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Kremlin: Finland Joining NATO Is A Threat To Russia; Video Shows Ukraine Destroying Russian Helicopter; G7 Foreign Ministers To Meet Over Ukrainian Grain Blockade; January 6th Committee Subpoenas Five Key Republican Lawmakers; Panic Buying In Beijing Over Fears Of COVID Shutdown; China Holds Firm to Zero COVID Policy Amid Rising Cases; Marcos Jr. Poised to Take Over as Next President; Black Hole at Center of Our Galaxy Imaged for First Time. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired May 13, 2022 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 games. We will take you to the front lines. And unprecedented move, the January 6 committee takes aim at the top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy. And they're the first images of their kind, the closest we've ever been to a black hole far, far away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.
HOLMES: Welcome everyone. NATO is now on the eve of an historic expansion with the leaders of Finland publicly pushing for rapid membership of the defense alliance, an announcement which triggered threats of retaliation from the Kremlin. Former President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would seriously strengthen ground naval and air defenses on its western border. The foreign ministry 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 countries feeling vulnerable. For now, officials in Finland say there are no direct military threats from Russia and all is quiet on their 800-mile long front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLAUS KORHONEN, FINNISH AMBASSADOR TO NATO: This step will not be such a major one that maybe the change 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: In Ukraine, military leaders describe intense shelling along the front lines in the Luhansk region. New satellite imagery showing plumes of smoke you see there. This is from fighting along a key river separating Ukrainian and Russian forces at the moment. Ukraine has destroyed several pontoon bridges built by the Russians to slow their advance.
A military spokesman in Odesa says Ukrainian forces have destroyed a Russian helicopter on Snake Island. Satellite images show one Russian landing ship narrowly avoiding a missile strike while another sinks nearby. And you see that explosion of the helicopter there.
Now to the north in Chernihiv, three people reportedly killed and 12 wounded by Russian attacks on two schools. Moscow says they were targeting military command posts and ammunition depots. And a number of villages are under attack but once again by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, that's according to Ukrainian officials.
CNN's Nick Payton Walsh begins our coverage.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The quiet pines around the east of Kharkiv are slowly revealing their trauma. The Kremlin is being pushed back so fast. We are only 9 miles from their border.
But being closer to the Motherland that Russia absurdly claims it is, offered no mercy to these civilians.
(on-camera): As they liberate village after village, pushing the Russian forces back towards their own border. This is the sort of atrocity, frankly, that they keep coming across.
(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.
(on-camera): They're saying that the concentration of bullets is on the driver's side and then the passenger door behind showing gunmen who knew what they were doing.
(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 and the spring sun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)
WALSH (voice-over): The aging armor derailed by a single rocket propelled grenade, we're told. This fresh convoy fleeing the village of Rubizhne up the river, further evidence Ukraine is pushing towards Russia's fragile supply lines from across the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): 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 us destruction.
(on-camera): One of Russia's newest tanks, kind of the pride really of this invading force 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.
(voice-over): You could not be much closer to Russia here. Yet still, these tiny pine idols 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 (through translation): 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. We sleep in our clothes. Because it lands all around us.
WALSH (voice-over): Disbelief here at Russian savagery from across the border, now eclipsed by how fast it has retreated back towards it.
Nick Payton Walsh, CNN, Stanyslaviv (ph), Ukraine.
HOLMES: Now next hour, G7 foreign ministers will gather in Germany for a three-day meeting on the crisis in Ukraine. The top diplomats will discuss ways to end a blockade of Ukrainian grain that millions around the world rely on.
Let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir live for us in London. So, Nada, what are we expecting? What is at stake here?
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Michael, this meeting as expected will focus significantly on the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been invited to this session. There will be key discussions as you mentioned around the issue of food security, particularly in terms of these exports coming out of Ukraine, which have been blocked as a result of the Russian invasion.
