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NATO Ministers Meet For Talks On Ukraine; Russian Troops Retreat Near Kharkiv; Ukrainians Destroy Pontoon Bridges At Key River Crossing; North Korea COVID-19 Wave; World Central Kitchen Distancing Food Across Ukraine; Israeli Police Beat Mourners Carrying Journalist's Casket; Some California Homes Still Under Evac Order; Eurovision Provides Ukraine With Chance To Raise Spirits. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 14, 2022 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Live from CNN live headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching in the United States, Canada and around the world.

Just ahead, U.S. and NATO adjust how they train, based on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Plus, chaos erupts during a funeral. Israeli police clash with pallbearers for a slain Palestinian American journalist.

And Elon Musk sends Twitter stock into a frenzy after his latest announcement regarding his multi-billion takeover of the company.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM, with Kim Brunhuber.

BRUNHUBER: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says more than a thousand towns and villages have been retaken from the Russian forces and that the Russian military are paying a heavy price for their aggression.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Today, we can report on 200 downed Russian military aircraft. Russia has not lost so many aircraft in any war in decades and Russia has lost almost 27,000 soldiers.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine also says Russian troops continue to retreat from around the city of Kharkiv in the north.

Further south, Ukraine claim it successfully blocked a Russian advance at a key river in the Donbas. Ukraine says destroyed 70 armed vehicles, including tanks in multiple failed attempts to cross the Donetsk River. About 30 tanks were left stranded after making the crossing.

Russia's top general and the U.S. Defense Secretary spoke by phone for an hour on Friday, the first conversation since before the war. The Pentagon says Secretary Lloyd Austin again appealed for a cease-fire and to keep the lines of communication open.

CNN has correspondents across the region. First we go to Fred Pleitgen, where NATO foreign ministers will be meeting for talks on Ukraine.

Fred, with so much on the line, what are we expecting?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Germany certainly seems to be the main venue. Over the past couple of days, and today, those Western nations and the NATO as well, they try to keep the coherence going and put up a strong front against that Russian aggression.

So the past couple of days, at the G7 foreign ministers' meeting, the European Union announced 500 million euros in aid to Ukraine for heavy weapons, as the foreign policy chief of the European Union had said. Also one topic is a possible oil embargo.

The Ukrainian foreign minister who was also there was very adamant about that and said the Europeans need to show unity and get that oil embargo in place. But it's also about food security for the world as well.

Just yesterday, German chancellor Olaf Scholz had a conversation with Vladimir Putin and told Vladimir Putin, look, you are also responsible for food security around the world. Especially things like grain not making it onto international markets.

All of this transitions to the NATO foreign ministers' meeting. That is of the utmost importance. As of now, two new members in the fold very soon, Sweden and Finland, asking to be members of NATO. That's going to be a very important topic in the meeting that kicks off today.

But the bulk of it is going to happen tomorrow. Secretary of state Blinken also coming to Berlin for that meeting.

At the same time, what we are seeing from Western nations is that they are keeping a very close eye on the conflict in Ukraine and learning from the conflict in Ukraine.

And we got a really rare opportunity to go on an exercise of U.S. and NATO Special Forces, where they told us that they are already adjusting the training that they, do for instance, for medical evacuations, because of the things they are seeing in the war in Ukraine. Have a look.

[04:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): A lonely road, somewhere in Latvia.

Then, suddenly, an unmarked U.S. Special Forces plane touches down, practicing medical evacuation of a casualty under the toughest circumstances.

PLEITGEN: What these special operations forces are doing require a huge amount of skill. They're operating a pretty big plane on an extremely narrow runway, that's normally a road. And all of that in the middle of the night. However, this could be a very real scenario when trying to extract a patient from a dangerous environment.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): NATO's Special Operations Command granted us rare access to these medevac drills with elite NATO units on the condition that we don't disclose the identities of those taking part and even modulate their voices.

The Special Forces medics tell us the war in Ukraine is fundamentally changing the way they train.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the battlefield now. Look at Ukraine.

What's flying?

