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Dozens of Critical Stories Posted on Pro-Kremlin Website; European Commission Claims Progress in Talks with Hungary; Wounded Ukrainians Evacuated from Front Lines to Hospitals; China Doubles Down on Its Zero-COVID Policy; Queen Elizabeth to Miss Opening U.K. Parliament. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: And this breaking news just in from the besieged city of Mariupol in Ukraine. An adviser to the city's mayor says that at least 100 civilians are still trapped at the Azovstal steel plant. They are all believed to be men. The plant has been under relentless assault if you remember from Russian sources. And an official said over the weekend that women, children and elderly have been evacuated. They are now saying that there are 100 civilians, most expected to be men, inside that steel plant.

And those are protestors in Poland making it clear how they feel about Russia's Victory Day. They confronted Moscow's ambassador to Poland and doused him in blood -- red paint, as you can see there, on Monday. And this happened at a Soviet cemetery in Warsaw. Russian state media report the ambassador was trying to lay a wreath. Polish and Ukrainian protestors blocked his path and he left the cemetery with police. The Russian foreign ministry, meanwhile, blame neo-Nazi supporters for the incident.

And that wasn't the only rebuke at the Kremlin, two independent Russian journalists managed to post at least 30 articles on a pro- Kremlin news site. The stories were critical of President Putin's invasion of Ukraine, as well as his government's suppression of critics. The articles were quickly taken down but not before CNN had the chance to review them. Our Clare Sebastian joins me in London now with more on this story. It Clare, what did these journalists say exactly? And more importantly, are they safe following that criticism?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Isa, this is one of very few actual breaches of Russia's newly tightened media laws. This is about 30 or so articles that were published to news site, the-pro Kremlin news site, Lenta.Ru. It was published later managed by two journalists, who I can verify -- two editors. Their names are Egor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova, and they have really leveled some pretty searing criticism against Vladimir Putin for his war in Ukraine. Calling it one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century.

I want to read out some quotes from those articles which we reviewed.

In one of them they said: Putin and his circle doomed to face a tribunal after the end of the war. They said: Putin and his associates won't be able to justify themselves or flee after losing this war. They continued: Putin they said is a paranoid dictator. Putin must go. He started a senseless war and is leading Russia into a ditch.

So very little left unsaid in terms of their opposition to the war. We've reached out to them for comment and the news site, Lenta.Ru. They have not commented directly. But on another independent news site called Media Zone, there was a sort of a statement from one of them, Egor Polyakov. He said that this was a conscious decision.


The main reason was he was following his conscience and he called on other opponents of the war in Russia to unite.

As to the question of whether they're safe, that is a big question. We've seen, you know, previous sort of breaches of the media laws met with arrests and in these articles, they did say, you know, we're working, lawyers and probably political asylum. So, it seems that they are aware of the intense risk that they took by doing this.

SOARES: And we are hoping of course that they are safe. And Clare, you and I were here at this time roughly yesterday, when we heard President Putin's pretty defiant speech. And he suggested pretty much -- when we read between the lines -- of a protracted and entrenched conflict. Where does Europe stand on oil sanctions on Russia? Because this is something you and I spoke at great length about. Is Europe any closer to reaching a consensus on what they proposed last week?

SEBASTIAN: It is a little hard to tell, Isa. They might be a little bit closer, but I can tell you for certain that efforts to try to sort of bring everyone together on this sixth package of sanctions -- which includes this phased embargo on Russian oil imports -- efforts to bring everyone together has stepped up. The key holdout is Hungary.

And Ursula von der Leyen, the EU Commission President actually travelled to Budapest on Monday night to meet with the Prime Minister Viktor Orban to try to bring him round on these sanctions. She said, you know, there was progress made, they did this to try to clarify some issues but further work is needed. She said the next step is she's going to convene a video conference with regional players on this.

As for the Hungarian side, they are a little less optimistic. There was a tweet from the government's spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs, quoting the foreign minister who apparently said, we have made it clear that Hungary cannot support the sanctions package as long as it does not provide a solution for Hungary's concerns. In its current form the sanctions would be an atomic bomb, he said, for Hungary's economy. So, still some way apart on this issue. The discussions will continue.

SOARES: Clare Sebastian in London. Thanks very much, Clare, good to see you.

Now hospitals in western Ukraine are filling up as the wounded arrive in droves from the frontlines. I visited one of the hospitals here in Lviv and spoke with patients about their recovery and to their doctors, some really testing their skills by performing procedures that we've only really read about before.


SOARES (voice over): Dmytro is in shock. His body pierced and organs punctured multiple times by shrapnel. From shelling just outside his home in Kharkiv, a battleground in eastern Ukraine.

