Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Pentagon Acknowledges Giving Ukraine Anti-Radar Missiles; Ukraine Warns of Potential for Radiation Emergency; Thousands Displaced After Homes Swept Away in Kentucky; Voting Underway for President, National Assembly and Local Seats in Kenya; Pop Music Icon and Actress Olivia Newton-John Dead at 73. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 04:30   ET



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: For the first time the Pentagon acknowledged sending a previously undisclosed missile to Ukraine for use by the Ukraine air force. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, said the U.S. had sent anti-radiation missiles used to target Russian radar and other targets fired from Ukrainian aircraft. Although Colin Kahl didn't specify the type of missile, a defense official told CNN it was an AGM-88 HARM missile, high speed anti-radiation missile. Now Colin Kahl didn't say when this missile had been sent, but he did say it was in previous presidential drawdown packages. Going through the last drawdown announcements back in the beginning of July, there was no announcement of some antiradiation or antiradar missiles, so these were sent over quietly to the Ukrainian air force.

A few things interesting here. First, this would be one of the longer range systems the U.S. has sent to Ukraine. According to the Air Force the HARM missile has a range of more than 30 miles. So, it's right up there with the HIMARS missile. And it's a specifically a radar that targets and hones in on a radar signal. So, it could be used to target for example Russian anti-aircraft radars. And that's important because it's those types of radars the Russian S-400s that have effectively shut down large swathes of Ukrainian air space to the Ukrainian air force.

So, if Ukraine can target those Russian antiaircraft radars, it might go a long way to opening up the skies for Ukraine's air force to operate. What's also interesting here is that Colin Kahl said these were used on Ukrainian aircraft. Now of course, the missiles being that they're U.S. missiles were designed for American aircraft so there must have been some process behind the scenes to make sure that these could work on these Soviet era fighters that Ukraine is now using in its war against Russia's invasion.

Now Colin Kahl made these statements at a press briefing after announcing a $1 billion drawdown package from the U.S. for Ukraine, that's weapons and systems pulled directly from U.S. inventories. It is the largest draw down package announced to date and that brings to a total of about $9.1 billion in security assistance the U.S. has sent to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's invasion. Oren Liebermann, CNN, in the Pentagon.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Ukrainian officials are raising the specter of a Chernobyl style nuclear disaster after shelling and rocket fire came dangerously close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over the weekend. On Monday Ukraine warned that disaster at the plant could obliterate everything within 50 kilometers and would affect all of Europe. \

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the attacks. With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accusing Russia of nuclear blackmail.

In this surveillance video you can see Russian military vehicles driving inside the complex which is under Russian control. Moscow says the troops are there for protection though. Western and Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of using the plant as a nuclear shield.

For more, let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie live in Kyiv. It's very difficult to get exact details here, but certainly there's a huge threat here potentially.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Max. You know, the Ukrainian side is blaming the Russians, the Russians blaming the Ukrainians. It must be reminded -- it's worth reminding people that the Russians occupied that vast nuclear complex earlier this year in the early days of this conflict. They are holding the Ukrainian scientists effectively hostage as they try to keep that nuclear power station running.

A short time ago I spoke to the head of Ukraine's nuclear energy agency, the company that runs that power station. I put the question to him whether he agrees with the assessment by the head of the Atomic Energy Agency that there is a chance of a nuclear disaster.


PETRO KOTIN, CHAIRMAN OF ENERGOATOM: I would not say nuclear disaster. I would say radiation emergence. And great, actually a release of radioactivity would happen.

MCKENZIE: And what is the consequences of that?

KOTIN: There could be a cloud, radioactive cloud, and then all consistencies will depend on the weather actually and what is the wind direction and where it will go and how strong is the wind, so.

MCKENZIE: What needs to be done to prevent that worst case scenario?

