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Extreme Weather; Russia's War On Ukraine; U.S.-Russia Proposed Prisoner Swap; Monkeypox Outbreak; Protests In Baghdad; Russia Plunders Sudan's Gold. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired July 30, 2022 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and all around the world I'm Kim Brunhuber. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just relieved to get out of there. I'm going to lose everything I have.
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Catastrophic and deadly flooding across Kentucky, as rescuers are still working to reach people in areas where the roads are simply gone. We'll look at what role climate change is playing in all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Russia and Ukraine's blame game: two nations pointing fingers after an attack on a prison holding Ukrainian prisoners of war. We're live in Kyiv with the latest.
Plus how Russia is getting around sanctions by plundering Sudan's gold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.
BRUNHUBER: It's 5:00 am in Eastern Kentucky, where a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding and will likely get worse. President Biden has issued a major disaster declaration for the state, as catastrophic flooding has killed at least 16 people, including Six children, and that death toll is expected to rise.
Raging waters decimated entire neighborhoods, scores of people are still missing. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear says it's hard to know how many. He explains why here. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): There are still so many areas we still can't get to. The water hasn't crested in some parts of Eastern Kentucky. So we can't even get into some hollers and see who is there.
There are people out there all across Kentucky and America that are scared, because they can't reach their relatives, with cell phone service down; thousands without power. Water systems overwhelmed.
So we are still in search and rescue for what is an ongoing disaster. In the days ahead, as the water goes down, we'll turn toward the rebuilding. And that's going to take years. It is devastating for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Bridges have been demolished and some houses, as you can see, have been completely carried away by the raging water. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports the sheer scope will make rebuilding difficult.
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): This is going to be a real challenge with such a large area hit to get good unaccounted for numbers.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Homes destroyed, roads washed out. Rescuers working around the clock as the governor of Kentucky warns the death toll from another round of catastrophic flooding could more than double in the coming days.
The latest heartbreaking discovery, the bodies of four children recovered from the floodwaters.
Rushing waters trip homes off their foundation and push cars into piles. Judy Butler and her husband made it out of their house just in time.
JUDY BUTLER, FLOODING VICTIM: We got out. We pulled out here to the road and about 10 minutes later we lucked out and it went from the back of the fence to the carport.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The fast rising floodwaters forcing many people to evacuate and causing hundreds of water rescues across the state.
BEVERLY DAUGHERTY, FLOODING VICTIM: I'm going to lose everything I have, for sure. But it's better than losing my life.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Beverly Dougherty spent hours in chest high water trying to keep her dog afloat.
DAUGHERTY: Finally I just was hanging on to a fern rope and I thought I've got to do it, I got to swim but it was super swift. I've never swum in water like that.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The Kentucky National Guard is also assisting in rescue efforts, lifting people from their homes, as some buildings were left almost entirely submerged. Officials say the storm caught many people by surprise.
SHERIFF JOE ENGLE, PERRY COUNTY, KENTUCKY: There was no warning. People sleep in mobile homes near this water. That water had never been up to before in 50 years. You know, they've lived there and never worried about it, so you never really thought about it and caught in their sleep and just washed away. It's tragedy.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And with power and cell phone service out in many of the hardest hit areas, help is hard to come by.
ENGLE: There's a big swath of the county that's totally isolated. The state highways are just totally -- they're gone.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): One mayor says it's hard to even know where to begin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were so overwhelmed. We don't really know what to ask for.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And the worst is far from over. Governor Beshear urging residents to have a safety plan in place.
BESHEAR: Looks like it's going to rain a lot Monday, maybe Tuesday.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, Hazard, Kentucky.
BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Bob Henson, meteorologist and journalist for Yale Climate Connections, joining me from Boulder, Colorado.
Thanks so much for being here with us. So briefly just explain what happened with this weather system and why it's been so devastating.
BOB HENSON, METEOROLOGIST AND JOURNALIST, YALE CLIMATE CONNECTIONS: So we've had a stationary front, which is basically a front that's not moving in any particular direction. And this front has been draped from east to west, basically from the Central Plains over to the Central Appalachians.
And the rainstorms, very intense ones, have been forming along this front and propagating east over and over again, which we call a training pattern. When something like that gets locked in place, it can be difficult to uproot it and it can take some time.
So it's not unusual in summer to get these but this has been a particularly intense one with access to a lot of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and here we have it.
BRUNHUBER: So then take us through what role climate change may have played in this.