Not a lot reliably. So that assumption is, if the air is denied, where is that patient going to go?

How are we going to transport them to the surgeon?

PLEITGEN (voice-over): During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. built a system of medical evacuations by helicopter that military officials say gave casualties a more than 90 percent chance of survival even from catastrophic wounds.

That's because they often got to an operating room within an hour of being wounded, the concept of "the golden hour."

PLEITGEN: The fact that you guys had air superiority really was the bedrock of what you, got you in that golden hour. And that's something that's now a matter -- a well evaporated (ph) unit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can all agree. Just watching the last seven to eight weeks of conflict, that assumption seems to be pretty valid.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And that means it could take longer to get wounded comrades to hospitals and that operations may need to be performed on or near the front line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not ideal but, if it has to happen here, then we're able to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of what we're doing is what's called prolonged casualty care, prolonged field care. And that concept is identifying those strategies that will help us prolong life in order to bridge that and get that patient to the surgeon.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Special Forces medics say that they're learning a lot from Ukrainian medics, who are providing care for their wounded, while often under fire from the Russian army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Ukrainians are doing a phenomenal job of claiming the battlefield and of implementing some of these strategies, taking care of the patients en route, so you're not just throwing a person in the back of the van and leaving them unattended.

You're putting somebody with medical capability in there with that patient to deliver care while they are being transferred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and ventilating the patient.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And so that's exactly how U.S. and NATO Special Forces are now training, turning a regular cargo van into a makeshift ambulance and constantly caring for their patients until they arrive at the makeshift airfield.

They've got the patient alive for three days before a medical evacuation flight was possible. It's all an exercise but a scenario they fear could become a reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rate at which we are collaborating now is more than I have seen in my 20 years in the military and in previous conflicts. There's a sense of urgency and I think, watching Ukraine right now, that is very prescient.


PLEITGEN: You can see there, Kim, a real sense of urgency among Special Forces within NATO. And the troops that were securing that airfield were actually Latvian special forces.

They want to bring all the nations on the same page. And they say, with that conflict right next door, they certainly see a big sense of urgency of getting all the NATO members on the same page.

BRUNHUBER: Fascinating reporting there, Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on the shocking devastation Russians are leaving behind.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Charred, chewed, mauled, northern Kharkiv's scars seem infinite. Putin's troops breathing artillery fire breathing down the neck of this city of 1 million for two months.

But even still, it's a shock to see just how close the Russians got, on the other side of this road. We are told this is from demining, a controlled blast. Yet here, everything is fluid. Ukraine stopped Russia's advance here on the first day of the war, killing two soldiers by this armor. Three civilians shot dead in this car then and their bodies recovered only two days ago. You can see the colossal force used here. A tank turret literally that full distance thrown off the tank body.

The village of Tsyrkuny lies ahead, liberated days earlier.


WALSH (voice-over): "People are starting to go back," he said, "but they are still shelling it."

Two women died two days ago when they walked onto a tripwire trap set in the village and even around these factories, special forces here warn that a soldier was wounded by a booby-trap three days ago.

The zed markings of Russia's invasion still a deranged sign of their collective insanity, even two months on.

Why do they do this?

They say they reclaimed this area about a week ago but they're now in the difficult task of demining what they can but look around here. There's really not much left to make safe. These civilians evacuated from the next village, just 2 kilometers away.

"It's a nightmare," she says.

"The shooting is heavy," the driver adds and we let them race on.

Desperation takes different forms here and caught by another kind of survival is Dmitri, whose wife moved away a while ago, wheeling back food he's got for his six dogs.

"I haven't really left my home for two months," he said.

"I crossed the fields, passed the bomb fragments to get the food."

His gentle stroll in the open, a sign of how long the violence has swirled here, not that it is slowing -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Ukraine.


BRUNHUBER: Ukraine is also starting a high-profile war crimes trial. Prosecutors say a soldier carried out orders to shoot and kill an unarmed civilian under concern that the victim could reveal the Russians' position. Ukraine says it's investigating more than 11,000 war crimes cases. They hope to make future perpetrators think twice.


