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Finland Takes A Step Closer To NATO; Ukrainian Military Targets Russian Pontoon Bridges; Thousands Turn Out For A Memorial Procession For Al Jazeera Journalist Who Was Shot Dead; Ukraine Eliminates Two Pontoon Bridges In The East; Kharkiv Attack Survivor Recounts Harrowing Ordeal; Saudi Aramco Becomes World's Most Valuable Company; North Korea Declares "Major National Emergency"; Women's Health Protection Act Fails In The Senate. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello everyone, I'm Lynda Kinkade, you're watching CNN Newsroom live from Atlanta. Tonight, a major policy shift with global impact. Finland takes a major step closer to NATO. I'll speak with Finland's ambassador to NATO about that decision and Russia's reaction.

And inside Ukraine, fighting rages in the east where Ukrainian troops are targeting Russian pontoon bridges to try and slow the advance. Plus, an outpouring of grief in the West Bank. Thousands turning out for a memorial procession for the "Al Jazeera" journalist who was shot dead.

For decades, Finland and Sweden believe that shunning military alliances was the best approach to ensuring their peace and security. Apparently not anymore. Both countries now expected to seek NATO membership within days as Russia's war on Ukraine triggers one of the biggest shifts in European security in generations.

Finland's leaders formally announced their support for the move today, and NATO's chief says they would be warmly welcomed. Our Nic Robertson explains how Russia's battle to prevent NATO expansion will almost certainly backfire.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): In Helsinki, calm as leaders move the nation ever closer to NATO membership. A momentous announcement delivered without fanfare by prime minister and president, a two paragraph joint statement. NATO membership will strengthen Finland. Finland will strengthen NATO. Finland must apply without delay. On the eve of the historic announcement, Finland's president explaining why it's not a threat to Russia. But Russia is to blame.

SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT, FINLAND: We increase our security and we do not take it away from anybody. ROBERTSON (on camera): The Kremlin's response, this doesn't make the

world any safer. Russia's foreign ministry doubling down, saying they'll take military action if their national security is under threat.

(voice-over): In parliament, where the historic vote will happen, routine business continues. But unless Russia escalates tensions, calls for speed --

JOHANNES KOSKINEN, PARLIAMENT MEMBER, FINLAND: Joining to NATO should be as short as possible.

ROBERTSON: When the moment comes, likely early next week, Koskinen; a member of the PM's party, is sure the vote to join will carry easily.

KOSKINEN: The results may be around 180 out of 200 in favor of membership.

ROBERTSON: Politicians and public now, for the most part in lock- step, wanting to join NATO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People of course support especially when Russia have attacked Ukraine.

ROBERTSON: Not just the invasion of Ukraine, but a history of rocky relations with Russia sparing many here to re-assess decades of neutrality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a very old father, he's 96, so he was here when we had our wars in Finland with Russia. And he's been talking about, you know, the Russians could come anytime. And as you know, my father, you're back in the '40s and take it easy and they're not -- yes, you never know what the Russians think, they can always come. I said, take it easy. And now, I just have to say to him, well, you were right.

ROBERTSON (on camera): In a way, Finland has been preparing for this moment for more than a generation. They've been involved in plenty of NATO and other international military operations from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon.

(voice-over): Just last week, British troops were training here with Finnish, Americans and other NATO soldiers. Finland's assertion is expected to be fast-tracked, nevertheless, the Nordic nation pressing its case with allies, mindful Russia is watching.

PEKKA HAAVISTO, FOREIGN MINISTER, FINLAND: Finland holds solid democratic credentials that meets NATO's membership criteria, and has a strong and credible national defense that is interoperable with NATO.

ROBERTSON: No panic here, and according to officials, no new Russian threat either.


The starting gun though clearly fired in a massive geopolitical shift.


KINKADE: An our Nic Robertson joins us now live from Helsinki with more. Good to see you, Nic. So, the Kremlin says Finland joining NATO is a threat to Russia, and it will respond. The question is, how will it respond? What's your assessment?

