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Villagers Describe Damage from Russia Strikes; Finnish Leaders to Apply for NATO Membership; Russian Military Leader Behind War Crimes Identified; Thousands Attend Memorial Procession for Slain Journalist; Biden Mourns One Million U.S. COVID Deaths. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired May 13, 2022 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Vause.
Ahead this hour, from neutral to NATO. With Finland now publicly pushing for rapid membership of the defense alliance, the Kremlin warns that's a direct threat to Russia and will trigger retaliation.
Unprecedented. Five Republican congressman subpoenaed to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
And the staggering toll of COVID in the U.S. one million dead in 843 days.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.
VAUSE: NATO is now on the eve of an historic expansion with the leaders of Finland publicly pushing for rapid membership of the alliance. An announcement which triggered threats of retaliation from the Kremlin.
Former president Dmitry Medvedev says Russia would seriously strengthen ground, naval and air defenses on the western border. The foreign ministry there said this was a radical change in policy by Finland, as well as a treaty violation.
Finland declared neutrality at the end of World War II, but the brutality of Putin's war in Ukraine has shattered stability in Europe, leaving many feeling vulnerable. Now officials in Finland say there are no direct military threats from Russia, and all is quiet on their 800-mile-long shared border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEKKA HAAVISTO, FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We are, of course, at a very bumpy moment because of the Russian attack against Ukraine. I hope that one day there are peace. They also have a peaceful neighbor and cooperation goes around normally. We are not yet there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: The war in Ukraine, military leaders describe intense shelling along the front lines in the Luhansk region.
New satellite images show plumes of smoke from fighting along a key river separating Ukrainian and Russian forces. Ukraine's military has destroyed several pontoon ridges to try and slow a Russian advance.
Further to the North in Chernihiv, three people reportedly killed and 12 wounded by Russian attacks on schools. Moscow says they were targeting military command posts and ammunition depots. And a number of villages are once again under fire by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, according to Ukrainian officials.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh begins our coverage.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The quiet pines around the East of Kharkiv are slowly revealing their trauma. The Kremlin is being pushed back so fast we're only nine miles from their border. Though being closer to the motherland that Russia absurdly claims it is offered no mercy to these civilians.
WALSH: As they liberate village after village, pushing Russian forces back towards their own border, atrocity frankly, that they keep coming across.
WALSH (voice-over): This car, hit by a tank shell as the convoy fled. The troops from the Kharkiv city territorial defense tell us the intensity of the fire, no match for the innocence of those on board.
A 13-year-old girl and three adults killed by Russian troops here in early May, said Ukrainian officials.
WALSH: Are you saying that the concentration of the bullets is on the driver's side and the passenger door behind, showing gunmen who knew what they were doing.
WALSH (voice-over): Just up the road, two Russian corpses that lay here, now buried, but for days, they sat with their prayer books and sleeping bags, and grenades in the spring sun.
WALSH: The RPG hit there, yes?
WALSH (voice-over): Their aging armor derailed by a single rocket- propelled grenade, we're told.
This fresh convoy fleeing the village of Robizhne (ph) up the river, further evidence Ukraine is pushing towards Russia's fragile supply lines from across the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: We didn't understand what was going on. We just didn't wait to leave. WALSH (voice-over): Up on the Hill, a rare sight, a modern Russian T- 90 tank. These drone images show its destruction.
WALSH: One of Russia's newest tanks. Kind of the pride, really, of this invading force. Here's what's left of it. But the big concern here is they're hearing a drone above us. And while we don't know if that's Ukrainian or Russian, we're going to keep moving.
WALSH (voice-over): You could not be much closer to Russia here. Yet still, these tiny pine idols (ph) feel brutalized, trapped in an endless fight.
Some of those who remain seem unaware of the details of their occupation and liberation. That does not mean they are unshaken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
GRAPHIC: What calm? My heart is about to jump out of my chest. Everything around is exploding. There's a hole in my garden from shelling. The roof was punctured by a shell. The fence is gone. It's amazing I'm alive. It's really difficult. We sleep in our clothes. Because it lands all around us.