KOTIN: Yes, the best thing, just to release the plant from central operations. And there were actually reports from the very beginning to international organizations such as United Nations, such as IAEA, just to make some mission of international troops who which could rule and could actually be on this site and release the site from Russia. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MCKENZIE (on camera): Now, he admits that that is a long shot, Max. In the short term to get blue helmets in that zone to protect the nuclear site. But he says right now the way that the militaries are in that zone puts the massive site at the danger of a potential radiation leak, an accident, and all those failsafe that you need in place with civilian nuclear power like backup generators, multiple lines of energy coming into the site to keep those nuclear reactors cool. He says only one line of electricity is coming into that site to power the station, and then they have the backup diesel.


He says if that fails, it really is a cascading series of events that could lead to an extremely serious impact and possibly radiation leak -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, David McKenzie in Kyiv, thank you.

Now with thousands of cancellations and delays, it's been a frustrating season for airline travel, but there's good news for those choosing to travel by car in the U.S. The latest on gas prices coming up.


FOSTER: Joe Biden is pledging full federal support as Kentucky begins to recover from devastating floods. The U.S. president surveyed the damage in Lost Creek on Monday. The flooding killed more than three dozen people and caused catastrophic damage. The president said it may take some time to get through it, but he promised the federal government will be there as along as it takes. And he managed to get in a plug for the massive climate bill approved by the Senate.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're the only country in the world that has come out of every major disaster stronger than we went into it. We got clobbered got in, but we came out stronger. Take's the objective. It's not just to get back to where we were, but to get back to better than where we were and we have the wherewithal do it now with the legislation that has been bipartisan passed. So, I don't want any Kentuckian telling me you don't have to do this for me. Oh, yeah, we do, you are an American citizen, we never give up. We never stopped. We never bow. We never bend. We just go forward.


FOSTER: Well, President Biden's comments come as another flood watch has been reissued for Kentucky. Thousands of people have already been displaced and many are still stranded without basic necessities. Dee Smalling is the president and founder of Independent Disaster Response Team. She joins me now live from New Jersey. Thank you so much for joining us. I know you been under a huge amount of pressure.


But just tell us about some of the smaller communities that you haven't been able to reach, the type of people that are really struggling right now.

DEE SMALLING, PRESIDENT, INDEPENDENT DISASTER RESPONSE TEAM: Thank you so much for having me on, Max. We have teams down in Neon, Kentucky, it's a small suburb, Fleming-Neon Middle School is loaded with supplies. We can get those supplies out to the communities, but we really need more manpower and equipment such as forklifts, ATVs, side by sides. The infrastructure has been so damaged it is difficult to have anyone come to our pod which is a point of distribution.

Also in Knot County, Knots County Sports Plex has tons of supplies, but there are so many areas that Kentuckians consider hollers which I'm sure most people don't know what that is. I personally didn't know what a holler was. But they are these little individual communities that are back up out in the woods that have been cut off from everything. So, we really need -- I don't know who can show up with the equipment that is needed, like I said, forklifts, ATVs, side by sides.

We have Sarah Lucas who drove in from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania today. She showed up at Neon. People saw that she was coming. She showed up and was able to deliver something as little as a toy to a little boy which just made just made his world dealing with what he's dealing with. But all of the smaller organizations need more assistance.

FOSTER: And when you talk about the hollers, these are, you know, self-sufficient communities, aren't they. And there's often only one road or track leading into them and that is the ones that you are particularly concerned about. Because you're not able to get a hold of them until you actually get there.

SMALLING: That's correct. They may have one road just like in Neon, the road leading to the hospital, it was only one road. And it was pretty much washed away. But thankfully the road has been fixed enough so that the medical staff has been able to get to that hospital. But just imagine all these little small areas. This is the problem that we're dealing with that isn't being addressed on a big scale.

FOSTER: Yes, and this is what the authorities I know you want to get more involved in, right. Those watching will hear your message. But I'll allow you to get back to your work. Dee Smalling, thank you so much for sparing your time to speak to us.