ROBERTSON: Russia is very much focused on Ukraine at the moment, and they've indicated as well, that it's Ukraine where their biggest concerns are of NATO engagement. You know, NATO nations providing weapons to the Ukrainians. And they've said very clearly, if there's any direct engagement of NATO, then that's where their attention is going to be drawn first. They are going to watch, very much so, what Finland does, and whether or not Finland puts more troops along the border and what it does to the border.

And I think we can expect them to match on their side. I don't think in the short term, we should expect belligerent actions along that border from Russia. But this is a new -- this is the same Russian leadership with a new way of thinking and doing business. So I think anyone making any precise calculations about it is taking a little bit of a shot in the dark. So I think any calculation that I or anyone else makes really has to be, you have to shade it and say, be cautious.

KINKADE: Yes, Putin certainly highly unpredictable right now. Nic Robertson for us in Helsinki. Thanks very much. Well, the head of Finland's mission to NATO says Russia has changed the game regarding the future of Europe's security. Ambassador Klaus Korhonen joins us from Brussels. Good to have you with us ambassador.

KLAUS KORHONEN, FINNISH AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Thank you very much, a pleasure to be here.

KINKADE: So, Finland has long held a neutral status when it comes to European conflicts. You are not militarily aligned. But now, your country is set to join NATO. It's a major shift in European security. And your leaders say Putin brought this on himself.

KORHONEN: Yes, absolutely. Of course, I mean, Finland has been a member of the European Union since 1995. For years, we have been a very close partner to NATO. So, in that sense, this step will not be such a major one, and maybe the changes is not as big as people might think. But of course, it is a result of the very drastic change in our security environment after a Russian aggression against Ukraine.

KINKADE: As noted by your prime minister and president, Finland wants membership without delay. Have you been given any indication of a timeframe, and how long could this process take, and how vulnerable is Finland while this happens?

KORHONEN: Yes, you had actually two important questions there, regarding the timeline, of course, it's really up to now political decisions in Helsinki. I think you just interviewed also members of the Finnish parliament, and if they want to have a full debate on this question, of course, it will take a little bit of time, so it's very difficult to predict with -- you know -- yes --

KINKADE: And in terms of vulnerability?

KORHONEN: Yes, absolutely. I think it's important to stick to the facts right now. We don't see any direct military threats against Finland. We don't see any other irregular activity by Russia. Of course, we heard today a little bit acid statements, so the rhetoric, you know, might be a little bit sharper. But at this point, we don't see anything. Finland has a very strong national defense. The level of resilience of our society is at a very high level. And so, I think we are pretty well prepared..

KINKADE: And what exactly are you prepared for? I mean, should the Kremlin respond, what's your expectation of how Russia might react in the coming weeks?

KORHONEN: Well, of course, there has been a lot of media speculation. And I think there is a rather broad -- how should I say, military response is very unlikely. Of course, some sort of cyber harassment, if I may call it that way, other kind of hybrid activities, disinformation campaign, that could be nothing new. This is, of course, possible. But as I said, I mean, this is pure speculation. Right now, we don't say any irregular activity.

KINKADE: Finland, of course, shares a very long land border with Russia, over 1,300 kilometers.


Once accepted into NATO, will we see NATO troops along that border? What is NATO willing to offer?

KORHONEN: Well, I think that's a discussion that is in front of us, both nationally and of course with our, I hope, future allies. With NATO, right now, as I said, Finland has a very strong national defense. You could argue that Finland is already protecting the northern flank of the alliance.

And as a member, of course, that protection would be even more effective. We don't have any plans about stationing or receiving new military structures or military personnel to Finland. But I think we should also be very open-minded, openly see what are the ways our membership -- NATO membership could increase our security and defense. But I think this debate will take place in the future.

KINKADE: And just how secure is that border right now?

KORHONEN: Well, I think it's very secure. We have a strong defense. We have a very capable border guards, and I think right now or should I say, we are awake. So, I think the border is very secure.

