Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Finns React Positively to Likely NATO Membership; Kremlin: Finland Joining NATO is a Threat to Russia; Funeral for Shireen Abu Akleh to be Held Today; Coastal Fire Burning Across 200 Acres in Southern California; First Image of Our Local Black Hole. Aired 4:30- 5a ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 04:30   ET




ANDRIY YERMAK, CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: We are very happy for our friends in Finland. And of course, it's absolutely logical steps. But at the same time, it shows the double standard of the alliance. Because all the world now see how long period of time Ukraine decided to go to the alliance. But we still have not any concrete answer.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: France and Germany are among the many countries welcoming Finland's likely NATO membership though. And the Finnish people seen largely on board as well. As Nic Robertson reports from Helsinki.


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 would strengthen NATO. Finland must apply without delay."

On the eve of the historic announcement, Finland's President explaining why it is not a threat to Russia, but Russia is to blame.

SAULI NIINISTO, FINNISH PRESIDENT: We increase our security, and we do not take it away from anybody.

ROBERTSON: 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.

ROBERTSON (voice over): In Parliament where the historic vote will happen, routine business continues. But lest Russia escalate tensions, calls for speed. JOHANNES KOSKINEN, FINNISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Joining to NATO should be as short as possible.

ROBERTSON (voice over): 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 maybe around 180 out of 200 in favor of membership.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Politicians and public now for the most part in lockstep wanting to join NATO.

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

ROBERTSON (voice over): Not just the invasion of Ukraine, but a history of rocky relations with Russia spurring many here to reassess decades of neutrality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a very old father, he is 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 are back in the 40s and take it easy and they're now, yes, you never know with the Russians. They can always come. I said take it easy, and now, I just have to say to him, well, you were right.

ROBERTSON: 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.

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

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

ROBERTSON (voice over): No panic here, and according to officials, no new Russian threat either. The starting gun, though, clearly fired in a massive geopolitical shift.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Helsinki, Finland.


FOSTER: Joining me from Helsinki now is Petteri Orpo the chairman of the defense committee in the Finnish Parliament. Thank you so much for joining us. No moves have actually been made yet. I know your Prime Minister and President have said that they want to expedite this membership. It has to go through the Parliament first. Doesn't it? So, are you confident that the Parliament will next week approve this application to NATO? PETTERI ORPO, MEMBER OF FINNISH PARLIAMENT: Yes, now because we have

statement statements from the president and the Prime Minister. Next the president and Prime Minister approve for foreign affairs will give a proposal of NATO membership To the Parliament probably on Sunday. The Parliament will discuss the matter and vote on it on Monday or Tuesday. When we can hopefully send our membership application to the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

FOSTER: So, when would you be a member of NATO, would it be a matter of months as opposed to years?


ORPO: I hope it's a matter of weeks and months, not years. I hope that the process will be very fast.

FOSTER: It's obviously being seen as a very provocative move by Moscow. We've Got Former President Medvedev now threatening to boost military assets in the region. You've got the Russian foreign ministry saying that it is a radical change in policy. Is that sort of reaction that you expected? Because undoubtedly it is a radical change in policy from your formerly neutral status which many people would argue was a defense in its own right.

ORPO: But first, I want to say that Finland has not been neutral. We joined the European Union in 1995. During the Cold War, we had to be neutral in a pragmatic way because of the Soviet Union. We have not been part of military alliance, but we have been part of the political alliance, the EU. We have belonged to the West for 25 years. In Russia's eyes, we are already part of Western group and that is what we also think ourselves. We have also had deep cooperation with NATO and United States and U.K. before.

FOSTER: So, in terms of what Medvedev is saying, increasing military assets in the region, could your strategy backfire because it's seen as a more provocative stance joining NATO, doubling the border between NATO and Russia and therefore as a result of that Moscow sending more military assets to the region, therefore, potentially creating a greater threat to you?

ORPO: Yes, Russia has constantly threatened Finland and Sweden just like its other neighbors. They have stated about military tactical measures. I believe that they would want to bring some troops near border, however their arms are now stuck in Ukraine. But they could also launch cyberattacks and disinformation as well as hyper attacks, such as weaponizing immigration.

But I want to say that we are not afraid in Finland. We are prepared and ready for everything. I don't think that they can launch an invasion, we are very strong, own army and own defense, because we have never dropped the ball when it comes to defense. We are a nation that is ready to defend itself fiercely and Russia knows it. And when it comes to our long border, we will take our share.

