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Mykolaiv, Ukraine Pummeled by Russia's Shelling; Calls for Investigation into Olenivka Prison Strike; Grains from Ukraine to Ship Out; United States Experiencing a Massive Wildfire and Flooding; Republican Senators Block Bill for Medical Aid to Veterans. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom" and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, some of the strongest shelling in parts of Ukraine since the war began while grain is finally set to ship out after months of Russian blockades.

Iraq is at a tipping point and the U.S., Iran and others watch closely as protesters keep storming the parliament.

Plus, from historic flooding to catastrophic wildfires, a climate state of emergency in the United States.

And we begin in Ukraine where there is more fallout from Thursday's brutal attack on a detention facility in Russian held territory in the east. On Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said Russia must be held accountable for the attack. Kyiv says dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians were killed in the strike.

Moscow claims Ukraine is responsible. Meanwhile, the International Red Cross says it's still waiting for access to the site. On Sunday, Ukraine says Russian forces unleashed a barrage of shelling on the southern city of Mykolaiv. Two deaths have been confirmed in the wake of that attack.

A Ukrainian business mogul and his wife killed while sheltering in their basement. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemning the strikes in his nightly address. Take a listen.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translation): Ukrainians, within these 24 hours, Mykolaiv in the region experienced the most brutal shelling during the entire period of the full-scale war. Dozens of missiles and rockets. The occupiers hit residential buildings, schools, social infrastructure and industrial facilities.


CHURCH: To the north east, missile strikes were also reported in Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv. Ukraine says Russian forces have been stepping up attacks on the city in recent weeks likely trying to force them to pull resources from the frontlines to protect civilians.

Meanwhile, this was the scene in the Odessa region after a Russian missile strike set off a grass fire. According to local officials, Russian forces fired at least two missiles from occupied Crimea.

To the east, Ukrainian intelligence officials say Russian troops are withdrawing from parts of Zaporizhzhia after a series of strike on occupied territory. Ukraine says Russian forces begin mining access roads as they retreated.

As we just mentioned, some of the heaviest shelling on Sunday was reported in the southern city of Mykolaiv. The mayor told CNN it was one of the worst attacks he's seen since the war began. CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): With dawn, and end to Mykolaiv's heaviest night of selling so far, but not to the fear it brings. In the immediate aftermath, fires to be put out. The only fatalities at this presidential mansion, multimillionaire businessman Oleksiy Vadatursky and his wife, Raisa, was sheltering in the basement, and their home took a direct hit. Neighbors still in shock.

MAXIM, MYKOLAIV, UKRAINE RESIDENT: I don't know what to do. It's unbelievable that it can in one moment, just destroy everything.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Maxim has lived here almost 20 years, but maybe no more.

MAXIM: We just don't want to stay here right now.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This crater here gives you an idea of just how big the blast was. Debris strewn down here and the windows of the building blown out.

(Voice-over): Other buildings around here also hit. Those with military links, off limits to our cameras. The mayor concerned Russian sympathizers at work.


OLEKSANDR SENKEVYCH, MAYOR OF MYKOLAIV: I am sure that they have spies who are going around the city and they say like, I saw the number of machines or the people, military people, they send this information and Russia attacks them.

ROBERTSON (on-camera): And do you think those saboteurs might have helped in the attacks last night? SENKEVYCH: I'm sure they helped.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Within hours, life returning to what passes as normal. Pensioners and others in line for drinking water. The cities clean water supply destroyed months ago.

They hit us and they hit us hard. From 1:00 a.m. until morning, Valentina tells us, we are scared. We want to leave. But that's how life is for us now.

Where the mansion was hit and residents are richer, another neighborhood of the dead businessmen tells me he can't take it anymore that he'll leave.

Not clear if high-profile businessmen Oleksiy Vadatursky was an intended target. President Zelenskyy held him a hero. His death and the up-tempo strikes here chilling the city 's otherwise resilient mood. Nic Robertson, CNN, Mykolaiv, Ukraine.


CHURCH: The U.S. and U.K. are condemning a strike on a prison facility in Russian occupied Ukraine. The U.S. envoy to Ukraine says, quote, "The attack on the detention facility in Olenivka is unconscionable." And the British ambassador to Kyiv says the strike is part of a pattern of human rights abuses and possible war crimes.

