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Speaker Pelosi's Visit Triggers China's Ire; Taiwanese People Felt U.S. is in Their Back; Much Needed Grain Shipment Arrives in Turkey; U.S. Anticipates Retaliation from Terror Groups; Ukrainians Ask to Leave to Avoid Cold Months; Technology A Key Player in War; Parents Filed Charges Against Conspiracy Theorist; Flooding Left a Mess in Kentucky; Kansas Voters Speaks; Mexican Astronaut Making History. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, a show of support for Taiwan from the U.S. House Speaker despite threats from China. The latest on Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit.

Precious cargo, after a months' long blockade tons of Ukrainian grain on its way to market while this export is critical right now.

Plus, a look inside the U.S. operation that killed Al-Qaeda's leader.

UNKNOWN: Live from CNN center, this is CNN Newsroom with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

We begin this hour in Taiwan where U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit and show of solidarity are sending tensions soaring between the U.S. and China and sparking a swift response by Beijing.

Just hours ago, Pelosi met with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a trip that has defied China's threats of retaliation. Pelosi is now the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. And earlier, she made it clear China will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan.


NANCY PELOSI (D), U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Our delegation came here to send an unequivocal message. America stands with Taiwan.

TSAI ING-WEN, PRESIDENT OF TAIWAN: We are grateful for the delegations visit under such challenging circumstances as a demonstration of unwavering support to the people of Taiwan.


CHURCH: Pelosi's visit though, is ratcheting up tensions. China has placed its military on high alert and launched military exercises across Taiwan, a move that drew strong condemnation from the self- governing island's defense ministry.

And CNN correspondents are tracking all the developments. Steven Jiang is standing by in Beijing, and Blake Essig is live for us in Tokyo. Good to see both of you again.

So, Blake, it is a high-stakes visit to Taiwan by Speaker Pelosi that's enraged China. What has been achieved so far?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, from the U.S. Perspective, I think that what the visit has shown is that, or at least shown to China, is that the U.S. will not be bullied or intimidated by a fiery rhetoric or a saber rattling.

Now, in the short term, it's hard to argue that Pelosi's visit hasn't already added to the tensed situation that exists across the Taiwan Strait. Point in case, within about 20 minutes of the speaker landing on the island, China announced live fire military exercises surrounding Taiwan, that it could already be underway.

Taiwan's defense ministry has condemned the drill, saying that they amount to a maritime and aerial blockade. With the ministry spokesperson going on to say that Taiwan doesn't seek war but will always be prepared for it.

Now, as for the long-term impact to regional peace and stability, we are just going to have to wait and see. As far as the visit is concerned, despite warnings from the White House, and in defiance of China, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did arrive in Taiwan late last night.

And once on the ground, the speaker and her delegation of Democratic lawmakers issued a statement saying that America's solidarity with the people of Taiwan is more important today than ever as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.

Now after staying the night, Pelosi met with senior government officials. And the Democratic self-governing island's president, Tsai Ing-wen who thank the speaker for being one of Taiwan's most devoted supporters. Here's what the two leaders had to say about the future cooperation during their meeting.


ING-WEN (through translator): Facing deliberately heightened military threats Taiwan will not back down. We will firmly uphold our nation's sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy. At the same time, we wish to cooperate and work in unity with all democracies around the world to jointly safeguard Democratic values. PELOSI: Today, our delegation, which I'm very proud, came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan. And we are proud of our enduring friendship.



ESSIG: Today, Pelosi is visiting the National Human Rights Museum. And earlier visited parliament where she met with the deputy speaker of Taiwan's legislature praising Taiwan as one of the freest societies in the world.

Now, the speaker's surprised visit to Taiwan wasn't listed on her itinerary, outlining this tour of Asia that she and her delegation are on. Which experts say is consistent with the U.S.'s one-China policy that acknowledges Beijing's position that Taiwan is a part of China.

Now, while Pelosi and her delegation are expected to leave Taiwan later this evening and continue their tour of Asia and South Korea and Japan for at least the immediate future. What they'll be leaving behind are increased tensions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, exactly right. And Steven, as we reported, China responded Speaker Pelosi's visit with live and military exercises. What are you learning about that response? And how long it will likely last?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Rosemary, it's interesting to know that these drills are announced that right after Pelosi's plane landed in Taiwan were supposed to start on Thursday after her expected departure to Taiwan but amid this growing online backlash against the government's supposed lackluster response.