FOSTER: There's some frustration in Kyiv at the moment because they aren't able to apply to NATO currently because they are in a conflict. You're not in a conflict so you can apply to NATO. Are you concerned that the Russians may invade in a small way and therefore prevent you applying to NATO? That might be their response.

ORPO: I'm sure that there will be their response, but as I told, we are not afraid, we are well prepared. And there's not much what they can do new. We know almost all the threats. And it's difficult to see what new they can do against us. But as I say, we are ready.

FOSTER: OK, Finnish MP Petteri Orpo, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Helsinki.

ORPO: Thank you so much.

FOSTER: Still ahead, the journalist killed whilst covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank will soon be laid to rest. Details from Jerusalem after the break.



FOSTER: The funeral for an Al Jazeera journalist will be held in Jerusalem in the coming hours. Shireen Abu Akleh was basically shot whilst reporting on an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. Palestinian leaders say Israeli forces are solely responsible for her death and are demanding justice. Joining us now is Atika Shubert live in Jerusalem -- Atika.

ATIKA SHUBERT, JOURNALIST: That's right, Max, we're actually at St. Joseph's Hospital and this is where Shireen Abu Akleh's body has been prepared for the funeral today. It is actually in the building just behind me, you can see wreathes there, a Palestinian flag also draped there.

We know that the funeral will take place later today at the church near Jaffa Gate in the old city. And then there will be a funeral procession to bring her body to the Mount Zion Cemetery where she will be buried.

Now yesterday we saw thousands of Palestinians coming out across the West Bank to mourn her. It was an outpouring of grief and I do think that we are likely to see many people coming out today as well.

I think what's important to remember here is that Shireen Abu Akleh was more than just a veteran journalist, for so many people she was almost like a member of their families. Because for so many Palestinians, she was reporting on their daily lives, chronicling what Palestinian life was like Israeli occupation. And so, she had these daily reports often coming out at times of intense conflict. And so, many people knew her, felt like they knew her personally. And I think that's why her death has hit so many people so hard here. So, I think we will see a lot of people coming out today -- Max.

FOSTER: Atika Shubert, we'll be back with you as the day unfolds. Thank you. This just in to CNN, the South Korean foreign minister and is U.S.

counterpart Antony Blinken are discussing ways to help send COVID aid to North Korea. Both top diplomats condemned South Korea's recent -- or North Korea's recent missile launch but are open to providing humanitarian relief. The president of South Korea has already offered medical supplies and vaccines to North Korea. The reclusive nation reported 18,000 of so-called fever cases on Thursday and six deaths. So far, the country has identified more than 350,000 what it calls fever cases and more than 187,000 people are being isolated. Leader Kim Jong-un has ordered all cities into lockdown calling it the most important challenge facing the ruling party.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, extreme drought plaguing much of the Southwest. It's creating ideal conditions for wildfires. We'll have the latest in the weather just ahead.


FOSTER: Law enforcement crews accidentally started a grass fire in Colorado. On Thursday, the blaze was near the Colorado Springs airport and caused a shutdown of several flights. A brief shelter-in-place order and even mandatory evacuation orders for at least 500 nearby homes. The sheriff's spokesperson says the deputy was responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle when the car became stuck in the grassy area. The fire started when the deputy tried to get out. No deputies were injured thankfully.

Now temperatures and weather conditions are providing little relief for firefighters in New Mexico. Experts say the continued heat, low humidity and breezy conditions will likely aggravate the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires now combined as one. So far, nearly 260,000 acres have been scorched and the blaze is less than 30 percent contained.

Evacuation orders remain in place for the wildflower burning through some expensive real estate in Southern California. The coastal fire covers about 200 acres with about 15 percent of it contained. Dozens of homes have been effected as firefighters try to get the flames under control. No official cause has been reported.


But the power company Southern California Edison says electrical circuit activity was occurring close to the time when the fire was reported. It provided no details beyond that.

Joining me now is CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. The way these fires are starting really does shows how sensitive the area is right now, how dry it is.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, 100 percent, Max. In fact, I spoke on the phone just a few moments ago with the Cal fire chief of communications, and he talked to me about the dry conditions that are in place, talking about the long-standing drought and impacts that climate change is having on his state. And that is evident here with the fuel that is the vegetation that is

extremely dry across the coastal areas of California hence the coastal fire that you were mentioning a moment ago. And it's not just California, it's other parts of the West.

This is a picture from space of the Hermits Peak, Calf Canyon fire that is combined into what is now closing or edging towards New Mexico's largest wildfire in its state's history. You can see it has already scorched about 260,000 acres, the largest fire in New Mexico's history just shy of 300,000 acres.

