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Belarus Moving Special Forces to Border with Ukraine; Ukraine Says It Destroyed 3 Russian Pontoon Bridges in Kharkiv Area; Cases of Omicron Subvariant Offshoot Doubled Over Past 2 Weeks; Queen Misses Parliament Opening for First Time in 59 Years. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 15:30   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I'm Erin Burnett in Kyiv. Belarus announced it will deploy forces to its border with Ukraine. So that's to the north of here, the northern border of Ukraine. And a military leader says the move is in response to the 20,000 Ukrainian forces positioned near the border.

In the southern city of Odesa Russian strikes hit two hotels and a shopping mall overnight as the onslaught continues in the Russian attack. At least one was killed in that strike. Ukraine says Russia used hypersonic missiles, which of course travel at up to five times the speed of sound. A senior U.S. defense official estimated that Russia had used 10 to 12 hypersonic weapons in Ukraine, which is crucial. They go so fast they are commonly perceived to be able to evade radar detection.

Newly released a video shows the remnants of a Russian attack on a civilian convoy near Kharkiv. Meanwhile, you see bullet holes in the burned out cars, a car seat, strollers among the wreckage. It is unclear when this video was filmed but the vehicles that you see here were found on Friday. Several people reportedly were killed, including a child, a 13-year-old girl.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian fighters continue to try to hold back Russians at that Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. At least 100 civilians remain trapped inside as the attacks there continue.

Brigadier General Steve Anderson joins me now to discuss. As we hear of course, general, concerns out of the administration that this war could be escalating and intensifying. Let's start with the strikes on Odesa in the south of Ukraine. The president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy has warned that the Russian blockade in the Black Sea could threaten Ukraine and the whole world. Ukraine being such a massive food supplier and that food is not going to be able to come out. Russia has stolen grain, apparently, massive amounts of grain, and has already taken that out of Ukraine. Why is Odesa so crucial right now?

BRIG. GEN. STEVE ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, add this, Erin, to the list of Vladimir Putin's war crimes that he is now using food as a weapon. Odesa is a key port because all of the wheat and corn that's grown in the Ukraine comes out of that port. And you got to remember there's 400 million people across the world that depend upon Ukrainian wheat and corn and grain products. They're the largest producer of food sources for the World Food Program. And so, 400 million people could potentially be impacted by their inability to get this wheat out of Odesa.

This area right here is perhaps the world's richest wheat agricultural area. And what's supposed to be going on right now is the farmers should be out there planting their wheat and their corn and their crops, and they're not because there's a war going on. So not only is the port not available, but the farmers are not in the field doing what they need to do. Food is being used as a weapon by Vladimir Putin.

BURNETT: Being used as a weapon and affecting so many, as you point out, hundreds of millions. And also of course, as Americans know, you know, food prices around the world, we're seeing the impact in the United States and everywhere.


So, General, what about Ukrainian military reports that Russia is reinforcing its own border north of Kharkiv there on your map. Again, these are Ukrainians military reports. So, you know, I emphasize that, right, because it's coming from that side, but what does that signal to you?

ANDERSON: I think it's kind of a follow up to Vladimir Putin's speech yesterday. I think he realizes that he's losing this war. And that he cannot achieve his objectives militarily. I mean, remember on the 24th of February he started this blitzkrieg that turned into a sitzkrieg. They attacked the city of Kyiv, that was a dismal failure. Now he has shifted out here in the east, that's not going well either. He's losing everywhere. And so, I think what he's trying to do is consolidate his positions on the boarder and try to retain what he's got because he knows militarily, he's not going to be able to obtain his objectives.

BURNETT: So, Ukrainians say they have knocked out three pontoon bridges that Russians built on the Seversky Donets River, what's their significance in this fight? Those particular bridges and that strategic river.

ANDERSON: Well, it's really important. This river flows right through the middle of the area right here. Right through the middle of the Donbas, the Seversky Donets River. The Russians have been trying for weeks to get across the river, and they continue to be thwarted by the active defense that's being executed by the Ukrainians. The three pontoon bridges were knocked out here. As soon as they put those bridges up and the Russians got forces across the river, they knocked out the bridges. Now you've got a lot of Russians that are potentially trapped against the banks of that river.

