watching a huge hangar to have nothing left in just seconds. This has really been engraved on my memory.

WALSH: Wounded on April the 10th, when he regained consciousness, he was not where he thought he was.

STRYZHKO: The first time I found out I was held captive was when we were inside an ambulance, me and another guy with similar injuries. He asked, are you ours? And they replied, it is unclear now who you mean by ours now. They said I was under the guard of the Ministry of State Security of the separatist DPR, but it was scarier when I got to the separatist hospital, I was told by a Russian soldier, you'll have to forget Ukrainian now, you will only get help if you ask in Russian.

WALSH: The Russians kept him alive, he says, so they could exchange him for their own.

STRYZHKO: There were two of us bedridden, so we had to be fed by nurses. So, they would say, because of you, my son got killed. I tried to be understanding, but they were accusing us of things we never did. And we had Russian news read to us all the time. In the morning and evening. That was a lot of pressure on the mind. A distortion of reality.

WALSH: On April the 27th, the exchange happened, and he was put on a plane. His pelvic crushed, his lower jaw broken, brain concussed. But he can still feel his legs.

STRYZHKO: And I also have problems with my eyes, because of constant bright flashes and dust. So, at first, they were glazed, then they opened. For now, I still can't see with my left and I write only silhouettes. My body was broken, but not my spirit. My doctor says that I would be able to pick any New Balance sneakers by Autumn, that makes me happy.


WALSH: At a point, he kept making -- and I'm sure the point that Ukrainian defense officials wanted us to hear by providing access. So, this is an example of Ukraine doing everything it can to get its own back from capture. And they would contrast, that's what they say is Russia's behavior to its prisoners and to its fallen here who they've reported and we've seen ourselves their dead bodies still often left on the battlefield. Lynda.


KINKADE: All right, we'll leave it there, Nick Paton Walsh for us in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, good to have you with us, thank you. Well, Cuba's presidential office says at least eight people have been killed after a massive explosion at a hotel in downtown Havana. It also says a preliminary investigation suggests that the explosion was caused by a gas leak. It happened at the Hotel Saratoga just a few hours ago.

Witnesses tell us that the blast was so powerful that buses and cars outside the hotel were damaged. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is following the story. You have been at the scene for the last few hours, Patrick. This seems to be an explosion which virtually obliterated this five- star hotel. The government believes it was caused by a gas leak. What are they saying?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They said they're continuing to investigate it. But at this point, from what the government has told us, from what witnesses have told us, it seems like there was a truck full of liquid gas that had come to the hotel, that was still under renovations, had not officially reopened yet because of the pandemic and so many things being closed here in Cuba if there's a bright lining to this terrible tragedy.

But of course, the hotel would have been full of workers. It is in a very busy area of Havana. And you see from the images that -- and from what we saw when we arrived at the hotel and some people being pulled from the rubble. The debris were just cast out with such force, huge chunks of rocks and pieces of balcony and pieces of steel railings, and just shrapnel in every direction. And not just in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, but thrown, you know, practically, across the streets.

So, anybody in the area of this hotel would have been in danger. And when we left to come back here to be able to send our video in because communications were not working there, you know, there were thousands of people surrounding the hotel, there were people who thought their relatives could have been there when the explosion had happened. They had come running to see police and fire rescue were keeping them back understandably because they are focused on still trying to find any survivors or any victims of this terrible incident.

And we've been in touch with officials on the scene, and they say they expect the number of deaths, the death toll, to continue to rise as they pull back some of this rubble. It just seems like this powerful explosion really would not have spared anybody who was in the immediate vicinity.

KINKADE: Yes, certainly, a delicate operation, trying to carry out that rescue and recovery effort. Our thanks to you, Patrick Oppmann for us in Havana. And we will stay across that story, and bring you any update as it comes to hand. Well, still to come tonight, a major test of British politics and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the U.K. election results come in. We speak to lawmakers from both sides of aisle when we come back.