WALSH (voice-over): Disbelief here that Russian savagery from across the border now eclipsed by how fast it has retreated back towards it.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Starysalte (ph), Ukraine.
VAUSE: Angela Stent is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and author of "Putin's World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest." She is with us this hour from Washington, D.C.
Angela, thank you for taking the time. It's good to see you.
ANGELA STENT, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Good to see you, too.
VAUSE: OK, so Finland's foreign minister seemed to have a remain calm and carry on approach with regard to any threat from Russia. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAAVISTO: In this kind of situation, of course, you had to be prepared for all kinds of threats and all kinds of action and so forth. We don't expect anything, but we are prepared for everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: It would seem very unlikely that they're not expecting any response from Russia. Given the fact that military action is unlikely because they're -- you know, they're bogged down in Ukraine. What will the response from Moscow look like? STENT: Well, the Russians have threatened to deploy more nuclear weapons in the vicinity. You have them coming (ph). But they already have nuclear weapons there anyway.
There could be cyberattacks. There've already been cyberattacks against Finland. There could be more of those, but I would assume that the Fins are prepared for that.
And beyond that, I don't think there's very much more that Russia can do. We do know that, up until now, Russia has respected NATO membership. There is a country in NATO that hasn't been attacked by Russia.
And even though there is concern that in this interim period between the application for NATO membership and the actual ratification of it, the Russians could be up to some mischief.
I really do think that, given the way that they're bogged down in Ukraine, there's a limit to what they can do.
VAUSE: And that seems to be the big takeaway as far as Russian military power goes, is that it's not as fearsome or as effective as it once was thought to be. And this sort of goes all the way back to the war that the Soviets of Finland back in 1939, the winter war.
STENT: Yes, they certainly did, and the Fins resisted valiantly, drove the Soviets back. I mean, in the end, the Soviets at that point prevailed, but they -- the fence put up a very tough fight.
So the Russians should remember that going forward. If they're thinking about provoking Finland into something.
VAUSE: We heard from the former Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, is also the deputy chairman of Russia's security council. He warned of the increased probability that an ongoing proxy war will turn into an open and direct conflict between NATO and Russia.
There is always the risk of such conflict earning the full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that would be catastrophic for all. Most want to believe that, even for Vladimir Putin, nuclear war is a bridge too far. But is that based on fact or just wishful thinking?
STENT: Well, it's based on the fact that, since 1949, when the Soviet Union first developed its own nuclear weapons, both the United States and the Soviet Union, now Russia, have respected the fact that there is deterrence and that the principle of mutually-assured destruction.
If you strike me, I will strike you back, and it will be totally catastrophic. So you would really have to be suicidal to launch a full-scale nuclear attack.
Of course, the Russians have also hinted that there would be the possibility of using a tactical nuclear weapons, you know, that could reach the United States. But that would cause significant damage, not only in Ukraine, let's say it was detonated in Ukraine, but also to Russia itself with all the fallout. So you really would have to be -- you know, have lost all sense of
sort of reason, and be extremely a risk taker to do that. And that's why people are beginning to believe that these threats are being deployed, particularly from Mr. Medvedev, who is having somewhat of a comeback, having been forgotten about for a long time, just to intimidate the West and deter the United States and other NATO countries sort of supplying weapons to Ukraine.
VAUSE: And while Finland and Sweden joining NATO bolsters the alliance and the West, the rest of the world seems to be back in Moscow or, at the very least, passive onlookers. And that seems to be quite a big win for Putin. How do we get to this point?
STENT: Well, Putin, I think, is very careful, at least for the past decade, cultivated relations with countries in the Middle East. Russia's gone back to Africa and after withdrawing when the Soviet Union withdrew from there, and even in Latin America.
And of course, he has focused very much on cultivating the relationship with China, particularly since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
So China has come back to Africa throughout this war. It doesn't condemn Russia. It won't sanction Russia. It may not be comfortable with the scale of violence and brutality in Ukraine, and it has said that it respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. but still, it hasn't done anything to -- as I said, to criticize Russia.