KINKADE: Support for NATO membership has increased and continues to increase amongst the population in Finland. For those against --

KORHONEN: That's right --

KINKADE: NATO membership, what are their main concerns? And what would you say to them to allay their fears?

KORHONEN: Well, of course, the starting point is that right now, I think the -- in a democracy, the support for NATO membership is as unanimous as it can be. The support right now is over 70 percent, and the declared opposition is not more than 10. So I think there is almost unanimous support for this. But of course, in a democracy, it's natural that we have different opinions also regarding these questions about our possible NATO membership.

I think the reasons for opposition are diverse as far as I have followed the Finnish debate. Some opposition is perhaps a little bit based on misunderstandings. But Finland will somehow lose part of its sovereignty, this of course is not true. NATO is an organization which very strictly respects the sovereignty of its member states. We will take our own decisions, also in the future.

But of course, there are also people who have a very principled objections against any military preparedness and military activities in a way -- how should I say, very principled pacifist attitude, and that of course, might be one reason.

KINKADE: Has Putin's decision to order his country's nuclear forces to move to a heightened alert status raised the risk of nuclear weapons in a confrontation? And NATO allies backing a nuclear power despot into a corner.

KORHONEN: Well, I think experts might debate whether the recent statements by the Russian leadership actually mean truly heightened alertness. But of course, nuclear rhetoric is always part of Russian security policy narrative, and at this time. But personally, I think we are very far away from any nuclear situation, if you want to put it that way. And of course, the use of nuclear weapons, or threats of use of nuclear weapons, I mean, that would open an entirely new chapter in the Euro-Atlantic landscape.

KINKADE: Ambassador Klaus Korhonen, good to have you with us, we really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much.

KORHONEN: Glad to be here, thank you.

KINKADE: Well, we have some news just in to us. Ukrainian military official say a Russian Naval ship is on fire in the Black Sea. It's a support ship and it's now being towed to the area of Snake Island. Officials say they don't know why the ship caught fire. And meanwhile, the Ukrainian officials say Russia has made advances in the east, though it's hard to tell how much ground they've captured. They say Russian forces are shelling towns and villages along the way.


And In Mariupol, a very difficult negotiations underway to evacuate wounded fighters from the Azovstal Steel plant. The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner estimates that thousands of civilian casualties are in that city. In the Kyiv region, she says Russians appear to have killed civilians intentionally. We have some new surveillance video obtained by CNN which appears to show Russian soldiers shooting two unarmed Ukrainian civilians in the back.

And as CNN's Sara Sidner reports, it's already being investigated as a possible war crime. And we need to warn you, what you're about to see is graphic and difficult to watch.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a stark example of a potential war crime perpetrated by Russian forces, an example the world has not yet seen, Russian soldiers shooting two civilians in the back. CNN obtained the surveillance video taken from this vehicle dealership that sits along the main highway to Kyiv. The video is from the beginning --


As Russians tried and failed to shell their way to the capital. The fight along this road was clearly fierce. But what happened outside this business was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded killing of unarmed men by Russian forces. The soldiers show up and begin breaking in. Inside of a guard shack, two Ukrainian men prepare to meet them.

We tracked down the men's identities, one is the owner of the business whose family did not want him named, the other was hired to guard it.

YULIA PLYATS, FATHER KILLED BY RUSSIANS: My father's name is Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats(ph).

SIDNER: His daughter, Yulia, wanted the world to know his name, and what the Russians did to him. Both civilians, both unarmed, we know this, because the video shows them greeting and getting frisked by the Russian soldiers, and then casually walking away. Neither seems to suspect what was about to happen. That is what a member of the civilian fighting force who talked to the men a couple of days before the attack told CNN. He did not want to be identified for security reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We came there earlier, warned people to leave that place. We also hope for the humanity of Russian soldiers. But, unfortunately, they have no humanity.