KINKADE: Welcome back. The results are flooding in from the U.K.'s local council elections. And it's a major test for all parties after multiple scandals have rocked British politics. The Prime Minister's Conservative Party is seeing some big losses, notably Westminster itself. The state of U.K. politics. That was won by Labor, the U.K.'s opposition party for the first time ever. The celebrations in the Labor camp have been somewhat dampened after news broke that the party leader Keir Starmer is under police investigation over allegations of breaking lockdown rules.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo has been following all the developments, and joins us now outside 10 Downing Street. Good to have you with us, Bianca. So, a great deal of focus on these local elections, mostly because many consider this a referendum on the prime minister's performance. Given the conservatives have suffered quite a big loss here, what does that tell you?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the conservatives have been quite broadly trounced, definitely in London, also in the traditional Tory heartlands they're down around 350 seats, Labor gaining around 220. Now, it's not quite accurate to say that this would be a pitcher, simply of catastrophe for the conservatives and jubilation for the Labor Party because there are more complicated things going on, in part because the prime minister and his party have done a very good job for many months now at managing expectations about this local elections.

Basically, as soon as party-gate broke last Winter, it was considered that these elections weren't going to go well for the Conservative Party. The voters would protest their anger at the government's hypocrisy and the prime minister breaking his own rules. So, there was very little expectation the Conservative Party could possibly have a good day. It does put the prime minister in a more dangerous position politically.

It's been mitigated somewhat because the shine has been taken off Labor with the opposition leader Keir Starmer, it's now being announced by Durham Constabulary, he will be investigated for so- called beer-gate, his equivalent of the prime minister's party-gate, breaking COVID-19 rules supposedly, after a campaigning event last April. So, that investigation is ongoing. But the broader picture, Lynda, is also quite interesting.

So, the Conservative Party lost the only council that they held in Wales, so suffering there. The pitcher in Scotland looks no better whatsoever for the Conservative Party. The Lab Dems have largely been the beneficiary of lots of Tory losses throughout the south. And also over the Irish sea, we're seeing a potentially historic day as Sinn Fein, the nationalist party, it looks set to become the biggest party in the Northern Ireland assembly for about 101 years since that political system has been operational.

Which is both symbolic and significant. And could potentially mean that Northern Ireland is one step closer to breaking away from the United Kingdom and unifying with the Republic of Ireland. But let's get back to the pitcher for Boris Johnson and opposition leader Keir Starmer. I'm joined now by Fleur Anderson, a Labor MP for Putney.

And Fleur, I'd like to put to you the question that Keir Starmer has asked both the Boris -- for Boris Johnson; the prime minister and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to resign over the fact that they've been fined by the Metropolitan police for breaking COVID-19 rules.

We now have Keir Starmer being investigated for potentially doing exactly the same thing. Is your leader in a safe position this evening?

FLEUR ANDERSON, LABOR MP FOR PUTNEY: Absolutely. I mean, there's no equivalent, really, between the investigation for Keir Starmer which will, I'm sure come out with saying he had a beer during a work meeting and broke no rules, compared to all the parties, 16 parties that happened there in Downing Street, and have made people so angry that when they were following the rules, that Boris Johnson and others in Downing Street, the government, they were not following the rules.

And that is definitely one of the reasons why people voted Labor today. And I'm very excited that in my own council of Wandsworth, we have won the council after 44 years of the Conservatives being in power. But the party is just one part, and pretty much a small part of why people have chosen to vote for Labor and put their trust in Labor.


I think it's more about policies, in fact, things that really matter to people locally than about parties.

NOBILO: And Labor have had a very strong showing in these local elections. But do you think that your party -- ANDERSON: Yes --

NOBILO: Should have done better, given the scale of scandal within the Conservative Party over the last six months or year, even very recently with the resignation of a Conservative MP for watching pornography in the House of Commons chamber? And all the many scandals of the prime minister and his cabinet? Do you feel like Keir Starmer should have been able to capitalize more on all of that bad news for the government.

ANDERSON: I think we did really well in these elections, considering where we were in the last general election, which is when I got elected. And I was the only Labor again in the whole country. We have come so far as a party since then, and I wouldn't take anything away from that. I mean, winning in these three big councils in London, Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth is absolutely historic.

I mean, Westminster has not ever been a Labor council since it was created in 1965, and Wandsworth back since 1978. So I don't think we should take away any from these. And also, there are councils across the country and as you said, across Wales and Scotland as well. So, I think we've done really well at the party, and it puts us in a very good place for any general election whenever it might be.