Obviously, after national sentiment being stoke for days by state media before this visit, the Chinese ministry seemed to push forward their starting day of these drills. With the second announcement saying they will start almost immediately involving not only firing off conventional missiles in waters of Taiwan, but also practicing a blockade.

Now, state media here obviously describing these drills as unprecedented in terms of their proximity to Taiwan but also in terms of their scale and intensity. But so far though, we have not seen much verifiable visuals from these current drills.

The Chinese government has also announced political and probably more importantly, economic sanctions against Taiwan including, for example, halting exports of natural sand to the island. That of course is a key component to the semiconductor industry that is so critically important to Taiwan.

But it is worth noting that we are also starting to see state media here seemingly starting to tamper down public expectations in terms of Beijing's response. Saying things like a historical and complex issue like Taiwan cannot be resolved overnight. And also highlighting Beijing's, quote, "restraint," saying they are still trying to give peaceful unification one last chance.

But one thing for sure though, that is all of a sudden, nobody seems to be talking about the impact of zero COVID, or a slowing economy, with patriotic sentiment really reaching a fever pitch. With everyone seems to be rallying around China's strongman leader Xi Jinping, who certainly could use a moment like this as we are only some three months away from his supposed coronation for another term at a time when he's facing a lot of domestic challenges. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, Blake Essig in Tokyo, Steven Jiang in Beijing. many thanks to you both.

And joining us now from Taipei is Kolas Yotaka, a county government candidate and a former Taiwan presidential office spokesperson. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: Well, given those positions that you hold, I do want to add that you support U.S. Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan despite the heightened tensions it's causing with China. Why do you think her visit is so important?

YOTAKA: You know, actually the visit means a lot to us. Now Speaker Pelosi's visit made the Taiwanese people feel that we are not alone. More and more countries to see our efforts and we will continue to uphold our beliefs. This message is very strong, and that's why Taiwanese people are so excited and happy to see her standing here in Taipei.

CHURCH: Now in a tweet, Speaker Pelosi said this. Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan, a robust, vibrant democracy and are important partner in the Indo-Pacific. And while you support her presence there, not everyone in Taiwan feels the same way. Do they? Some officials particularly telling our sources that they would prefer that she not visit at this very sensitive time. What -- what do you say to those officials?

YOTAKA: Actually, I have to say in general no matter they are officials or just regular people, Taiwanese people this time are very happy that we are calm and cool because China's reaction is not new to us. They have been very rude and brutal. But of course, we are cautious, because this time they are more aggressive than they were in 1996 when we have our first Democratic presidential election.


Our military's been careful to deal with it. At the military airports just the last couple of days across the country, starting from yesterday afternoon fighters planes they have been, have taken off and landed one after a another and we have conducted drills.

We do not seek war, but we prepare for the worse. But we don't want to see that at all. But we all do want the people to know that ROC Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country. It has never been ruled by the CCP, and is not part of China.

So, China must recognize this so as to not live in its own fantasy. Taiwan is not part of Mr. Xi's Chinese dream. They have to wake up. So, you know, this message and this visit means a lot to us.

CHURCH: Well, China refuses to accept that and as a consequence launched targeted military operations around Taiwan in response to Speaker Pelosi's visit, and cyberattacks. So, what exactly will Speaker Pelosi's trip to Taiwan achieve, do you think? And is it worth the dire consequences that could come as a result of this?

YOTAKA: You know, China's attack on us has already begun. Like what I have been telling everyone, it's there, it has been there all the time. Military flags, economic sanctions, the cyber-attacks have all happened. This is just making clear what Taiwanese that we must continue to diversify economically and politically, and keep a distance from China.

And the war, it has to be our allies. We don't want to feel lonely facing authoritarian power at the front line. So, the visit from different Congress people, even officials from different countries means a lot to us.

CHURCH: So, how likely do you think it is that China will eventually attack Taiwan? And if they do that, do you think the U.S. will get involved militarily?

YOTAKA: Like what I said, we don't -- we cannot expect what is happening. But we do not seek war. But we will prepare for the worst. I think that's how Taiwanese people think and feel.

CHURCH: And you think the U.S. will get involved militarily?

YOTAKA: I believe that we have allies. And China is not our -- only Taiwan's problem. It's not just a U.S. problem, it is a whole world problem. People have to pay attention to this.

CHURCH: Kolas Yotaka, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

YOTAKA: Thank you.