VAUSE: Angela, we'll leave it there, but a very good point to finish on. Thank you very much. Angela Stent there, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. Thank you.
STENT: Thank you.
VAUSE: In an unprecedented move, the House committee investigating the January 6th riots on Capitol Hill has subpoenaed five Republican congressman, all thought to have crucial information about events leading up to the insurrection.
All five are expected to refuse to testify, and that includes the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, and four others, outspoken supporters of former President Donald Trump and his baseless lie about the 2020 election being stolen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): These are people who were involved in discussions with the president. They were in communication with White House staff on January 6, leading up to it. They clearly have relevant testimony. They need to do their duty and to uphold their oath, and come in voluntarily and testify. If they don't, we will discuss what's the appropriate remedy is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: With midterm elections less than six months away and Democrats expected to lose their slim majority in Congress, the committee is running out of time to get results.
Republicans have described the investigation as illegitimate and political theater. They will shut it down if they take the House.
Up next here on CNN, one pandemic, 843 days, 1 million lives. President Biden marks a grim milestone and honors the Americans who lost their lives, when we come back.
VAUSE: The number is both staggering and heartbreaking. In the days and months since coronavirus was first detected, one million Americans have died from COVID. Claiming far more U.S. lives in both world wars and all major wars since then combined. As Kaitlan Collins reports, the U.S. president, Joe Biden said much of this day honoring pandemic victims.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden marking the staggering number of Americans lost to COVID-19.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One million COVID deaths. One million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable.
COLLINS (voice-over): The president lowering flags at federal buildings to half-staff to commemorate the somber milestone. And highlighting the global toll as he virtually hosted world leaders for another pandemic summit.
BIDEN: Millions of children have been orphaned, with thousands still dying every day. Now is the time for us to act, all of us together.
COLLINS (voice-over): On Thursday, databases used by the CDC and CNN were just shy of one million U.S. deaths but expected to surpass that number soon.
As other nations pledged billions to continue their fight against COVID-19, Biden called on Congress to authorize more funding so he could do the same.
BIDEN: We have to invest now, now. We have to secure political commitments now. We have to start working to prevent the next variant and the next pandemic now.
COLLINS (voice-over): The White House has asked Congress for $22 billion for treatments and vaccines. But the proposal has languished on Capitol Hill amid disagreements over immigration. BIDEN: I continue to call on Congress here at home to take the urgent
action to provide emergency COVID-19 funding that is vital to protect Americans.
COLLINS: The president's top aides are warning there will be consequences if Congress fails to pass more funding soon. But they baffled some experts by declining to say which models are behind their infection projections.
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We're looking at a range of models, both internal and external models. And what they're predicting is that, if we don't get ahead of this thing, we're going to have a lot of waning immunity. This virus continues to evolve. And we may see a pretty sizeable wave of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths this fall and winter.
COLLINS (voice-over): Also on Thursday, lawmakers held a moment of silence to mark the 1 million Americans lost to COVID-19. That comes, of course, as Nancy Pelosi also said --
COLLINS -- they are still negotiating what it is going to look like when they do eventually pass an aid package. Though the parameters as that, while we know it's been scaled back from what the president asked for to about $10 billion. Still far from certain on the size, and of course, when that package actually gets passed.
Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
VAUSE: Pyongyang has now announced the first COVID death in North Korea. The reclusive nation reported 18,000 so-called fever cases on Thursday and the death of six people.
So far, the country has identified more than 350,000 fever cases. More than 185,000 people are in isolation.
Leader Kim Jong-un has ordered all cities into lockdown, calling it the most important challenge facing the ruling Communist Party.
Well, evidence of possible war crimes are found everywhere across Ukraine. And now CNN has identified the senior Russian general who ordered some of those atrocities.
Our exclusive report in a moment.
VAUSE: Well, the world has watched as Russian artillery has devastated Ukrainian cities and Ukrainian lives, seemingly with impunity. The U.S. and the international community have accused Russia of war crimes.