NOBILO: Do you believe that you're now on track to win the next general election in the U.K.? And is there anything in these results that is going to sort of reinforce or change your strategy going forward as a party?

ANDERSON: Well, I wouldn't take anything for granted, and I think that voters need to still know that they can trust Labor, and that we have the policies to deliver. But these elections show that they do, and so I think, yes, we are on track to win at the next general election. Labor Party is the one to watch in Britain for what will happen next electorally. Because I just think that the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, the climate emergency, all of those are big issues in people's minds.

They're really affecting everyone on a day-to-day basis, and we are not seeing the conservatives taking up the policies to address them. So, people are putting their mouths where their votes are, and they are voting Labor. So it does put us in a very good place because people are saying we want to change. There's too much of the Conservatives. We are working hard, we're paying more, a lot more in taxes, but we are getting less. And the Conservatives are not on their side, but they're saying Labor is on their side. And that's really electorally powerful.

NOBILO: It does appear that if we look at the composition here today, it seems like a political turning point, if it's slightly more subdued, one that some may have been expecting. Fleur Anderson, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much.

NOBILO: Back to you, Lynda. KINKADE: Our thanks to you, Bianca, outside 10 Downing Street, we'll

check in with you again soon, and of course, tune in, in the coming hours for more coverage on this. Right now, I want to focus on Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, which has lost some key strongholds in these local elections. Of course, a major blow to the party and possibly to Mr. Johnson's own leadership. Now, speaking earlier, the prime minister reflected on a very tough night for the Conservatives.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: And this has been a tough night for Conservatives in some parts of the country. And in other parts of the country, we're actually moving forward. And so for Midterm, it's quite interesting that it is a mixed set of results.


KINKADE: Well, joining me now to discuss today's results is Conservative politician and Chairman for London Assembly Andrew Bath, good to have you with us. So, Andrew, the prime minister described the election results as mixed, gains in some areas, losses in others. But the losses are significant and historic -- I understand we've lost our guest. We're going to try and get our guest back in just a moment.

Of course, Bianca Nobilo will be hosting "THE GLOBAL BRIEF" from Downing Street later tonight. She will be unpacking the election results, and what they mean for Boris Johnson's future. She'll also be speaking to the leader of Sinn Fein regarding the results in Northern Ireland. That will be at 10:00 p.m. in London. So please, do make sure you tune in, and we will try to get back to our guest in a moment.

For now, I want to move on. Chinese President Xi Jinping says all levels of China's government must resolutely adhere to the country's zero COVID policy. He made the remarks Thursday to China's top decision-making body. The policy has taken a heavy toll on the economy and on the mental health of tens of millions of residents who spent weeks in lockdown. As Selina Wang reports, their desperation is growing.





WANG: Desperate to break free. One Shanghai resident pushed to the brink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to die! I want to die!

WANG: Enduring the world's strictest COVID lockdown, no longer wanting to live. We don't know exactly what triggered this man's mental anguish, but many Shanghai residents saw this widely-circulated video as a reflection of their own despair, as they've been sealed in their homes for more than a month.

Protests have erupted, residents clashing with police. As the days drag on, hopelessness rises. Multiple videos of bodies lying motionless, face down outside of apartments have gone viral on social media. This one shows two dead bodies. Residents speculated they jumped to their deaths from their windows, amid desperation during lockdown. The lockdown has sparked logistical chaos, leaving residents struggling to get food and medical care.

Multiple hospitals refused to treat violinists Tong Chupin's(ph) extreme abdominal pain. His son wrote in a widely-shared social media post, that his father was later found outside his building in a pool of blood. He said his father had jumped from his apartment window. He said his father left a suicide note, that said, "I am saying goodbye to my friends and family because I can't stand the pain."

CNN has been unable to independently verify the authenticity of the story. The hospitals have issued denials. Chin's(ph) family have not responded to multiple requests for comment. This is China's most affluent city. Residents like marketing executive Rita Zheng who loved her social and sophisticated life in Shanghai, never expected they'd be fighting for survival.

RITA ZHENG, SHANGHAI RESIDENT: I have been like under-eating for about a week. And then at the end of that week, I was just feeling -- yes, very depressed. Mostly there was a fear for whether I'm going to walk out of this alive.