CHURCH: The first wartime shipment of Ukrainian grain from the port of Odessa has now reached Turkey. Inspections are expected this hour in Istanbul. They are due to be carried out by representatives from the U.N., Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine. After that, the ship will head to its final destination in Lebanon.

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was hopeful this will be the first of many shipments.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Our goal now is to have regularity, so that when one ship leaves the port, there are other ships as well, both those loading and those approaching the port. Continuity and regularity is the necessary principle. All consumers of our agricultural products need it.


CHURCH: For more, let's bring in CNN's Nada Bashir, she joins us live from near the port in Istanbul. Good to see you, Nada. So, what is the latest on the arrival of this first wartime grain shipment? And of course, the process behind the inspection, before it eventually heads to its final destination in Lebanon?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, Rosemary, this process has been carefully agreed upon by those delegations from Russia and Ukraine, along with the Turkish officials and the United Nations. That actually, in just the last two minutes or so, we've seen these delegations from Russia and Ukraine as part of this inspection team arriving at the port.

They're set aboard a smaller boat to travel onwards to the Razoni ship which is just a little distance from the port right now, off the coast of Istanbul. It's there that that inspection will take place.

Now, under the framework agreed upon by all four parties as part of the Black Sea grain initiative deal, they will be inspecting the vessel to ensure that it is only carrying the goods agreed upon in that deal, so namely agricultural goods, and importantly, not weapons.


Now as we understand it a prominent JCC, this vessel in particular, is carrying about 26,000 metric tons of corn, will be traveling on with to Tripoli in Lebanon, which is so heavily dependent on Ukraine's grain exports. So this is a welcome development after months of blockade on those exports where Ukraine southern Black Sea ports.

Once it has passed this inspection, it is expected that we will see further shipments leaving Ukraine's ports, although it's unclear when that might begin. But this is a welcome sign of progress. And it could give commercial shipping companies the confidence to send further ships to Ukraine to export that grain.

But this is of course a huge test. It is a critical moment in the framing of this deal, which came after months and months of negotiations, and mediations by the Turkish authorities and the United Nations to bring some sort of agreement between Ukraine and Russian to allow for the export of grain.

But of course, this is just a small fraction of the grain currently stuck in silos on Ukraine's southern Black Sea ports. Nearly 20 million metric tons are believed to be still stuck there. So, this is a small sign of progress but nevertheless a welcome sign of progress.

We've heard from President Zelenskyy and of course other world leaders, the United Nations really welcoming this development. All eyes now will be on this inspection process. We are expecting to learn more details around that in the coming hours.

It's expected to take around half an hour to an hour for the inspection to actually be carried out. Just off the coast of where we are now. But once that inspection is complete and the vessel has hopefully passed that inspection, it will be moving onwards to Tripoli, Lebanon. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to our Nada Bashir joining us there. Appreciate it.

Joining me now from Kyiv, Tymofiy Mylovavnov is the president of the Kyiv School of Economics. He is also an adviser to the head of President Zelenskyy's office. Thank you so much for joining us.


CHURCH: So, the first ship filled with grain to leave Ukraine's port city of Odessa since Russia's invasion has now arrived in Istanbul. It will continue on soon to Lebanon. How critical is the shipment, and the many that will follow when it comes to easing the global food crisis?

MYLOVAVNOV: It is extremely critical. If this ship goes through inspection and sails to the final destination in Lebanon, the other ships which are currently strangled in Odessa ports will follow, and then we are hoping that other companies will send ships which are not currently in Odessa.

Before the war, Ukraine was able to export through Odessa ports about two thirds of total export. In terms of grain, it was about five million tons a month. Currently, our capacity to export is between two and 2.5 million tons a month. And we have a backlog of about 20 million tons.

CHURCH: And as President Zelenskyy points out in his speech, it is important to restore Ukrainian agricultural exports, because exports this year is needed to ensure that Ukrainian farmers and agricultural companies have sufficient resources for next year's sowing. So, where do things stand right now for next year's crop?

MYLOVAVNOV: That's correct. The farmers basically right now are making a decision whether they should invest in the future in the next year of crop because if they cannot export, they won't be able to plant, not because they don't have funds, but because it's not pragmatic. It doesn't make sense if they cannot sell what they harvest.

I've talked, I've spoken with some companies this week, and they are saying they are selling about five to 10 percent of their planned volume to sell. And they are essentially going for bankruptcy unless the situation changes. In order for the situation to change, we need to be shipping not once and go ship in two days but several a day.