HENSON: Well, we know that, worldwide, in many parts of the world and over a long period of time now, the most intense rainfall events, the most intense short-term ones, rains you might get in 12 hours or 24 hours, those are tending to get heavier.
So when it's raining really hard, we have access to more moisture because of warmer oceans, more water going into the air. So where it's raining, it could rain harder.
Where it's not raining, unfortunately, the extra heat is sucking water out of the ground. So it's kind of a double whammy, making wet places and wet times wetter and dry times dry times drier on average.
BRUNHUBER: And we talk about this being a one in 1,000 year rain event and the heat wave one in 1,000 years; the last disaster, the one before that, as one weather expert put it, what was almost impossible is now not just possible but probable.
HENSON: Absolutely. We have seen all kinds of records in that realm. Now we have taken actual weather records for something like 100 to 150 years in most cities. So talking about the 1,000-year intervals those are estimates but based on solid science.
We know, for example, England has never gotten about 104 Fahrenheit. And that just happened this week. And temperatures have been taken in England going back 200 years in some spots. So they are happening more often.
And this is exactly what we expect in a climate being warmed by humans that, in particular, hot temperatures and extremely heavy, short-term rains, those are two really solid connections to climate science and human-caused climate change.
BRUNHUBER: And one factor compounding the effect here for the folks on the ground is that our infrastructure is just not designed to handle all of this water. It's something we have seen in most of the huge flooding events here in the U.S. and Europe over the last year or so.
In the shorter term, how will we have to adapt the infrastructure to deal with the increasing frequency and severity of these extreme weather events?
HENSON: Well, I think the good news is, with heat waves, we are learning to adapt to those; 20 years ago, there really weren't such things as cooling centers, places people could go if they don't have AC at home.
We have those now in many U.S. cities. We're a lot more proactive reaching out to folks that might be vulnerable. There's still a lot of work to be done. But that's helping to tamp down some of the worst effects of heat waves in the U.S. in most cases. Flooding is tough because cities are paved over to a large extent. You
have a lot of water running off. And a city like St. Louis, which used to be one of the 10 largest cities in the country for a century, it's now number 70.
So there's a lot of infrastructure built upwards of 100 years ago, especially in older cities. They have to be upgraded. It's not a sexy thing to do, it's a major process, this is why infrastructure is so important.
BRUNHUBER: Bob Henson, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
HENSON: All right, thank you so much.
BRUNHUBER: And for more information about how you can help victims of the Kentucky flooding go to cnn.com/impact.
A deadly strike on Ukrainian prisoners of war is leading to a blame game between Kyiv and Moscow. Next, accusations fly after an attack that reportedly killed dozens of prisoners.
Plus, a proposed prisoner swap is just a stall and not a serious offer. We'll explain why after the break. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Now to the latest in Ukraine, which is blaming Russia for holding up the implementation of their grain export deal, Ukraine says it's ready to start shipments from its Black Sea ports but say Russia has yet to sign off on the location of safety routes for grain ships.
On the battlefield, Russia's artillery keeps pounding the Donetsk region. But the Russian ground offensive didn't get any traction Friday.
Ukraine and Russia are also blaming each other for an attack on a prison holding POWs. Russia says 40 were killed in the facility. But both sides are denying responsibility and pointing the finger at each other. Jason Carroll joins us live from Kyiv.
Jason, let's start with that, the attack on the prison.
What more are we learning there?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, the prison, basically what we're seeing here are dueling narratives. Let's first start with the Ukrainians. The Ukrainian president has weighed in on this, calling what happened -- he called it "a deliberate war crime on behalf of the Russians."
He also said that he basically called it a deliberate act of mass murder. He went on to say there should be a clear recognition of Russia as a terrorist state. Again, more than 40 Ukrainian POWs were killed during that attack; many, many more than that badly, badly injured.
At this point, the Ukrainian intelligence is saying that the attack was carried out by Russian mercenaries. But Russia, for its part, saying they had nothing to do with the attack. They're saying the attack was actually carried out by the Ukrainians with the help of weaponry provided by the United States.
Now CNN cannot independently verify the allegations on either side of this. The Ukrainians, for their part, have stepped in and said, look, we'd like the United Nations to come in and take a look at what happened. We would like the Red Cross to come in and take a look at what happened, perhaps conduct some sort of independent investigation.
The Red Cross, for its part, has offered its assistance, also putting out a statement saying that POWs are protected under the international humanitarian law. Kim.