SIDNER: You see the two men walking in the shadows towards the camera. Behind them, the soldiers they were just talking to emerged, a few more steps and their bodies dropped to the ground. Dust shoots up from the bullets, hitting the pavement. The soldiers have opened fire. Minutes later, the guard, Leonid(ph), gets up, limping but alive. He manages to get inside the guard booth to make a call to the local guys for help, this is one of those guys, a Ukrainian truck driver turned civilian soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, we felt a big responsibility, we knew we should go there because a man needed our help. He was still alive.

SIDNER: He's the commander of a ragtag team of civilians who took up arms to fight for Ukraine and tried to save the men. When the guard called them, he explained what transpired with the soldiers. He said the soldiers asked who they were, and asked for cigarettes, then let them go before shooting them in the back. When his men finally got to Leonid(ph), he had lost massive amounts of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man from our group went there, and the guy was still alive. He gave him bandages, tried to perform first aid, but the Russians started shooting.

SIDNER: They tried to fight back but were unsuccessful. They didn't have the firepower to save their countrymen.

(on camera): Yulia, have you seen the video?

PLYATS: I can't watch it now. I will save it in the cloud and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know about this crime and always remember who our neighbors are.

SIDNER (voice-over): Her neighbors to the north, these Russian soldiers, showed just how callous they are. Drinking, toasting one another and looting the place minutes after slaying the two men.

(on camera): What were the last words that you remember he said to you?

PLYATS: Bye-bye, kisses, say hello to your boys.

SIDNER (voice-over): Her boys will be left with a terrible lasting memory, the death of their grandfather now being investigated as a war crime by prosecutors. Sara Sidner, CNN, Kyiv.


KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, Palestinians turn out to mourn a slain journalist who was killed covering an Israeli operation in the West Bank.



KINKADE: Welcome back. In the West Bank, thousands of mourners turned out Thursday for a memorial procession honoring "Al Jazeera" journalist Shereen Abu Aqleh. She was shot and killed Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin. The Palestinian authority says Israeli forces killed her and is rejecting Israel's offer of a joint investigation. Israel says it's too early to determine who killed Abu Aqleh. Hadas Gold reports.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As mourners chant nearby, friends and family console one another as a casket carrying their slain loved one and colleague arrives in Ramallah, Thursday. Soon after the memorial procession of Shereen Abu Aqleh begins, thousands gathering here to commemorate the veteran Palestinian-American journalist fatally shot in the head, Wednesday, while covering an Israeli-military operation in the West Bank. Now, Palestinian leaders vowing that justice will be served to those responsible for her death.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): This crime is not the first of its kind. Tens of Palestinian journalists have fallen before Shereen. We hold the Israeli-occupying forces fully accountable for her killing. We will not let them hide behind their crime, and we'll not let it go unpunished.

GOLD: The Palestinian Authority President rejecting Israeli government calls for joint investigation into her death. Instead, he promises to bring a case to the International Criminal Court. Israeli officials initially accused Palestinian militants of likely being the ones who killed Abu Aqleh in crossfire. But has since clarified that the circumstances of her death are unclear. The "Al Jazeera" correspondent had reported for decades from the region, plagued by violence that ultimately claimed her life.

Disturbing video from the immediate aftermath shows Abu Aqleh lying on the ground in full protective gear including flak jacket and helmet with insignia that clearly identifies her as a member of the press. Abu Aqleh's producer was also shot, but is now in stable condition.

ALI AL-SAMUDI, JOURNALIST (through translator): We were going in to film the army operation, suddenly one of them shot at us. They didn't tell us to leave, they didn't tell us to stop. They shot us. The first bullet hit me, the second bullet hit Shereen. They killed her in cold blood because they are killers specialized in the killing of Palestinians.

GOLD: The Israel defense forces say they were in the area to conduct counterterrorism operations after a series of attacks on Israelis, carried out by assailants from the Jenin area, prompted the military raids Abu Aqleh and her team were covering. In a statement, the IDF chief of staff says they have set up a special team to investigate her death.