CHURCH: And these grain shipments are all about food security for Ukraine and the world, of course, because Russia triggered a global food crisis by weaponizing the supply of this grain. So, how confident are you that the grain deal made with Russia will hold so that supplies continue to get out of Ukrainian ports and sent to Lebanon and elsewhere across the globe?

MYLOVAVNOV: We can look at the history of deals with Russia, at least in Ukraine there have been a number of them over the last years since 2014. The difficult deal goes like that, they try to keep it on the surface but they kind of harass the participants in all possible ways, trying to discourage parties from participating in the deal, scaring parties away or simply making it more difficult.


We've seen bombardment and shelling and missile attacks on Odessa, which sources say is a potential deterrent for companies. So, we hope it will work. I think it will work. But I am skeptical that Russia will just let it be and I think will have to invest in politically, militarily, and economically in order to provide incentives for shipment companies to participate at full capacity.

CHURCH: So, what do you see as the biggest challenge with these grain shipments now that they appear to be underway?

MYLOVAVNOV: The risk that while the ships are in the ports Russia will send the missiles in the ports. And that of course makes owners and the staff simply, sailors of the ships very worried that it increases the cost. And some may seem to refuse.

So, we need peace, we need stability in the ports, we need to demonstrate that it is safe. So the way that it's going to go is that as more ships sail, and they are not attack, there will be more appetite of other companies to -- to participate.

CHURCH: Tymofiy Mylovanov in Kyiv, many thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

And still ahead, new images of the safe house hit by a U.S. drone killing Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. And we will see who's in line to replace him.

And later, the devastation from deadly floods has left parts of Kentucky without power and clean drinking water. We will have the latest on recovery efforts.


CHURCH: The United States is warning Americans around the world after the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The State Department says there is a higher potential for violence and terrorist attacks in retaliation.

Meanwhile, CNN has identified the house in Kabul, Afghanistan where al-Zawahiri was killed.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice- over): The target was the same as it was at the start of the war on terror. Nine/eleven mastermind turned Al-Qaeda 71-year-old leader. But the method, startlingly precise.

Two missiles hitting Kabul's fanciest streets. The Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri stepping onto a balcony that have likely for years housed rich westerners working for NATO. But stepping onto it dawned Sunday for the last time.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I authorize the precision strike that would remove here from the battlefield once and for all.

WALSH: The Biden administration so confident they got the right guy. They've built a model of the house they said they didn't need boots on the ground before this strike or after.

JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We do not have DNA confirmation, we're not going to get that confirmation. And quite frankly, based on the multiple sources and methods that we have gathered information from, we don't need it.


WALSH: It was a staggering counterterrorism success, borne of a failure the U.S. had tried to gloss over. As the U.S. rushed to leave Afghanistan at the end losing control at the close of its longest war, it had tried to suggest Al-Qaeda were degraded no longer a threat there.

But in truth, the group were finding a safe here there again, with concerns last year they might have been able to strike the west again, as early as next year. They warned the threat they were when Zawahiri masterminded savagery at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi or on the USS Cole.

And their brutal star had been eclipsed by the mayhem of ISIS. But their franchises had spread across the world, often encouraging locals to target other locals. And Zawahiri remain their figurehead with his hands on some buttons.

Analysts felt his recent messages suggested the man more at ease, even complacent. U.S. officials saying they had followed family members to get him. His most likely successor, Saif al-Adel, recently in Iran according to the U.N. One former Afghan official telling me, he may have recently left for Afghanistan.

But terror leaders last less long these days, still the enduring harder questions for the Taliban. Few believe they had truly renounced terror like they promised the U.S. But after 20 years of war, they still brought exactly the same Al-Qaeda figures back into the safest of their havens. Central Kabul. Yet found, the United States also had a long memory, and now didn't even need to be there to kill their most wanted. WALSH (on camera): Fundamentally, the question really is not now

whether this terror group where it's most impactful awful years far behind it, manages to reconstitute itself into the threat that it once was, or get itself yet another leader.

It's whether the strike permanently damages the possibility of ordinary Afghans getting aid into their country soon. Yes, it shows that the Taliban was not governing in the way that they hope they could because of sanctions are also possibly slipping back into the worst aspects of providing safe haven for terrorists.