Now there are some serious concerns that we've heard from the German Foreign Ministry, just in the last few days warning that there are some 25 million tons of grain currently being blocked at the port of Odesa and across other ports in Ukraine. That is a serious concern because, of course, countries across the Middle East and Africa where there are already suffering some food shortages are really dependent on those grain exports from Ukraine. So serious concerns then.
The G7 ministers have committed to tackling those concerns around the blockade of the port, and in particular also around reports of Russian theft of grain exports also. Now there are some challenges ahead, of course, these ports are currently blocked by mines, by battleships, and there are also concerns from the Ukrainian Armed Forces that in unblocking these ports, that could potentially strengthen Russia's position in terms of furthering its invasion.
So there are some significant challenges there for the G7 foreign ministers to tackle. There are also proposals from the European Union to look at some logistical challenges that the country has faced in terms of exports on the border with Europe. And we are expecting to hear from the European Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell in the coming hour.
But in addition to those food security concerns, talks are expected to focus significantly as well on oil and gas that has been a key topic. We know the European Union states are attempting to phase the dependence on Russian oil. There are concerns now around gas too. Michael?
HOLMES: All right, good to see you. Early morning there in London. Nada Bashir, thanks so much.
Now Russia's war on Ukraine having real world consequences far from the warzone. Food, energy, global security, all being hit hard. Let's have a look at some graphics that explained this. Ukraine a major week row globally but, of course, now it can't, as Nada, was saying export that grain because of the Russian naval blockade. As a result, prices for wheat and flour are soaring.
Now, the same can be said for sunflower oil is staple in many parts of the world. Ukraine, a huge producer of the cooking oil, the world's biggest by many accounts, but now there's not enough to meet demand and it is becoming very expensive. And then there's the enormous strain of millions of refugees pouring into Europe in a very short period of time. Many host countries struggling just to provide basic food, clothing and shelter.
As we've been reporting, the war has been a wake-up call to countries like Sweden and Finland who've been non-aligned for decades, alarmed by Russia's saddened and brutal aggression both have become extremely vocal about wanting to join NATO which is not what the Kremlin wants to hear.
With me now from Kyiv to discuss all of this is Vladimir Yarmolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher, writer and journalist, he's host of the podcast, Explain Ukraine and editor-in-chief of Ukraine World. Good to see you. I have not spoken to you since I was in Lviv, so it's good to see you.
Ukraine, obviously suffering enormously in a humanitarian sense. But what do you see as the main global economic impacts of this war, the ripple effects, if you like, of what's happening in Ukraine?
VOLODYMYR YERMOLENKO, UKRAINIAN PHILOSOPHER, WRITER & JOURNALIST: Good morning. Thanks for inviting me, and thanks for talking about Ukraine. Indeed, as you mentioned already, Ukraine is a big food exporter, big grain exporter, and Russia is blocking -- blockading Ukrainian ports. For you to understand, for your audience to understand, the ports are the key instrument, the key means of exporting Ukrainian grain and Ukrainian food.
Ukraine was second largest exporter of grain after the United States last year. So you can imagine if this exports are blocked, how many countries in the world will suffer from this? And we have already seen prognosis forecasts that many countries that were dependent on Ukrainian grain, especially in Africa or in Asia, will suffer a lot and maybe can have real problems with hunger.
HOLMES: Yes, there's a lot of concern that there will be deaths in parts of Africa and elsewhere around the world because of the shortage of grain. You mentioned this too, and we reported, you know, Ukraine, a major supplier of wheat, but also sunflower products. I think they're the biggest exporter of sunflower oil in the world. As we've said, there are already shortages of that oil as well as wheat, fertilizer, oil and so on. What does the future look like if that is already happening?
YERMOLENKO: Indeed, sunflower is one of the symbols of Ukraine. Sunflower oil is one of the symbols of Ukrainian economy. And Ukraine is the top exporter in the world. So many people are cooking the foot with sunflower oil, it can be found everywhere in the world, even if it is not really marked as a Ukrainian product because Ukrainian experts were, in many aspects, the raw material experts in the past years.