IRYNA VENEDIKTOVA, UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL: These proceedings now can save lives of our Ukrainian civilians on the south and eastern part of Ukraine, because these perpetrators who are now fighting will see that we will find all of them, we will identify all of them and we will start to prosecute all of them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: The suspect's Ukrainian attorney spoke with CNN Friday and he said the trial will be fair.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I believe in our judicial system. I've been participating in court hearings for 10 years. I know the court will make a lawful decision.


BRUNHUBER: The suspect could face up to 10 years to life in prison.

The Kremlin doesn't have much to show for the war. Many advances have been reversed, first around Kyiv and now Kharkiv. The Kremlin seems focused on trying to secure its grip on the Donbas and establishing a land corridor with Crimea.

Max Seddon is the Moscow bureau chief for the "Financial Times" and joins us from Tallinn.

Thanks so much for being with us, Max. So for Russia, plenty of losses but some gains, Kherson in the south. And it seems Russia has no intention of giving that territory back.

MAX SEDDON, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, "FINANCIAL TIMES": No, absolutely not. They've introduced the ruble. They're planning on getting rid of the Ukrainian school curriculum. And they've appointed local collaborationist authorities who say they plan to ask Putin to annex the area.

They aren't even going to bother withholding a highly-stage managed (INAUDIBLE) referendum like they did in Crimea in 2014. They're just going to have the Russian-appointed authorities ask Putin to take them.

It looks like this is one of the few significant gains that Russian forces made in the early weeks of the invasion. And Russia wants to consolidate those gains by annexing the territory. Ukraine says about 45 percent of the local population has already fled.

There are some reports that some Russians are being bused in to work in occupation administrations. And they are going to do their best to turn it into Russia, just as they have been doing in Crimea the last eight years.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that Russification definitely on the way.

You said the difference between Crimea not holding a referendum but annexing that area directly, does that suggest that Russia's hold on the area is tentative?

SEDDON: Well, Ukraine think that, if they get, by June, all of the weaponry that they're requesting from NATO -- [04:15:00]

SEDDON: -- then they will be able to drive Russia back to the borders before February 24th, when Putin ordered the invasion by the fall. And that involves Kherson.

The problem is that the territory is between Crimea and the Donbas. It's very flat stuff. So it's very difficult to defend. That was one of the reasons why Ukraine struggled to defend it successfully in the early weeks of the invasion.

But it also means that, if there's sustained Ukrainian offensive, Russia may have problems holding on to it. So it's very clear from what Russia, Russian officials have said, the head of Putin's party, the united Russia was in Kherson last week.

He said Russia is here forever. There can be no return to the past. Even if taking Kherson, there isn't the kind of emotional attachment to the area in Russia, like there was with Crimea, when that was very popular in Russia to annex it.

But they still have to have something to show for what they've done. And for Putin, this is about going down in history, someone restoring what he calls Russia's claims to its historical territories that it controlled in the 19th -- 18th centuries.

BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, the sanctions against Russia continue to bite. And we saw that new sanctions were levied against members of Putin's family and his inner circle. But you wrote a fascinating article about one oligarch very close to Putin, who, so far, has escaped sanctions. Tell us more about him and why he's been untouchable so far.

SEDDON: It's pretty simple. He is the richest man in Russia by some estimates. He controls this gigantic Siberian mining company. And it's basically been his get-out-of-jail free card ever since the sanctions came in because he -- it's almost like they're running out of major oligarchs at this point who haven't been sanctioned.

He's really conspicuous. But the reason is pretty simple, because his factory produces a large percentage of the world's largest nickel and palladium supply. It would have disastrous effects for the car industry, the global metals markets.

And the White House and the Treasury knows this very well. In 2018, they sanctioned the second-largest holder, Oleg Derepaska. And that was a complete disaster for the metals market because of the aluminum company that he used to control.

And within the year, the Treasury had to do what was more or less an embarrassing climbdown to remove the sanctions so that metals markets wouldn't be affected.