Also, up here in Izyum area, we know that they've been trying to cross the river for weeks there as well. But what happened was the Ukrainians conducted such a successful counter offensive in this area that the Russians have had to redeploy forces from the Izyum area back in here to protect their strategic logistics lines. Because Belgorod up here is where the logistics hub is. So, I mean, everywhere you look militarily, Vladimir Putin is not achieving his objectives and he's being beat tactically in every possible way.

BURNETT: So, to this, the director of national intention spoke to Congress saying even if Russia is successful in taking control of the Donbas region -- and I'm quoting her -- the intelligence community is not confident that will end the war. Now General, I want to ask you about this. Because there's been hope among some that Putin had just said, look, I'll go ahead and try to get the Donbas and my land bridge and I'll declare victory and try to move out. But now the DNI is saying, no, that that is not likely to happen. What do you think?

ANDERSON: I think he's probably right. I think that we're probably going to be in for some kind of stalemate. Russia cannot hope to win militarily. They're not going to win this war. But I'm not sure the Ukrainians are going to be able to win either. Because victory in the Ukrainian eyes at this point is to be able to push everybody all the way out of the Soviet Hill area -- or the Russian separatist area, and they probably want to reclaim the Crimea, the areas down here, and of course around Kherson.

They're not going to be able to do that. So, I think we're going to end up happening is we're going to have some kind of long-term stalemate, and we're probably in for a long war. But, you know, the Russians are not winning. Vladimir Putin knows that. And he's going to try to do everything he can to consolidate I think what little he has gained and try to save face as best he can. It's probably going to be a very, very difficult road for him to hoe.

BURNETT: All right, General Steve Anderson, thanks so much, I appreciate your time.

And I'll say, Victor and Alisyn, today I spent the day with a deputy commander of a Ukrainian battalion. I spent the day with him on his sort of one day leave, and he's going back to the fighting on the front. And it is clear on the Ukrainian side, at least from, you know, his unit, morale is still exceedingly high. It's exceedingly high and they feel that they're making progress, and they have that certitude right now on their side.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, and we have seen that for two and a half months now, and growing support around the world for those Ukrainian fighters, and civilians. Erin is live there in Kyiv. Thank you very much.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So back here, COVID cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again across the U.S. so are the vaccines still protecting us from hospitalization?

BLACKWELL: And how about full vaccination, is that protection enough to keep you from feeling the worst of this new strain? We'll put those questions to a doctor next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: The Biden administration and the CDC are urging Americans to stay up to date on COVID vaccines. New cases linked to an offshoot of the Omicron subvariant have doubled over the past two weeks.

CAMEROTA: CDC data indicate the variant is rapidly spreading and has displaced the original Omicron BA.2 subvariant.

Dr. Peter Hotez is the dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez it's great to see you. We have been concerned. We read yesterday you have COVID. So, what are your symptoms, how are you feeling?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I've felt better before, but it could be a lot worse. Thank goodness I'm vaccinated and boosted and that's helping an enormous amount, and I'm taking packs taking Paxlovid. So, I'm maxing out all the medical therapies.

And as a result, I'm here speaking by Zoom from my home in isolation, rather than potentially something much worse. So, headache, a lot of fatigue, some cough, and hopefully I'll get through this without coughing. But, so not perfect, but could be better, but could be a lot worse. Thank you for asking.


BLACKWELL: Well listen, we forgive you if you do. We're glad you're doing well, and a reminder that the vaccinations are not to stop you from getting COVID. It's to keep you alive and to keep you out of the hospital. To that point, Dr. Hotez, this stay up to date, that includes a booster from the CDC. But the definition -- I know I asked you this question six months ago -- the definition of full vaccination is still two shots for Moderna or Pfizer, the single shot for J&J, how much protection do I have if I got that second shot a year ago?