So you can imagine the impact. But one important issue as well is not only Ukraine is exporting much less because of the blockade of the ports. But because the agricultural regions of Ukraine, the southern regions, the Kherson Oblast, in particular, are now occupied by the Russians. And Russians are stealing, they're robbing the Ukrainian farmers.
There were reports that they're just confiscating the grain. And recently, I think one week ago, there was even an official statement of the Parliament of one of the Russian regions, ordering to out, quote, expropriate shortages of harvests from Ukrainian peasants. While we have seen that in the '30s, in the 1930s, when this expropriation of food by Stalinist regime led to artificial famine in Ukraine, of which 4 million people -- at least 4 million people died.
HOLMES: Really important points. And, you know, the impacts aren't just, you know, economic either, but geopolitical. We're reporting earlier too, Putin, you know, he wanted to weaken NATO with what he's doing in Ukraine. Finland and its long border with Russia now wants to join NATO as soon as possible. Sweden might be next. That is a massive global security impact of this war, isn't it?
YERMOLENKO: Exactly. In any aspect, Russia is reaching the opposite to its goals. Russia wanted to reconquer Ukraine, but it's now have Ukrainian citizens, our majority -- majority of them like 95 percent, 96 percent, of course, opposed to Russia and consider it as an enemy state.
Russia wanted to cut Ukraine's perspective of joining NATO. We have now support for NATO membership about 80 percent. And you rightly pointed that Sweden and Finland in which we had also this support for NATO accession skyrocketing to, I think, 70 percent or 80 percent. So Russia really wanted to cut the -- narrow down the NATO expansion. As a result, it has a stronger NATO, stronger Ukraine and unified West.
HOLMES: Volodymyr Yermolenko in Kyiv, it's good to see you again. Thank you so much. Good to talk to you.
YERMOLENKO: Thank you.
HOLMES: Now U.S. lawmakers are sending subpoenas to key Republicans to find out what they know about the events leading up to this. Will they comply? The latest on the investigation into January 6 coming up. Also the U.S. pandemic death toll surpasses a number that once seemed hard to fathom.
You're watching CNN Newsroom. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Welcome back, the U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol is getting fed up with Republicans rejecting requests for voluntary testimony. So now the panel has taken the rather extraordinary step of sending subpoenas to these five lawmakers. Among them, the top Republican in the House.
CNN's Ryan Nobles with the details.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is by any measure in unprecedented step, the January 6 select committee issuing subpoenas for five members of Congress, asking them to sit for depositions and comply with their investigation. Included in this list, a big name, the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy. They're also asking Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania to comply, as well as Andy Biggs of Arizona, Mo Brooks of Alabama and then, of course, Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Now, each one of these individuals has already been asked by the committee to participate voluntarily and they've all turned down that request. But what the committee is saying is that they've come across information in their investigation, in which there are gaps, gaps that they believe these members can fill, and also answer for the role that they may have played in the days leading up to January 6, or on January 6 itself.
For instance, Kevin McCarthy, spoke to Donald Trump on that day, could have spoke to him multiple times. Representative Pete Aguilar wants to know what was part of that conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE AGUILAR, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: We feel that the substance of those conversations is important to our overall investigation. But I would also say, with respect to Kevin McCarthy, you know, we're not sure which version of the story to believe. So I think he's come down a couple times in a couple of different places on this. So I think he has an obligation to come forward to share.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now at this point, these Republican members have yet to say how they plan to comply if they plan to comply at all. They have already attacked the committee. They believe that it is not partisan, despite the fact that there are two Republican members that are a part of it. All of them said today that they needed to read the subpoena to see exactly what the committee was asking for.
But what's interesting is that Mo Brooks of Alabama suggested that he may be willing to comply if it involved a public hearing. Now, the committee is not asking for that right now. They want their interview to be behind closed doors. The Chairman Bennie Thompson said that that could lead to a potential public hearing as part of those marathon hearings that are going to take place in the month of June.
But Representative Jamie Raskin told me it will certainly not be part of their negotiations. He said this is not a game. They're not playing per cheesy or checkers. This is a serious investigation. The subpoena has been submitted and they expect these members to comply. The question is what happens if they don't?
Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.
HOLMES: Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, I'll speak to CNN's David Culver about his ordeal being locked down for some 50 days under China's zero-COVID policy and his journey out of China.
HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN Newsroom. Two years and a little more than three months, that's how long it's been since the U.S. saw its first death from the coronavirus. And on Thursday, the nation reached a number difficult to believe, 1 million deaths from COVID, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and grandparents.
President Biden honored the victims by ordering flags to be flown at half-staff. He also spoke about the death toll during a virtual COVID summit with other world leaders. Mr. Biden saying each victim was an irreplaceable loss for their families and communities and pushing lawmakers to approve a new COVID funding bill that's been stranded in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is the time for us to act. All of us together. We're almost to more, must honor those we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent as many deaths as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: The White House says the U.S. could see 100 million new COVID cases later this year if the funding is not approved, but some experts are questioning that projection. Government denials of a COVID locked down hasn't stopped panic buying meanwhile in Beijing, there were chaotic scenes inside some supermarkets late Thursday, as residents rushed to stock up on supplies.
Daily cases have remained in the dozens in the Chinese capital. But officials are encouraging residents to stay home and said they had launched a new round of mass testing. However, China will be limiting travel abroad for non-essential activities. The government says it will tighten its review process in the issuing of travel documents.
But after 50 days in lockdown, CNN's David Culver, one of the few lucky ones able to get out.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Boarding the near empty plane, it finally starts to feel real.
(on-camera): We have to takeoff.
CULVER (voice-over): The disorder, despair, the chaos, the anger, the exhaustion, all of that feel so distant now. With a sigh of relief and a bit of survivor's guilt, leaving behind a country amidst almost unprecedented changes, I wonder if China's tightening zero-COVID restrictions, coupled with rising tensions with the West will keep its shuttered doors from ever reopening.
HOLMES: Well, glad to say David Culver is now safely back in the states. He joins me now from New York. And just briefly going over what we saw in your piece, I mean, it was enormously complicated even getting to where you are sitting right now.
CULVER: It's not as simple, Michael as booking a ticket and getting to the airport and just getting on a plane. That's for sure.
No, the logistical hurdles in getting out amidst this lockdown are continuing to mount even at this hour.
I mean for one, you have to get permission from your community. I think a lot of folks struggle with that when they think ok my neighborhood association or the folks who run perhaps my building have to give me permission to leave my own home.
That's the reality right now in Shanghai. In order to get that permission, as you saw in that piece, they're requiring for many of us expats consular letters. They want U.S., in my case, officials to write on behalf to say that I have an urgent need to leave and get out via the flight that was booked and in order to do so I need permission to get out of my community.
Thing is once you leave, likely you don't go back in to that community. And I made an agreement that I would not return until the lockdown is lifted, a date yet to be determined.
HOLMES: Yes, it's extraordinary. And we're talking about the lockdown, you've done some amazing reporting on it. And I think you also said that one positive case means the entire floor goes into isolation. Is that right? And also we have seen that video, doors literally being kicked in.
CULVER: Pretty shocking images that we're still seeing coming out, you know, now 60 plus days for some folks who have been confined to their home. And those who don't want to go having the police do something like that if they test positive or are deemed a close contact.
And that close contact policy -- I mean it's not written and a lot of folks are always questioning the clarity of what's been implemented. They are questioning, you know, what exactly are the specifics here and where is this coming from?
And a lot of these folks who unfortunately are saying we are being told this is what we need to do. This is why we're having to go this route. But you have to think that not only now is it if you get COVID or if somebody in your household is getting COVID and hence then you're deemed close contact. But now it could be your neighbors who are several doors down.
Michael I've even heard in some cases, it's entire buildings. So if somebody, you know, ten floors up may have it and suddenly the entire building is brought into an isolation center or government quarantine facility. And the reason they're now doing that in part is because they've been able to move a lot of folks through those facilities, most of them are now up and running. So they have the space.
