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Thousands in Sudan Call for End to Military Rule; Russia Getting Around Sanctions by Plundering Sudan's Gold; Protesters in Iraq Say They Will Not Retreat Until We End Corruption; NBA Legend and 11-Time Champion Bill Russell Dies at 88; England Defeats Germany for Historic First Championship Win. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 04:30   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM I'm Max Foster. If you're just joining, us let me get you up today with the top stories this hour.

At least 28 people have been killed by deadly floods in Kentucky. Conditions there expected to get worse, with more rain anticipated for today.

In California, the McKinney wildfire has exploded to more than 52,000 acres, becoming the state's largest fire this year.

And officials in Ukraine, confirmed the first grain shipment has left the port city of Odesa. The ship was carrying thousands of tons of corn. This departs was part of a deal negotiated by Turkey and the U.N. to ease the world's global food crisis, elevated by Russia's war in Ukraine.

In Sudan, thousands of demonstrators took the streets in Khartoum on Sunday, calling for a return to civilian rule, and prosecution of Sudan's military rulers for corruption. The demands follow an investigation into Russia's plunder of Sudan's gold, sparking widespread outrage.

At one point, hundreds of protesters attempted to head to Sudan's presidential offices on Sunday but were met by police who responded with tear gas. CNN's chief international investigative correspondent Nima Elbagir joins me now for more on this. This is a very brave uprising.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it's a continuation, really, of what we've seen. But there also has been this sense of, reenergizing. Now that people have been able to really understand what is a stake here, which is a country that is suffering, that their gold resources are being exploited and exploited by their own generals to the benefit of a foreign power as we found in our investigation. Take a look at this.

FOSTER: OK, we're going to bring more on that later on, Nima. But just talk us through the investigation, we actually had to contend with, and bringing this to the airways.

ELBAGIR: Well, one thing that even for our team that it reported on Sudan extensively, throughout the last years of upheaval that was so shocking, was just the extent of the danger that was associated around investigating or looking through any of Russia's actions and activities in Sudan. It really feels like there is a cabal and at the heart of that is an attempt to maintain access to these gold sources, to the benefit not just of Russia of course, but to the benefit of corrupt individuals within Sudan's military ruling cabal.


FOSTER: In terms of the response, you've had from the Sudanese leadership, what are they telling you?

ELBAGIR: Nothing. Nothing. And we have reached out to the U.S. State Department, we've also reached out of course to the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, to the Russian ministry of defense, to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of Wagner's communications network and we've received absolutely nothing in return. The U.S. has only said that it's monitoring, but it's very clear that this issue is not going away anytime soon.

FOSTER: And tell us about the sanctions, and how they're getting around that.

ELBAGIR: Well, part of the evasion network has been the use of this Sudanese front company called al-Solag. It's very clever, I mean this investigation took us seven months, in order to really unravel the mechanisms of the sanctions invasion. And one of the issues that became very clear, is that when civilian officials attempted to block the transfer of assets from Wagner's company, Meroe Gold, to this Sudanese front company.

That was part of the impetus on the part of Sudan's military rulers, for the overthrow of the civilian transition government. And I mean, that's almost tantamount to colonialism. The idea that a great power such as Russia would be meddling to this extent with the still burgeoning of Sudan's democratic transition extraordinary.

FOSTER: It does show that the sanctions aren't necessarily working. There's been lots of examples of this in the past hasn't there? Where it's quite very easy to get around the sanctions if you can find people on the ground who are sympathetic to your cause, as it were.

ELBAGIR: Absolutely, but also, I think it's important to know that the U.S. should have seen this coming. Fortress Russia, as President Putin is calling it, this project to try and buttress Russia from the U.S. sanctions began post the annexation of Crimea in 2014. This is not new. And the U.S. during the Trump administration, even now in the Biden administration, really has not found a way to effectively address this. And because of that blood has been spilled on the battlefields of Ukraine because this is a financial pipeline to Russia's war there. But also, on the streets of Sudan.