Her death causing outrage among Palestinians, the tensions still high Thursday as protesters scuffled with Israeli police in Jerusalem. As Abu Aqleh's death adds yet another tragedy to an enduring conflict she covered for so many years.


KINKADE: That was our Hadas Gold reporting there. Well, still to come, we return to developments in Ukraine. We'll be live in Kyiv as we hear new reports on the escalating violence. Stay with us for that. Plus, Apple is no longer the world's most valuable company. We'll see what firm took the number one spot, and why?


KINKADE: Hello, you're watching CNN Newsroom, I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us. I want to return now to developments from the war in Ukraine. And in the past few hours, we've heard that Kramatorsk; an industrial city in central Ukraine has been targeted. A refinery there hit with a barrage of missiles and other infrastructure also impacted. People there are being told to stay indoors.

The U.N. is calling on all parties in the conflict to remove barriers blocking access to humanitarian staff so that life-saving aid can be delivered. And it comes as the United Nations says more than 6 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russia's invasion. And fighting still rages in eastern regions like Luhansk. Ukrainian forces there have stopped Russian advances by blowing up to pontoon bridges.

Our Melissa Bell is covering all the developments and joins us now live from Kyiv. Good to see you, Melissa. So, let's start with what's happening in the east. Ukrainian forces say they've destroyed some pontoon bridges in Luhansk. How significant is that blow?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was important to Ukrainian forces because of the strategic importance of the river that they were defending, the Seversky Donets River. This is the river that Russian forces have been trying to cross repeatedly over the course of the last few days to move eastwards from their positions -- westwards, sorry, from their positions east of that river in Luhansk.

Their aim had been to cross it twice. Ukrainian forces said they managed to blow up the pontoon bridges. A third time, they said they managed to do it again.

They now acknowledged that Russian forces have managed to cross the river and are heading toward the town. That's important because strategically, if they get enough forces across, they can make more progress.

Ukrainian forces say they are now regrouping. The fact that they've crossed the river, though, very important and bad news for Ukrainian forces trying to prevent that westward expansion.

They've been defending it as well as they could but those forces really making their way across that river. It's because Russian forces have been concentrating on expanding westward. The Ukrainians say they've been distracted, which has allowed that counteroffensive to make the progress that it has.

So a lot of attention paid to that front line along the river in Luhansk to see what happens. Good news for the Russian forces, that they have managed to get across. The important thing for them will be to get enough forces across so they can continue westward.

That's what precisely Ukrainian forces are going to try to prevent. But they have acknowledged that that river has been crossed, Lynda.

KINKADE: And Melissa, I want to ask you about some news just in to us, Ukraine says another Russian navy ship is on fire in the Black Sea.

What can you tell us?

BELL: We are talking about is the little island, Snake Island. You'll remember it's a tiny little island, it's 0.6 square miles entirely in surface, very small indeed but strategically very important.

You'll remember, on the very first day of the Russian invasion, the border guards that had been guarding it for Ukraine had achieved worldwide fame by their determination not to surrender.

Since then, there's been a lot of information coming from one side and on the other on exactly what's been happening, specifically, in the last few days, where the fight for this island has been intensified.

Moscow claiming one thing, Kyiv another. The latest that we're hearing is that a Russian naval ship is on fire just off the island. We don't know what's causing that, according to the Ukrainian side.

It's strategically important because you're talking about an island that, although extremely small, is close to Ukraine's sea border with Romania. If Russia manages to take it, it'll be strategically important in establishing its control on the northwestern portion of the Black Sea.

For the time being that doesn't appear to be the point. On the contrary, that second naval ship on fire does not bode well for Russia. It's important for Ukraine in maintaining its control.

That's the latest from the island that's been in the center of a great deal of to and fro. It will be important to determine whether Russia will be able to establish their dominance in that part of the Black Sea.

KINKADE: Melissa Bell, staying across a lot of developing stories for us, thanks very much.

Some of the survivors of Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine are eager to tell their stories. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports from Kharkiv.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Sometimes places that speak only of death throw up a jewel of life.

