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Satellite Images Show Heavy Damage at Crimea Air Base; Europe Facing Crippling Heat and Worsening Drought; Former U.S. President Donald Trump Invokes the Fifth; Taiwan Calls China's Reunification Plans a "Wishful Thinking." Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 03:00   ET




New satellite images directly contradict Russian efforts to downplay a series of explosions at a Russian airbase in Crimea. They show at least seven aircrafts destroyed despite Russia saying that none had been damaged. Four blast craters can be seen, as well as burned marks and scarred vegetation. This video shows at least three separate explosions.

We still don't know what caused them and Ukraine hasn't claimed responsibility. And Russia says ammunition exploded without saying whether it was due to an attack.

Meantime, Russia has ramped up attacks across several regions of Ukraine. Heavy rocket fire and artillery strikes were reported Wednesday from Zaporizhia in the south to Kharkiv in the north. Ukraine's president says one thing above all else, will help bring an end to the fighting.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): When will the war end? Some say months, some say a year, some even say more. But the matter of time actually depends directly on the question of the losses suffered by Russia. The more losses the occupier suffer, the sooner we will be able to liberate our land and ensure the security of Ukraine.

This is what everyone who defends our state and helps Ukraine should think about, how to inflict the greatest possible losses on the occupiers in order to shorten the war.


KOSIK: CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now from Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Nic, good to see you. What more can you tell us about this new video that shows these explosions in Crimea?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it does seem to underscore the fact that Russia isn't being fully transparent about what happened on that day. So, Russians are saying that they were -- that ammunition exploded, and they are not saying how it came to explode.

And an accidental explosion of ammunition doesn't really seem to fit the video. The video shows three separate explosions, two of them coming just split seconds apart at slightly different locations, collocated but separate. It looks much more like separate detonations not under Russian control, and I think that is certainly what has been backed up by the satellite imagery showing those four craters on the runway.

Russians are saying that one person was killed and nine were injured. It is not clear how fully transparent that is either.

And the satellite imagery also revealed, if you compare it to the previous day before the strike, that seven aircrafts, appeared to be fighter jets that were based at that airbase, were destroyed as well.

It is an important base for the Russians. It certainly projects a lot of military power potentially that can be used against Ukraine. And this is for the Russians, a lost, perhaps the single biggest loss in a single day since -- for their air force since World War II.

For the Ukrainians, it represents a slightly diminished threat from Crimea. Of course, that is a seaport with all the naval vessels, Russia's naval vessels, which carry cruise missiles that are based there.

But how to interpret what did actually precipitate these separate explosions, that is hard to note, but it does perhaps indicate to Russian military that their forces in Crimea are not out of danger as they might have thought that they were safely located too far away from Ukraine for direct attack.

KOSIK: Nic, Ukraine has received billions of dollars-worth of weapons from its allies. Is that changing the dynamic enough for Ukraine?

ROBERTSON: We have been out along these frontlines here with troops in the trenches right at the front with artillery units. An artillery unit we were with yesterday told us that they have seen, since the U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket system had been employed targeting Russia's ammo stores, that they themselves have had less strikes on them, that they had seen a reduction by perhaps about in their area of operation -- of course, any soldier really knows their limited area of operation, that they have had a reduction of perhaps about half of incoming rounds from Russia.

Nevertheless, Russia still outguns them. The unit that we were with yesterday have a Polish-made artillery pieces. And there, they say that effort is being put to good use.



ROBERTSON (voice-over): Suddenly, action. Camouflage off. Ukrainian troops rushing their new makeshift compressible artillery out of cover. The Polish Krab, a 40-ton beast, at battle. This day targeting Russian positions almost 30 kilometers, 18 miles away. They shoot and scoot.

(On camera): The whole operation took about two to three minutes. They calculate. They've got about eight minutes to get back under the tree line here to be safe from any return fire.

(Voice-over): There is a lot these troops like about their new kit, safety high on the list.

It is so much better than we had before, gun commander Vasily (ph) says. It's mobile. We are out of danger fast.

(On camera): So, this is your command vehicle?

ARTEM, UKRAINIAN BATTERY COMMANDER: Yes, that is our -- my command vehicle.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Artem runs the whole battery.