SMALLING: Thank you so much, Max. All of you have a blessed evening.

FOSTER: And you.

Now voters in Kenya are deciding on their country's future right now. Polls are open in the general election for a new president and members of the national assembly. There is much more at stake besides the high profile races. And some of the roughly 22 million registered voters tell CNN they are dissatisfied with their options. CNN's Larry Madowo joins me now from a polling station in Kenya. Take us through the scene there -- Larry.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Max, this is one of the 46,000 polling stations nationwide where Kenyans get to vote. This is one primary school and elementary school in Eldoret, in the Rift Valley, where hundreds of people vote here.

Polls have been open from 6:00 a.m. local until 5:00 p.m. and then they will begin to count the votes manually one by one. All the party agents have to agree on them. The Kenyan election is a huge logistical undertaking. It's one of the most expensive elections in the world. It cost about $17 per voter. Why, because of the huge amount of distrust of the process. Kenyans have some contested elections in the past and to try to make sure there is a bit more trust in that process. Political parties and other stakeholders have made it more just expensive with use of technology to get to that level. It's still not quite there yet. But why generally expected to be a free and fair process.

I want to hear from one voter Jeffrey who's here with me. What are you voting for in this election today?

GEOFFREY SITATI, VOTER: I want change. I want the government to improve the economy, to improve security, you know. The government of Raila Odinga has failed, you know. So, I want change.


MADOWO: As a young Kenyan, what is the most important issue for you in this election?

SITATI: Economy, economy. I want the government to -- the government eventually come to improve the economy, you know. That's my main issue.

MADOWO: Thank you, Jeffrey.

That is a word, Max, that we've heard a lot in this campaign process. Change. Even though the two men running are technically part of the establishment. Deputy President William Ruto who voted not too far from here this morning. He is the sitting deputy president and has been cast out from the government since Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, started working with the government. He's promised a bottom up approach to uplift every citizen and that's really been appealing to many young people.

He is calling himself a hustler, someone who came from nothing to someone. In the way he's framed this election, is that it's an election between hustlers and dynasties. Because Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, is a son of the former vice president of the country -- he was a former prime minister himself. He comes from money and he's the other candidate likely to win this poll.

We expect that the results will be known by Monday next week, 15th of August. That's how long the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission have to declare the results even though the two men are the center of attention here and around the world, there's actually something like 16,000 candidates running in positions for national assembly, for the Senate, for governor, for local seats. But that's the top one that gets all the attention because in a system like Kenya's, for the next president has a lot of say in how the country is governed and Kenya's a stable country. So political stability, economic stability here is important. In a region East Africa and all of Africa region known for a lot of turmoil and upheaval -- Max.

FOSTER: Yes, it's vital to have stability there. Larry, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Kenya.

Airlines continue to struggle with personnel shortages, more than 1,200 flights have already been canceled for today according to Flight Aware. More than 26,000 were either canceled or delayed on Monday. If you can't make your flight through no fault of your own, the U.S. government wants to make it easier for you to get a refund. The Department of Transportation is looking into expediating refunds and doing away with expiration dates as well for vouchers.

Meanwhile, U.S. gas prices are continuing their downward trend. Dropping now for more than 50 consecutive days. AAA says the current national average is $4.03 a gallon and experts believe prices could dip below the $4 mark this week. Here's more from CNN's Matt Egan.


MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Now this is a big deal. I think psychologically but also practically as people are dealing with high prices at the super market and pretty much everywhere. It's happening for a lot of reasons. Not all of them are good. Recession fears have driven down oil prices, that's going to drive gas down. Also turns out $5 gas, that was a breaking point, people started driving less.


FOSTER: Meanwhile inflation is also causing shoppers to pass on pricey cuts of beef in favor of cheaper chicken. Meat processor Tyson Foods says there's been a surge in demand of poultry as customers try to save money. Tyson plans to introduce lower priced options and larger package sizes for sale shoppers.

