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Ukraine Closer to Joining E.U.; Russia's War on Ukraine; January 6 Hearings; U.S. Economy; Crypto Crash; Rome versus the Electric Scooter. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired June 18, 2022 - 04:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber in CNN NEWSROOM.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): Our soldiers in Donbas are fighting to defend their people. All the aims of the special operation will be achieved.

BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Vladimir Putin doubles down on his war of choice while claiming that the West's sanctions are doing nothing to hurt his economy.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Plus, Donald Trump fires back at the January 6 committee and his former vice president.


BRUNHUBER (voice-over): And China is showing off its most advanced aircraft carrier in what appears to be a direct message to the West.



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

BRUNHUBER: We begin in Ukraine, where Russia is reportedly sending more firepower to eastern front lines. Russia is bringing more forces to the region and artillery is pounding areas near Severodonetsk, trying to cut it off from surrounding cities.

Ukraine also says it intercepted two Russian missiles near Odessa and no one was killed. In Kyiv, Ukrainian and E.U. flags flew side by side on Friday. The European Commission recommended the European Commission be given candidate status.

The move doesn't guarantee membership, which would be years away. But President Zelenskyy says it's still important. Here he is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Ukraine deserves this positive. Ukrainian values are European values. Ukrainian institutions maintain resilience, even in conditions of war. Ukrainian democratic habits have not lost their power even now.

And our approach mall (ph) with the European Union is not only positive for us, this is the greatest contribution to the future of Europe in many years.


BRUNHUBER: Zelenskyy spoke after British prime minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv, his second since the war began. He offered Ukraine a military training program that he said would fundamentally change the equation of the war.

Russian president Vladimir Putin rallied against the West, and he repeatedly continued to insist that the U.S. is to blame for this conflict and claimed that the era of American dominance is over. Here he is.


PUTIN: The U.S. declared they won the Cold War, declared themselves messengers of the Lord on Earth.


BRUNHUBER: Putin is also brushing off the impact of harsh sanctions, insisting that Russia will flourish.


PUTIN (through translator): The calculation was clear, to crush the Russian economy with a swoop. Due to the destruction of business chains to hit industry, finance and the standard of living of people by freezing domestic assets, it did not work out. Obviously, it didn't work out.


BRUNHUBER: CNN correspondents are covering the conflict from every angle. Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Ben Wedeman is in Ukraine. We begin with Salma Abdelaziz in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. She explains the decision by the European Commission is largely symbolic. Here she is.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One small step toward Ukraine's major goal of joining the European Union. The president of the European Commission on Friday recommending Ukraine for candidacy status.

The president of the European Commission saying that Ukrainians are willing to die for European ideals and welcoming them into this next step. We'll wait to find out more next week from the European Commission.

But President Zelenskyy, of course, welcomed the news and said it would make Ukraine safer and stronger. Take a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Ukraine deserves this positive. Ukrainian values are European values. Ukrainian institutions maintain resilience, even in conditions of war.

Ukrainian democratic habits have not lost their power even now.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): And our rapprochement (ph) with the European Union is not only positive for us, this is the greatest contribution to the future of Europe in many years.


ABDELAZIZ: This past week has been very important in healing divisions in the European alliance. President Zelenskyy has been vocal in particular against two European leaders, the German chancellor and the French president.

He said he believes they, in the past, were soft on President Putin, soft on Moscow. In particular his grievance with German chancellor Olaf Scholz is around sanctions. Germany has yet to ban oil and gas from Russia and instead saying they're going to phase it out by the end of the year.

When it comes to president Emmanuel Macron, Zelenskyy feels he strikes too conciliatory of a tone at time to try to bring President Putin to the negotiating table. That's why they're at this very important visit a couple of days ago in Kyiv.

Three European leaders, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, arriving by train, making their way to President Zelenskyy's bunker, standing alongside him, a very important photo opportunity.

And, of course, this recommendation for candidacy status from the E.U., all of that to try to bridge the divide, try to make clear that Ukraine's commitment, Ukraine's fight for Europe at large is recognized.

And President Zelenskyy has repeated this over and over again. He believes that those fighting on the front lines, Ukraine soldiers dying on the front lines, are not just dying for Ukraine; they're dying for Europe at large. So a real recognition that the security, the stability and the

sovereignty of Ukraine matters to the larger region -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, Kyiv.


BRUNHUBER: A Ukrainian MP says Ukrainian needs more weapons as quickly as possible. She was earlier on CNN with an appeal for military equipment.