WANG: At least, 27 cities are under some form of lockdown, impacting 180 million people. China's leaders are still doubling down on its zero COVID policy, calling it a quote, "magic weapon to keep the country's COVID deaths low." Even if the harsh measures, the emotional scars that haunt residents years down the line. Selina Wang, CNN, Qingming, China.


KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, outrage in Israel as a suspected terror attack leaves three people dead. A manhunt is underway for the suspects. We'll go live to Jerusalem when we return.



KINKADE: Welcome back to CNN I'm Lynda Kinkade. In Israel, three victims of Thursday's days suspected terror attack and El'ad have now been buried following what was a huge funeral procession. Three other victims are in life-threatening condition. That's according to the hospital. Police is searching for two suspects.

I want to bring in our Hadas Gold who joins us live from Jerusalem. And Hadas, what more can you tell us about the investigation into this attack?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Well, Lynda, the massive manhunt is still underway for those two suspects that police have identified as 19 and 22-year-olds from the West Bank, from a village not far from Jenin. What we know is last night around 8:30 p.m. local yesterday, I should note was Israel Independence Day, these two suspects began seemingly randomly attacking people in this town called Elad.

It's a very quiet, mostly religious town not far from Israel's main airport, but also not far from the barrier with the West Bank. And these attackers used what police are saying possibly a rifle and also an axe and or a knife. They killed three people. Four others were injured. Three of them were in critical condition. And then the attackers fled in a vehicle setting off this massive manhunt.

We were at the scene yesterday. We saw police helicopters hovering. We've seen reports of police drones being used. And police have been setting up roadblocks in Israel and in the West Bank checking absolutely everybody coming in and out. And it's been now 20 -- more than 24 hours since this attack took place and they have yet to nab the suspects.

Now, no major terrorist or militant group has taken responsibility for the attack. Although Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, has praised the attack for taking place. And to provide some context about this attack, this is the sixth attack that has been targeting Israelis since late March. Now, the death toll is that 18 people who have been killed. Five of those attacks took place in Israel proper. One of them took place in the West Bank.

As a result of those types of attacks, the Israeli military says that they've increased their -- what they call counterterrorism operations, raids in the West Bank. Clashes and incidences there have led to more than two dozen Palestinians being killed. And then we've also seen lots of tensions and clashes here in Jerusalem, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, also known as the Temple Mount, a place so holy to both the Jews and Muslims. Palestinians and Israeli forces have clashed there regularly.

And while people were hoping that the end of Ramadan would help bring some calm to the situation, Israeli officials I've spoken to have warned that these do still expect further days and weeks of tension and potentially violence because of events like yesterday, the Israeli Independence Day, but also because, Lynda, next week is the one year anniversary of that 11-day war between Hamas and militants in Gaza and the Israeli army.

KINKADE: And Hadas, I want to pivot to another story if we can. Russia, in particular, Russia's Foreign Minister has made some wild claims including that Hitler had Jewish blood and that the most ardent anti-Semites are Jews. Israel has condemned those comments and the Israeli leader has said that Putin has called to apologize. Talk to us about the relationship between these countries.

GOLD: Yes, I mean, those comments from Sergey Lavrov, he was trying to justify how Russia could want to denazify as they claim a country with a Jewish president. They hit a very sensitive nerve for Israel. And that's, of course, the Holocaust. And I think though what's actually interesting is after the initial

flurry of really angry condemnations from Israeli leaders calling Lavrov's comments lies and unforgivable, summoning the Russian ambassador, Israeli officials actually stayed relatively quiet after that initial condemnation, even as the Russian Foreign Minister amped up the rhetoric. And I think that's almost a symbol of how cautious Israel has been about its relationship with Russia.


GOLD (voice-over): In the Golan Heights, old tanks in what's known as the valley of tears, remind Israelis of the fierce battles fought here in the 1973 Yom Kippur war against Syrian forces. Such memories hang heavy as Israel attempts to navigate a new and very complicated geopolitical situation.


GOLD (on camera): Israel's frontier with Syria is just through this valley. We can even see Syrian towns from where we're standing. We're more than 1000 miles away from the war in Ukraine, but Israel's position on Russia is heavily influenced by what's happening just over there.