But what has been difficult is tying specific generals to specific crimes. The key to actually carrying out war crimes prosecutions.
In Kharkiv, CNN has seen the aftermath of attacks using indiscriminate cluster munitions. That's a war crime. In a two month-long investigation, CNN can reveal the commander responsible for these attacks. And the string of atrocities he's committed not just in Russia's latest war in Ukraine but also in the 2014 war in Donbas, as well as the war in Syria.
Chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir has this exclusive report, and you may find the images in her report disturbing.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A devastation of civilian homes and lives. Throughout the last two months, we have witnessed atrocities in Ukraine.
ELBAGIR: More mortar strikes very, very close. They want us to start moving.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): While we know these are Russian actions, it's been difficult to draw a direct line from individual atrocities to a specific Russian commander. Until now.
CNN can exclusively reveal that this man, Colonel General Alexander Zhuraviyov, commander of the western military district, is the commander responsible for this. Munitions targeting civilians in the city of Kharkiv, East Ukraine. A war crime under international law.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see more artillery rockets apparently be firing from Russian territory towards the territory I would say around Kharkiv. I don't know if you can hear this right now.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): This is the start of the war. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen witnessed artillery being fired from inside Russia, within Zhuraviyov's district, towards the city of Kharkiv.
Sam Kiley was in Kharkiv and could hear the shelling moments later.
SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can feel the concussion against the glass.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): We soon learned from experts these were Smerch rockets. Built in the early 80s at the end of the Soviet era, this multiple rocket launch system, scorching the earth as it fires, is a pride and joy of Russia's armaments, as seen here in this propaganda documentary.
This is what they're capable of delivering. Cluster bombs, one Smerch rocket releasing many smaller explosives, scattering bombs amplifying the devastation. These attacks, captured on social media both in Kharkiv and both from
the same day, are a clear example of their indiscriminate nature. When used in this fashion against civilians, it's considered a war crime.
The use of Smerch rockets are key in our findings of who's responsible, because they are unique to one unit here, one commander. After months of forensic work, we can reveal the trail of evidence leading to Zhuraviyov.
Using social media videos to guide us, we return to some of the scenes of the attacks, focusing on February 27, when three civilian targets were hit and eight more on February 28.
We start in the Pavlovapula (ph) neighborhood of Kharkiv.
"This is shrapnel from those missiles that fell on our neighborhood she tells us. This shrapnel was found in one of the rooms.
Lilia (Ph) takes us to see a Smerch rocket that fell 200 yards from her apartment block in this once affluent area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I remember the whistling sounds of the missiles. I know that the missiles were flying, and that they were accompanied by fighter planes, or drones.
ELBAGIR: You can see the hole that it came through. You can see the way the rocket buckled when it hit the car. You can also very clearly see that this is a Smerch.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): It's not the only rocket coming from this direction on this day. Less than a half mile down the road, another hit.
ELBAGIR: Helping to situate us, this kiosk, that water cooler, they're key landmarks. The bodies landed here down this road. Those blue doors you see, that's where the cluster munitions shrapnel embedded.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): This video, filmed moments after the attack, where four people, including a child, were killed. Another Smerch launching cluster bombs. We know this because one of the unexploded bombs was found only 280 yards away.
Notice the date, 2019. Russia stopped selling arms to Ukraine in 2014. This confirms this is a Russian cluster bomb.
One and a half miles away, another strike, more suffering. And no sign of any legitimate military targets.
"People were queuing for food, and then something just hit. People started running here," she says.
This is the exact moment of impact. Look at it again. Frame by frame, you can see the scale of the rocket and proximity to innocent civilians.
We are here in Kharkiv. Notice the five hits along this line from the 28. They are pretty much in a line, apart from three here, which line up with the hits from February 27.
We can trace these lines 24 miles to a point of convergence here, across the border in Russia, well within the range of a Smerch rocket.
Where we have a satellite image from the 27th showing the launching position. Notice the plume of smoke and the telltale burn marks of a Smerch. Here, here, and here.