YEVHENIIA KRAVCHUK, UKRAINIAN MP: We are defending our country, we push them away from the north of the country. We're planning the action to counterattack to the south and, of course, to stand, you know, and defend the Donbas and Luhansk.

We need those type of weapons. We at least need to get closer with the numbers of weapons. We need those weapons on the ground. And our morale is really low. So they will flee but they need those weapons on the ground.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. State Department says it's seen new videos that appear to show two U.S. military volunteers missing in Ukraine. Barbara Starr has more from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was in the fighting north of Kharkiv, where two Americans went missing last week, less than five miles from the Russian border. The U.S. government working with Ukrainian authorities to find them.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been briefed. We don't know where they are but I want to reiterate. Americans should not be going to Ukraine now.

STARR (voice-over): Now this photo from a Russian blogger has emerged of Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh appearing to be bound in the back of a Russian military vehicle. Video later emerging of an interview they did with pro-Russian media. CNN is not showing the video as the two appear to be speaking under duress.

Now the State Department is working to verify their status.

BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEX DRUEKE: They said that there is a photograph that is being circulated on the Russian media and they're working hard to verify it. We're very hopeful.

STARR (voice-over): Retired Staff Sergeant Drueke an army reservist from 2002 to 2014, served in both Kuwait and Iraq. Drueke's mother Bunny tells CNN, her son wanted to lend his skills to train those who were coming to Ukraine to fight. DRUEKE: He felt that if Putin wasn't stopped now, he would just become bolder with every success and that eventually, he might end up on American shores.

STARR (voice-over): Former Marine Corporal Huynh served in the Marine Corps from 2014 to 2018. Last serving in Camp Pendleton, California. Huynh's fiance, Joy Black describe to CNN that the last time she heard from him.

JOY BLACK, ANDY HUYNH'S FIANCEE: He told me he loved me very much and that he would be unavailable for two to three days. He really had this law in his heart and this big burden on him to go and serve the people however he can. And just I know it's not a great situation but I'm still very proud of him and I just want to see him back safely.

STARR (voice-over): One of their comrades in Ukraine whose identity we are keeping hidden, exclusively telling CNN Sam Kiley, Drueke and Huynh were captured, repelling a Russian armored assault.

PIP, FORMER U.S. SERVICE MEMBER: We suspect they were knocked out by either the T-72 tanks shooting at them or a blast of the mine.


STARR (voice-over): A Kremlin spokesperson told CNN we do not know anything about it when asked about the missing Americans. The U.S. also confirming a third American went missing in Ukraine in April.

CNN has learned he is retired captain Grady Kurpasi, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps. A friend who served with Kurpasi for years, says he has cellphone data that shows Kurpasi could be being held in the Russian controlled city of Kherson but acknowledges they do not have proof that he's alive.

DON TURNER, GRADY KURPASI'S FRIEND: I think it was a calling to help and just be humanitarian. There was no real plan to his mission. Just he wanted to go out there and try and help.

STARR (voice-over): All three of them as seen Americans having served in the military puts them in unique danger if captured by Russians.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You routinely are swimming in or immersed in these kinds of sensitive programs. I'm not certain the level of that exposure but I can guarantee you the Russians are going to try to extract that information.

STARR (voice-over): Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


BRUNHUBER: Donald Trump is lashing out at the January 6 committee hearings, accusing them of doctoring videos that cast him in a negative light. Yet they have consistently shown Trump illegally trying to overturn the 2020 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The sham presentation is based on video. They're taking six-, eight- and nine-hour depositions and they're putting up five-second clips. This guy Luttig, whoever the hell Luttig is, a former judge and he was Pence had no choice.

They why do they want legislation so that a vice president can't do?


BRUNHUBER: The former president's denials ring especially hollow after Thursday's hearing. Former top officials confirm he knew his scheme to overturn the election was illegal, but he pursued it anyway.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never called Mike Pence a wimp. I never called him a wimp. Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be, frankly, historic.

But just like Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike -- and I say it sadly because I like them -- but Mike did not have the courage to act.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former president Trump using his platform at a conservative political conference to deny the evidence against him and blast the January 6th committee.

TRUMP: They con people. They're con artists.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Trump's attacks come as the committee is gearing up for several more hearings. CNN has learned Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will at Tuesday's hearing with his deputy.

TRUMP: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): They'll testify about Trump's efforts to pressure them to change the election result.