GOLD (voice-over): Israel often carries out airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, something it seems as critical to its security. But as Russia has expanded its military presence in the country in order to avoid unnecessary conflict between Russia and Israel, the two countries now have a direct outline.

Jonathan Conricus, the former Israel Defense Forces spokesperson says the deconfliction mechanism is necessary because the Syrian battlespace is so dense.

JONATHAN CONRICUS, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES: Before an Israeli airstrike is conducted, there was a call to make sure that Russian troops aren't armed in danger and Russian aircraft on to operating in the area where the Israeli Aircraft are.

GOLD: But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Israel found itself in a tight diplomatic spot. It initially took a more cautious stance to act as mediator worried about the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia and Ukraine and its freedom of action in Syria. Although Israel has condemned the invasion, accused Russia of war crimes, and has sent planeloads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it's been criticized for not doing more.

The comments by Russia's foreign ministry on Israel's most sensitive nerve, the Holocaust, drew one of the strongest Israeli reactions to date. And as Russia has amped up even more absurd claims about Hitler having Jewish ancestry, and Israel supporting Neo Nazis in Kyiv. The Rhetorical war of words could mean real on-the-ground consequences on Israeli strikes in Syria, and any possible future operations against an even bigger enemy, Iran.

CONRICUS: Russia has the ability to interfere with Israel's capabilities to defend itself and to negate Iranian military capabilities simply by being present with their advanced weaponry in Syria.

GOLD: But the pressure is growing. As many believe, Israel can afford those risks in order to be on the right side of history.

CONRICUS: Security is one thing. It's very important that we need to make sure that we are on the right side of our moral values, of our commitments to ourselves to freedom and to other democratic countries.

GOLD: For now, the situation here on Israel's frontier with Syria is unchanged. But as the diplomatic tangles continue, it's not clear how much longer that will last.


GOLD (on camera): So, Lynda, this apology came in a phone call between Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin for Independence Day. But one thing that's really interesting is in the Kremlin's readout, they did make no mention of the apology. The apology was announced in the Israelis read out.

When the Kremlin spokesperson was specifically asked about it, he wouldn't confirm or deny that the apology even took place. So, now, we'll have to wait and see whether this apology that the Israeli say came help sort of mend the fences or whether Israel's position will somehow change because of the relationship with Russia.

KINKADE: Yes, very strange. Hadas Gold for us in Jerusalem, thanks very much.

Well, State Police in India say they've arrested four people in connection with a rape case. They say one of the people arrested was the head of a rural police station in Lalitpur, about 600 kilometers south of New Delhi. He's accused of raping a 13-year-old girl who had gone to him to report her gang rape a few days -- from a few days earlier.

Well, the incident has provoked outrage and public pressure has led to change in the past. India adopted the death penalty in 2018 as a punishment for the rape of girls younger than 12 after a series of assaults on children. Nearly 30,000 rapes are attempted rapes are reported across the country in 2020 and looking at the government's most recent figures.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.



KINKADE: Welcome back. It's the final stretch before next week's important presidential election in the Philippines. Far ahead in the polls is Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate Sara Duterte. Marcos is the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, notorious for corruption and human rights abuses, and ousted by revolution in 1986. While the vice-presidential candidate is the daughter of the outgoing Philippine strongman leader Rodrigo Duterte, known for his bloody war on drugs.

Many have forgotten the sins of the fathers and are embracing the Marcos-Duterte ticket, but not everyone. Our Ivan Watson reports.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Still dealing with the legacy of a brutal dictator after nearly half a century. Bonifacio Ilagan wrote underground newspapers and poetry during martial law under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s when the regime arrested and tortured him for two years.

BONIFACIO ILAGAN, FILM WRITER: I didn't know my threshold of pain. And I kept on hoping that I'd lose consciousness, but I didn't lose consciousness. I endured. I was crying and pleading for mercy.

WATSON: During that crackdown, Ilagan also lost his sister Rizalina, a fellow activist who disappeared with a group of friends, some of whom were later found dead.

ILAGAN: They impressed upon us they had the power of life and death over us, because it was Marshal Law.

WATSON: Ilagan now works to ensure the painful memories of his generation are not forgotten. He's also campaigned against the Marcos family returning to power. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called Bongbong is the front runner in the upcoming presidential election.