Why not and they're (INAUDIBLE) to keep folks from potentially transmitting it to other people.
HOLMES: We're almost out of time but I did want to ask you this. I mean how do you look back on the months of lockdown from your own experience. You know, the privations obviously but also, I guess, a loneliness in a way.
CULVER: There is a loneliness but, you know, there's also for me, Michael, as I think about it, genuine guilt. And survivors feel, that's how I kind of mentioned it in the piece but I think about my neighbors in particular.
I mean I lived in a very local Chinese -- Shanghainese community. And so a lot of those folks have been there some of them for generations. And they are now enduring something that they certainly didn't sign up for. And these are folks who are now confined to very small spaces. I may have, you know, not had a lot of room to move but you know, these are three generations in some cases, you know, I think about my neighbors in one very small room confined for this extended period of time.
You've got to think about the mental health impact and I think it's plain on people and they're in very dark places right now. So it hurts when I think about their situation.
HOLMES: I can totally understand. Well, I'm glad you're out and done some extraordinary reporting there over the years. And it's great to have you back, at least for now. Thank you, David Culver.
CULVER: It's good to be home.
HOLMES: And I'm joined now by Professor Ben Cowling. He's chair of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. Thanks so much, Professor.
When we were talking there with David and other reports that we've had, China continues to persist with this zero COVID policy. But is it working? And what are the impacts of persevering despite the economic and societal impacts?
BEN COWLING, CHAIR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: I think it worked pretty well for the first two years of the pandemic. There were not too many outbreaks, not too many infections of the very severe cases in China. But the virus has changed. Omicron is now much more transmissible. That means it's much more difficult to stop.
And I think into the future looking forward, there's going to be more outbreaks, more disruption caused by outbreaks of omicron. And at the same time we have vaccines available now so we can think about the strategy. I think zero COVID has had its day and its day is now passed.
HOLMES: And you make a couple of great points there. I mean the latest variants are more contagious but less deadly if you are vaccinated. How does that play into continuing zero COVID versus transitioning to, you know, so-called living with COVID as other countries have done?
COWLING: Well, I think that's right. The experience in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand is if you can get vaccination up to a high level, particularly in the elderly, but in the population as a whole, well of course, then you can minimize the impact of COVID once it does start spreading in the community.
COWLING: Unfortunately where I am in Hong Kong, we didn't manage to get vaccine coverage in the elderly to a high level, we've just had an Omicron wave with 9,000 deaths in our 7.5 million. And in China it's predicted that if COVID was to spread freely now, there could be more than a million deaths. And that matches with our experience in Hong Kong.
But it can be prevented with high vaccination rates in the elderly.
HOLMES: You made a good point there talking about vaccination. That is one of the big issues for China. Low vaccination rates, among the over 80, I think only about 50 percent of the over 80s in China are vaccinated. In fact, I think nearly 50 million Chinese aged 60 and over remain unvaccinated.
What progress is being made on that front and why are those numbers higher?
COWLING: It's not easy to persuade older people to get vaccinated. And one of my concerns is that when the government in China, on one hand, is promising people that they're going to prevent COVID from spreading in the community, they're going to maintain zero COVID but at the same time, trying to encourage other people to get vaccinated just in case.
It doesn't seem like that message matches. How can you have zero risk on one hand but it would be really important for you to get vaccinated on the other hand. So I think the messaging has got to change. And in Hong Kong it should have changed some time ago with the acknowledgement we do need vaccination, either as a back up if zero COVID fails. Like it, it was struggling in Shanghai. Or as a longer term plan to transition away from zero COVID when that time comes.
HOLMES: Speak to the impact of the effectiveness of the Chinese produced vaccine versus, you know, the western ones, the mRNA vaccine, by all account there are reports the Chinese version is less effective. What chance a ship to the more effective one.
COWLING: Well, when the early trials of these vaccines came out, it was clear. For example, the Pfizer vaccine was much more effective than maybe some of the inactivated vaccines only.