BRUNHUBER: Yet another tragedy. Jason Carroll, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
And Moscow's counter offer for a prisoner swap is getting a frosty reception in the Biden administration. The White House has already offered to release arms dealer Viktor Bout for Brittany Griner and Paul Whelan. But the Kremlin wants another person who serving a sentence for murder.
The top diplomats discussed the issue Friday in their first conversation since the war in Ukraine began. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said he urged Moscow to take the U.S. offer seriously. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I pressed the Kremlin to accept this substantial proposal we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: CNN's Natasha Bertrand has exclusive details about Moscow's latest proposal for a prisoner swap and why the U.S. doesn't believe it's a genuine counteroffer.
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sources tell me and my colleague, Frederik Pleitgen, that after the U.S. proposed swapping Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for two Americans in prison in Russia, Russian officials responded by requesting the release of a former FSB colonel convicted of murder in Germany last December. [05:20:00]
BERTRAND: The Russians communicated the request during an informal back channel used by the FSB, Russia's domestic security service. But the request was problematic for several reasons.
Among them, the man remains in German custody. And because of that and the request was not made to the U.S. formally, the U.S. government did not view it as a legitimate counter to the U.S.' offer.
Still, the U.S. did make quiet inquiries to the Germans about whether they would be willing to include him in the trade, according to a senior German government official. A U.S. official characterized it as a status check on the man, convicted of murdering a former Chechen fighter in Berlin in 2019.
Now the conversations between the U.S. and Germany were never elevated to the top levels of the German government and including him in a potential trade has not seriously been considered.
Now the U.S. believed it was not a serious proposal but just a bid by the Russians to stall and buy time until Brittany Griner's trial is over -- Natasha Bertrand, CNN, Washington.
BRUNHUBER: We are learning exclusive new details about text messages by Secret Service agents that may have been deleted about the time of the U.S. Capitol riot. Multiple sources tell CNN that the inspector general of DHS was aware of the missing texts more than a year before he informed the committee.
If the texts can be recovered, they could shed light on crucial events, especially recent witness testimony that president Trump apparently fought with Secret Service agents when they blocked him from joining his supporters at the Capitol.
Now it doesn't stop there. CNN has also learned that texts leading up to January 6 are also missing from Trump's acting Homeland Security chief, Chad Wolf, and his top deputy, Ken Cuccinelli.
Now all this as house Republican leader Kevin McCarthy responds to key testimony by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Manu Raju pressed him on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she testified under oath saying that you called her after Donald Trump said that or just told her supporters that they were going to go to the Capitol and you were concerned about those remarks and said, don't come up here. Figure it out. don't come up here. She said that under oath.
Did you tell her that?
And why were you concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump coming to the Capitol on January 6?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don't recall talking to her that day. I recall talking to Dan Scavino. I recall talking to Jared. I recall talking to Trump. That's what I talked to on television like that, too.
If I talked to her, I don't remember it. If it was coming up here, I don't think I wanted a lot of people coming up to the Capitol. But I don't remember the conversations.
RAJU: Why were you concern specifically about Trump coming to the Capitol?
MCCARTHY: I don't remember that.
RAJU: You never been concerned about his comments?
MCCARTHY: No, because I didn't watch it. This is what is so confusing, I didn't watch the speech. I was working. So I didn't see what was said. I didn't see what went on till after the fact.
RAJU: Would you want him to come to the Capitol?
MCCARTHY: No, I've never communicated with about coming to Capitol. I had no idea he would come to the Capitol. I had no idea that he was even going to come to the Capitol.
RAJU: Because she said under oath that you told her throughout the course of the week or she told, reassured you to the course of the week that he was not going to come to the Capitol. So apparently, you have conversation --
MCCARTHY: I don't remember having any conversations with her about coming to the Capitol -- the president coming to the Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Now that exchange came during McCarthy's first solo news conference in months.
Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, the global monkeypox outbreak claims first fatality in Europe as the need for vaccines becomes more urgent in the U.S. 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. There are growing concerns about the growing monkeypox outbreak. Spain
is reporting what's thought to be the first death in Europe from the virus earlier Friday. The first person to die from monkeypox outside of Africa was reported in Brazil.
And the Philippines reported its first case on Friday. Officials say it can spread from person to person, mostly through prolonged, physical contact, sex and also through respiratory droplets.