Starting this week diapers and feminine hygiene products won't be hit with sales-tax in the U.S. state of Colorado Jared Polis, signed a law ending the tax earlier this year as a way for people to save money on necessary items. The new rules take effect on Wednesday.

Still to come, remembering Olivia Newton-John. A look at how the Australian singer became a global superstar when we return.



FOSTER: A new representative for Anne Heche says the actress is in critical condition after a car accident last week. A previous representative said Heche was in stable condition following the crash into a residence which burst into flames. Heche is now said to be in a coma requiring a ventilator with burns needing surgical treatment. Los Angeles police say she is under investigation for driving under the influence and hit and run.

Fans around the world are mourning the loss of beloved singer and actress Olivia Newton-John. Newton-John's husband says the Grammy award winner died on Monday at her home in California. The "Grease" star not only left her mark on the world of entertainment but also in the study and treatment of cancer. Following her own battles with the disease, she established programs and facilities to further cancer research, that includes the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Center in Australia. CNN's Ana Cabrera has more on her life and her achievements. Better shape up you better understand


OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, SINGER, ACTRESS: Better shape up, you better understand ...

ANNA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Olivia Newton-John shot to stardom opposite John Travolta in the musical blockbuster "Grease".

It was 1978, she was 29 years old but played an innocent teen in love with a boy from the other side of the tracks

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, SINGER, ACTRESS: Hopelessly devoted to you ...

CABRERA (voice over): Newton-John first won over devoted fans as an award-winning singer in the early '70s.

NEWTON-JOHN: Let me be there in the morning, let me be there in your life ...

CABRERA (voice over): "Let Me Be There" earned her a Grammy award for best country female vocal performance and her 1974 chart topping hit "I Honestly Love You" won the Grammy for record of the year.

NEWTON-JOHN: I honestly love you, I honestly love you ...

CABRERA (voice over): Over the course of her career Newton-John sold more than 100 million albums, scored multiple number one hits, including "Magic" from her box office dud "Xanadu," and one that showcased her sexier side.

NEWTON-JOHN: Come and get physical, physical ...

CABRERA (voice over): Born in England, Newton-John moved to Australia at the age of 5. By the time she was a teenager, she was already performing on Australian TV shows like "Band Stand".

NEWTON-JOHN: Last night I spent the whole night crying ...

CABRERA (voice over): In addition to her singing, Newton-John was well known as a tireless advocate for breast cancer research and early detection.

[04:55:00] She was diagnosed with the disease in 1992, and her successful treatment inspired her to help others.

NEWTON-JOHN: I'm really thrilled that now I can give back in some way and try and help other women who are going through that experience because it's a very difficult thing to go through alone.

CABRERA (voice over): The Australian singer faced another crisis in 2005 when her boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, went missing during a fishing trip off the California coast. He was never found.

NEWTON-JOHN: The pain will always be there. I'll always miss him. I love him, I miss him. But you know, I can't do anything about it. We don't know what happened and I don't know if I'll ever know what happened, but I've tried to go forward and do something positive with it by creating music for myself and hopefully for others.

CABRERA (voice over): And she never stopped creating music, performing into her 60s during a three year residency at Las Vegas's Flamingo Casino.

NEWTON-JOHN: I still believe in your magic ...

CABRERA (voice over): Newton-John's breast cancer returned in 2013. In 2017, she was diagnosed with spine cancer. Despite life's challenges, she always remained grateful.

NEWTON-JOHN: I don't think I would change anything because I've had such an amazingly interesting life and done so many things and never planned on any of them, really, except singing because it's what I could do.


FOSTER: Newton-John's "Grease" co-star John Travolta pay tribute on social media saying in part, quote, my dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much.

Olivia Newton-John was 73. Her impact on the world won't be soon forgotten by her millions of hopelessly devoted fans.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster in London. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans is next.