At first, he was very tough, he tells me. And then, I came to terms with everything that happened to me. His voice almost a whisper. He tells me he regrets not listening to his elders that fateful day.

SOARES: How are you feeling? After you know, clearly some horrendous few days?

SOARES (voice-over): I never thought that I would say it. You have to protect yourself to the maximum and follow all the rules that are told by adults, he says.

The 19-year-old who lost both his parents before the war was evacuated by train and transferred here to western Ukraine's biggest hospital, where he's undergone multiple surgeries and spent weeks in the ICU. Dmytro's doctor tells me he too is struggling to make sense of the injuries he's been seeing.

DR. HNAT IHOROVYCH HERYCH, SURGICAL DEPARTMENT HEAD, LVIV FIRST MEDICAL UNION: I've done some operation that I only read from the books and my colleagues from the Austria in Germany they also have some experience but they never seen such serious disease.

SOARES (voice-over): Dmytro's part of a steady stream of patients who have been evacuated from the frontlines and arrived in Lviv on medical trains like this one. An impressive wartime operation with an inbuilt ICU carriage, which travels back and forth between the frontline in the east with critically injured patients.

It's a journey that little Sofia also had to make when she left Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. The 9-year-old just out of the ICU is now recovering after a piece of shrapnel measuring one centimeter entered her brain as she made her way home. She's very strong. She hasn't even cried when she got wounded, her mother tells me. Visibly exhausted, her mother shows me photos of happier times. Now relieved her little girl is turning a corner.

At first when she started breathing independently and was still in Mykolaiv, they let me walk into the ICU. I walked in and unexpectedly she said mommy with tears in her eyes. I was so happy that she remembered me and that she didn't lose her memory, she says.

Sofia's neurosurgeon tells me he's never seen a case like this, as he shows me her CT scans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not more than one percent.

SOARES: So, the shrapnel came through the front. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

SOARES: All the way, perforated all the way to the back of the skull?


SOARES: Dr. Mikhailov (ph) tells me he operates on as many as five children every week. Proof perhaps that even the most innocent are not immune to the scars of Russia's war.


SOARES (on camera): And if you would like to help people in Ukraine who may be in need shelter, food and water, please go to, there you'll find several ways to assist safely and securely. And of course, we wish both of them a very speedy recovery.

I'm Isa Soares in Lviv, Ukraine. We've got much more ahead on the war in Ukraine at the top of the hour on "EARLY START." For now, back to Max in London with some of the other top stories -- Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Isa, thank you. Still to come, why millions of low income Americans may lose their health insurance if a pandemic-era policy is changed.

Plus, a growing anger and frustration in Shanghai as more new COVID restrictions are imposed on the city.


FOSTER: 14 million low income Americans could lose their health insurance when COVID-19 is no longer considered a public health emergency. A policy early in the pandemic allowed many more people to enroll in Medicaid. But the Kaiser Family Foundation says a lot of those enroll this could end in the coming months if the federal government doesn't extend that emergency declaration.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden will be addressing a global COVID- 19 summit on Thursday. This comes as his administration warns if Congress doesn't approve increased funding to contain the pandemic, the U.S. could see tens of millions of new cases in the coming fall and winter.


To prevent that possible surge, the White House has requested more than $22 billion for updated vaccines, testing and treatment. Now new cases are trending up in much of the U.S. which means another vaccine dose might be needed. A new study finds that the fourth dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccine is safe and provides a substantial immunity boost.

Shanghai is further tightening its lockdown measures after Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to unswervingly double down on the country's zero COVID policy. After a new rule Shanghai residents living near individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be sent to a government quarantine center. CNN's Will Ripley joins us live from Taipei. And it's so hard for many of us to imagine the restrictions getting even tighter there.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, because in the Western world when citizens started to revolt against these draconian lockdowns that were this place in a lot of countries around the world, people were out protesting, they were angry. And the same thing happening in China. People are protesting with their social media posts on Weibo. They're sharing their outrage and their anger and their frustration.

Whether it be that they can't get access to medical supplies or food or, you know, their terrified that they're going to be sent to a government quarantine facility just because somebody in their apartment building on the same floor as them tested positive.

And we have a video, Max, from Shanghai showing police standing in front of the door of an apartment telling residents they're going to have to go for five days into a government guarantee because someone on the same floor tested positive. And yet none of those other people were confirmed close contacts. I mean, how many times are neighbors going in and out of each other's apartments?