Kyiv accuses Russia of killing dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians in the attack and has opened an investigation. And Moscow claims Ukraine is responsible for killing its own troops. The former U.S. ambassador to NATO says Moscow brutalize Ukrainian prisoners of war at the prison before it was attacked.


KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: The Russians took these fighters from Azov, the Azov Steel Mill in Mariupol and they imprisoned them, they tortured them, they brutalized them. Then they put them in this prison and then they blew up the prison. This is an unconscionable war crime.


CHURCH: Rachel Denber is the Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division with Human Rights Watch and she joins me now live from Paris. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, strong words there from Kurt Volker on Russia committing war crimes in Ukraine. So, how are you investigating these crimes? And what's the range of violations that you've documented so far?

DENBER: Right. All this past week has been especially intense. We have been documenting these kinds of acts really since the beginning of the war. We've been documenting indiscriminate bombing and shelling like the type that we've seen in Mykolaiv. The past that (inaudible) we've seen in Mykolaiv that have hit residential buildings, hospitals, schools and alike. We've been documenting also the -- in areas where Russian forces are actually occupying. We've been documenting force disappearances, tortures and killings of civilians. We documented that in places where Russia has already withdrawn, in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.

And we just published a report last week about torture and force disappearances and other acts through intimidate and silence civilians in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions where Russia is currently occupying. And we've also documented the force transfer of civilians from Ukraine to occupied areas of Russia -- sorry, occupied areas of Ukraine and also to Russia. And that's just a small piece of the documentation that we've been doing.

CHURCH: And what are you learning specifically about Russia's treatment of prisoners of war?

DENBER: Right, well, obviously the explosion in Olenivka is something that is absolutely horrific and needs to be thoroughly investigated. Russia must immediately allow the international authorities like U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross to have access not only to investigate the explosion, but also to investigate the treatment of POW's and civilians who are helped there because Olenivka has a notorious record of absolutely horrific abuse of detainees.

CHURCH: So, what should be the consequences of Russia committing war crimes in Ukraine and what should the international community be doing about this to ensure accountability for these crimes?


DENBER: Well, there has been an unprecedented response by the international community to ensure accountability for war crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has, as you know, opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the United States and from the European Union and member states to bolster investigative efforts by the Ukrainian prosecutor's office.

There are thousands of cases that have already been opened. This support needs to be bolstered; it needs to be continued. There needs to be continued support also to Ukrainian civil society group that are doing documentation and also that are providing desperately needed services to survivors, to victims and their families.

CHURCH: And a report on force transfers infiltration is coming out on August 18th. Are you able to share any of those findings with us at all?

DENBER: Well, I think people should read the report when it comes out on August 18th, but we interviewed many people who have been through -- who went through the infiltration process, the screening, the very abusive screening process when Ukrainian civilians are made to hand over their phones. They're interrogated, they're questioned and if they don't pass the filtration process, they are detained. And, some of those people were then forcibly brought on to -- brough out to Russia.

CHURCH: Rachel Denber with the Human Rights Watch. Thank you so much for talking with us. Appreciate it.

DENBER: Thank you. Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain is expected to leave the Odessa region in the hours ahead. According to the captain, they are hoping to reach Istanbul by Tuesday or Wednesday. Resuming exports could be a crucial first step in easing the global food crisis sparked by the war, which has trapped millions of tons of grain inside Ukraine for months.

In July, Turkey helped broker a deal between Ukraine and Russia to allow 5 million tons of grain exports per month from Ukrainian port. The ships will be able to navigate a safe corridor in the Black Sea before passing through Turkey and reaching global markets.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now from London with more on all of this. Good morning to you Claire. So, what are you learning about this first grain shipment from Ukraine after a very long time and when it's expected to depart today for Istanbul?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary. Recent developments this morning, we're just getting some news via the U.N. that the Joint Coordination Center, which was this sort of body that was set up through this agreement reached about 10 days ago between Russia and Ukraine and the U.N. and Turkey that has authorized a ship. It's actually a different ship than what we initially expected.

It's a Sierra Leone-flagged vessel called the Razoni, which has now been authorized by the Joint Coordination Center to depart today from the port of Odessa. So, a different ship and a different port than we had originally expected. It says the Joint Coordination Center has agreed to the specific coordinates and restrictions of the Safe Humanitarian Maritime Corridor and has communicated those details in accordance with international navigation procedures.