U.S. health officials say there are more than 5,000 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. And cases are increasing so fast in San Francisco, the city's mayor is appealing for vaccines now. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-CA), SAN FRANCISCO: We want to make it known that San Francisco has one of the highest case rates already of monkeypox of any other major city in the country.
We don't want to be ignored by the federal government in our need. So many leaders of the LGBT community have also, weeks ago, asked for additional help and support and assistance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: For more on this, let's bring in Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a member of the California Monkeypox Scientific Advisory Committee.
Thanks so much for joining us here.
Short of 300 cases where are you in San Francisco, why is that such a worry?
Why is the city declaring a public health emergency now?
DR. PETER CHIN-HONG, CALIFORNIA MONKEYPOX SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Well, there is a symbolic reason, Kim, and a pragmatic reason. The symbolic reason is I think the city really wants to make a statement and raise awareness.
But there's a really pragmatic reason, which is that there isn't enough money devoted to monkeypox. All of this money is wrapped up in COVID dollars. So declaring a state of emergency allows that flexibility to use that money.
BRUNHUBER: They want to pivot some of that COVID money to fight this. Part of the problem is the lack of testing. I want to know how bad can this get.
And is there a possibility that we can get rid of monkeypox?
Or do you think it's here to stay now? CHIN-HONG: Well, time is ticking and now is the moment where we may lose this moment before it spills over to the general population, infects animals in North America and then it may become endemic, which is something nobody really wants.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, absolutely.
BRUNHUBER: So there is, aside from the lack of testing, there's also frustration growing about the access to the vaccine. I mean, we reported on folks who took five hours filling out forms, standing in line to get the shot.
Why is it taking so long?
You thought, after COVID, shouldn't we have better muscle memory to react?
CHIN-HONG: There's a bit of a slowness, even in things like reserving the second dose before prioritizing first doses for as many people as possible. The U.K., New York did it; San Francisco followed quickly.
And at the end of the day, there were 800,000 doses awaiting FDA inspection of the facility in Denmark. And that was a little frustrating, because it was there. It was like dangling a golden apple in front of you and you can't really get it.
BRUNHUBER: Hmm. So San Francisco is going to prioritize vaccines for men and trans people who have sex with men, which is the population right now that looks most likely to be infected.
People are saying we need to do more to draw attention to this link to male on male sex to warn these vulnerable populations. Other people say anyone can get infected and we're stigmatizing them.
Where do you fall in that debate?
CHIN-HONG: I think, Kim, we have to be laser focused on where the disease is right now, which is in gay and bisexual men and trans men as well. I think that the messaging for the general population is one not of alarm but awareness.
And you're right. Stigma is something that we are constantly worried about. We have seen it during HIV. Just yesterday, somebody came to ask me about treatment for monkeypox with T-pox, because she hugged a gay man. And I think that message is really worrisome and a harbinger of what could be coming in the future.
BRUNHUBER: It's such a tough balancing act there. Before we came on, we played a clip from San Francisco's mayor, who joined with others who are criticizing and calling out the federal response.
What more should they be doing here?
CHIN-HONG: I think there's two things that I hope we will resolve. First of all, I'm really proud to be a resident of San Francisco. We were the first to do shelter in place. I think this was a prescient move. So the two things are hopefully a domino effect to other jurisdictions and hopefully percolating to the national level.
And that will result in resources. But more than that, coordination; again, we saw in COVID-19, we were different muscles beating at different times, instead of one coordinated muscle. Even something as elementary as reporting cases is not done consistently from state to state right now.
BRUNHUBER: And if you have any advice there for folks that are listening, what's your message?
CHIN-HONG: I think we haven't been using enough testing. When CNN did an investigation a couple days ago, they found that, even though we have five commercial labs set up and running, able to do tens of thousands of tests a week, there were very, very few tests done; less than a hundred, actually, in some of the major labs.
So I think not to panic and to think about the hierarchy at risk. At the end of the day, monkeypox is really trying to find an animal. It's very, very difficult to get as a human. So skin-to-skin is major; maybe sexual contact, as well, though not exclusive.
But going to the thrift store, going to the gym, going to the yoga studio is not going to be very high risk at all.
BRUNHUBER: Really appreciate getting your expertise on this developing issue. Peter Chin-Hong, thanks so much for joining us.
CHIN-HONG: Thanks so much, Kim.
BRUNHUBER: Pope Francis is back home in Italy after a six-day trip to Canada, where he apologized for the role the Catholic Church played in past abuses. The pontiff spoke to reporters during the flight back to Rome.