(On camera): So, you can see the whole battlefield here?

ARTEM: Yes. This is the topaz (ph).

ROBERTSON (voice-over): It is all high-tech.

(On camera): So, where there is a cross here, this is the target?

ARTEM: Yes, we shoot at this target.

ROBERTSON (on camera): You already shoot at the target.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): A former math teacher, he had two weeks training on the Krab.

ARTEM: To learn it, I would say it is --

ROBERTSON (on camera): User-friendly?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Poland gave Ukraine 18 of the Krab system and they are buying another 56. Two months in service, their accuracy making them popular.

ARTEM: A very big difference between these new guns and Soviet old guns because these guns got the new GPS systems.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Each shot, a better chance of hitting its target.

(On camera): These troops are really hoping that Krab system can make a difference. So far, this war has been fought mostly by artillery. The Russians massively outgunning the Ukrainians.

(Voice-over): But even with the new guns, there is a problem. Ammunition here is tight.

(On camera): Do you have enough shells?

(Voice-over): His answer, with a wry smile and chuckle, I would like to have more rounds to send the occupiers back home.



ROBERTSON: But the reality here is that these forces are only just being stepped up. And you can see by the way that they operate and by the way that they communicate and some of the clothing that they wear, that they still -- you know, they have this NATO equipment but they still don't have the drills and procedures that the NATO military -- compare them -- this Polish equipment, compare them with the Polish military, they are not at that same standard overall, if you will.

And this is while all this equipment is useful and the training is hugely valuable to Ukrainian military. It's very clear when you're at the frontlines here that it's going to take some time before they are a force that can actually push the Russians back, which is what President Zelenskyy is saying.

And in the meantime, in the towns around Kramatorsk here, there have been incoming missiles. In the nearby town of Bakhmut, two people were killed yesterday, seven injured. There were two huge missiles that landed in this town in the middle of the night.

So, civilians in the towns and villages around here, despite this artillery support, are hugely vulnerable to that incoming Russian fire still.

KOSIK: All right, Nic Robertson in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, thanks so much for your reporting.

Millions of people across Europe are facing some of the hottest and driest weather on record. Temperatures are soaring far above normal and there is not much relief even when the sun goes down.

Drought conditions are so severe that parts of southern England are under amber warnings, the second highest level.

French authorities report numerous major wildfires now burning across France. Police have been going door to door to urge thousands of people to evacuate.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is standing by in Atlanta, but let us begin with CNN's Salma Abdelaziz in London. Salma, I know you've been talking with people. I'm curious how Europe is gearing up for another heat.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. As you mentioned, Alison, England now under amber warnings for the next four days. On Friday and Saturday, the office, the local officials here basically warning that heat conditions could reach about the mid-30 degrees Celsius. Yes, that doesn't sound like a high temperature, but what is worrying is these dry conditions.

Now, we have these record-breaking temperatures last month and what that caused in terms of consequences was fires, right, these extreme dry weather, lack of rainfall, the driest July since 1935 in England, the driest July in France since 1959.


ABDELAZIZ: So, extremely dry conditions. Officials are concerned about the possibility of wildfires. We are already seeing that in France. On Wednesday evening, there were 20,000 hectares in southwest France that were ablaze. Of course, firefighters there are trying to put it out. Six thousand people were evacuated from their homes.

So, you have to remember that cities across Europe, across the U.K., these are simply places that are not built for this heat. You have to think about homes that are essentially built to keep heat in, not let it out. So, even when people are being ordered to stay at home, that is not necessarily going to alleviate those conditions.

That means emergency workers are getting phone calls constantly, nonstop, a lot of requests for help, for aid, because of these extreme heat conditions. You look at transport links. Much of London, for example, its transport links are decades-old. Simply, again, not built for this heat.

So, again, officials now, emergency services now on this high alert, concerned about what we saw last month here. High heat, high dry conditions causing potentially wildfires across these areas. And what we saw last month here with the London Fire Brigade is that they had one of their busiest periods since World War II.

So, again, that idea that the infrastructure of these countries is simply not built for this heat, Alison.

KOSIK: All right, thanks very much, Salma.