So, this ship, we understand, will be carrying 26,000 metric tons of corn. So, this would be, Rosemary, as you say, the first grain vessel to depart from Ukraine's Black Sea ports under this new agreement. We don't know yet that it has departed. This is just that it has been authorized to do so, but it will be a critical test of whether or not this agreement can sort of stand up to a real-world test. Clearly trust on both sides is still pretty shaky.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. We'll continue to watch this. Clare Sebastian joining us live from London. Many thanks.

And still to come, as parts of the U.S. fight dangerous wildfires, others search for the missing after deadly floods. We will have the latest on the severe weather across the United States.

And, later, anger in the U.S. capital after more than two dozen Republican senators blocked a bill expanding medical coverage for millions of veterans exposed to toxins. We'll have the details on the other side of the break. Stay with us.



CHURCH: As a wildfire rages nearby, county officials in Oregon say rescue teams have evacuated nearly 60 hikers from a trail on the California side of the border. The McKinney Fire has consumed more than 50,000 acres so far. That is more than 20,000 hectares.

California's governor has declared a state of emergency in the surrounding areas and mandatory evacuations are underway with nearly 2,000 people forced to flee their homes. Officials say the fire started on Friday and was made worse by thunderstorms and wind over the weekend.

At least 28 people have died after massive flooding in the U.S. state of Kentucky. That is according to the state governor. And that number is expected to rise with rescue crews still searching for those missing. Floodwaters have already covered streets and homes and caused blackouts in some areas and more rain could be on the way. CNN's Evan McMorris Santoro reports.

EVAN MCMORRIS SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governor of Kentucky has been trying to tour the devastation from these floods since the water started to rise on Thursday. But because of the damage done by those waters and ongoing weather problems, he wasn't able to get out here until Sunday, getting his first look at just how much damage had been done by these historic floods. The death toll keeps on rising. And at one stop, on his tour, the governor got emotional.

ANDY BESHEAR, GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY: I will read the full list. So, these are -- these are 28 Kentuckians, and the number keeps growing. Two in Clay, 15 in Knott County, four of them children. And it says minors, they are children.


The oldest one is in second grade. I just passed and got out of the, I mean, location that their home and that they were swept away in. Two in Letcher. Three in Perry. And six in Breathitt. And we will have more. We know.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The governor says it's now a race against time to get supplies and equipment in here to help to stabilize people affected by these storms. He's worried about more rain, but he is also worried about heat coming in the next couple of days. For people without water and without power that could be a very, very dangerous thing. Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, Knott County, Kentucky.

CHUCH: And for more on this story, Pedram Javaheri is at the CNN Weather Center. Pedram, it is tragic. A continuing story of extreme flooding and catastrophic wildfires here in the United States. And fires also scorching Portugal and Italy. What is the latest on all of this and of course the forecast ahead?

PEDREAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know that the forecast does keep a threat here for rain for at least Monday, potentially decreasing coming on at Tuesday across this region. And notice this landscape, Rosemary. We're talking about an incredible amount of rainfall just in the past couple of days and the colors here in pink near St. Louis, that's in excess of 10 inches.

Also, across the eastern area of Kentucky where we had a significant flooding that take place there, also in excess of 10 inches. These are historic amounts, 1,000-year events that happened within 48 hours of each other. Still have flood alerts across this region of eastern Kentucky and to areas of northern Tennessee as well.

But you notice, anytime you bring as much as 10 inches in just a matter of hours, you know it's problematic and really, any additional rainfall on top of a fully saturated ground becomes an issue. And of course, we know the groundwater, the water table has already risen. So, any additional rainfall, even if it's just one or two inches could lead to surface flooding, and that's the biggest concern moving forward across eastern areas of Kentucky.

Here we go. Slight risk in place. That's a level two on the scale of 1 to 4. It does include portions of eastern Kentucky and also Tennessee. And then it diminishes come Tuesday back to a marginal level one. And there is a severe weather threat across this region also in a slight risk zone.

But again, notice, pockets here where 1 to 2 inches indicated in the blue and green contours, eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee in these areas could see the amount of rainfall that could lead to additional flooding and that's why the concern is so high across that region.

And we'll wrap up with this, Rosemary. The western United States temperatures record values yet again. Seattle had six consecutive days into ending into the 90s, an all-time record. It never seen more than five days of 90 plus degree days. They had six come Sunday afternoon. Pretty incredible heat in place there.