That make it extremely hard for the international community, orc certainly the western part of it to think about putting aid into that country. Exacerbate the tensions that are already there in those international relationships and for ordinary Afghans struggling through this summer and the winter ahead. That could indeed prove deadly.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: Coming up, why Taiwan is such a flash point for the communist party in Beijing. And why Pelosi's visit is so complicated.

Plus, we will take you to the front lines of the war in Ukraine and show you how drones are playing a critical role on the battlefield. Back with that and more in just a moment.




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Recapping our top stories this hour, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has met with Taiwan's president and lawmakers defying threats from China. She is the most senior American official to visit the self-governing island in 25 years.

Taiwan's president thanked Pelosi for her rock-solid support, and awarded her Taiwan's highest civilian honor. Pelosi praised Taiwan's democracy as one of the freest societies in the world.


NANCY PELOSI (D), U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Today, the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America's determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad. And we are grateful to the partnership of the people of Taiwan in this mission.


CHURCH: Mainland China launched live fire military exercises as Pelosi arrived in Taiwan. Taiwan's defense ministry says the drills are tantamount to a, quote, "maritime and aerial blockade," violating the island's territorial waters, and endangering regional security.

And as CNN's Will Ripley reports, Pelosi received a mixed reception once she touched down in Taiwan. Many were grateful for her support, while others accused her of raising tensions with Beijing.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A resounding show of American support for Taiwan. In the face of escalating threats from China, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivering a defiant message to lawmakers in Taipei.

PELOSI: Today, our delegation, of which I'm very proud, came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan. And we are proud of our enduring friendship.

RIPLEY: Pelosi's plane took a three-hour detour on the way to Taiwan Tuesday, appearing to avoid the heavily militarized South China Sea. Shortly after Pelosi's arrival, China announced six military drills near the island, some just miles from the Taiwanese coast, a provocation condemned by the defense ministry in Taipei, calling it an attempt to threaten key ports and urban areas.

As Pelosi's convoy arrived at her Taipei hotel, a heavy police presence, two groups of protesters gathered outside. Some welcomed Pelosi's support for Taiwan.

JERRY LIU, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, NEW POWER PARTY: Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi has been supporting Taiwan for decades. And it's very important for me, as a Taiwanese, to be here tonight to welcome her.

RIPLEY: Others accuse her of escalating tensions.

MISS HUANG, DOES NOT SUPPORT PELOSI'S VISIT (through translator): Right now, Pelosi and the United States are treating Taiwan as a chess piece. When she lands in Taiwan, mainland China will retaliate using their own methods.

RIPLEY: China's foreign ministry spokesman calling Pelosi's stop in Taiwan a serious violation of the one China principle that will have a severe impact on the political foundation of China/U.S. relations.

Taiwan says cyberattacks knocked some government web sites off line. Beijing calls Taiwan a breakaway province of China. They refuse to recognize Taiwan's Democratically elected government. Taiwan says China has sent more than 20 warplanes into the island's air defense zone Tuesday. Part of what Taiwan calls an ongoing campaign of bullying by Beijing.

Near Pelosi's hotel, the island's tallest building lit up with a message of gratitude for a defiant show of support from one of America's most powerful politicians.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taiwan.


CHURCH: Well now to the war in Ukraine where the southern city of Mykolaiv remains under heavy attack. The mayor reports a series of powerful explosions earlier today, saying there were more airstrikes. Rescue operations are underway.

Ukrainian officials say this video shows the aftermath of a Russian strike on an infrastructure facility on Tuesday.

More now from CNN's Jason Carroll.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Heavy shelling again in Ukraine south and in east, in the east for example, in Kharkiv, farm buildings destroyed, a restaurant, a warehouse as the war in that part of the country, basically coming to a grinding halt.

In the southern part of the country, in Mykolaiv, two districts shelled again as we continue to see more intense fighting in that part of the country. In Mykolaiv, a dormitory at a university partially damaged. Russians apparently using S-300s to attack that part of the country.


The Russians according to the Ukrainian military, redeploying sources from some parts of the country, moving them to the south as Ukrainians continue to put the pressure on the Russians in the area of Mykolaiv.

In other news, evacuation efforts underway in the east. This after President Zelenskyy ordered people in the eastern part of the country and Donetsk to get out, saying that the temperatures are going to drop, there is not going to be gas, there's not going to be electricity when it gets cold, and to start getting out now.

Well, now word comes that the first train loaded with evacuees has left the region. It was loaded with families, with children, with the elderly. More than 100 people on board that train, but again it should be noted that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the region who still need to get out.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Kyiv.