So what you're seeing is, with all these Western companies, they're trying to leave Russia, or in the case of one Russian oligarch, who criticized the war and was forced to surrender his assets, this is one of the few people who can really buy your assets in Russia if you're looking to get out, because he's one of the few people not under sanctions.

But he is an absolutely loyal figure to the Kremlin and has been for decades. So he's really, really, I think winner may be a strong word. But he's really one of the few people looking to expand his empire during this crisis.

BRUNHUBER: It's interesting, Western nations trying to hurt Russia without hurting themselves. Max Seddon, thank you for being with us. Really appreciate it.

SEDDON: Thank you.

BRUNHUBER: All right, still ahead.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): A funeral for an Al Jazeera journalist is marred by violence. More after the break. Stay with us.







BRUNHUBER (voice-over): A building fire in India's capital killed at least 27 people Friday and officials warn that number will rise after the discovery of more remains Saturday morning. At least 12 people were injured according to authorities.

Officials say the blaze started because of a fault in an electric cable. Police are searching for the building's owner, who they say failed to clear fire provisions.

Meanwhile in the U.S., a new study suggests the Pfizer vaccine rapidly loses its effectiveness in children who get the Omicron variant. The vaccine was more than 90 percent effective against the original virus for kids between 5 and 15 years old.

But once Omicron kicked in, the efficacy dropped to less than 29 percent for kids between 5 and 11. The effectiveness was measured two months after receiving the second dose. The study shows boosters restore much of the vaccine's protection.

On Friday, North Korea reported more than 20 people died from what's being called fever. Kim Jong-un reportedly called the situation the greatest turmoil the country has faced. CNN's Will Ripley has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was just a matter of days ago that North Korea didn't even have one officially acknowledged case of COVID 19 for the entire pandemic. A lot of outside experts doubted whether that was the case.

But it was certainly significant and troubling to see North Korean state media on Thursday publish news on their first confirmed case of COVID-19 or at least first reported case. And then, one day later, 350,000 cases, a number that many outside observers fear is going to rise and potentially rise quickly.

Because if indeed it's the highly contagious Omicron variant spreading through North Korea, but this is one of two countries in the world, the other being Eritrea, where they never vaccinated anybody, nobody in the general public has gotten a vaccine.

The World Health Organization, apparently, did offer to send millions of doses of certain vaccines to North Korea. And Amnesty International says they refused.


RIPLEY (voice-over): Maybe they wanted different vaccines.

Who knows what the rationale was?

But as a result, nobody in the public, the general public of North Korea, has got a vaccine, which means there is no herd immunity. And there are a lot of people who are food insecure, almost half of the population or some 40 percent of North Koreans don't have a nutritious diet.

So you combine that with a highly contagious, potentially variant of COVID-19 and you have what could be a catastrophe, compounded by the fact that North Korea has a dilapidated health care system.

They don't have ventilators and the kinds of things that were used to treat patients in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, which lost 1 million people to COVID-19 so far.

And the North Koreans, even though their country is much smaller, they could easily lose a huge portion of their population if this thing spreads out of control and they have no way to treat people -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


BRUNHUBER: China is canceling its plans to host next year's Asian Football Confederation finals, because they want to maintain its zero COVID strategy.

Meanwhile, officials in Shanghai say they're working on plans to reopen the city after weeks of strict COVID lockdown. They say the city's overall COVID trend is improving. The reopening will be gradual but there's no word on a possible timeline.

Still ahead, we're reporting on a slain journalist's funeral. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back. Thank you for watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

We are learning more about Russia's attempts to cross a key river in the Donbas. They may have lost as many as 70 armored vehicles when Ukrainian forces took out pontoon bridges over the Donetsk River. A U.S. official says Russian forces haven't made as much ground as a result. Here's how their progress has been summed up so far.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They have prevented the Russians from achieving virtually any of their strategic objectives thus far in the war.


BRUNHUBER: The Ukrainian official says fighting is raging around the Luhansk region. The latest Russian shelling has destroyed more than 50 houses and 10 Russian attacks have been successfully repelled in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy says 27,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during the war in Ukraine. One of Ukraine's challenges, storing and identifying the bodies left behind. Sara Sidner reports on how facial recognition technology is playing a big role in that.