FOSTER: Nima, thank you. And stick around, because Nima's incredible investigative report will be shown live on CNN's "NEW DAY" that's at 7 a.m. Eastern in New York, 12 p.m. here in London.

Now, in Iraq, powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr says Baghdad protests are a golden opportunity for those that need to change the country's political system. Thousands of peoples stormed the capital'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 sitting as the Parliament to derail efforts from other groups to form the country's next government. As you can see CNN's Nada Bashir tracking developments from Istanbul for us. Extraordinary scenes played out there, what do they mean do you think?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely stunning scenes, Max. These are the largest protests we've seen taking place in Baghdad since the elections back in October. And as you mentioned there, the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, yesterday issued and that statement calling on not only his supporters and loyalist who have really been the main driving force behind these demonstrations over the last few days. But also, on all Iraqis to take to the streets, and join in these protests against what he has described as corruption and injustice in the Iraqi government.

Of course, these demonstrations were sparked on Wednesday in response to the nomination of rival Shia leader Mohammed al-Sudani on Monday by the pro-Iran coordination framework alliance, really angering and triggering that backlash from lawyers.

Really over the last few days we've seen these demonstrations really gain momentum, and most people are calling for an end to corruption and two injustice, saw there was movement -- now accusing his opponents, and others in government of presiding over a system of corruption, one government that really works in the interest of Iran, in his words, as opposed to the Iraqi people. And that is the sense that we've been hearing from Iraqis on the ground taking part in these protests take a listen.


ADEL NATHEM, PROTESTER FROM KARBALA (through translator): Our demands are simple, and in corruption from its roots. And in class differences created by people who came from abroad. Some people were given so much, while 80 to 85 percent of the people went were almost buried. We will not retreat until we end the 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 Nathem's movement has been calling for complete overhaul really of the political system, constitutional reform, electoral reform, and really, we are expecting these protests to pick up today.


They could continue to gain momentum over the coming days. We are as I mentioned, expecting counterprotest as well to these demonstrations. But there are real concerns that this could push Iraq into further political turmoil. We've already seen months of stagnation in deadlock, and there are real concerns that if dialogue isn't achieved, we could see further stagnation of the political system.

FOSTER: Yes, a worrying development. Nada Bashir live in Istanbul, thank you.

In Beirut, Lebanon, two massive grain silos collapsed, and others are expected to fall according to a Lebanese media reports. Have a look at this.

So far, no reports of injuries to people in the surrounding areas, thankfully. The silos which we saw the massive chemical explosion in 2020, have been burning for weeks. Prompting fears, they would eventually fall. Some officials say soaring temperatures in Beirut ignited fermenting grains inside the silos there.

Much more still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, when we return.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bill Russell the man is someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men. He marched with King, stood by Ali. When a restaurant refused to serve the black Celtics, you refused to play in the scheduled game.


FOSTER: Tributes are pouring in for NBA legend, Bill Russell, whose impact reached far beyond sports. That's next.


FOSTER: Today we're remembering trailblazing actress Nichelle Nichols, who died at the age of 89 on Sunday according to her son. Nichols is best known for her iconic role as Lieutenant Uhura, in the original "Star Trek" TV series and films. One of the first notable main roles for a black woman in America.




FOSTER: That kiss with fellow actor William Shatner, was one of the first interracial kisses shown on American television. Nichols told CNN in 2014 that their kiss changed the way Americans looked at one another. After Star Trek, Nichols went on to help NASA recruit women and people of color to become astronauts.

We're also remembering Bill Russell, legendary basketball player for the Boston Celtics, an 11-time NBA champion. His family says he died on Sunday at the age of 88. In addition to his storied career on the court, Russell was also the first black head coach to win an NBA championship. The Celtics shared their tribute, quote, to be the greatest champion

in your sport, to revolutionize the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable. But that is who because Bill Russell was.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama wrote: As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher -- both as a player, and as a person.