The committee also wants to talk to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, about her communications with Trump attorney John Eastman. Eastman devised the scheme to pressure then- vice president Mike Pence to block the certification of Biden's 2020 electoral win.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The teller is verified, it appears to be regular in form and authentic.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Something Pence ultimately refused to do.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We have sent Ms. Thomas a letter asking us to come and talk to the committee. We look forward to her coming.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Ginni Thomas issued a short response to the committee via the conservative publication, "Daily Caller," saying she can't wait to clear up misconceptions, "I look forward talking to them."

Eastman denying he ever discussed election litigation that might before the Supreme Court with Ginni Thomas or with justice Clarence Thomas.

Eastman writing, "We have never engaged in such discussions, would not engage in such discussion and did not do so in December 2020 or anytime else."

While the committee has requested cooperation from outstanding witnesses, it has so far refused to share full transcripts of all of its interviews with the Justice Department, but the committee says it will not be an obstacle to Justice Department prosecutions.

THOMPSON: We are not going to stop what we're doing to share the information that we've gotten so far with the Department of Justice. We have to do our work.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): CNN has learned the panel is running into problems securing witnesses for an upcoming hearing about Trump's efforts to pressure the Justice Department to support and promote his false election fraud claims.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): While Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, the top two officials at DOJ in the final weeks of the Trump administration, are expected to appear, the committee is so far striking out with Pat Cipollone.

Cipollone is the former White House lawyer credited with talking some sense into Trump by threatening to resign. Sources say Cipollone is not expected to join the hearing in person, despite already talking to the committee privately.

SCHNEIDER: And "The New York Times" is also reporting that the committee could start sharing transcripts of those witness interviews with the Justice Department as soon as next month -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Earlier, we discussed the hearings with CNN legal analyst Loni Coombs. She said, so far, it has put pressure on the Justice Department to file charges against the major players.


LONI COOMBS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: These hearings have really upped the pressure on the Department of Justice. With every hearing, the evidence has gotten stronger and stronger.

And I think people are looking at this and not asking the question, is there evidence to link Donald Trump to this? They're now saying, why would you not file charges and how many charges are you going to file?

This committee laid out in the very beginning they were going to put out evidence that this was a sophisticated seven-point plan that he had to try and overturn this election and maintain power.

And that's exactly what the evidence is showing. I think it's been a very compelling way to present it, with the multimedia, with the videos and the witness statements and the live witnesses and also the committee members coming on here and there, explaining exactly what's going on and step by step through the timeline.

I think everyone watching it can say, look, this is very clear that Donald Trump did commit these charges.


BRUNHUBER: Thanks to CNN analyst Loni Coombs.

CNN will bring you next week's hearings live. Our coverage is set to begin 1:00 pm, 6:00 pm in London.

U.S. embassy officials in Moscow were able to visit Paul Whelan in a Russian prison on Friday, the first time he has been visited since last November. He has been in Russian custody since December 2018, when he says he was wrongfully detained and convicted of espionage charges.

Antony Blinken tweeted his resiliency throughout is remarkable.

Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, China launches its most advanced aircraft carrier yet as the nation races to catch up to the military prowess of the U.S.

And a former guerilla fighter and social media star are set to square off in Colombia's presidential election this weekend. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: A forensic dental examination in Brazil confirms that human remains found in the Amazon belong to British journalist Dom Phillips. He and Bruno Pereira were reported missing from a remote area of the Amazon two weeks ago.

Suspects have been arrested and police have issued arrest warrants for a third. Brazilian federal police say the killings weren't part of organized crime, but an indigenous organization disagrees with that assessment. Colombians head to the polls Sunday to pick their next president.

They'll be choosing between a former guerilla fighter and Colombia's self-proclaimed king of TikTok. In Colombia, presidents serve for one four-year term.

Some of the key issues, the country's economy, which like many in Latin America, have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, income inequality, corruption and a rapidly degrading security situation made worse by drug gangs.

China is showing off its military might as tensions simmer with the West over Beijing's presence in the Indo-Pacific region. CNN's Selina Wang reports.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China launched its third and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday. It is a milestone in China's race to catch up to the U.S.' military capabilities.

This is the first aircraft carrier built and designed domestically. Experts are calling this China's first foray into the modern aircraft carrier. Its launch system is similar to the one used by American ones and will allow China to launch more types of aircraft faster and with more ammunition.