CHUCH: It is. Pedram Javaheri, many thanks for bringing us up to date on that. Well, in the coming hours in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to hold another procedural vote to break a filibuster after a group of Republicans blocked what's known as the Burn Pit Bill.


UNKNOWN: Kennedy?

UNKNOWN: Coward.

UNKNOWN: Marshall?

UNKNOWN: Coward. UNKNOWN: McConnell?

UNKNOWN: Coward.

UNKNOWN: Portman?

UNKNOWN: Coward.


CHUCH: Military veterans took to the steps of the capital this weekend to express their anger at 25 Republican lawmakers who pulled their support for the bill that would expand medical coverage for millions of troops who were exposed to toxins from the military's so- called burn pits during their time in service. One Republican senator defended his decision.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): This is the oldest trick in Washington. People take a sympathetic group of Americans and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who've been exposed to toxic chemicals, craft a bill to address their problems and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own, and dare Republicans to do anything about it because they know they'll unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn't be there. That's what's happening here.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): There's a lot of fast ones that are pulled in Washington D.C. And quite honestly, nobody ever steps up to the plate and stops that kind of stuff from happening. That happens like in an overseas contingency account, which is exactly the kind of fund that Senator Toomey thinks is in this bill, but is not.

And it was passed to keep the war going in Afghanistan. That is the reason we're here talking about burn pits today.

The bottom line, there is no fast one. This is the same bill we passed on the 16th of June, and it should be passed again.


CHURCH: Meantime, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is defending his support of a massive new climate and health care package. Manchin surprised Democrats and outraged Republicans after announcing he and majority leader Chuck Schumer agreed on a $739 billion plan to tackle the climate crisis and reduce the deficit.


On Sunday, Manchin touted the benefits of the bill and dismissed Republican claims that it would make inflation worse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There is nothing inflammatory in this bill, even though there is some naysayers I'm sure, you're going to always hear that, but there is nothing in that. We are paying down debt, $300 billion. We're increasing production as far as, if you want to get the gasoline prices down, produce more energy and produce it here in America. That's what we're doing.

And we're investing in a technology for the future energy. So, we are doing everything to bring manufacturing back, keep people working. And I think it's a great piece of legislation. And on normal times, my Republican colleagues would be for something such as this.


CHURCH: Democrats are hoping to pass the bill before the Senate leaves for its scheduled August recess.

Still to come, Iraq is at a tipping point and the U.S., Iran and others watch closely as protesters keep storming the parliament. A live report from the region, that's next.


CHURCH: In Iraq, powerful Shia clerk Muqtada al-Sadr is cheering on his supporters, calling it a golden opportunity as they occupy the parliament. Thousands of people stormed Baghdad's green zone twice in the past week angered that one of al-Sadr's rivals was nominated as prime minister.


Right now the cleric supporters are holding a sit in to derail efforts from other groups to form the country's next government.

And CNN's Nada Bashir is tracking developments for us from Istanbul. She joins us now live. Good to see you, Nada. So what more are you learning about this political crisis in Iraq and where it might be going?

NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Well, look, Rosemary, these are some of the biggest protests we've seen in Baghdad since elections were held in October. And as you mentioned there, that statement from the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr yesterday, calling on early his supporters and loyalists who have been the main driving force behind these demonstrations.

Put on all Iraqis to take to the streets in favor of political reform. And as you said there, these protests were initially sparked on Wednesday in response to the nomination of Sadr's main shia rival Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. He was nominated on Monday by the Coordination Framework Alliance. And we saw those protests in against his nomination for the position of prime minister.

But this has really gained momentum now. People calling for a complete overhaul of the political system after months and months of stagnation in the Iraqi Parliament. The message we're hearing from the southern movement is that this is a golden opportunity, as you said there for political reform. They are calling for Parliament to be dissolved. They're calling for early elections and for constitutional reform.

Sadr accusing his opponents and others in government of presiding over a system of corruption injustice and in, you know, working in favor of the interests of Iran as opposed to the Iraqi people. Really, the message we've been hearing from protesters on the ground is not only opposition to the nomination of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Sadr's opponent for the position of prime minister but real frustration over the political deadlock.

We've seen over the corruption allegations that we are hearing about Iraq now facing severe economic crisis, rising unemployment rates soaring prices, poor public infrastructure and services. And there is real anger and frustration amongst the Iraqi people over this stagnation, this deadlock that we've seen for the last almost 10 months now in the inability really to establish a government.