This is the first time Ayuna has stood in this spot since 72 days ago, she was dragged out from the rubble here. Her husband, Andrey, had been scouring it, looking for her, for three hours.

She remembers the cupboard.

AYUNA MOROZOVA, MISSILE ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): That's where I was standing.

WALSH (voice-over): The multiple-rocket attack on this, the Kharkiv regional administration, was an early sign of the ferocious, cowardly brutality Russia would unleash on civilian targets.

This is Ayuna then. She had been serving coffee and cookies to soldiers, saw a flash and curled into a ball.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I feel a physical manifestation of fear. I don't like cookies anymore. The box fell on me and I remember the smell.

WALSH (voice-over): She asked to step away, saying she's sick with butterflies like she hasn't felt since before races, when she used to swim professionally.

Andrey picks up the story.

ANDREY MOROZOV, AYUNA'S HUSBAND (through translator): When I heard her voice, I was crawling across the rubble. And the emergency services were trying to kick me out. I pulled a man out and then heard her. I did not plan to leave her here.

WALSH (voice-over): The soldiers waiting in the corridor outside from her died. Three young woman in the basement below her died.


Their bodies not found for three weeks. Yet somehow, the concrete here fell, shielding Ayuna.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I knew I was alive, in pain but nothing broken but was worried I would be left and never be heard. The first time they heard me, they started to get me out and the second missile came and I was properly trapped.

WALSH (voice-over): A rescuer eventually heard her.

MOROZOVA (through translator): Andrey got closer and I said it was me and he cried. They said they shouldn't lift the baton on me but Andrey did alone. It got easier to breathe. I was surprised, as I thought I was still at ground level. The ambulance guy said, It's your second birthday. You're alive.

WALSH (voice-over): Fragments of the Kharkiv now passed pepper this shell. Cleaning up and trying to sweep away its trauma.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I sleep with the lights on and when there's a loud car or, God forbid, a jet plane, I brace. The nightmares that I'm again lying there in shivering cold and that nobody hears my cries, that also stops me from sleeping.

WALSH (voice-over): Ayuna was born in Russia but can no longer talk to her relatives there. She says they believe Russian state media's absurd claims this is a limited operation against Nazis.

MOROZOVA (through translator): They say it was my stupidity and that I don't need to be here. I hope when time passes, our children can talk but I can't talk to them now. Russia has lost its mind and cannot control its president. They are all each responsible, every citizen.

WALSH (voice-over): The story here not of ruins lost or burial in dust but instead, of a feverish energy that burns through the building's bones as Kharkiv gets to decide where its pieces fall now -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kharkiv, Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KINKADE: Well, Russian forces are accused of stealing farm equipment and grain in the territories they now occupy. The volumes are said to be huge. Ukraine says one ship carrying 30,000 tons of stolen wheat is now in a Syrian port. It had been turned away from ports in Egypt and Lebanon before that.

CNN has identified the carrier and these are satellite images we've obtained. It's one of three bulk carriers registered to a company based in Russia that's not under international sanctions.

Ukraine's ministry of defense says at least 400,000 tons of grain have been stolen since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Saudi Aramco has overtaken Apple as the world's most valuable company once again. Oil prices jumped to more than $139 a barrel in March, the highest they've been since 2008.

Richard Quest, good to see you, as always. So tech stocks are sliding, commodity prices are swelling. Saudi Aramco and Apple have traded places in the past. Talk to us about how the markets are shifting right now.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: They're not good. And Saudi Aramco might be benefiting from a higher oil price, which brings in more money. But Apple's is sharply lower, has been. It lost 5 percent yesterday. Apple is one of those stocks that doesn't usually have dramatic moves.

As for the day overall, that picture tells its own story. We have been around 150 points lower on the Dow and we're heading down, we've got around 90 minutes left to trade on the day.

This is this crucial point where investors decide -- the market decides where it wants to be overnight.

What does it think the safest place to be overnight for the next day's trading?