China's two other aircraft carriers had capabilities far behind the U.S., which has a total of 11 aircraft carriers. China's other two were based on outdated Soviet technology. They now have the world's largest naval force. And aircraft carriers are critical to any major power's fleet.

The massive ships are essentially a mobile air base that allows quick and long-term deployment to combat areas. The naval buildup also comes amid growing geopolitical tensions with the U.S.

President Joe Biden has been trying to strengthen ties with allies in the Asia-Pacific region. But this aircraft carrier lags behind American ones, which have more catapults, a larger airway and more elevators.

Also U.S. aircraft carriers are also nuclear powered while this one is believed to run on conventional steam propulsion, which limits its reach -- Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. markets are still rattled by soaring inflation. But President Biden says he's confident that America can overcome this slump.


BRUNHUBER: The cryptocurrency market is also having a really tough week with bitcoin taking a tumble. But is this real money disappearing? We'll have the answer after the break. Stay with us.




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

It was another rocky day on Wall Street after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates this week to tame soaring inflation. Stocks trying to stage a comeback, but it failed to offset the effects of the prior day's selloff.

The Dow edged down on Friday while the Nasdaq gained more than 1 percent, the S&P closed marginally higher. Wages are climbing at the fastest rate since the 1980s but since inflation has risen, Americans have taken a pay cut. President Biden admits that inflation is taking a toll on families across the country. Kaitlan Collins has more.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Higher prices are plaguing President Biden as he promises the nation, he's working on bringing them down.

BIDEN: I'm using every lever available to me to bring down prices for the American people.

COLLINS (voice-over): The White House only growing more concerned after mortgage rates surged over half a percentage point this week amid rising inflation and a big interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve. Biden defending his record and highlighting how the U.S. is not the only nation battling inflation.

BIDEN: With Russia's war driving up inflation worldwide, threatening vulnerable countries with severe food shortages, we have to work together to mitigate the immediate fallout of this crisis.


COLLINS (voice-over): But it may get worse before it gets better. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who was criticized by the Biden administration for saying inflation would rise is now predicting a recession in the next two years.

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: We are likely to have a recession I think we have overheated the economy and gotten some bad luck. And when the pendulum swings too far one way, it tends to swing back the other way.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden disagrees, telling the Associated Press a recession is "not inevitable" and declaring the U.S. is in a "stronger place position than any nation to overcome this inflation." Still, the White House is scrambling for solutions.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We understand that anxiety, the President understands the anxiety, is focused on what he can do to lower costs for families, to address the price of gasoline, although that is said on the world market.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden's economic team debated sending rebate cards to millions to help pay at gas stations. But one official told CNN today, that option is unlikely due to the complicated logistics.

JEAN-PIERRE: All options are on the table because he understands the pain that this is causing for families.

COLLINS (voice-over): As the President's poll numbers on the economy have continued to slide, Biden telling the Associated Press that people are, quote, "really, really down," following two years of COVID a volatile economy and soaring gas prices.

Biden saying quote, "They're really down. Their need for mental health in America has skyrocketed because people have seen everything upset."

COLLINS: Also in this interview, President Biden argued that the idea that the American Rescue Plan, which he got passed through Congress, caused inflation and led to higher prices he said is bizarre.

Of course, you've seen that argument being made by Republicans that it at least contributed to it. We should note this with is a rare interview for Biden to do, which does go to speak to the concerns the White House has about the messaging when it comes to the economy -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: The U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has fallen a bit from its record high earlier this week. New figures from AAA put the average price at $4.98 a gallon. Oil and gas prices have soared around the world since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris says the administration has made progress in alleviating the infant formula shortage. She said by Sunday the U.S. will have brought in the equivalent of 13 million eight-ounce bottles of baby formula. The FDA announced it would import 1.3 million pounds of formula from Ireland.

As major central banks raise interest rates, some traders have been dumping riskier investments, which include cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin has plunged and is trading just over 19,000, down from a high of $69,000.

People will ask, is this real money disappearing?

Well, it sure seems to be. At scale those comparisons and billions of dollars actually being lost.


BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Ivo Welsh, a professor of finance at the Anderson School of management.

Thanks so much for being here. We've seen crypto values plummet, companies laying off staff, some have halted withdrawals. But it wasn't supposed to be like this. One of the points of crypto was meant as a hedge against inflation; if the normal markets were flooded with cash, bitcoin had a built-in limit in its supply, right?

So with inflation soaring, this should have been crypto's moment to shine.