ILAGAN: The Marcoses have succeeded in a big way, in not only rewriting history, but in turning history upside down.

WATSON: Marcos has teamed up with another controversial political name, vice presidential hopeful Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of the outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte. His legacy will be dominated by accusations he committed crimes against humanity for running a vicious drug war that left thousands dead.

Luzviminda Siapo lost her 19-year-old disabled son Raymart (PH)to the drug war in 2017.

LUZVIMINDA SIAPO, MOTHER OF DRUG WAR VICTIM (through translator): He was so caring and sweet. He was a very good son.

WATSON: Siapo said Raymart was abducted and killed after being wrongly accused of selling marijuana.

SIAPO (through translator): All I could do is cry and cry for days. I could not sleep.

WATSON: Siapo places the blame squarely with President Duterte and says she would never vote for any member of his family, including his daughter.

The two powerful new allies in red chase a growing challenge from the pink wave led by the current Vice President Leni Robredo where huge street rallies and strategy of house-to-house campaigning pose an electoral threat to the favorites. The noisy and passionate following of young volunteers ignited by Robredo's pledged to tackle corruption and help the country's poor.

Despite the grassroots support for Robredo, current polls show that the Marcos-Duterte alliance is ahead. Marco says if he becomes president, fixing the economy will be his first priority.


FERDINAND MARCOS JR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, PHILIPPINES: The failure and success of the next would be how we handle the economic situation (speaking foreign language).

WATSON: 33-year-old shopkeeper Gerald Cruz says he plans to vote for the junior Marcos because he thinks his economic policies will help to lower electricity prices. He also says he won't judge him on the cruelty of his father's regime.

GERALD CRUZ, MARCOS SUPPORTER (through translator): I have no opinion on that because I didn't live in those times. We can't base everything on books.

WATSON: But forgetting history is what Bonifacio Ilagan fears the most. At 70 years old, he's growing tired of campaigning against tyranny, but he won't give up the fight for what he has always believed in.

ILAGAN: Should Junior Marcus win, I don't think it's going to be the end of our struggle. The struggle will and must persist.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN Hong Kong.


KINKADE: Russia's war in Ukraine is shifting political faultlines across Europe. Several countries that are not part of NATO becoming increasingly vocal about joining the Alliance. And as CNN's Nic Robertson reports, Finland's military is already preparing for potential Russian aggression.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): In Finland's forests, the nation's military is readying should Russia threatened war. Arrow 22, joint military exercises finished troops alongside British, American, Latvian, and Estonian forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't know what happens. It depends on the -- on the commanders of each side. Let's see it. And if the main target is upwards, that means that the tank is destroyed.

ROBERTSON: These annual exercises now with added urgency. Russia's war in Ukraine causing Finland to consider joining NATO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to develop. And if you're in our own bubble, you don't develop.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Arrow 22 is all about preparing Finland for potentially joining NATO. In the words of the organizers, for the purposes of national defense to create and sustain international operability.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Finland's defense chief and his U.K. counterpart visiting the battle training. Success in the forests speeding Finland's path to NATO membership.

ANTTI KAIKKONEN, DEFENSE MINISTER, FINLAND: We have already good interoperability with NATO. And I believe that Finland would fulfill the criteria needed to be a NATO member. I believe that possible negotiations with NATO wouldn't take so much time because of that.

ROBERTSON: Until then, the U.K. pledging military support and clearly signaling political backing to help hasten Finland's membership.

BEN WALLACE, DEFENSE MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Exercises like this today show that our forces are professionally matched, are professionally able to interoperate. And that's a really important sort of strength that Finland would definitely add to NATO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, like the rails. Like he can really hold that.

ROBERTSON: Meanwhile, at the back of one of the tanks, camaraderie, the talk not about NATO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like your weapons better.

ROBERTSON: Troops of different nations trading tips about each other's weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys came up pretty.

ROBERTSON: Joint battlefield exercise experiences, bonding all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get to hear the experiences of the Finns, the way they grew up so close to Russia. It's definitely an interesting experience, and I think it helps us all grow together.

ROBERTSON:After a day shooting tank shells at each other, some Finnish troops pumped about their prospects should Putin pick a fight with them.