CNN's Andy Scholes takes a look back at Russell's life and career.


BILL RUSSELL, NBA LEGEND: I took basic skills and egotistically speaking, I think I had the best command of all of the basic skills in basketball as a package of anyone who has ever played.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR (voice-over): 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 thing I loved to do was to be back on defense by myself and have a three-on-one fastbreak coming to me. I absolutely loved that because over half the time I could stop it. I brought defense to a level where it was as important or more important than offense. But my defense was part of our offense.

SCHOLES (voice-over): The 12-time all-star for the Boston Celtics revolutionized 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 (voice-over): 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 connected my life, is that I have avoided as much as possible ever being a victim.

SCHOLES (voice-over): Russell was a private person who wanted little to do with stirring trouble, but given racial tensions, trouble was all around him, whether he liked 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 as much to my life as I did or probably made a little more. I came here and I lived and I died, that's what happened. I had a good time


FOSTER: Still to come, England fans cried tears of joy on Sunday, as women's national team took home the Euro Championship. All the emotion and the drama of the victory, at Wembley just ahead.



FOSTER: Banana Boat is recalling some batches of one of its sunscreens to the U.S., because it may contain a cancer causing chemical. An internal review of the brand's hair and scalp sunscreens spray SPF 30 found trace amounts of benzene, which can cause cancer in humans. A national recall has been issued for three batches. The company says customer should dispose of any affective product and will receive reimbursement if they do so.

New York City will play host to a unusual pop-up restaurant next week, featuring cuisine inspired by food for cats. But it's not generic smelling food. Fancy Feast, which is sponsoring the two day pop-up says the menu draws inspiration from their new Italian style line. There are spots for 16 people of the location between the Far West Village and the Meatpacking District. Interested parties who can't get a reservation can find recipes online.

And the winner of Friday's blockbuster Mega Millions jackpot still hasn't claimed their price, can you believe. A ticket hitting every number for the 1.3 billion dollar payout was sold at a Speedway gas station outside Chicago. The Illinois lottery director says the holdup of the ticket has yet to come forward. Officials encouraging everyone who bought tickets at that location, to check their numbers, the winner has a year to claim the prize.

England's national women's team there celebrating an historic win over Germany in the 2022 EURO Championships. Sunday night's game went into extra time before England won by a score of 2 to 1. Amanda Davies has more on the emotional win from outside Wembley stadium.


AMANDA DAVIES, CNN WORLD SPORT: What does football coming home feel like? It feels like this. It is passion, it is unity, it is England's women putting all those years of hurt to one side to lift that major piece of silverware.


There are so many people who have worked so hard to get to this moment, not even actually for the trophy winning moment, just for the right to play on a level playing field. For 50 years, from 1921, football for women, professionally, was banned here in England. The last time England took on Germany in the European final in 2009 so many of the players were part-time, having to take on other jobs to fund their footballing career. But now here we are at Wembley one of the most iconic stadiums in world football. They have sold it out, and not only done that they have broken the record for attendance at a European championships, men and women.

Germany for their part do deserve a whole lot of credit, you've really got a feel for Alex Cobb and their team, they go home distraught. But with their head hit heads held high. It was brilliant, not always pretty. It was gritty, and it's England going home with trophy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good day, it finally came home after a lot wait. Terrible like moments -- but it finally, finally came home, obviously happy, enjoyment, excitement, everything, I love it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was amazing. It's the first live football they've seen and they've seen England win at Wembley. I mean, we bloody were in trouble for everyone and it was amazing.

DAVIES: The England captain Leah Williamson put it, this is just the beginning. The Lionesses and their fans, well, their roar is being heard loud and wide. It is now about keeping that message moving forward

Amanda Davis CNN, Wembley.


FOSTER: I was there last night, really did feel like transformation (INAUDIBLE). Amanda getting emotional there, it was feeling transformational moment. I was there last night, really great atmosphere. Both family friendly as well.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Max Foster in London. EARLY START is next.