Pedram, let me go to you. I'm curious what the likelihood is, that this upcoming heat wave this weekend, will it break the old records that were just hit in July?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It doesn't look like it's going to get quite as hot as we had in July, but this heat wave has potential to be a long-lasting. Going to five, maybe six days before it's all said and done. Of course, two days of it already experienced across this region.

As we covered here, we are talking about a very dry landscape that is essentially just a tinderbox here ready for anything as far as fire igniting and taking off. And we know the elements are in place here with southernly flow bringing air from southern areas of Europe into northern areas of Africa right into portions of the U.K. And, of course, with high pressure firmly in place, we expect this heat to continue for at least the next, again, three to four days, six days total before it's all said and done.

Heat alerts, amber alerts there for 35-degree temperatures across areas of central and southern U.K. This continues through at least Saturday afternoon.

Of course, Alison, you talked about how extensive that heat wave was last month. It was 1.3 degrees warmer than the previous 30-year average for the U.K. So, incredible heat coming off of that month and then continuing with this long duration heat wave currently in place.

Temperatures running across portions of France as much as 10, 11 degrees above the seasonal averages. And the summer of 2022 now, the second largest area burned since records began. We are talking about 600,000 hectares of land that have been consumed across the entirety of Europe so far this summer.

Temps this afternoon going for 33 in Paris, same score out of London. Temps in Dublin as warm as 24 degrees. And again, it's not just a one or two-day setup in an area that, of course, we know very little air conditioning adoption. The U.K. in its entirety, generally around 1%.

London, specifically, about 5% of homes have access to air conditioning units. You compare that to almost 90% in places such as the U.S. or Japan. So, these heat waves really mean so much more when they linger like this for a couple of days.

And here is the perspective in Paris. Temps yet again, 33 to 34 degrees. Finally, we take Sunday, disturbance comes in, brings with it some cooler temperatures. Even still, nowhere near that average of 25 until sometime early next week. In London, much the same.

Notice, you think it's hot today, 32 to 33 degrees, depending on where you are in town, it gets even warmer come Saturday afternoon and stays there come Sunday, and then relief arrives, we think, as early as Monday and Tuesday with more wet weather possible across that region.

Now, speaking of wet weather, we've seen plenty of that across portions of South Korea. That energy that provided the historic rainfall is shifting further towards the south but the energy also around the areas of the east there.

Look at Tokyo, look at areas of Japan, tremendous rainfall in the forecast here in the next couple of days, while South Korea begins to get a little bit drier here and quieter over the next few days. That's partly because there is a tropical system trying to form off of the coast of southern Japan.

So, the next couple of days, follow this and look at this track, potentially hitting areas towards Japan and towards Tokyo in particular. So, we are going to watch this over the next three to four days to see what comes of this storm system. Regardless, we know a lot of rainfall is going to be in store. And Alison, this is the wettest time of year across South Korea,

across Japan as well. So, any additional rainfall on top of what is already happening is going to be a problem.

KOSIK: All right, Pedram Javaheri in Atlanta, Salma Abdelazis in London, thanks to both of you.

Relief from the intense heat and drought is not expected anytime soon. NASA satellite images show that Europe is almost completely devoid of any cloud cover due to the high-pressure system now locked over the continent. And without the clouds, there is no chance of rain.

In Spain, a major reservoir has almost completely dried up. A medieval bridge that has been under water for decades is now fully exposed.


KOSIK: Officials are concerned what this will mean for the region's water supply. And there are growing fears that as Europe's river levels keep dropping, it could bring vital ship traffic to a halt. The Rhine is at critical (INAUDIBLE) but vessels carrying coal and other commodities are already struggling to navigate it because the water is getting too shallow.

Joining me now from London, Dr. Paulo Ceppi. He is a lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute. Thanks for being here.


KOSIK: So, now more than ever, it really does seem extreme weather events are happening more frequently, more geographically, widespread, and I 'm talking about extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme wet conditions, extreme dry conditions. Is it happening more now than in the past? And if so, why and what has changed?