He acknowledged that indigenous people in Canada suffered cultural genocide, something a Canadian commission determined had occurred at so-called residential schools that generations of indigenous children were forced to attend for decades.
The 85-year-old Catholic leader also discussed his health and acknowledged he'll have to slow down due to his age.
Coming up, how Russia is getting around sanctions by plundering Sudan's gold. It's a CNN exclusive just ahead. Please do stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): Security forces in Baghdad have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters, trying to break into the city's heavily fortified green zone.
The protesters are loyal to powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and are angry over the nomination of a new prime minister. The cleric's parliamentary bloc, more than 70 lawmakers, withdrew from the governing body last month and worsened the country's political stalemate.
Iraqi leaders have been unable to form a new government since elections last October.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: In an exclusive report, CNN can reveal how Russia is circumnavigating U.S. sanctions by exploiting and smuggling Sudanese gold. It's a move that has also stopped democratic change in Sudan, in northeastern Africa, just as its people had successfully toppled one of the longest standing African dictators through peaceful street protests.
Sudan is one of the biggest exporters of gold in the world. And Russia has been illegally exploiting this resource from Sudan for years, controlling vital government and nongovernment institutions to secure this golden financial pipeline.
Nima Elbagir and her team traveled to the north of Sudan to show how Russia manipulates the Sudanese military government and how it's using front companies to hold on to the gold illegally, moving from Sudan's capital of Khartoum to Russia.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deep in Sudan's Gold Country, miners toil in the searing heat, barely surviving in what should be one of Africa's richest countries. Providing gold for a war a continent away.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): We investigate a force more powerful than Sudan's government controlling its gold.
For millennia, Sudan has produced some of the most sought-after gold in the world. And Putin's private army, the notorious paramilitary group Wagner knows it.
ELBAGIR: Sudan's government is denying Wagner's existence in country but we're not buying it and we've come to investigate.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Wagner's tentacles stretch right across Africa. We've discovered some of its most notorious operatives are working on Sudan. Evgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner. Mikhail Potepkin, Prigozhin's head of Sudan ops and Alexander Sergeyevich Kuznetsov, Wagner's key enforcer, previously convicted of kidnap and robbery, working with this man, Sudanese General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemetti, in a quid pro quo for training and weaponry.
We travel 200 miles north from the capital Khartoum to gold country to take a closer look at Wagner's main moneymaker, artisanal gold. Miners bring rocks, they extract here to be processed. 85 percent of Sudan's gold is produced artisanal.
ELBAGIR: This right here, it may not look like much. This is what's left after the rocks that the miners have brought in is milled. Now they've taken what they can out of it. But this gets sold. And what is properly processed with someone who has superior technology, you can make 10 times what those miners over there are making.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Ten times more money without any of the back breaking work. And the only foreign processing plant operational in Sudan is Wagner's Meroe Gold, despite a Sudanese law limiting ownership to locals. Also troubling, Meroe Gold was sanctioned two years ago by the United States for exploiting Sudan's natural resources and spreading their malign influence around the globe.
According to the Sudanese government, they officially ceased operations but they are still here, still evading sanctions. We verified their location with coordinates provided by Sudanese anti- corruption investigators and head there to see for ourselves.
As we approach, the red flag of the former Soviet Union blows in the wind. Increasingly used by Russian nationalists, it brazenly marks the Meroe Gold compound. A Russian tanker sits next to it.
We get to the entrance and decide to ask a few questions but not before we turn on our covert cameras.
ELBAGIR (through translator): Is this the Russian company?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Yes,
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Well, that's convenient. They've just confirmed the Russians are at this location.
ELBAGIR (through translator): We are journalists from CNN. I'd like to see the Russian manager. We'd like to ask him some questions.
ELBAGIR: There's a black pickup approaching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): He's coming in that car.
ELBAGIR: OK. Guys just confirmed that the Russian manager is in that Black pickup and is on his way to us.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): A Russian van races to the office but no one seems to be coming over.
ELBAGIR: Since the Russian manager has changed his mind. ELBAGIR (voice-over): But others turn up instead.
ELBAGIR (through translator): I'm sure you've already been shown our permission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): But we are a Sudanese company. It's a company called Al Solag.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): They claim this plant is Sudanese-owned and is called Al Solag. Remember that name?
It's important, Al Solag. We head off the property to do some more filming but we're followed.
