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Zelenskyy Pleads for Modern Anti-Missile Weapons Systems; Officials: War at Critical Stage, Could Determine Outcome; European Court Halts First U.K. Deportation Flight to Rwanda; Murphy Hopeful U.S. Senate Can Move Quickly on Gun Reform; Texas Police Kill Gunman Who Opened Fire at Summer Camp; K-pop Superstars BTS Promise to Return After Hiatus. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 15, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: The war in Ukraine is now in a pivotal moment that assessments say comes from Western intelligence, as well as military officials who believe this critical stage could determine the long term outcome of Russia's invasion. On the ground in eastern Ukraine, fierce fighting ranges on in the Kharkiv region and in Severodonetsk. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is experiencing painful losses. He says it's vital for the Ukrainian military to stay Donbas region. And is now pleading for more help which would include modern anti-missile weapon systems to fight Russia's aggression. And that help could come soon.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will lead a working group of nearly 50 countries to discuss the crisis today with the U.S. expecting announcements of weapons and equipment packages for Ukraine. Have a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Even though Russia has fewer and fewer missiles with each passing day, Ukraine's need for such systems remains. Because Russia still has enough soviet types of missiles which are even more dangerous. They are many times less precise and therefore, threaten civilian objects and ordinary residential buildings much more.


SOARES: And Salma Abdelaziz joins us now live from Kyiv. And Salma, just talk to us about what we're hearing from Western intelligence in terms of being at this critical juncture of this war? Because that's important given the meeting, we're expecting to see later with NATO officials.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Exactly. So, that meeting about to start. As you mentioned, there is a package that's expected to be announced, weapons and more equipment for Ukraine. But one band-aid, one aid package is not going to change the reality on the ground here. This critical moment, the pivotal moment that Western intelligence is speaking of is about the east of the country. Where Ukrainian forces are failing. They are losing ground particularly in Severodonetsk in the Donbas, which if Severodonetsk falls and it looks like just a matter of time, that speaking in reality on the ground. If Severodonetsk falls, that takes President Putin one step closer to that larger goal of taking the Donbas region.

The fear here for Western officials is what happens next. You have these gains, these newly occupied regions running all along that eastern flank down to Mariupol, Kherson and already steps are being taken by Russian forces to solidify those gains. Eventually even annex those gains much as they did with Crimea. And what Western intelligence is warning, is that new territory, that newly occupied land could be used to stage further operations, to stage further assaults on Ukraine.

President Putin is absolutely playing the long game here. Of course, he withdrew from Kyiv weeks ago, but there is still a hunger, there's still an appetite on the part of Moscow to take more Ukrainian territory.

So, this meeting is not just going to be about what happens right now. How can we hold up the east right now. Some would tell you that it is almost a foregone conclusion that Ukraine will lose parts of this territory at least if not all. They cannot claw back what they've had. And now you have a war of attrition that could drag out for years potentially. So, Western officials need to find a way to continue to sustain a much smaller, much weaker Ukrainian army in the face of continued Russian aggression.

SOARES: And we're expecting you -- we're expecting a live in the next 30 minutes or so from Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO chief. We'll bring you up course that to you as soon as that happens. Salma, thank you very much.


Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been transferred to a maximum security prison. A Russian state news agency says is now add a facility some 250 kilometers or 155 mile east of Moscow. The transfer is in line with his nine year sentence for alleged fraud which was handed down if you remember in March. Navalny survived a poisoning by a nerve agent back in 2020 which he blames on Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin denies the accusation. Navalny later predicted that since the government failed to kill him, they would try to keep him behind bars.

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner will stay in Russian custody until at least July 2. That is according to Russian state media. Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who played in Russia during the WNBA's offseason. She was arrested in February after authorities claim that is he had cannabis oil in her bags. Since then, her detention has been extended several times. Supporters have been pushing for her relief fearing that Russia could use her as a political pawn during its war in Ukraine.

An American who was recently freed from Russia says he has now filed a petition with the U.N. over his detainment. Trevor Reed is a U.S. Marine veteran who spent nearly 3 years in a Russian prison before being freed early this year. In the petition, Reed says Russia violated international law by detaining him on made up charges.


TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE DETAINED IN RUSSIA FROM 2019-2022: That petition includes legal documents, eyewitness accounts, and that's what's going to be used to prove denial of rights under international law. You know, they fabricated this crime in order to hold me there for political purposes. And this is the first step in seeking justice and ending, you know, Russian hostage diplomacy.


SOARES: Reed says he hopes holding Russia accountable will force them to stop the practice for good, adding that he wants to see fellow Americans, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, freed as soon as possible.