CEPPI: Yes, so, it is always a difficult question to link extreme weather events to climate change because climate change is about the sort of the average conditions that we experience. Here, we're talking about extreme weather, which is -- well, by definition, weather is kind of kinetic (ph) variable. You know, it changes from one day to another, from year to year.

That being said, when we talk about certain extreme events like heat waves, then there is a very clear link to climate change simply because when you shift the temperatures towards higher levels, then you make the extreme high temperatures much more likely and you make the extreme low temperatures much less likely.

So, it has already been estimated, for example, about the very recent heat wave we had in U.K. where we shattered many records with 40 degrees -- just over 40 degrees Celsius in U.K. for the first time. That was made at least 10 times more likely by man-made climate change.

And it's not just that, but it's also the sequence of events, right? So, you've had this severe heat wave in U.K. earlier in the spring. Late spring, we had the severe heat wave in India and Pakistan. Late summer, we had extremely severe heat waves in the pacific northwest and western Canada.

KOSIK: Uh-hmm.

CEPPI: And so, it's the collection of these things that also speaks for the influence of man-made climate change.

KOSIK: Yeah, Europe is certainly dealing with one of its toughest years of extreme weather conditions, not to mention China and the United States. They've hit their own extreme weather records as well.

But aren't these countries the very countries that have made commitments for net zero emissions? And they have. So, why are things getting worse and not even a little bit better?

CEPPI: So, one thing that is important to understand is that there is basically some kind of proportionality between the severity of climate change and the accumulation of CO2 emissions. So, the idea is that as long as we continue making CO2, global temperatures are going to continue rising.

So, the only -- another way to put this is the only way to stop global warming is to stop emitting. And that's why net zero is so important because once you hit net zero, it means that you're no longer emitting CO2, and therefore, you can hope to stabilize the climate.

But the problem is even if we make pledges, while making pledges is one first step than actually reducing emissions as a second step, but it's only by the time that we have brought our emissions down to net zero that we can hope that impacts will stop getting worse.

And that's only talking about the impacts like heat waves and global temperature because other aspects of the climate system like, say, the global mean sea level, are going to continue rising for much longer.

KOSIK: Right, but you would think that if they make these commitments that they are actually taking steps to try to reverse what is going on here. Is it just a lot of talk?

CEPPI: No, definitely not. So, I think one thing that is important to say -- well, I think probably, most people are familiar with this Paris agreement. This is an international agreement that says that no more than two degrees of global warming, ideally no more than 1.5. And so, the net zero pledges, net zero emissions pledges that we hear about, they often say net zero by year 2050.

That's the case in the U.K., for example, and other European countries. That is the timeline that will be consistent with 1.5 degrees of global warming, keeping in mind that we are already at 1.1 and 1.2 since the industrial revolution, so there is little headroom left.

But the point is that there is that every tenth of a degree count. So, even if we don't make it to 1.5, even if we get to 1.6 or 7 or 8 or who knows, it is never too late to actually take an action.

So, yeah, the point is that the impacts become more severe with every tenth of a degree of global warming. And so, it's always worth reducing the emissions and hopefully getting to net zero in the end.

KOSIK: Never too late to take action. Listening to your words there. Dr. Paulo Ceppi in London, thanks so much for your expertise.


CEPPI: My pleasure, thank you.

KOSIK: And you're watching "CNN Newsroom" live from New York. Still ahead, Donald Trump takes questions from state attorney general's office, but he has only one response.

Plus, China and Taiwan have finished their military drills, but their bitter dispute is far from over. We're live in Taiwan's capital.


JAVAHERI: Thank you for staying with CNN. I'm meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. This weather watch is in association with Visit Maldives.

Here's what's happening across the United States. Mild temperatures building in across the northeast and they are here to stay for at least a few days. Quite a bit of active weather but really quiets down here in the next several days.

Could see a few isolated storms pop up in across the Carolinas, maybe around parts of the northeast, but not much in the way of severe as expected. And notice the cooler temperatures really take shape across an area that has really seen an incredibly hot summer.

So, forecasts to maybe enjoy here in New York City. Thirty to 27 eventually down to 24, which is right in line and even below the seasonal averages for this time of year. Chicago? No complaints at all. Around 25 degrees. Partly cloudy skies. British Colombia, Vancouver, beautiful day at 23.