95 percent for Pfizer, 50 percent security for some of the inactivated vaccines in China. But that's the effectiveness against infection.
When we look at the protection against disease, all the vaccines do very well. In Hong Kong, we've studied the Pfizer vaccine on one of the Chinese inactivated vaccine. Whether people got two or three doses of either, they were very well protected against severe disease.
And so I don't think there's a reason for China to wait until mRNA vaccines are available in China. I think if they can get the coverage of their inactivated vaccines to a high level, it's already going to give a high level or protection for the elderly. It could be better with mRNA vaccines but they'll be good enough with inactivated vaccines. They do work against severe disease.
HOLMES: Fascinating. Great information, Professor Ben Cowling in Hong Kong. Really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.
COWLING: Thank you.
HOLMES: Well, a reporter for Chinese state media revealed the troubling circumstances surrounding the North Korean government's handling of the COVID outbreak.
He reported that not many people in Pyongyang had been vaccinated as well as medical and epidemic prevention facilities being in short supply. He added that since the capital was in lockdown, he only had enough food to last him a week. Pyongyang just announced the first COVID deaths they say in North Korea on Thursday.
The reclusive nation reporting 18,000 so called -- what they called fever cases on Thursday and the death of six people. So far the country has identified 350,000 of what they call their fever cases. More than 185,000 people are being isolated. Leader Kim Jong-un has ordered all cities into lockdown opinion calling it the most important challenge facing the ruling party.
Political fortunes have turned again for a powerful family in the Philippines. Next up, how the son of a former dictator reached the cusp of becoming the next president.
We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Thousands of mourners gathered in the West Bank to remember explain slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Thursday, she was fatally shot of course while covering in Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.. Their funeral will be held in Jerusalem in the coming ours.
Palestinian leaders say they hold Israeli forces solely responsible for Abu Akleh's death and have rejected calls from Israel's government for a joint investigation. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Israel's has confiscated guns from some of is soldiers as part of a probe into the shootings in the Jene, the day she was killed.
A political dynasty is on the verge of staging a comeback at the top of Philippines' politics. Unofficial results show Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., known as Bongbong and the son of the late dictator has wone Monday's presidential race. But his victory would hardly be without controversy.
For more, Ivan Watson joins me now live from Hong Kong. I guess, Ivan, the sins of the father not affecting the son in the minds of Philippine voters.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTL: No. In fact, you could argue that the Philippines has come full circle now, some 36 years after a popular uprising overthrew the long time dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
36 years later, his son sweeping to power according to preliminary results with historic electoral margins, perhaps assisted because his running mate is the daughter of the outgoing Philippines president, that mercurial and controversial politician Rodrigo Duterte.
WATSON: Sarah Duterte, his daughter is the vice presidential running mate of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. And Duterte is also still quite popular according to public opinion polls. We are seeing some small protests in Manila today. There is expected to be a rally of the presumptive second place candidate in the election, Leni Robredo on Friday. There are some questions about malfunctioning vote counting machines.
But the scale of the victory, according to these preliminary results, looks like a land slide victory for Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
WATSON: The presumptive winner of the presidential election in the Philippines mobbed by supporters. Preliminary and unofficial results show Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. winning by a landslide.
Known by the nickname Bongbong, he concluded his first statement claiming victory saying, quote, "Judge me not by my ancestors but by my actions."
And yet on the same day, his campaign released photos of a visit to the grave of his father and namesake. The legacy of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. looms large over this country. He ruled the Philippines for 21 years. Nearly half of that under martial law until a people power movement sent the family into exile in 1986.
Today a monument honors the thousands of Filipinos jailed, tortured and killed by the Marcos regime. Meanwhile, a presidential commission is still investigating the alleged theft of some $10 billion worth of assets, stolen wealth that funded a lavish lifestyle still remembered by Marcos widow Imelda and her infamous shoe collection.
Marcos Jr. downplays his parents' excesses.
FERDINAND MARCOS, JR. PHILIPPINES PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENT: Of course it was a comfortable life. And of course, we were very privileged because really very clear to us also that this is not something that we were entitled to. It is something that you had to work for.