As a result, we've seen the Nasdaq sharply lower, then come back. It's what you expect, this, Lynda. This volatility, there you see, we're down 2 percent on the Nasdaq now. This volatility should be expected, because no one knows what's going to happen next. And there are so many variables, Lynda, and inflation remains high.

KINKADE: So many variables, Richard. In terms of energy, major concerns that Russia could use energy to threaten NATO countries. We've already heard from Germany's vice chancellor that Russia is already using energy as a weapon.


We are seeing a number of disruptions. No doubt that only means we're going to continue see this impact on prices.

QUEST: Yes, Russia has the whip hand, let's be honest. Certainly Russia knows that Europe may be about to sanction its oil. But there is no danger of it sanctioning its gas. And that's about $400 million to $500 million a day going to Russia.

So to the extent that, A, yes, Russia needs the money but also, B, Russia has Europe exactly where it wants on the question of energy. If Russia were to suddenly turn off the taps to Germany, while it would hurt Russia's budget, it would send the German economy into reverse and, with that, the rest of Europe.

One other point, you've got China locked down; therefore, the demand for oil isn't as great in China. But if and when China starts to open up again, those productive factories will once again demand energy and prices will go back up again.

So wherever you look, the real question is what's the reason the oil would go down?

And at the moment, there isn't one.

KINKADE: Richard, thanks so much.

And, of course, will tune in to "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" at the top of the hour.

Still to come tonight, COVID-19 in North Korea. The country reports its first case more than two years since the start of the pandemic. We will have the latest on that, next.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

U.S. President Joe Biden says that 1 million Americans have now died from COVID-19. The White House marked the moment during a virtual global COVID-19 summit aimed at fighting future variants.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This pandemic isn't over. Today we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, 1 million COVID deaths, 1 million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable losses.


KINKADE: President Biden also urged Congress to provide more funding for testing, treatments and vaccines.

North Korea has reported its first ever COVID-19 case.


More than two years since the start of the pandemic. It comes as the country fired three short range ballistic missiles in a move condemned by its neighbors. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is likely the first time we've seen North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wear a mask in public since the pandemic began, ordering all cities to lock down after admitting the first COVID-19 case in Pyongyang.

MASON RICHEY, HANKUK UNIVERSITY: There have probably been cases before but they haven't admitted them.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The number of cases of Omicron are unknown but North Korea is only one of two countries in the world believed to have delivered zero COVID-19 vaccinations.

BRIAN WAHL, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL: Even in other settings, there would be higher levels of prior exposure. So this is unique in North Korea.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): COVAX has moved to a needs-based vaccine allocation, saying it's currently not committed any to North Korea.

China now says it's ready to provide its full support. The level of testing is low. Just 64,000 have been tested of over 25 million. The health infrastructure is fragile at best.

WAHL: I would imagine the high levels of malnutrition may be an additional risk factor.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): It's a population under lockdown in a country not set up for the deliver of food and survival items. Food supply is already at a crisis in the country.

RICHEY: It could affect agriculture and harvest, interior commerce, the ability for public distribution.

HANCOCKS: Many experts wondered whether an outbreak would halt North Korea's run on missile and weapons tests. Pyongyang answered with another launch -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


KINKADE: Well, still to come tonight, wildfires sweep through southern California. Homes destroyed and residents forced to flee. A roaring sign of what is to come, as fire season approaches.





KINKADE: Welcome back. A fast moving wildfire is sweeping across southern California. At

least 20 homes in Orange County, some described as mansions, have been destroyed, with residents ordered to evacuate in some neighborhoods.

Well, the fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon and grew about 200 acres in just a few hours. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported. Drought conditions continue to deepen in California, with displays a devastating preview of the coming fire season.

So let's broaden out the wider climate conversation with CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir.

Good to see you, Bill. So we've stopped talking about bush fire seasons. That is the word from California's chief of communications at the fire department, because these out of control fires are happening all the time, every season.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. To imply that there is a fire season would be to imply that there is a season where there is no fire, he says, and that in California just does not exist anymore.