We want to warn you, some of the footage you're about to see is graphic.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this refrigerated train car, a gruesome sight. The bodies of Russian soldiers, packed and stacked, for storage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look, this is looted.

SIDNER (voice-over): "Every Russian soldier, who is stored here, as a dead body, has committed a crime, against Ukraine," he says.

"Storing the bodies of the enemy aligns with the rules of war, set out, by the Geneva Convention," he says.

After the end of the active phase of combat, the parties must exchange the bodies of dead military. But they have to try to identify the dead men first. This is where the Ministry of Digital Transformation comes in.

"We have identified about 300 cases," he says.

They do it by using a myriad of techniques. But the most effective has been facial recognition technology. They upload a picture of a face. The technology scrubs all the social networks.

SIDNER: It's really fast.

SIDNER (voice-over): Once they have a match, they go one step further.

MYKHAILO FEDOROV, MINISTER OF DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION (through translator): We send messages to their friends and relatives.

SIDNER: These are often gruesome photos, of dead soldiers. Why do you send them to the families, in Russia?

FEDOROV (through translator): There are two goals.

One is to show the Russians, there's a real war, going on here, to fight against the Russian propaganda, to show them they're not as strong, as they're shown on TV. And Russians really are dying here.

The second goal is to give them an opportunity, to pick up the bodies, in Ukraine.

SIDNER (voice-over): They do get responses from Russian families.

SIDNER: They're responding with basically saying, "You will be killed. I will come. And I will also take part"--

FEDOROV: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: --"in this war."

FEDOROV (through translator): 80 percent of the families' answers are, "We'll come to Ukraine ourselves and kill you," and "You deserve what's happening to you."

SIDNER: What about that 20 percent?

FEDOROV (through translator): Some of them say, they're grateful and they know about the situation and some would like to come and pick up the body.

SIDNER (voice-over): The technology is not just being used on the dead. It is also being used, to identify Russian soldiers, who are alive, some of whom are being accused of war crimes.

"We have established the identity of one military man. We have a lot of materials, irrefutable evidence," this prosecutor says.

This is footage of the Russian military man he's talking about. He says he was caught on video, in Belarus, trying to sell items, he had looted, from Ukrainian homes.

But his alleged crimes go far beyond that. The soldier is accused of taking part, in the execution of four Ukrainian men, with their hands bound behind their backs.

CNN obtained new video, of the scene, just before shots were fired. You can see what appears to be soldiers standing around and a man on his knees, on the ground, to the right of them.

Prosecutors say, the soldier was first identified, by the technology and then by a Ukrainian citizen, who said this soldier tortured him, after entering his home.


SIDNER (voice-over): "We showed these photos to the witnesses and victims. They identified the specific person, who was among other Russian military personnel, who killed four people, in this particular place," the prosecutor said.

The end result of all their investigations they hope will be a full record of what happened in Ukraine and the proof they need, to prosecute those, who committed crimes, against its people -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Bucha district, Ukraine.



BRUNHUBER: Every day the war drags on, more Ukrainian homes are destroyed and more lives are uprooted. The U.N. says more than 6 million have fled since the conflict began and over 8 million are displaced within Ukraine. Among them is this woman, who, along with her husband, got out of the besieged Azovstal steel plant last weekend.

She said she didn't think she would survive.


NATALIYA BABEUSH, MARIUPOL PLANT SURVIVOR (through translator): I'll be honest with you. I did not hope that we would go out. Here, when clothes are taken to the dry cleaners, full name and employee ID are written.

I wrote down my blood type, mother's phone number and father's phone number, because I didn't think we would get out.

They blew everything up. We could not even report about ourselves. There was no signal. We did not know when the evacuation was being carried out, at what time. We did not have any information at all.


BRUNHUBER: Many Ukrainians near the front lines have to struggle to get their most basic needs met, including food. The nonprofit World Central Kitchen is on the ground in Ukraine, working to help.