Security approaches. They want us to stop.
ELBAGIR: This is public ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.
ELBAGIR: This is public ground.
Why is your barn (ph) stopping here?
Trying to get us to move on. They're taking pictures of us, of our license plates.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): The reason they're so nervous, Al Solag is a front for the Russian company Meroe Gold. Wagner is still operating illegally. A foreign company pretending to be Sunnis to evade U.S. sanctions.
We obtained their registration documents to prove it. The document on the left is from Meroe Gold, the one on the right, Al Solag. These dates represent complaints made in employment courts against Meroe Gold. These ones from Al Solag are the same.
Under Sudanese law, when a company's holdings are transferred, so are any judgments against it.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Here, you can see the judgments against both companies are identical.
All they've done is changed the name, Wagner, hiding in plain sight to avoid U.S. sanctions and keep the financial pipeline flowing back to Moscow and its war on Ukraine. A dangerous business to delve into.: Since we've arrived in country, I've been informed by sources of threats that they believe to be credible against me. They say that's what happens here. When you look too closely at Russia's business dealings. They're after me one of those sources and he's asked that I come along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Meroe Gold is a front for the Russians, specifically for the forces of Wagner that are working to exploit gold in Sudan and its export. It's a front, it's not a company. It extracts gold from tailings and it buys gold from the Sudanese artisanal miners.
That's not legal, because the law says that any gold producer is supposed to report the quantity it produces to the central bank and to the ministry of mining and that does not happen.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Inside Sudan central bank, a whistleblower snap this photo of a computer screen, showing official production in 2021 at 49.7 tons, 32.7 times are unaccounted for by the central bank. But the real figure we're told by whistleblowers could be over 220 tons. That's around $13.4 billion worth of gold a year that's being stolen from Sudan. How has this happened?
Three years ago, the Sudanese people successfully overthrew Africa's second longest ruling dictator, Omar al-Bashir. Less than two years later, the military staged its own coup, sweeping aside civilian and they did this, we're told, with Wagner's support in exchange for gold.
This man had a front row seat to Russia's machinations and has evidence to prove it stood to gain by supporting the Sudanese military's coup. Under threat of assassination, he's been in hiding for the last nine months. Moving from safe house to safe house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russians have Sudanese officers assaulted civilians in the government as an obstacle to the plan. The official anti-corruption Task Force wasn't caving to pressure or threats or even bribery. The Armed Forces were found to be complicit in the smuggling of gold by the Russians and it was raised with them.
ELBAGIR: Do you blame Russia for the death of democracy here in Sudan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. Russia carries the majority of the blame for the still birthing of Sudan's democracy.
ELBAGIR (voice-over): Just days later, his nephew was killed by state actors trying to stop a pro-democracy demonstration. In the two weeks we've been in Sudan investigating Russia's illegal gold mining, 10 people were killed, protesting for change.
It's not just on the battlefields of Ukraine that Russia is spilling blind. Here too, there is a human cost. The cost of Russia's support of Sudan's generals in return for its gold.
ELBAGIR: Now CNN reached out to the Russian foreign ministry a group of companies run for comment and received no response. We also reached out the offices of Sudanese military rulers, the generals and also received no response to our request for comment.
BRUNHUBER: Up next, 9/11 families speak out against former president Trump for welcoming controversial Saudi-backed tournament at his New Jersey golf club. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Spain's prime minister has issued an unusual request to conserve energy in the midst of rising global energy prices and record heat waves sweeping parts of Europe. Pedro Sanchez is urging workers to stay cool by being less formal, perhaps to cut the need for air- conditioning. Here he is.
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PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like you all to note that I'm not wearing a tie. This means we can all save from an energy point of view.
And I have asked ministers, all public officials, and I would like to ask the private sector, too, if they haven't already done so, not to wear a tie when it isn't necessary, because that way we will be tackling energy saving that is so important in our country.
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BRUNHUBER: In addition to urging more casual wear, the prime minister also said his government would introduce emergency measures next week to improve Spain's energy and efficiency.
We're still waiting to hear whether anyone has won Friday's Mega Millions drawing here in the U.S. Mega, it truly is. The top prize is $1.28 billion. So if you take the prize in a single payment, as opposed to spreading out over three decades, the jackpot drops to almost $750 million. That's before taxes.
Still, it's the second largest payout in the game's 20-year history.
Good luck out there. I'm Kim Brunhuber. Thanks so much for watching. "NEW DAY" is next.