The first flight of a controversial deportation plan by the U.K. was grounded at the 11th hour. The plane was on the tarmac with engines on and the cabin crew was seen boarding when the European Court of Human Rights intervened. The court ordered the U.K. not to deport one asylum seeker for the time being as legal proceedings play out. The ruling from the court led to the remaining asylum seekers being removed from the flight. CNN's Nada Bashir is tracking this live for us from Paris. And Nada, this was quite the intervention, wasn't it, by the courts. Tell us why they decided to ground the flight and what's going to happen next?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Isa. It was understood yesterday that there were still seven asylum seekers to be deported but in that last moment just before we were expecting a flight to leave for Rwanda, the European Court of Human Rights intervening on behalf of one asylum seeker, an Iraqi national. They say that this individual had not yet exhausted all the U.K. legal proceedings. And that really paved the way for lawyers representing the remaining six asylum-seekers to submit last minute applications.

And of course, as we know now, none of those asylum seekers were deported. But this is the call that we've been hearing from advocacy groups, human rights organizations from the very beginning, that there needs to be more time for asylum seekers to be able to lodge their applications, their legal challenges to the deportation notices that they have received.

And of course, we previously understood that more than 100 asylum seekers had received notices telling them that they would be on that first flight to Rwanda on Tuesday and that dwindled down very quickly to just seven and now of course, zero. So, there are still concerns over the legality of the whole procedure. And of course, we did see that intervention by the European Court of Human Rights. There have been some question over the jurisdiction they have over these U.K. deportations.

The U.K. is still party of course to the European Convention of Human Rights. So, Boris Johnson was actually asked yesterday ahead of that scheduled flight whether or not it was time perhaps for the U.K. to withdraw from that convention to allow the government to make up its own rules. And while he didn't answer that directly, he didn't also refute or refuse to say that the U.K. would consider this. Take a listen.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Will it be necessary to change some change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be. And all these options are under constant review.


BASHIR: Now, Home Secretary Priti Patel issued a statement late last night. She said that she was disappointed that the delight wasn't going ahead as planned but did say that there would be subsequent flights and expects those that had already been notified of their deportation would be on those later flights. So, the government is still very much trying to push ahead with its program. The government of Rwanda has also said it remains committed to the program and is ready to receive asylum seekers -- Isa.


SOARES: Nada Bashir for us in Paris, thanks very much, Nada.

And still ahead right here on the show, terrifying moments at a Texas summer camp after a gunman opened fire in a building packed with children.


SOARES: To Washington now where U.S. Senators are still hammering out the details of a bipartisan gun bill and lawmakers got some key support on Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would support the legislation. But only if the final draft of the bill lines up with the framework announced on Sunday.

Among the reforms that have been laid out so far, an incentive for states to pass red flag laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others. It also includes a more thorough review process for buyers under 21 who want to purchase AR-15 style rifles. And would provide major investments for mental health and resources and school safety. A Senator working on the new legislation, says he thinks that it can get passed by July 4th. Adding that it seems unlikely many Republicans will reverse course at this point. Have a listen.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I don't sense that any of the Republicans that supported had framework are reversing course. In part because I think they've seen, you know, the really outpouring of support for this legislation from all across the country from gun owners and non- gun owners. So, I expect that, you know, we are going to spend this week just putting that framework into text and try to get a vote in front of Senate as quickly as possible.


SOARES: Well, as though negotiations grind on, another reminder of the gun violence plaguing the United States. Officials in Texas say police managed to stop a potential mass shooting after a gunman opened fire inside a building filled with children at a summer camp. CNN's Josh Campbell has the story for you.



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Parents in Texas just grateful to hold their children after police rushed to a North Texas sports fieldhouse where a summer camp was being held and shot a gunman threatening the camp. Police in Duncanville, Texas near Dallas said they exchanged gunfire with a man who opened fire at the camp on Monday where some 250 children, age 4 to 14 and staff were present, some hiding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had texted me and said, mom, I think someone has entered the fieldhouse with a gun.

CAMPBELL (voiceover): When the gunman entered the building, police say, camp counsellors began moving the children to a safe area and locking doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, SUMMER CAMPER: We went in a room and then we heard shooting. And then we got scared and everybody started crying. They just told us to stay quiet. And we were in the men's room. So, there were showers in there so we hid in the showers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, SUMMER CAMPER: I was praying to God just so nothing would happen.

CAMPBELL (voiceover): Police shot and killed the gunman. No children, staff, or officers were hurt according to officials.

ASST. CHIEF MATTHEW STOGNER, DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Upon hearing that gunshot, they did what they were trained to do. The counsellors, they moved the kids to a safe area and began locking the doors. The suspect went to a classroom, was unable to get inside, and did fire one round inside the classroom where there were children inside.

BARRY GORDON, MAYOR OF DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS: There was no hesitation. No hesitation whatsoever. We're thankful for their training. That they do exactly what they're trained to do.

CAMPBELL (voiceover): In Alabama, just last week, a man was shot and killed by a school resource officer after police say he attempted to enter an elementary school where 34 children were attending a summer literacy camp. Law enforcement said, he was also trying to forcibly enter a patrol vehicle and was killed after an altercation with the officer at the school.

JONATHON HORTON, SHERIFF, ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA: He went straight to the threat, he confronted it, and he dealt with it. And it ended in, unfortunately, the death of the suspect. But that's the safest alternative to keep that threat out of that school.