Yes, this time of year, this should not happen. It should not happen that quickly in these places. It does not have to be big. It does not have to be one of these big, you know, hundred thousand acre hectare fires. It could be small and contained in a place like Laguna, California.

You are talking about a lot of losses in terms of property values. But what is concerning to is that CAL FIRE and the state at whole is a mutual aid state, which means that if you come help put out my town, I will come help put out yours.

But when both towns are on fire, what do you do?

So it's making people rethink it. More insurance companies are hiring private firefighters to watch after expensive properties. And after this one in Orange County, that will continue to be a booming profession.

KINKADE: And of course, Bill, one of the big issues is that extreme drought in California, which, of course, is expanding. U.S. drought monitor says it now covers 60 percent of the state.

And I saw scientists recently noting in the NATO climate study that this mega drought is now considered the worst in some 1,200 years.

WEIR: Yes, yes. They can go back and look at really old tree rings and figure out the last time it was this dry, this long. But this could be a once every half century event now. This is now a 22-year megadrought. It's after 150 years of fire suppression in the West, as we built log cabins in wilderness areas there and then tried to protect them now.

So there is a buildup of all this fuel. That plus this drought and you are just seeing what is happening now. So the thinking is, rather than fight wilderness fires out where there are no people, use that money and resources and try to harden your homes and your businesses and towns against what is certain to eventually come.

KINKADE: I know it was interesting, listening to the Orange County fire chief officials, saying that climate change is turning what would typically be a pretty small fire that would be manageable and contained into these extreme threats.

When do you typically see these wildfires peak?

WEIR: Much later in the year, not for a few months right now. You know, these were just 30 mile an hour, 50 kilometer an hour winds, just, still pretty gusty. But in November when the Santa Ana start blowing up those canyons, it gets to 100 kilometers an hour, 50 miles an hour, 60 mile an hour winds.

And so, that is what they worry about. And in the history of California, they've never stopped a Santa Ana driven fire. They just have to wait until the conditions burn it out on its own.

But after this woeful snow season, you know, the Rockies and the Sierras are the water towers of the American West. And there is just not enough water in those towers. The reservoirs, Powell and Mead, are at woeful levels and there is no relief in sight.

KINKADE: No, those firefighters have their work cut out. All right, Bill Weir, good to have you with us as always. Thanks so much.

Well, the U.S. Supreme Court is meeting behind closed doors today, the first time the justices have met since that astonishing leak of a draft opinion that indicated that the court would overturn Roe v. Wade, which of course, guarantees women in the U.S. the right to an abortion.

Well, on Wednesday, Democrats failed to pass a bill that would preserve access to abortion nationwide. The Women's Health Protection Act failed in the Senate after facing strong Republican resistance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This legislation would allow abortions for viable babies in the ninth month with no waiting period or informed consent at the hands of a non physician. Taxpayers could be forced to pay for it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Catholic hospitals could be forced to perform it.


KINKADE: Well, the final tally was 49 to 51, with moderate Democrat, Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, joining the Republicans.

Here's another reminder of just how complicated it is for Democrats to pass their proposals with such a narrow Senate majority.

Well, finally a story that is both otherworldly yet so close to home. For the first time ever, we are getting a look at a supermassive black hole that lies right in the center of our galaxy. It's called Sagittarius A* and it is 27,000 light years from Earth.

Its gravitational pull is so strong that not even light can escape. So what we are seeing here is not the black hole itself but the super hot gases orbiting it. And it's pretty big, too. Astronomers say it's 4 million times larger than the sun.

This is the second time a black hole has been captured on camera like this in three years. And this discovery was made possible by more than 300 researchers from 80 institutions, working with a network of eight different radio telescopes around the globe that comprise the event horizon telescope.

Incredible team effort there. Well, we will leave it there for now. I'm Lynda Kinkade, thanks for joining us tonight. Stay with CNN, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.