JAAKKO INKINEN, FINNISH ARMY: It doesn't seem logical. Because if they have already troops in Ukraine, and then they decide to attack us, they would get their (BLEEP) kicked.

ROBERTSON: Finland just days away from deciding if it will join NATO. Nic Robertson, CNN Finland.


KINKADE: Still to come tonight, a small Irish community welcomes hundreds of Ukrainian refugees. The story of how they are settling into life on the Emerald Isle coming next.



KINKADE: Welcome back. More than five and a half million refugees have fled Ukraine since the war began. Over 25,000 have been welcomed in Ireland. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan returned to his Irish hometown to see how some of these families are adjusting.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be thousands of miles away, but Cahersiveen, my hometown, is just one part of rural Ireland being transformed by the war in Ukraine.

Hello! How are you? What's going on? How are you?


O'SULLIVAN: A little bit because I was -- I was on a bicycle.

NI CHROININ: Six weeks ago, we were a school of an enrollment of 103 pupils and seven teachers. We arrived back after St. Patrick's weekend to a 50 percent increase in our school population where today six weeks later, we have an enrollment of 155 pupils and 10 teachers.

O'SULLIVAN: But a population of only five million people, Ireland has taken in more than 25,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Hundreds have come to Cahersiveen. And everyone is involved in making them feel welcome.

HUGH HORGAN, SCHOOL JANITOR: I come in here mostly when the classes are finished. And there's a beautiful young girl here. She's a classical pianist. And she comes in and plays the piano when the school is closed. So, she's serenades me for maybe an hour or two in the evenings.

O'SULLIVAN: Fantastic.

Hello! Mr. O'Sullivan, how are you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

O'SULLIVAN: Where's everybody here from? Where are you from?


O'SULLIVAN: You're from Kyiv.


O'SULLIVAN: And how long have you been in Cahersiveen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two months, maybe.

O'SULLIVAN: Two months?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Margaret is actually an exceptionally talented piano player.

O'SULLIVAN: Are you the piano player? Is that you?


O'SULLIVAN: Do you play in here?


O'SULLIVAN: As well as using translation apps. The school has hired teachers to help the new students learn English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All their general knowledge is really good. It's just that their English is of a lower level. But they are like sponges. They learn really quickly. And they're all really -- they're lovely children. They're always smiling.

O'SULLIVAN: As for the Irish students --

SOPHIE WENG, STUDENT: I think it's a very nice experience to have Ukrainian people in our class and that they can learn from us and we can learn from them.

O'SULLIVAN: And you're happy to have so many new people in the school?

ALEX NASAR, STUDENT: Yes, it's different. And it's a lot busier. People have new friends now. It's very nice. I like it.

NI CHROININ: It's just so lovely, despite language barrier, to see pupils engaging, learning, happy and laughing, and adjusting. Our huge success and just totally because of the whole community.

O'SULLIVAN: Across Ireland, Ukrainian refugees have been placed in hotels and emergency accommodation, and granted the right to work. Despite stretched resources, many local communities are happy to have them.


COLMAN QUIRKE, LOCAL NEWSAGENT: The lovely thing happened in the shop about four or five days ago, Ukrainian family, they were buying stuff in the shop. And they were just about to pay the bill when the little guy just stepped in and he said no. And he handed me his card and he says, I'm getting that out. And I mean they were in tears.

O'SULLIVAN: Lilia came here with her two children and has been overwhelmed by the Irish welcome, but of course still yearns for home.

LILIA OREVCHUK, FLED FROM UKRAINE: You know, every Irish people ask us, are you happy? And we are trying to be happy because so -- we have everything that we need now here. But we don't have our previous life so it's kind of difficult a little.

O'SULLIVAN: Back at Scoil Saidhbhin --

You come in here. Who's this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my daughter Margarita.

O'SULLIVAN: Margarita's mom came by to watch her daughter perform for some of her new Irish and Ukrainian friends.

Donie O'Sullivan, CNN Cahersiveen, Ireland.


KINKADE: We have some breaking news from Ukraine. The country's Deputy Prime Minister says 50 women, children, and elderly people have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. She says the operation will continue Saturday. We will bring you more details on this story as it comes to hand.

Well, thanks for watching this hour. I'm Linda Kinkade. Stay with CNN. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.