Why has it crashed now?

IVO WELCH, UCLA ANDERSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: Well, this was only hyped by its advocates, so I don't think reasonable finance academics ever considered it to be a good hedge against inflation or, for that matter, against anything.

BRUNHUBER: So is it just that it's, even though it's supposed to be untethered from the main markets, it's become more convergent?

WELCH: For the most part, it's not just about convergence. Crypto was always some sort of Ponzi scheme, where people invested in because they saw their friends getting rich and they thought money would fall from heaven.

And if they put in some money that would go up as well. This collapse is partly because all the markets get rattled, all of them get worried. Some may have to pull money out because they have margin calls and something else. But crypto never was a great investment.


BRUNHUBER: The worst may be yet to come here, right?

A company called Tether has been called the lifeblood of crypto. It's the main issuer of stable coins and those are essentially tied to the U.S. dollar. And the point is that anyone who wants to exchange any of those stable coins for U.S. dollars can do at that do that easily.

But if too many people try to do that at the same time, that would be a bank run essentially.

How likely a scenario is that, do you think?

WELCH: Almost surely it will happen. It's not just that the worst could come; it's almost surely that the worst is yet to come. In the end, most cryptocurrency is going to be worth zero.

It is like a giant game of musical chairs or a Ponzi scheme. The last people holding are going to be left holding the bag and get nothing for their money. So I don't know whether it's going to happen very soon, in three years or five years.

But intrinsically, unlike stock or anything else that gives you a dividend flow, earnings, there's nothing intrinsic to these cryptocurrencies' values. They're essentially useless. If I were an investor, I would make sure that I can afford losing

whatever money I have in cryptocurrency, because there is a very good chance that it may lose everything in the end.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, you've been a long critic of crypto.

The problem is that a wholesale crash in crypto could affect non- crypto markets as well, right?

We're all kind of tied together.

WELCH: A little bit but I'm less worried about that as I'm worried about the small, little investors, who really can't afford to be in there, who leveraged themselves because they thought this was a quick get-rich scheme.

And I'm more worried about what will happen for them. In the scheme of things, even though crypto is a lot of money over the years, it's not that large within world markets, so --


BRUNHUBER: Let me jump in. You're worried about small investors.

What would it mean for a country like El Salvador that's invested heavily in crypto and plans to build its economy around it?

WELCH: That was a bad idea to begin with. But El Salvador is a really small country in the scheme of things. Not everyone in El Salvador is invested in crypto that much, either. So it's not trivial and it's not nothing but it's not major.

BRUNHUBER: Finally, this may highlight the need for more regulation.

Would you agree with that?

WELCH: If it was regulated, it wouldn't exist. So it's really hard to recommend more regulation for it.

BRUNHUBER: All right, we'll have to leave it there. Ivo Walsh, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

WALSH: Been a pleasure.


BRUNHUBER: A city near the front lines holding out against a Russian military onslaught. Next, we take to you a place in Eastern Ukraine, where sheer survival has become a way of life. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Negotiations are underway to evacuate hundreds of civilians stranded at a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk. That's from a Ukrainian regional official, who says the talks include a possible cease-fire. But Russian attacks are also taking a devastating toll on a city just across the river from there. Ben Wedeman reports.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A portent of things to come on the route to Lysychansk, a city that has been in the line of fire for months.

A school basement serves as shelter for dozens of residents. Tetyana shows us where they sleep. The only light provided by our camera.

"Everyone is outside now," she says, "because it's too dark and hard to breathe down here."

Outside they wait as soup cooks over a fire.

"There's no gas, no power, no water," Maria tells me. "We have nothing."

Most are old, tired, terrified and beyond despair.

"I'm alone," says 82-year-old Masha. "My legs are tired I can't go anywhere."

Lyudmila is leaving.

"We thought it would calm down but it only gets worse and worse," she says. "I can't take the sounds anymore."

Natalia is leaving, too.

"The windows in my house are broken," she says.

"There's a huge crater by my house. It's the end of the world."

The sunny weather belies what has become a post-apocalyptic existence. Residents line up for unfiltered water so they can wash and flush toilets. Almost four months of war with no end in sight. Frustration flares.

"Where's our mayor, where's our governor?" asked Mykola.

"They should have come here at least once."

Just across the river, savage street fighting rages in Severodonetsk. Lysychansk isn't near the front; it is the front.