CHURCH: And while fighting continues on the ground, there is another battle taking place in the skies.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports on the critical role drones are playing in this war.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: At Ukraine's southern front, a reconnaissance team leads us towards Russian lines.

We are walking through the trees because they are afraid, we might be spotted from above by Russian drones. That's the way they do their work out here, hidden by the trees.

Our destination, a drone team shroud from the skies. Their mission, find Russian forces and call-in artillery strikes. A problem though on their first flight of the day, Russian countermeasures mess with their drone. They need to switch our parts before the next launch.

"It's nearly impossible to fight off the Russian jamming signal," the commander says. "But we have special devices to combat it." But as the drone launches, it lurches the wrong way, hits the trees, not clear what causes the malfunction.

There is a war within the war here, a high-tech war. A software dogfight in the skies above the battlefield. And a mistake by these drone operators can cost them their lives.

Back at base on a big screen, they scour the first flight's video. The details are incredible. I mean, you can see exactly where the vehicles are in the trees. The operator, a 24-year-old former news cameraman.

So, you're looking at the Russians but they can be looking at you when you are in the field?


ROBERTSON: How does that feel?

UNKNOWN: Well, it's scary.

ROBERTSON: How scary?

UNKNOWN: Very scary.

ROBERTSON: Very scary, but you keep doing it?



UNKNOWN: Because we must do it.

ROBERTSON: Life or death decisions, which targets to hit to save his fellow countrymen.

This driver along, he has no idea your drone is following him?

UNKNOWN: No idea.

ROBERTSON: No idea. Previous days when they've avoided Russian countermeasures, they've had better luck. A Russian tank position hit in the past week, when they called in an artillery strike as they watched. Who wins these drone wars will help determine who dominates the battle space, and that depends on who has the smartest technology? And who has the best traditional frontline skills to hide from it.

Nic Robertson, CNN, at Ukraine's southern front.

CHURCH: Russia is also making its stance clear on the use of nuclear weapons. At a United Nations conference discussing the treaty on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, Russia's representative warned western NATO countries against direct aggression amid the war in Ukraine. Despite the conferences aim to discuss the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Russia's delegate said the country will not hesitate to react swiftly to threats.


ALEXANDER TROFIMOV, RUSSIAN FEDERATION REPRESENTATIVE (through translator): If western countries try to test our resolve, Russia will not back down. And this is not the language of threat, this is simply a statement of what is possible, such as the logic of deterrence.


CHURCH: The U.S. has slapped sanctions on the reported girlfriend of Vladimir Putin. Alina Kabaeva currently heads Russia's national media group, which the U.S. calls a, quote, "pro-Kremlin empire of TV print and radio groups."

The 39-year- old was sanctioned for being or having been a leader in the Russian government. She's also been sanctioned by the U.K. and the European Union.

Brittney Griner's Russian lawyer tells CNN the basketball star is both focused, yet nervous, after her seventh hearing on Tuesday. Her legal team brought in an expert who said examination of the substance contained in Griner's vape cartridges did not comply with Russian law.


Griner was detained at Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Despite the long drawn-out trial, Griner's lawyer says she remains hopeful.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tell me how Brittney is doing ahead of this court date, because she said she is but nervous but also quite focused.

MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S LAWYER: She is still focused and she is still nervous. She still knows that the end is near. And of course, she heard the news, so she is hoping that some time she could be coming home, and we hope too.


CHURCH: A Kremlin spokesperson says America's megaphone diplomacy will not help negotiations for a prisoner exchange involving Griner. Instead, calling for discreet talks.

And still to come here on CNN, parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting testify about the hell talk show host Alex Jones inflicted on them through his lies about the massacre. We will show you some of their gripping testimony and Jones's response. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHURCH: CNN has learned the Pentagon wipe the phones of top defense officials at the end of the Trump administration deleting any text messages from key witnesses to the events surrounding January 6th.

A watchdog group is trying to get access to records from former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his chief of staff, Kash Patel, and the former secretary of the army Ryan McCarthy. All three are seen as key witnesses for understanding Trump's reaction and the government's response to the attack on the capitol. The group American Oversight is asking the Justice Department to investigate.

In a Texas courtroom, the parents of a child killed during the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre testified Tuesday that Infowars host Alex Jones made their life a living hell by pushing claims the murders were a hoax.