San Francisco, after some morning clouds shifts to (ph) sunshine as well into the 20s. And notice the above average expectations here for rainfall which really have been beneficial. The northern California fire here, the McKinney Fire, nearly entirely contained here, and we do expect that to occur in the coming days. And you'll notice the (INAUDIBLE) as far as coverage is concerned has also really slowed down as far as growth is concerned.

(INAUDIBLE) City about 31. NASA, same story. Havana, Cuba looking at dry weather, highest there around 33 degrees. Farther to the south we go. El Salvador, expecting high, around 29. In Rio, 21 degrees.


KOSIK: As the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan approaches, its former leader is criticizing the U.S. for giving the country empty promises and deceiving it.

In an interview with Afghan media, Ashraf Ghani says the U.S. troop withdrawal agreement with the Taliban was so bad, it shouldn't have even been written down. He said it emboldened the Taliban to not negotiate a future government. Ghani fled the country after the Taliban took over, but insists he remains president until the people choose a replacement.

Now, to details of an alleged assassination plot targeting two members of the Trump administration. The U.S. Justice Department announced charges against Iranian national Shahram Poursafi for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.

Officials say it was likely in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike in 2020 that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Prosecutors say Poursafi tried to pay $300,000 for someone to kill Bolton and $1 million for a -- quote -- "second job."

Sources say former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the second target. Bolton reacted to the news and is calling on the current administration to end efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: If this doesn't show anything about Iran's willingness to try and intimidate its adversaries, I don't know what else to say. I think we ought to put the kibosh on these negotiations and deal with the growing threat that Iran poses and not try to appease them.


KOSIK: A source says multiple current and former U.S. officials are receiving significant personal security due to threats from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Poursafi remains at large. Iran is dismissing the claim, calling it baseless.

Donald Trump's legal troubles are mounting, but he's refusing to answer questions in a New York investigation into the Trump Organization's finances. It comes just days after the FBI searched his Florida home.

CNN's Sara Murray has the latest.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump wrapping up his appearance after nearly six hours at a New York deposition where he pleaded the Fifth, which the former president once said was a move for mobsters.



TRUMP: If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump changed his tune in a deposition led by Democrat New York Attorney General Letitia James's office, part of a three-year civil probe into whether the Trump Organization misled lenders, insurers, and tax authorities by providing false financial statements.

TRUMP: For years, they've been going after my company.

MURRAY (voice-over): I once asked, if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?, Trump said in a statement. Now, I know the answer to that question. He claimed everyone in his orbit was a target, adding, if there was any question in my mind, the raid of my home, Mar-a-Lago, on Monday by the FBI, just two days prior to this deposition, wiped out any uncertainty. I have absolutely no choice.

The deposition coming just days after Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence was searched. A source told CNN authorities came to suspect Trump's team was not being truthful and may have been withholding sensitive documents that he allegedly took with him when he left the White House.

ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: My father has worked so collaboratively with them for months. All of a sudden, a no notice? They sent, you know, 20 cars and 30 agents.

MURRAY (voice-over): The perilous week highlighting Trump's mountain of legal troubles.

D. TRUMP: They want to put me in jail.

MURRAY (voice-over): A constant frustration for Trump as he eyes another presidential run.

D. TRUMP: The outrageous civil and criminal harassment in New York and Atlanta of a person known as Donald Trump. Have you ever heard of him?

(Voice-over): I just want to find 11,780 votes.

MURRAY (voice-over): In Georgia, Trump faces an investigation into whether his efforts to overturn the 2020 election there were criminal.

UNKNOWN: We are going to look at everything until that investigation is complete.

MURRAY (voice-over): And federal investigations are probing efforts to block the transfer of power in 2020, including Trump's attempts to try to stop the election certification and seed fake electors.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: No person is above the law in this country. Nothing stops us.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Even a former president? GARLAND: No -- I don't know how to say that again. No person is above the law in this country. I can't say it any more clearly than that.

MURRAY (on camera): Now, we're also learning that when Wednesday's deposition got underway, one of Donald Trump's attorneys said that he very badly wanted to testify, but he was going to listen to the advice of his attorneys. He was not going to do so. As Trump sat there for hours, while he was pleading the Fifth, he just said repeatedly same answer to the questions that he was pelted with.

Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.


KOSIK: Wishful thinking. That's how Taiwan describes China's push for a peaceful reunification. And Beijing's call for a one country, two systems policy for Taiwan, similar to the one used in Hong Long. China published its intention on Wednesday in a so-called white paper in which it refused to rule out the use of force. China finally did end its aggressive military actions around the self-ruled island. And Taiwan wrapped up round two of its own military exercises just a little while ago.

CNN's Blake Essig is live for us in Taipei. Blake, good to see you. I know Taiwan has repeatedly oppose the one country, two systems policy as it has again.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, look, Alison, after two weeks of increased tensions around the Taiwan Strait, which China blames on the United States and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for causing, this new white paper concerning what's called the Taiwan question issued by Beijing is really only going to add to the growing divide, the growing dispute between China and Taiwan.

And the white paper, which was released the same day that it was announced that China's most recent military drills held around Taiwan were officially over, trying to reiterated its proposal to Taiwan for a one country, two systems model for unification, similar to the model used in Hong Kong.

And while the paper essentially says that China will not rule out using force against the democratic island, it also does emphasize that the priority is to achieve peaceful reunification. Unsurprisingly, Taipei once again rejected Beijing's proposal, calling it crude, clumsy, arrogant, and full of wishful thinking.

Now, in response, Taiwan's government agency in charge of the island's China policy said that only the 23 million people of Taiwan can decide Taiwan's fate and that it will not accept an authoritarian regime, what an authoritarian regime envisions for Taiwan.

And while tensions between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments remains high, the mood here on the ground today and really for the past two weeks as tensions grew around this island remains the same. People living here really don't seem bothered by the fiery rhetoric and constant back and forth between governments. Life goes on here despite the threats from China, just as it has for the past roughly 70 years.


ESSIG: Now, while it was announced that China's live fire military drills were finished as of yesterday, earlier today, Taiwan's military completed its own live fire military drills near the island's southernmost tip aimed at boosting the military's combat preparedness. Now, it's worth pointing out that those exercises that were held two different times this week today and on Tuesday, they were planned in advance.


These are annual drills and we're not held in retaliation for the military exercises carried out by Beijing over the past roughly six days. And while tensions between China and Taiwan do remain high, now that all these live fire military exercises are complete, there are hopes, Alison, that this crisis unfolding militarily around Taiwan will start to settle.

KOSIK: Okay, Blake Essig in Taipei, thanks. Kim Jong-un declared victory over COVID-19 in North Korea. But those close to the leader say that he himself is not immune from what they're calling a fever. That's next.

And later, new data show U.S. inflation cooled considerably last month filling hopes that the peak has been reached. A closer look at the numbers ahead.


KOSIK: Kim Jong-un has declared victory for his nation over COVID-19 according to state media claim. CNN cannot verify, but it came amid reports that the leader himself deeply suffered from a high fever during the outbreak.

And now his sister is calling for deadly retaliation against South Korea for spreading the virus north. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea. So, Paula, what's really behind the victory declaration by the north?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alison, it was a very positive message from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. You saw him being applauded. You saw him smiling, shaking hands with people. He wasn't wearing a mask. And as far as he is concerned, the COVID-19 pandemic in North Korea is over.


KIM JONG-UN, NORTH KOREAN LEADER (through translation): The difficult war against this disease is now over and today, we are finally declaring the victory.


HANCOCKS: His sister and high official, Kim Yo-jong also made a speech. She spoke of her brother also having had a serious fever. And even though he had that fever, she played into the propaganda, saying that he still couldn't lie down and rest, he was still helping the people, showing that he was suffering alongside the people.


As she was telling the audience this, you saw many wiping eyes. You saw emotion of those elite, that Kim Jong-un had apparently had COVID as well or at least a fever. As we know, within North Korea, they call them fever cases. There isn't much testing although you would assume that Kim Jong-un himself would have been able to be tested.