So, California, they've got some serious problems. 100 percent of the state in drought. We've been talking about that, 41 percent of it in extreme drought category. But if we're going back to the coastal fire that you saw a moment ago with Max, we've looked at an area known as Long Beach. Very close to this particular region.

They've only received about an inch of rain to date and on average they receive over 8 inches. And now we're exiting out of the rainy season, so we're only 14 percent of average and this is usually the time when the taps from the sky start to run out. So, you can see unfortunately, the result there of the dry conditions. The coastal fire and smoke and the blaze that was on the ground there.

Now unfortunately, the Climate Prediction Center going forward for the next 10 to 15 days calls for below average conditions in terms of precipitation from the Great Basin all the way to the West Coast. On top of that, you add the heat. 200 record high temperatures tied or shattered within the next week basically across Texas, the deep South all the way into New Mexico.

We had high temperatures for many locations into New Mexico -- rather South Dakota, where we had a round of severe weather that caused some serious problems with wind gusts in excess of 100 miles per hour. Get this folks, that is equivalent to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane. And it created some serious problems known as a haboob. And I want to show you this video before I let you go, because it is incredible what happened in this area. It's actually the advancing line of dust that covered and darkened the skies. It's the out draft of the thunderstorms that formed -- Max.

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

Now astronomers have given us our first look at the super massive black hole, what they call the beating heart of the center of our swirling galaxy, the Milky Way. Sagittarius A* is 27,000 light years from earth. Astronomers say this black hole is 4 million times more massive than our sun. Black holes themselves don't emit light, so what are you seeing is the glow of light bent by its crushing gravity. The image was captured from these observatories around the world which form the Event Horizon Telescope array.


LIA MEDEIROS, EHT GRAVITATIONAL PHYSICS WORKING GROUP: And so, all of these telescopes work together like a team and everybody looked at that these sources at the same time. And everybody works together to create a earth-sized telescope so that we could create such an incredibly high resolution image.


FOSTER: Even though Sagittarius A* is massive, it's cosmically puny. A 1,000 times smaller than M-87 which is a different galaxy -- in a different galaxy and seen here on the left. M-87 was the first black hole we actually imaged.

Now the Miami Heat are moving on to the next round of the nab playoffs. Jimmy Butler led the way with 32 points in the game six win over Philadelphia. The Heat are the top seed in the East and will face the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks/Boston Celtics series. In the West, the Dallas Mavericks are proving -- not going down without a fight. They coasted past the Phoenix Suns to tie the series at three games apiece. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 32 points and 11 rebounds. Game seven is set Sunday in Phoenix.

Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike won't race in next weekend's Preakness in Baltimore. That means that there is no possibility the colt can achieve a triple crown -- the Holy Grail of American horse racing. The owner says that the plan was always to enter the horse in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, but not both.


Rich Strike came into Churchill Downs an 80:1 long shot and scored one of the most thrilling upsets in Derby history. He is tentatively expected to run in the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 11th. So, you'll have to wait till then.

Two Starbucks outlets in California have become the first in the state to unionize. More than a dozen others California Starbucks will likely follow suit. Wednesday's vote in Santa Cruz came after Starbucks workers in Buffalo, New York won the right to unionize in November. Next comes the challenge of negotiating a contract though. In a statement Starbucks said that it is still philosophically opposed to unions but will respect the employees' decision.

The New York lottery is trying to make things right after a mega mistake. During Tuesday's drawing, the announcer incorrectly called the mega ball a 6 when it was actually a 9.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now for the gold mega ball that is 6. Again, tonight's winning numbers are 15, 19, 70, 61, 20 and the gold mega ball is 6.


FOSTER: Some of the people with that wrong number 6 mega ball still got paid though. But the mix-up caused lottery officials to temporarily suspend all payouts. We're told they have since resumed. The estimated jackpot for the drawing later today has now reached $99 million.

Nearly three dozen German shepherds have been rescued from the war in Ukraine. According to our CNN affiliate, a California trainer traveled alone to Ukraine to rescue the dogs which are police and military trained K-9s. Chris Jimenez raised around $55,000 to charter a plane and bring them all back to San Diego County.


CHRIS JIMINEZ, DOG TRAINER AND RESCUER (voice-over): Now the dogs need to go through some extensive rehab. They've been, you know, shoved in a car for hours, shoved on a plane. They were in bad condition when I showed up.


FOSTER: Jiminez is trying to find homes for the dogs but says that they might be the right fit.

I'm Max Foster in London. Our coverage continues with "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. You're watching CNN.