WEDEMAN: At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Russian aircraft hit this building. This building was serving as a shelter for people. Three were killed and it really goes to show there is nowhere in Lysychansk that safe. Lyudmila was in that building. Her husband injured in the strike.

"Yesterday he was crushed under the rubble," she says.

She can do nothing but weep. She waits for a ride to see him in hospital -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Lysychansk.


BRUNHUBER: Last hour I spoke with a man who knows that area of Eastern Ukraine well. Brian Milakovsky is an economic expert, who lived in the city for years. He described how bad conditions have become there.




MILAKOVSKY: I was also involved in fundraising and coordinating with local volunteers to get civilians evacuated from the city. And the conditions have become just absolutely hellish. People are afraid to even get out of their bomb shelters at this point.

Perhaps 10 percent of the city's population is still there, despite urgent pleas from local government for people to use official and volunteer evacuation opportunities. So, unfortunately, there is just total war in our little city right now.

I spent six years in Severodonetsk and the surrounding Luhansk region, the government-controlled areas. And for me, it's intensely difficult to watch everything that I knew there be destroyed or occupied and placed under a regime of intense ideological pressure and terror by Russian occupying forces.


BRUNHUBER: That was Brian Milakovsky there. He spoke with me a short time ago.

A dangerous heat wave is affecting much of the U.S. this weekend. We'll get the details from the CNN Weather Center.

Plus city officials in Rome are waging war against electric scooters. Why they say they're doing more harm than good. That's ahead. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Parts of Western Europe are coping with a dangerous heat wave. In France, two locations reached all-time temperature records on Friday. And several other places set monthly records.

Heat is expected across much of the area, including Paris, which could see the hottest June day yet.

In London and other areas, a level 3 has been in place since Wednesday

Republican congress woman Liz Cheney is requesting emergency funding from the Biden administration. Yellowstone National Park remains closed because of historic flooding, that swept away bridges and entire sections of road. She is asking transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg for money to make repairs. The U.S. Geological Survey calls it a one in 500-year event. It forced over 10,000 visitors to leave the park.

Elsewhere, Americans are sweltering in a dangerous heat wave. Authorities in the Tennessee Valley announced a new June record for electricity demand was set on Thursday.

In Texas, Homeland Security says they're investigating whether a possible human smuggling attempt was behind the deaths of two migrants from heat exposure or dehydration.


BRUNHUBER: Tourists are roaring back to the streets of Rome and now the city have a new problem, the use of e-scooters. Barbie Nadeau explains.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rome has battled many invaders in its nearly 2,800-year history but perhaps none quite like the electronic scooter.

First introduced in the city three years ago as an ecological alternative to public transportation during the pandemic, they have now become an invasive species. There are more than 14,000 registered e-scooters for rent in the Italian capital. But very few are actually used.

EUGENIO PATANE, ROME MOBILITY: The number of the scooter that is used in this moment is at 2 percent of the whole number.

NADEAU (voice-over): And that is a problem. Giuliano Frittelli, head of the Italian Union for the Blind and Visually Impaired tells us it is a particular challenge for disabled people.

GIULIANO FRITTELLI, ITALIAN UNION FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED (through translator): There are many problems with the scooters. The first is the wild parking.

They should be installed, not all over the sidewalks because people who cannot see and all the other people -- someone with a stroller, an elderly person -- have, to walk in the street.

[04:55:00] NADEAU (voice-over): But the Eternal City's cobblestone streets aren't necessarily safe, either.

WALTER HUGHES, AMERICAN TOURIST: If you ride around town, especially on historic centers, it's almost impossible in a car. This is it. For that two, three-mile radius, you move fast around.

NADEAU (voice-over): The scooters are used mostly by tourists, who don't always seem to follow the rules. The scooters are supposed to have only one person on them at a time. They are not allowed on the sidewalks. And share riders are supposed to be at least 18 years old.

In June, an American couple was fined over $800 for throwing a rented e-scooter down the Spanish steps, causing $26,000 worth of damage to the marble steps. And now the city of Rome has a plan.

Starting in January 2023, the city council says it will reduce the number of scooters from about 14,000 to 9,000 and the number of companies renting them from seven to three. The scooters were also supposed to ease Rome's stifling traffic. But they're actually making it worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see two people in the scooter there you see. It is very dangerous.

NADEAU (voice-over): Rome, as the saying goes, wasn't built in a day. And its scooter problems won't be solved in one, either. Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


BRUNHUBER: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more news, please do stay with us.