WATSON: Critics accuse him of using social media to help rewrite history.
FATIMA GAW, UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES: All of those promise to bring back the glorious past even if that past is, you know, whitewashed already by all those disinformation ecosystem.
SWERDLICK: Already there have been some street protests against Marcos even though he appears to have won the biggest electoral mandate. Any presidential candidate has seen in generations.
Some analysts say, this is a repudiation of the politicians who governed since the 1986 overthrow of the elder Marcos.
EDMUND TAYAO, POLITICAL ANALYST: They are the ones who have raised so much expectations before but unfortunately failed to deliver. This is the very reason why suddenly the Marcos name was popular again.
WATSON: Marcos campaigned on a pledge to united this country. And while thin on details he emphasizes economic development is a top priority.
MARCOS JR.: Of course, if the economy prices, the price of energy, lack of jobs, education, infrastructure. All of these areas that are going to be critical" It's on a campaign to unite this country. He emphasizes it's a top priority.
It's the price of energy, lack of jobs, educational, infrastructure. All of these area will be critical.
WATSON: The Philippines has long been plagued by poverty, and economic inequality. Ana 36 years after sweeping a dictator from power, a majority of Filipino voters are praying his son can help fix their country's problem.
WATSON: Well, the U.S. President Joe Biden has already called Bongbong Marcos during your him to congratulate him on his victory. Calling him the president elect in a White House statement.
Know who else has also sent a congratulatory statement to Marcos Jr.?
Xi Jinping, the president of China which I think shows you a little bit the competition between the world's two biggest economic, when it comes to the archipelago nation of the Philippines.
China, of course has territorial disputes with the Philippines but it's a much closer neighbor than the U.S. the former colonial ruler of the Philippines.
It's also interesting that Biden has been hosting the ten nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Washington this week and pledged some 150 million dollar to these countries, to help them with infrastructure.
That is a sum dwarfed by Beijing which pledged ten times that last November in assistance. Keep watching this area, Michael.
HOLMES: Absolutely. Crucial geo politics at play. Ivan Watson appreciate it. Good to see you, my friend? Thanks for that.
Now we finally get to see a massive super black hole in middle of our galaxy. When we come back how astronomers were able to capture this incredible image. That's after the break.
HOLMES: Welcome back.
Evacuation orders remain in place for the wildfire consuming some expensive real estate in southern California. The Coastal Fire remains at 200 acres with about 15 percent of it contained. Dozens of homes have been impacted. Hundreds of firefighters battling the flames, trying to get the fire under control. Although no official cause has been reported, power company, Southern California Edison, says quote, "circuit activity was happening close to the time when the (INAUDIBLE) fire was reported. To make matters worse, temperatures are expected 100 degrees throughout the weekend.
Now, before we go, we finally have visual insight of the super massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Astronomers call it Sagittarius A star. Tom Foreman has more details
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is huge news. Scientists say they've captured for the very first time an image of the beating heart of the middle of our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy.
Take a look. This is a super massive black hole in the middle of the galaxy. All that light around it? The black hole is the dark part in the middle there. All around it is being light bent by the gravitational pull which is off the charts, unbelievably huge.
How did they get this image? They used eight very advanced telescopes around the world, 80 different institutions, hundreds of scientists working for a long time gathering a bit at a time.
Imagine trying to take a picture of a mountain with a lot of clouds passing by where you could only get a little bit here, a little bit there. But then you piece it all together and suddenly you think, that's what the mountain looks like.
That's what they've done here. Did it here over a tremendous distance to get this image. Now, why does this matter? It matters because it will give them some idea of how this affects the operation of our galaxy, stars in the galaxy.
This has roughly 4 million times the mass of the sun. That gives you an idea of how big it is. But it is also about 27,000 light years away. So if you want to go visit, you'd better pack a lunch.
HOLMES: Tom Foreman there.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @HolmesCNN.
Do stick around, my friend Kim Brunhuber picks it up after the break.