But there was also a more fierce message from Kim Jong -- Kim Yo-jong, talking about South Korea, blaming South Korea once again for having sent the virus across the border into North Korea, saying that it was Seoul's fault that they had this outbreak in the first place. Talking about these hot air balloons that activists fly across the DMZ into North Korea carrying anti-North Korean propaganda.

This is something that has always annoyed Pyongyang. They have been trying to stop it for years. And they say that this is how the virus got in. We heard from Kim Yo-jong saying that they would have deadly retaliation against South Korea if they tried to do this once again.

The South Korean side, the unification ministry pointed out that they deeply regret what North Korea is saying, but pointing out that it's highly unlikely that this is how the virus actually got into North Korea. So, two very different messages there.

Of course, there are many questions as to how after just 91 days since confirming the first case of COVID-19 they have managed to eradicate it. There are many questions about the numbers, about the authenticity of what we're hearing from North Korea. There is no way for us to confirm the authenticity of all this.

But the bottom line is, the message from Kim Jong-un to his people and to the world, is that it is time to move on. For him, COVID-19 pandemic is over. Some experts saying potentially, he is now signaling he is ready to signal to China that maybe restrictions could be lifted. Borders can be reopened and much-needed trade can resume. Alison?

KOSIK: Okay. Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thanks very much.

More than 10,000 medical workers have been sent to the Chinese island of Hainan to assist with a COVID outbreak that has the area on lockdown. Some tourists have finally been allowed to leave the resort city of Sanya after meeting strict COVID precautions. But tens of thousands are still stuck there unsure of when they'll be allowed to leave. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's China's tropical island paradise, Hainan. Known for its sandy beaches and extravagant resorts, a coveted destination for Chinese travelers like Li Zefeng, an engineer from Shanghai.

LI ZEFENG, STRANDED TOURIST: I chose to come to Sanya because the COVID restrictions are more relaxed than in Shanghai.

LU STOUT (voice-over): But for Li and some 80,000 tourists, their island getaway turned into a nightmare. Officials hastily imposed the lockdown in the resort city of Sanya to curb a COVID-19 outbreak. From Saturday, public transport was suspended, people's movements restricted, and tourists were required to stay for seven days and clear five COVID-19 tests before leaving.

Sudden flight cancellations led to chaos at the airport. And this widely circulated video, a local official tries in vain to placate dozens of frustrated travelers. He says the government will assist with room and board, but it's not enough. We want to go home, they say. In heavy rain, residents and visitors queue for mandatory COVID tests.

UNKNOWN: Oh my God. Look how big the queue is. Oh my God. What is going on? To the back of the queue, to the back of the queue.

LU STOUT (voice-over): And across China, a number of domestic tourist hotspots have been struck by zero COVID lockdowns. Last month, more than 2,000 tourists were trapped in a resort town of Beihai. Meanwhile, cases are rising in Xinjiang and even Tibet, which had been COVID free for almost three years.

With overseas travel still banned and domestic tourist destination struck by the virus, the summer has ended early for many Chinese vacation goers. The first batch of stranded tourists have started to leave Hainan, and Li is still waiting for his trip home.

(On camera): You endured the lockdown in Shanghai. You're now under lockdown in Sanya. How do you cope?

ZEFENG (through translation): For someone who has endured a three- month lockdown in Shanghai, I am keeping a steady peace of mind because this is the kind of natural disaster. It's out of our control.

LU STOUT (voice-over): Li says because he is in a high-risk zone with confirmed cases, he must stay put for another week or so. Under lockdown yet again, but this time with an ocean view. Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


KOSIK: Wall Street is cheering the latest data showing a slowdown in U.S. inflation.


Stocks soared on Wednesday after a key report showing consumer prices held steady in July on a month-to-month basis. Year over year, they increased 8.5 percent, but that's a slower pace than the 9.1 percent increase in June. U.S. President Joe Biden says this shows efforts to tackle inflation are working. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Today, we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July, zero percent. We're seeing some signs that inflation may be getting too moderate.

The second point I want to make is we need to pass the Inflation Reduction Act right away. It's far from done in our effort to bring inflation down, but we are moving in the right direction. So, some good economic news today and some work ahead.


KOSIK: Ryan Patel is a senior fellow with the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Thanks for coming on the show.