CAMPBELL: Now it's been three weeks since that deadly shooting in Uvalde, Texas and there's still several questions that law enforcement hasn't answered about the response on that day. Particularly these reports that they were treating the situation as a barricaded subject rather than an active shooter.

Compare that with the two cases we brought you from the Alabama and the Dallas area that's how law enforcement is supposed to respond. To go to the sounds of gunfire to try to stop that threat. Of course, in the case of the Dallas suburb camp incident, it's also important to point out that is not just the police who are being applauded for the response but authorities also praising the camp counselors who quickly sprang into action whenever the shots rang out trying to get the kids to safety.

Josh Campbell, CNN, Houston.


SOARES: The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that 13 children have died while using Fisher-Price rockers between 2009 and 2021. Consumers are being remind that infant to toddler, newborn to toddler rockers should never be used for sleep and children should never be left unsupervised or unrestrained in the rockers. Parents should instead put kids to bed on a firm flat surface. That urgent warning comes from manufacturer Fisher-Price. The Product Safety Commission is investigating all fatalities.

The U.S. Justice Department is cracking down on COVID relief fraud. Nearly 1,500 criminal charges have been brought so far. The cases amount to more than $1 billion in losses and we can expect to see more as thousands are under civil investigation. That is according to the head of the COVID-19 fraud enforcement.

Next, it could be an end of an era in K-pop. Superstars BTS say they're taking a break. Does it mean that they are gone for good? We'll explain next.



SOARES: K-pop superstars BTS say they aren't blowing up the group like dynamite, there simply taking a break. The massively popular boy band made the announcement during its live anniversary celebration. And it was very careful to call this a hiatus. Its members say they want time to explore solo projects and one of them did admit that they were going through a rough patch right now. BTS promises that the band will get back together again someday. Doesn't sound good.

CNN's Blake Essig joins us now live from Tokyo this hour. And Blake, I suppose everyone wants to know -- the fans want to know this morning, is it a breakup or is it a hiatus? BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isa, call it what you want to

call it, but it really does feels like the end of an era. And BTS army that includes tens of millions of fans worldwide are devastated by last night's news with some fans taking to social media to say that they have been crying for hours. And what is it going to ease the sadness of super fans? A band member hinted that they haven't ruled out continuing to work on projects as a group saying when we gather again as a group, the synergy will be like no other.

But for now, BTS is taking a break and the group offered several reasons for their decision to go on the so-called hiatus, including a lack of individual growth and the inability to pursue solo projects fueled by the unrealistic demands created by the K-pop and idol system to keep producing music. And while acknowledging their fans, the band admitted that the dynamic of the group had changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and that it's been a long and exhausting process trying to find their identity. Take a listen.


RM, BTS MEMBER (through translator): Right now, we've lost our direction. And I just want to take some time to think and then return. But that just feels rude to our fans like I'm letting down their expectations.


ESSIG: Although it wasn't given as a reason for the group's decision to at least temporarily go their separate ways, all South Korean men age 18 to 30 are required to serve in the military for about two years. And three band members, including 29-year-old Jin are due for military service in the next two years.

Now on the business side of things, Isa, BTS's management company, HYBE, saw their stock fall more than 25 percent as the result of the band's announcement, a big loss financially, but of course a big loss for fans who are understandably overcome with emotion regarding this announcement.


SOARES: Yes, lots of tears being shed today including that of my director who is a big fan apparently, I hear. Blake Essig for us in Tokyo this hour, thanks very much, Blake.

Now a top golfer is fed with talking about a controversial new series backed by Saudi Arabia. Brooks Koepka says that the media is to blame for taking attention away from the upcoming U.S. Open by asking questions about LIV Golf.


BROOKS KOEPKA, PGA TOUR GOLFER: I don't understand -- I'm trying to focus on the U.S. Open, man. I legitimately don't get it. I'm tired of the conversations, I'm tired of all this stuff. Like I said, y'all are throwing a black cloud on the U.S. Open and I think that sucks. I actually do feel bad for them for once because it is a (BLEEP) situation. We're here to play and you are talking about some event that happened last week.


SOARES: The event he mentioned was just the inaugural tournament in the new LIV Golf series. LIV Golf has divided fans and players alike due to Saudi Arabia's involvement and for poaching some golfers from the renowned PGA tour. The world's number two and number three ranked golfers say that the PGA rich legacy is more important than the enormous sums of money offered by LIV Golf. Have a listen.


JON RAHM, WORLD NO. 2 RANKED GOLFER: I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game and I want to Play who's the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy and right now the PGA tour has that.

RORY MCILROY, WORLD NO. 3 RANKED GOLFER: Going back to history and tradition and putting your name on trophies that have the legends of the game on them, that is really cool. You know, I'm not something that money can buy. You know, legacy, reputation, at the end of the day, you know, that is all you have. You know, you strip everything away and you are left with what -- how you made people feel and what people thought of you and you know, that is important to me.


SOARES: And all this comes just ahead of the 122nd U.S. Open that's set to begin tomorrow.

That does it here for me on CNN. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is next. I shall see you tomorrow, have a wonderful day, bye-bye.