And really people on the streets in Baghdad staging that assistant over the weekend calling for change and for the end of corruption in government. Take a listen.


ADEL NATHEM, PROTESTER FROM KARBALA (through translator): Our demands are simple. Ending corruption from its roots, ending class differences created by people who came from abroad. Some people were given so much while 80 to 85 percent of the people went we're almost buried. We will not retreat until we end corruption. We will not retreat until we achieve our demands. Our demands are simple. And these people who are here support reform and religion.


BASHIR: Now Rosemary, we've heard calls for dialogue with peers from Iraqi officials from international leaders as well. The outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi calling on all the leaders of the political factions in Iraq's Parliament to come together to achieve some sort of dialogue to look for some sort of resolution to this current crisis. But of course, there are concerns that these protests could escalate and if we see counter protests, there are questions about whether this could turn very quickly into violence. Rosemary?

CHURCH: That is the concern, Nada Bashir. Many thanks for that live report. Appreciate it. And still to come. Remembering the lives of NBA legend Bill Russell and actress Nichelle Nichols. More on their impact on the U.S. and the world when we return.


CHURCH: The world is mourning the loss of two stars Sunday. NBA legend Bill Russell and actress Nichelle Nichols. Both were known for being game changers in their respective industries, creating opportunities for African-Americans as a lasting legacy. Boston Celtics great Bill Russell died peacefully on Sunday according to a family statement. In his prolific career in professional basketball Russell helped the Celtics win the NBA Finals 11 times.

He was also the first black head coach to win an NBA championship. Russell will also be remembered for calling out racism and injustice in the U.S. CNN's Andy Scholes takes a look back at Russell's life and career.


BILL RUSSELL, AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I took basic skills. And egotistically speaking, I think I had the best command of all the basic skills of basketball as a package of anyone's ever played.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: The champion of champions Bill Russell won more NBA titles than any player in history. And he always had one thing on his mind. Winning.

RUSSELL: Well, one of the things I'd love to do was be back on defense by myself, and have a three on one fast break come to me. I absolutely loved it. Because over half the time I can stop, I brought defense to a level where it was as important no more important than offense. But my defense was part of our offense.

SCHOLES: The 12-time All-Star for the Boston Celtics revolutionize the game with his shot blocking ability. But Russell put greater value on victories than individual numbers.

RUSSELL: If I'm really going to be a good team player, I have to be willing to disappear sometimes. Be out there without you knowing I'm out there.

SCHOLES: Russell wasn't always such a force on the court. He took the only scholarship he was offered to the University of San Francisco. In the span of one year, Russell won an NCAA championship, Olympic gold medal and NBA title, and he credits much of his success in life to his parents.

RUSSELL: The first thing I remember is my mother and father loved me. She said you must always be willing to fight for yourself. Never be a victim. And that's the way I have conducted my life is that I have avoided as much as ever being a victim.

SCHOLES: Russell was a private person who wanted little to do with stirring trouble. But given racial tensions, trouble was all around him, whether he likes it or not. And he used his fame to become an outspoken backer of the Civil Rights Movement.

RUSSELL: I contributed a great deal to the game and the game contributed much to my life as I did. Probably a little more. I came here, I live, and I die. That's what happened. I had a good time.



CHURCH: And the actress Nichelle Nichols has died at the age of 89. According to her son, Nichols is best known for her iconic role as Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek T.V. series and films. One of the first notable main roles for a black woman. She took that role a step further helping NASA recruit women and people of color to become astronauts. And this moment was the next groundbreaking moment of her career.

The kiss with fellow actor William Shatner was one of the first interracial kisses shown on American television. Nichols recalled its impact years later speaking with CNN.


NICHELLE NICHOLS, AMERICAN ACTRESS: It changed television forever and it also changed the way people looked at one another. If they -- their fate -- two of their favorite actors can battle through it and come through it on top, why can't everybody?


CHURCH: Another Star Trek costar actor George Takei shared his thoughts on Nichols' passing, saying in part "My heart is heavy, my eyes shining like the stars, you now rest among my dearest friend."

And I'm Rosemary Church. For those of you hear in North America, I will have more CNN NEWSROOM after a quick break. And for our international viewers, World Sport is next.