In collaboration with the Center for Information Resilience, we can also tell you who is firing from this position. The 79th Russian Artillery Brigade, part of the Western Military District which borders Ukraine, and is under the command of Zhuraviyov.
According to open-source information reviewed by CNN, military experts and intelligence sources they are the only unit in this district equipped to launch Smerch rockets. And only the commander has the authority to order the 79th artillery brigade to launch the rockets.
And this was just in the two days that we analyzed. These showed exclusively to CNN by Kharkiv prosecutors, show the Russian armaments reigning death. Among them many Smerch remnants. Experts say this is among the heaviest bombardments in recent history.
Alexander Zhuraviyov is no stranger to these brutal tactics. Atrocities targeting civilians. They're very similar to what we saw in Syria, in 2016.
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Alexander Zhuraviyov also led Russian troops during the siege of Aleppo.
He is the architect of the devastation you see here.
For leveling Aleppo, he was awarded the highest honor granted to Russian officers: Hero of the Russian Federation. Yet, Syrians have documented his war crimes.
Despite the direct line from the impunity the world afforded Russia in Syria, to the atrocities suffered by civilians here today. The question remains: what will the world do to stop this cycle?
Nima Elbagir, CNN, Kharkiv.
VAUSE: We have asked the Russian ministry a defense for comment, as well as the Kremlin, but we're yet to receive a response.
CNN shared with the U.S. State Department our findings, noting the lack of action taken against the colonel and other Russian generals. They would not comment on those specific acts or other information reviewed, but said they will continue to track or crimes and reports of ongoing violence and human rights abuses. The United Nations now outs [SIC] the number of Ukrainians who have
fled the -- counts, rather, the number of Ukrainians who fled the country since the fighting began at more than 6 million, an average of more than 75,000 people a day are seeking emergency refuge in neighboring Poland, Romania, Hungary and other European countries.
Another 8 million people, nearly one-fifth of Ukraine's prewar population, are currently displaced within the country.
The U.N. fears millions more will ultimately be forced to leave Ukraine just to stay alive. Many arriving at border crossings with only the clothes they have and the belongings they can carry.
If you'd like to safely and securely help the people of Ukraine, who are in need of food and shelter, just about everything, please go to CNN.com/impact. There, you'll find a number of ways that you can help.
Still to come here on CNN, thousands gathered to mourn the death of an Al Jazeera journalist killed while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank. Palestinian leaders now vowing justice.
VAUSE: At least 11 people died off the coast of Puerto Rico when a boat, believed to be illegally transferring migrants, capsized. Those in the boat were spotted by U.S. officials late Thursday morning.
None of the passengers appeared to be wearing life jackets.
Crews were able to pull at least 31 survivors from the water. The search-and-rescue operation is ongoing. The nationality of the suspected migrants is not known.
The funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh will be held in Jerusalem in the coming hours. She was fatally shot while reporting an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday.
On Thursday, thousands gathered in Ramallah to mourn her death and remember her life. CNN's Hadas Gold has our report.
HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL 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 Shireen Abu Akleh 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 Shireen. We hold the Israeli occupying forces fully accountable for the killing. We will not let them hide behind their crime, and will not let it go unpunished.
GOLD (voice-over): The Palestinian Authority president rejecting Israeli government calls for a 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 Akleh in crossfire. They've 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 Akleh 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 Akleh'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 Shireen. They killed her with cold blood, because they are killers specialized in the killing of Palestinians.
GOLD (voice-over): The Israel defense forces say they were in the area to conduct counter-terrorism operations after a series of attacks on Israelis carried out by assailants from the Jenin area prompted the military raids Abu Akleh 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. A death causing outrage among Palestinians, the tension still high Thursday, as protesters scuffled with Israeli police in Jerusalem, as Abu Akleh death adds yet another tragedy to an enduring conflict she covered for so many years.
Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause at the CNN Center in Atlanta. WORLD SPORT is next for our viewers on CNN International. And for those watching in North America.