Jones is on trial to determine how much he must pay for spreading falsehoods about the school shooting that claimed 26 lives. This is one of the defamation cases where he has been found liable.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is following the emotional testimony.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: My son existed says Scarlett Lewis, the mother of six-year-old Jesse Lewis, speaking directly to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in an Austin, Texas courtroom.

LEWIS: Jesse was real. I'm a real mom.


MARQUEZ: In an utterly unthinkable sign of our times, Scarlett Lewis makes the case that she and her dead child are real, directly to Jones.

LEWIS: It doesn't exist that I am deep state. It's just not true. I know that you know that, that's the problem. I know you know that. And you keep saying it. You keep saying it. Why? Why? For money? Because you've made a lot of money while you said it.

I know -- I mean -- I know you believe me. And yet, you're going to get -- you're going to leave this courthouse and you are going to say again on your show. You're saying no, you just did it.

MARQUEZ: On his show today, today, he raised questions about both Scarlett Lewis and the boy's father, who were seeking up to $150 million in damages. ALEX JONES, HOST, THE ALEX JONES SHOW: He is being manipulated by

some very bad people. Let me just say something and be honest to you, he is slow, OK? And his ex-wife is not.

MARQUEZ: The man jones is calling slow and manipulative, Jesse Lewis's father Neil Heslin.

NEIL HESLIN, JESSE LEWIS'S FATHER: I was (Inaudible) for (Inaudible) and a half years. I expect one and a half times -- and -- I cherish those days. Those years. With Jesse.

MARQUEZ: In all, families of seven victims and one FBI agent had successfully sued Alex Jones for defamation in three different trials, taking place in both Texas and Connecticut. Jones testified he was simply trying to get answers to questions that others were asking.

JONES: I never intentionally tried to hurt you. I never even said your name until this case came to court. I didn't even really know who you were until a couple years ago when all this started up. The internet had a lot of questions, I had questions.

MARQUEZ: Based on a separate legal filing, families of Sandy Hook victims allege Jones is using bankruptcy laws to shield tens of millions of dollars from any possible liability.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Well, first responders have conducted 1,300 rescues within 48 hours to save flood victims according to Kentucky's governor. Rescue teams have been searching for those missing or trapped due to last week's floods. And some cities are desperately trying to find clean drinking water.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more now from Kentucky.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The death toll stands at 37 from the Kentucky floods, according to the governor. But he expects that number to go up. The good news here is that the number of missing has gone down, in part because cell phone communications are starting to come back up, and the roads are starting to open back up. So, you can get to places like where I am right now.

This is the city of Fleming-Neon. And basically, it looks like this here. All of this destruction and damage, all through main street. That's the town dentist completely destroyed, all through the road, it is mud, it is water.

I spoke with the mayor. She tells me, aside from feeling like her town looks like a war zone, people here need water because there is no running water right now. They serve about 4,000 people. They have one portable toilet right now. She says they need more. She is bathing with bottled water in a pot at the moment.

They need money, because their bank was flooded. This is the town of a bunch of older people. And the banks look like all it does down the street. So, they don't have access to their money, the internet is down here, they can't do online banking, and they need medicine because the pharmacy flooded out as well.

We have seen people volunteers from all over the Appalachia region coming to help clean up places like Fleming-Neon right now. But what you see on main street here, is really a glimpse at what most of this region looks like right now.

Now coming in today, this is some of the worst that I have seen so far in southeastern Kentucky. And there are communities that still look like this now. Most of the cars have flooded out, their homes have flooded. They don't have a way out, so they need to rely on people to come in and help them at this point.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Fleming-Neon, Kentucky.

CHURCH: And while recovery efforts continue in eastern Kentucky, across the Atlantic in Europe, Croatia is battling another problem, wildfires.


And you are looking at crews as they fly above this coastal town in Croatia, dumping water on the flames below. This is a popular tourist area along the Adriatic Sea, and one of many European regions battling wildfires this summer.

And temperatures are soaring again in southern France, as the country grapples with its third heat wave of the summer.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is at the CNN weather center. He joins us now. So Pedram, what's the outlook for southern France?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's beginning to build here the next couple of days, Rosemary. And it looks like it will be somewhat short lived compared to what we've seen so far this summer where we had five, seven, eight-day heat waves. This particular one potentially lasting maybe two days top across portions at least in central and northern Europe.