HOTEZ: Yes, and Victor, I keep on giving you the same answer, too which is that it's not a two-dose vaccine. It's at least a three-dose vaccine. You need that booster and now if you're more than a few months out of the first booster, you're going to need a second booster.

Because now new data coming in over the next month or so is showing after that first booster against Omicron, if you're more than four months out, it goes down to 66 percent protection versus emergency room visits and 78 percent versus hospitalizations. Still good, but not nearly as good as what it was. So, if you're eligible, if you're over the age of 50, get your second booster on top of it.

Unfortunately, the American people are not in listening mode, only about 30 percent of the U.S. population has gotten that first booster and who knows what percentage is going to get the second booster. So, we're not getting that message out of the urgency of doing this.

CAMEROTA: OK, well let me help you in that case. Because here's the math of hospitalizations this week. And you can see that there are, you know, pockets, more than pockets, there are swaths of orange, which means that hospitalizations are up by 10 to 50 percent. And so, are you saying, Dr. Hotez, that the vaccinations we got before the boosters and even the single booster are no longer preventing us from being hospitalized?

HOTEZ: They are, but just not as well as they were when you first got them. I think a lot of those hospitalizations are actually individuals who probably are not vaccinated at all because we're still under achieving there. They got the Omicron infection, and they think, hey, I'm good I have been infected before, I recovered. I do not need to get vaccinated and that's wrong. Omicron is not producing much in the way of durable long lasting immunity. And so, we're seeing reinfections.

And we're seeing this big time now in South Africa. If you look at the new ba.4 and ba.5 subvariants, which will likely also be here. They're going up again precipitously in South Africa. So, it means, if you have been infected with Omicron and not been vaccinated on top of it, you're potentially in trouble for serious reinfection and hospitalization. But if you get Omicron and you've been vaccinated, that does something very special. It really helps you get greater resistance and resilience against new variants. So, the bottom line is no matter where you're at, maximize out your vaccinations, if you've not gotten your first booster, get it. If you're eligible for your second booster, get that too.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you for all the information. You didn't cough once and we wish you a speedy recovery.


HOTEZ: Thank, I really appreciate it. All the best to both of you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

New concerns about Queen Elizabeth's health after Prince Charles filled in for her at the opening of the British Parliament. We're live in London, next.



CAMEROTA: For the first time in 59 years, Queen Elizabeth missed the ceremonial opening of Parliament. Buckingham Palace blamed mobility issues for the absence of the 96-year-old Queen.

BLACKWELL: Britain's heir to the throne, Prince Charles, stepped in and performed the duty on her behalf. CNN Royal correspondent Max Foster has details.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a very symbolic moment in modern British history. We've got used to Prince Charles step up to represent the Queen when she can't make an event. But this was a core constitutional responsibility, the opening of Parliament. The monarch has to be there. She couldn't make it because of this recurring mobility issue. So, she issued legal orders to allow Prince Charles and Prince William to represent her instead. For the very first time, Prince Charles read the Queen's speech. Written by the government, it sets out the legislative agenda for the coming Parliamentary term.

PRINCE CHARLES: Her majesty's ministers will work closely with international partners to maintain a united NATO and address the most pressing global security challenges.

FOSTER: We were given less than 24 hours' notice that the Queen wouldn't be able to attend Parliament on Tuesday. And that's really the form now. Whenever she is slated to appear at an event, we'll probably be told on the day or the night before whether or not she'll be there.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


BLACKWELL: All right, a few minutes to go until the markets close. The Dow down about 80 points now. We will continue for about another five minutes in trading. We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: Apple is discontinuing the iPod.

CAMEROTA: I don't like it, Victor. I don't like this. What am I supposed to do with all of my music that is still on the iPod?

BLACKWELL: So, I just did this over the weekend. My mom had her iPod, I don't know if it's a mini or a shuffle or whatever you call it. I had to transfer all her Steely Dan and Bohannon to her iPhone, which took some convincing.


CAMEROTA: I'm a lot like your mom, OK, on many levels, obviously. If you could just come over to my house and do that, that would solve my problem.

BLACKWELL: I will contribute my services.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

CAMEROTA: Problem solved.