And then, when everybody is sent to quarantine, you have these health workers reportedly coming in and disinfecting people's homes, disturbing their family heirlooms, their plants. There have been incidents in China where pets have been injured or killed by these disinfection teams that go in without permission.

Now, we can't independently confirm, you know, all of the details of this. We're doing our best. We've reached out to the Shanghai Municipal Government for clarification. We haven't been able to identify and reach all the people that we see in these videos to corroborate them. But there are so many of them.

You know, look at the Apple supplier, Quanta, the factory where there was a rumor that somebody in the factory tested positive. And all the people started rushing out, they literally overwhelmed the security guards and tried to break their way out and run for it. Because they were terrified that they would be sent off to quarantine without, you know, potentially being able to even speak to their loved ones and give them a head's up.

So, this is what it is like it live in zero COVID China right now. In Beijing, every 48 hours they've got to stick the thing up their nose. You have to get tested and test negative every 48 hours to go to your office, to the mall, the supermarket, the hotel, government facilities. And in one day on Sunday, Max, they tested almost 18 million people in Beijing. So, Xi Jinping, his speech has led to an even more draconian policies than were out -- you know and making a lot of people outraged just last week.

FOSTER: OK, Will in Taipei, thank you. Extraordinary scenes there.

Still to come, a U.K. Parliament prepares to reopen minus one monarch. We'll go live to the House of Commons with the latest on who's filling in for the absent Queen. [04:50:00]


FOSTER: In the coming hours the U.K. Parliament is set to open. But this year Queen Elizabeth will not be in attendance. Instead, Prince Charles will deliver her opening speech with Prince William also is set to attend the event. Buckingham palace says the Queen is experiencing mobility issues. The latest in a series of health concerns over the past few months, although we believe their all linked.

Nina dos Santos joins me from outside the House of Commons with more. What people don't realize is that as much as a ceremonial role as the Queen fulfills, actually Parliament cannot open without her. Democracy can't continue without her. So, all sorts of things going on behind the scenes to allow to continue.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is a really important occasion here. Essentially the monarch's role is to enter the upper House of the Houses of Parliament, the chamber of the House of Lords, and to read out the speech which will include all the different bills that the government will try and introduce over the course of the next Parliament.

Now obviously, the Queen won't be present today as you said, it emerged late yesterday evening that Buckingham Palace said that she was still experiencing these mobility issues. And that Prince Charles, her heir and his heir, thereafter, Prince William will be standing in to deliver the speech instead.

But it's believed that the throne will be left empty and that the crown will be present in the chamber, although obviously, it won't be worn by anybody. That will be the representation of the 96-year-old monarch. But as you pointed out, this is the first time in 59 years that Queen Elizabeth II hasn't been part of this really important ceremony. The last time she missed it was in 1963 and before that she also missed it in 1959. But on those two occasions that is when she was pregnant with two of her four children.

What's going to be in the legislative agenda this time. Well, this is an opportunity politically for Boris Johnson's government to reset the narrative after the "Partygate" scandal that has grabbed the headlines for so many months. They're going to be trying to tackle economic issues. Things like the rising cost of living in the U.K. where inflation is set to top in excess of 10 percent by the end of this year.

And there'll also be other bills that will tackle things like people's right to protest and how protests that interfere with infrastructure in the country like recent climate change protests can be policed. 38 bills are going to be presented over the course of this important event. We've seen, Max, throughout may a display of all these different ambassadors who come to watch the particular event and of course all the politicians and members of the House of Lords.

It's a really important occasion.


But as you pointed out, many question marks over the state of the health of the monarch as she's pulled out of the important ceremony just ahead of her platinum jubilee -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nina, thank you very much, indeed.

The Golden State Warriors are just a win away from a trip to the NBA western conference finals. Superstar guard Steph Curry led all scorers with 32 points as the Warriors held on for the narrow victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The series moves back to Memphis for game five on Wednesday. And in the east, veteran Al Horford has scored 30 points to led the Boston Celtics to a critical win over the reigning NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks. The series resumes Wednesday night in Boston, after two games apiece

After nearly 13 years, we have our first look at the sequel to James Cameron's groundbreaking science fiction film Avatar. Here's the new footage from "Avatar: The way of Water"




FOSTER: It is a clip. Let's viewers see under the oceans with more of franchise's signature visuals pushing the boundaries of filmmaking. Currently there are five Avatar films planned. But moviegoers only have to wait until December to visit Pandora once again.

This just in to us. The German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has arrived on a visit to Bucha in Ukraine. We'll bring you as many details as we get them. We'll bring you pictures but that's going to come in in a few minutes instead.

So that is it for CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max foster in London. And our coverage continues on "EARLY START." You are watching CNN.