Earlier, CNN spoke with regional leader Anton Sadykov. You can see him delivering groceries to families in Dnipro. And listen as he describes his work and the dangers faced by volunteers.


ANTON SADYKOV, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: In Ukraine, we do more than 23,000 packages per day and make deliveries to different places. And my region is Dnipro, Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, Luhansk. We do deliveries on trucks. And with our volunteers, we call them heroes, they go to the front lines to very, very close to the -- some shelling.


BRUNHUBER: And if you would like to safely and securely help people in Ukraine, who need shelter, food and water, please go to You will find several ways you can help there.

It was an emotional and chaotic day in Jerusalem, as slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was laid to rest. Israeli police were seen rushing and attacking mourners, who were trying to carry her casket through the crowd.

They also removed Palestinian flags from a hearse carrying her coffin. Atika Shubert was there.

Really disturbing scenes we saw play out there. You were on hand. Take us through what happened.

ATIKA SHUBERT, JOURNALIST: Yes. I mean, from the very beginning, you could see that Israeli police were very nervous about the emotional day that would be unfolding. And so what they had done was, earlier, before the funeral, actually, they had spoken to the family, asking them to keep the funeral small and not to display any Palestinian flags.

But the family said there are thousands of people coming out to mourn her. We cannot control them. So when they tried to bring the coffin out on foot, this was something the Israeli police would not allow.

They said the coffin would have to be transported by car. So they tried to bring the coffin out the hospital gates. And when that happened, Israeli riot police in full gear first blocked them and then charged them, beating some of the pallbearers with their batons.

It became completely chaotic. There were stun grenades let off. There was mass confusion as people tried to stampede out of there. Riot police on mounted horses were brought in to try to disperse some of the people.

And this was just the beginning of the funeral procession. It did calm down afterwards, once the family agreed to bring the coffin to the church by car. Then Israeli police slowly allowed them out.

And from there, Israeli police did allow a huge turnout of people, thousands of people to come out and join the funeral procession that walked from the church in the Old City to the Mt. Zion cemetery.

And it was an incredible display of Palestinian solidarity but also grief and also defiance in the face of this use of force by Israeli police.

BRUNHUBER: The police say that this use of force was provoked because of rock throwing by the crowd.

Did you see any of that?

SHUBERT: I did not personally see any rock throwing. I did see a lot of plastic bottles being tossed at Israeli police.

What it looked like to me is that the funeral procession wanted to go on ahead on foot in defiance of what the Israeli police wanted. And then to enforce them to use a car instead to go, according to their rules, that's when they charged them with the batons and used stun grenades and so forth.


SHUBERT: I think one other thing to note, something that they did, they actually ripped off the flags, the Palestinian flags, that were on the hearse of the car and confiscated them from a number of people. And I think that was also something that really angered a lot of mourners there.

BRUNHUBER: We'll continue following this story and the investigation into who is responsible for the killing. Thank you so much, journalist Atika Shubert in Jerusalem.

Hot, dry conditions are about to get even worse in the Western U.S. and that's the bad news for the crews fighting dangerous wildfires. We'll have more from the CNN Center after the break. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Dozens of homes in Orange County, California, remain under evacuation orders as the Coastal fire continues to burn. It destroyed at least 20 homes and damaged about a dozen others. The state's prolonged drought is driving the brush fire. It's burned roughly 200 acres in three days and is about 525 percent contained.



BRUNHUBER: Elon Musk's SpaceX is off to what could be a record- setting year. They've launched 19 rockets so far in 2022.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three, two, one, zero, ignition and liftoff.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): And the latest came on Friday evening at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It was carrying 53 Starlink satellites. There was a 12th Starlink mission this year and number 13 could happen in Florida over the weekend.


Meanwhile, back on Earth, Elon Musk's tweets saying his Twitter takeover bid was temporarily on hold.

But is there a method to Musk's madness?

CNN's Brian Stelter offers possible explanations.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Is Elon Musk just trolling us all again?