VAUSE: In Southern California, evacuation orders remain in place for neighborhoods where a fast-moving wildfire has destroyed some expensive real estate.
Dozens of homes have also been damaged, and hundreds of firefighters still trying to bring the fire under control. At last report, the coastal fire was about 15 percent contained.
CNN's Nick Watt has late details.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multimillion-dollar mansions eaten up by fast-moving flames. This is one of California's most affluent neighborhoods.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feel like it's the end of the world, honestly. And I just hope we can all get through this.
WATT: Hundreds of homes, as well as a luxury golf resort evacuated. Firefighters dousing homes in the hope of saving them. Some using water pulled from the country club pond. Two firefighters injured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a fresh group going out today. They're going to be out there for 24 hours.
WATT (voice-over): This is no back-country fire. This is near the beach in densely populated Orange County, just south of L.A. Damage assessment already underway in the ashes.
WATT: Basically, this is what happened. The winds whipped in from the Pacific, across that golf course and then pushed these flames through the canyon, up the hillside, threatening these oceanview ridgetop mansions right here, destroying some of them, including this, a $10 million home.
WATT (voice-over): Winds are gusty, pushing the flames, but the winds aren't terrible or unusual. It's the acres of bone-dry brush that's the major problem.
BRIAN FENNESSY, CHIEF, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY: With the climate change, the fuels, beds in this county, throughout California, throughout the West, are so dry that, you know, fire like this is going to be more common place.
WATT (voice-over): The fast-moving fire seared through that dry brush, ballooned to roughly 200 football fields in just a few terrifying hours. January, just 1 percent of this state was in extreme drought. Today, it's 60 percent. The January-April 2022 period was the driest on record for California. So says the U.S. Drought Monitor.
T.J. MCGOVERN, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF FIELD OPERATIONS, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY: This fire is not controlled or contained yet. We still have a lot of work to do. It's very steep terrain out there. We're going to get a little more heat, nothing significant. We are going to get those West winds again.
WATT (voice-over): This fire broke out yesterday afternoon. The cause of the spark, as yet unknown. Nick Watt, CNN, Laguna Niguel, California.
VAUSE: Forty billion dollars of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine that easily passed through the U.S. House this week has now stalled in the Senate on Thursday because of one Republican. That's Senator Rand Paul.
He insisted the bill include a special inspector general to oversee how the money is spent. While broadly agreeing it was a good idea, both the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders say time is short and changing the legislation at this point would simply take too long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): For heaven's sake, let's get Ukraine funding done, ASAP. We must keep our promise to the people of Ukraine, and I hope the junior senator from Kentucky does not stand in the way of keeping that promise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: A procedure vote in the Senate is expected Monday to get the bill moving. Final passage could come later in the week.
The White House says it's working to address the serious supply shortage of baby formula in the United States. Announced limited steps Thursday, such a cracking down on price gouging, importing more formula from overseas.
The White House press secretary described other issues they're hoping to combat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we are seeing, which is an enormous problem, is hoarding. People hoarding because they're fearful. That is one element of it and people hoarding because they are trying to profit off of fearful parents. So, that is also something we're focused on.
(END VIDEO CLOP)
VAUSE: These measures come after President Joe Biden met with manufacturers and retailers. Various recalls are being blamed for the shortage, along with inflation, as well as supply chain issues.
Manufacturers have said they are producing at full capacity, but still, it's not enough to keep up with demand.
As Joe Biden mourns 1 million Americans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. president is calling on Congress to authorize $10 billion in new funding to fight COVID.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States. One million COVID deaths. One million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: One million dead. One million Americans dead from the coronavirus. By far the highest death toll in the world. A number that was unthinkable two and half years ago when this pandemic began.
CNN's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, looks at how we got here.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Few of us imagined the overwhelming scope of this tragedy. More than 1 million lives lost, far surpassing the 1918 flu pandemic or even America's deadliest conflict, the Civil War.