But notice the heat alerts in Portugal, still in place in that northern reach of Portugal. And these temperatures are still running more than five, seven, 10, even 11 degrees above average in a few spots.

So, even along the coast and the south of France where the hot time of year right now in early August, typically takes you into the upper 20s and lower 30s, we're now into the upper 30s and lower 40s in this region.

Of course, as you notice, this is the third heat wave this summer. And one thing, again, that's different with this heat wave is it really sets up quite strong against portions of central and northern Europe.

But notice from Thursday into Friday, much cooler air begins to approach from the west and really encompasses the region going into Saturday and Sunday. So, just in time for the weekend, we get a break here where a more normal conditions are back in action.

Of course, anytime you search into the 30s and 40s in this area of northern Europe, we know air conditioning adoption, in fact, you look at the installation numbers, generally going to be in the single digit percentile, whereas, across the southern portion of Europe into the 30 percent there around Spain.

So, when you look at United States and Japan, percentages is close to 85 percent as far as how many homes have air conditioning installed. Paris, again, notice how short-lived it is, we climbed well into the 30s but drop back down into the upper 20s and settle.

And frankly, this is still above average for this time of year. But it is still going to be cooler in the 36 we expected. Next week, it does look like we are going to go back up again but not quite as hot.

In Berlin, much the same. Two-day heat wave here, significant cooling trend. Recall from about the 19th of July until the 25th of July we had about a week span across a lot of these cities around the world where these heat waves, these temperatures stayed locked in into the middle 30s.

So, this one, a short-lived version of what we've seen, Rosemary, and we do expect a few showers at least along the northwest, so London doesn't expect to get quite as hot this go around. But that's the latest update here across Europe.

CHURCH: All right. Well, they will be happy to hear that. Pedram Javaheri joining us there, many thanks.

Well, rising temperatures in France are also affecting local animals. An animal shelter near Nice has rescued about 200 birds and small animals found either dehydrated or malnourished during the heat wave. High temperatures are causing the creatures to leave their nest before they can fend for themselves. Luckily, this shelter is stepping in to make sure they make it through the heat.

Well, just ahead, we will have the latest intergalactic snapshots taken by the web space telescope. We're back in just a moment.


CHURCH: In Kansas, a major win for abortion rights activists. On Tuesday, voters rejected an amendment that would've allowed the state legislature to pass new restrictions or a ban on abortions. Kansas is the first state in the U.S. to put the question of abortion on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.


Here is CNN legal analyst Areva Martin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Even if voters are not pro-abortion,

I think voters are saying we are anti-extremism by Republicans. Republican lawmakers that are seeking to deny women the rights to make decisions about their own reproductive health, and I think this is going to be a difficult issue for Republicans moving forward. Voters are galvanized around this issue to support and to protect women's rights to choose.


CHURCH: In a statement to CNN, Planned Parenthood says the vote, which comes just over a month after the U.S. Supreme Court provoked U.S. abortion rights, demonstrate once again that voters across the country do not want politicians interfering with their health care decisions.

Well, confusion in Formula 1 racing after an apparent misunderstanding between a rising star driver and his team. Australian Oscar Piastri says he won't be racing for Alpine next year, shortly after the French outfit announced he had been promoted from reserve driver to a race seat. Piastri says he has not signed a contract with Alpine for next year, and in fact, will not be driving with the team at all.

Well, NASA has now released more images released by the James Webb Space Telescope. You are looking at the cartwheeled galaxy, located almost 500 million lightyears away. This image shows how the galaxy has changed over billions of years, and also reveals new details about star formation and the Black Hole at the center of the galaxy.

Well, the first Mexican woman to travel to space is being honored for her accomplishment. Katya Echazarreta received honorary keys to Mexico City on Tuesday. She is an engineer who travel to space via Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket in June. She was elected to join the mission of six space travelers from a pool of thousands of applicants due to her impeccable resume and leadership qualities.

Listen as she tries to inspire other women to dream big.


KATYA ECHAZARRETA, FIRST MEXICAN WOMAN IN SPACE (through translator): As a woman, we are very strong, we are very smart, we can do whatever we want to do and I want each and every one of you to know you can get to wherever you want to go. If you want to go to space, you can do it, of course you can.

So please, before I finish, I will repeat the words. Every time you think about something you want to achieve. Do not say I want this. Instead say, I'm going to do this.


CHURCH: Inspirational words from an inspirational woman.

And thank you so much for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues with Max Foster. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)