That's the dominant question in the tech world after he tweeted on Friday about the Twitter takeover being on hold. Let's analyze what he wrote in the tweet and see if we can read between the lines.

He said temporarily on hold, pending details supporting calculation that spam, fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 percent of users. He linked to a nearly two-week-old story from Reuters about the existence of spam accounts on the platform.

So maybe he is saying it's actually a lot more than 5 percent, there's a lot more spam and fake accounts and it's actually a bigger problem than Twitter thinks. And maybe he does not want to buy it after all. Maybe he wants to back away from the deal.

It seems to be what he is implying here. But analysts and investors are saying that he is citing it as a pretext and it's all about money. Of course the broader market selloff in recent weeks, the shares that Musk owns in Tesla, have declined in value. He needs the Tesla shares to finance the deal for Twitter.

So it's possible he is trying to back away. Or maybe he is trying to get a lower price for Twitter. Maybe he is trying to buy it closer to $30 billion than $40 billion. All of those, big questions left after his tweets on Friday.

He did follow up and say he was committed to the acquisition but analysts are skeptical now that he will go through with it and maybe only one person knows for sure, Elon Musk.


BRUNHUBER: The Eurovision celebration is about here. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: With war raging, a Ukrainian rapper is hoping to raise spirits. He will be representing the country at this year's Eurovision. Bianca Nobilo takes a closer look at the competition's history and what music means to Ukrainians during this tumultuous time.


OLEH PSIUK, UKRAINE EUROVISION LEAD SINGER (through translator): For Ukraine, Eurovision has always been very important and especially now in the period of war as it has become even more important.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While his countryman fight on the front lines, Oleh, age 26, the lead singer of the Kalush Orchestra, was given special permission to leave the Ukrainian battlefield for the Eurovision stage.

PSIUK (through translator): Of course, this is a huge responsibility and stress, especially now with the missiles flying around. Lots of our relatives are in danger and this causes a lot of pressure.

NOBILO (voice-over): One of the core members of the group chose to stay behind and fight, while the country's commentator of Eurovision set up a studio in a bombshell shelter.


NOBILO (voice-over): The song "Stefania," written before the war began about his mother, has now taken on greater significance.

PSIUK (through translator): It is true that this song has become very popular and has been perceived as a natural anthem of the war but I would rather it would be called the anthem of our victory.

NOBILO (voice-over): Fusing Ukrainian folk elements with rap, the group's performance combines past with present at a time when the country's future is unknown.

And what would a victory for Ukraine in the Eurovision song contest mean for your country?

PSIUK (through translator): Now for Ukraine, it is important to our victory in all different aspects. And the victory in this Eurovision contest would raise the spirits of the Ukrainian people a lot, so I hope to bring good news back to Ukraine, because there hasn't been any good news for a long time.


NOBILO (voice-over): Eurovision, known for its costumes and choreography's was born from a desire to promote cooperation between European countries in the years following the Second World War. Viewed by almost 200 million people, it's an exercise in soft power.

They usually align with countries in sympathies, with neighboring countries and blocs often giving points to each other.

Historically, Belarus and Russia have voted for one another but this year, they've been banned from competing.

PSIUK (through translator): Russia has been disqualified from lots of events. The world shows that it is in our side, they are condemning the invasion of one country into another country in the center of Europe.

NOBILO (voice-over): From a little girl belting out "Let It Go" in a bunker, to trapped soldiers singing inside the besieged Azovstal steel plant as the Russian shelled it, defiance dressed in song has rang out through the chaos of this war -- a fight to which Oleh and his band will soon return.

PSIUK (through translator): As soon as Eurovision ends, we will go back to Ukraine if it comes to that. All of us will go and defend our country until the very end.

NOBILO: Bianca Nobilo, CNN, London.


BRUNHUBER: There were two key playoff games in the NBA on Friday. The Boston Celtics tied the Milwaukee Bucks. Final game seven will be played in Boston on Sunday and the winner will face the Miami Heat.

In San Francisco, the Warriors eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors will face the winner of the Mavericks-Suns series.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more news. Please do stay with us.