Across the nation, a time of remembrance. In Los Angeles, Maria Santos Peterson devoted her life to caring for others as an ICU nurse at a V.A. hospital.
Just last year she traveled to Central America on her last medical mission. She leaves behind her husband and teenage son.
In Virginia, Teresa Sperry's parents remember their daughter as an avid reader: smart, beautiful, loving, and always open to taking care of others. At Hillpoint Elementary, the 10-year-old was known to bandage her classmates' cuts and scrapes.
Similar heartaches reverberating all across the country and communities of all creeds and color.
In New York, a Hispanic community hit hard. Two congregations united in grief after losing more than 100 members.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are moments we can't explain with reason. We have to walk in faith. Feel our own vulnerability to care for ourselves and care for others.
GUPTA (voice-over): In the border county of Hidalgo, Texas, more than 3,500 deaths deaths in a county of less than a million.
DR. MICHAEL DOBBS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UT HEALTH RGV: I'm not sure that everyone has slowed down enough to really understand who's missing and what's missing. What gaps that they've left.
GUPTA (voice-over): Gaps that may never fully heal.
In Maryland, the first black U.S. secretary of state, General Colin Powell, passed away. Powell's leadership in several administrations helped shape American foreign policy at the turn of the century. GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We understood that,
even among allies, disagreements arise and what's important is to come back together.
GUPTA (voice-over): In Nashville, the music world lost prolific session drummer Kenny Malone.
(MUSIC: DOLLY PARTON, "JOLENE")
GUPTA (voice-over): In the '70s, Malone's percussion provided the backbone for Dolly Parton's No. 1 hit, "Jolene."
Also gone, legendary D.J. Paul Johnson, a key figure in the Chicago house music scene of the '90s. Johnson's single, "Get Get Down," was a global sensation.
In New Hampshire, William and Carol Stewart died holding hands. Married for 44 years, they had known each other since they were 4 years old. Daughter Melissa Noke believes her parents were soul mates.
MELISSA NOKE, DAUGHTER OF COVID VICTIMS: I love you and I will see you again someday.
GUPTA (voice-over): In Copa, California, a mother and father leave behind five children. Nurse Davy Macias died about a week after giving birth to her fifth child, a baby girl.
Her husband Daniel, died two weeks later. They never met their newborn. The children now live with grandparents.
In Bell Glade, Florida, a family torn apart. Lisa Wilson had gone door to door trying to get people vaccinated as part of her work for the county. Despite her best effort to save lives, she lost six relatives in the span of three weeks, burying her own 89-year-old grandmother, an uncle and four cousins.
In communities everywhere, families, friends and loved ones find symbols of remembrance, with flags at the National Mall, a burning candle at Chicago's Navy Pier, monarch butterflies during Dia de los Muertos in El Paso.
In Belmar, New Jersey, a makeshift beach memorial. Rima Samman wrote her brother Rami's name on a single stone. Soon, there were 3,000 more.
And in Los Angeles, teen Madeline Fugate commemorates her city's fallen through a patchwork quilt that's now a global project of healing.
MADELINE FUGATE, MAKING MEMORIAL QUILT: Behind every single one of these squares is a person. And not just a person who died but a person who lived. They still are in people's hearts and memories.
GUPTA: One of the quilt squares offers a simple message of hope for the future: "Please don't live in fear. There will be a better day."
VAUSE: Our thanks to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for that report.
Before we go, check out this exciting never-before-seen image astronomers have captured. It's the picture of a super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Astronomists call it Sagittarius A star, describe it as the beating heart of the swirling Milky Way. The black hole is about 27,000 light years away from Earth. It's four million times bigger than our sun.
So what was once unseen is now seen, and you saw it here on CNN.
Thank you for joining us. I'm John Vause at the CNN Center here in Atlanta. My friend and colleague Michael Holmes joins you after a short break. We'll have a lot more news. I get to see you right back here on Monday. In the meantime, have a great weekend.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.
Coming up this hour, Russia's latest threat. Kremlin reaction to Finland marching towards NATO as Ukrainian troops make more gains.