KOSIK: Alright. So, consumer prices rose 8.5 percent year over year, it's a slower pace than June, prices were unchanged month over month. Has inflation peaked is the question that everybody wants answered.

PATEL: Well, everybody hopes it is. You know, when we want to say -- if someone says yes it has, that means all indicators are showing that there is going to be a stable growth going the opposite way. We're just seeing right now that it peaked at for the energy prices to decrease.

We are seeing in food costs prices in the last 12 months, the highest growth since 1979. And you look at shelter costs for example is another one that's closed for the last 12 months about 5.7 percent for 12 months.

So, listen, the street and everybody wants to see some signs, any kind of hope. We did see that, I'm not taking that away, but we are still not out of the woods when it comes to you and the recession, but we are heading towards the right direction. But August, the next month, CPI August will paint a better picture if we are making that segue.

KOSIK: Well, but does this mean that the fed can maybe pump the brakes on rate hikes a little sooner than anticipated. And how much will they raise rates in September do you think?

PATEL: Yes. You and I both know if this was today and they were making a decision tomorrow, they would like to pump the brakes and go after the 0.5 percent basis point, which I think will be the minimum at this point. But still a lot of way until September's fed meeting.

So, I think that they want to go down that route. I think the 0.75 percent as of today is off the table. But I can't expect them to be aggressive. So, if we see in August the CPI report showing a flat, if not showing a decrease, I can see them still continue to be aggressive. So, inflation still exists. We're still, you know, it's still high

percentage. We're still there, but we just showed a little bit of taper off, which is a good sign. But we can't ignore the fact that there are other categories that are still driving this.

KOSIK: So, you think the fed is still going to be aggressive, but does the fed run the risk of overcorrecting here? Because these reports were looking backwards.

PATEL: Yes. No, and I agree. I think if they get two months, if they can see the next month's CPI and it's showing, again, a gradual decrease, a larger percentage, I think they will be justified to make maybe a 0.25 basis, I mean, a 25 basis points decrease instead.

But, you know, they're committed to the 2.25 percent annual increase that they stated. And from the last meeting, they didn't say that they were going to come off. They were really clear that they weren't going to change that forecast.

So, they're going to have to make it up somewhere if they're going to stick to that. And maybe they don't do it next month, but they are going into the fourth quarter.

KOSIK: Does this latest report tell us anything about avoiding a possible recession? Do you think that we still could go into a recession? What's your prediction?

PATEL: It does not tell us. I think it does not tell us if it avoids a recession. I think this tells about the inflation going down. But still, we could -- even if we see the decrease in inflation by a little bit, still could trigger into a recession. So, yes, it's a great data point. It doesn't get us out there because there is a lot of variables.

Yes, we know supply chain. You know, we said it's getting a little cooler, but I'm not sold on it yet. We still have global issues. We're seeing the global economy, too, in Europe with Germany as well coming out with the inflation around 8 percent.

So, we're very interconnected. This is obviously just the U.S. economy, but we are looking at a global perspective and that one recession leads to another.

KOSIK: A lot of caution coming from you Ryan. The market better pay attention to what you're saying. Ryan Patel, senior fellow with the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. Thanks so much.

PATEL: Thank you.

KOSIK: In Kenya, votes are being tallied. The race is closely contested and the country is on the verge of picking a new president.


[03:45:00] KOSIK: Welcome back. Votes are still being tallied in Kenya's general election. And it is turning out to be an incredibly tight race for president. The country's deputy president and the opposition leader are the front runners. If neither candidate wins, more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff. Let's cross over to CNN's Larry Madowo. He is live for us in Kenya. Larry, great to see you. What are you seeing?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPODENT: Alright, Alison, the interesting thing about the wait for presidential race results here in Kenya is that 99.8 percent of the results of the presidential election are already in. But because of a quirk in the Kenyan electoral system, we don't know the winner yet.

That is because even though the results announced that every polling station is final, they are then transmitted electronically to a national tallying center. But then, they have to be compared against the physical results, a form that has to be transmitted, has to be actually sent physically to Nairobi where the national tallying center is.

So, if somebody had a calculator and a lot of time and they can manually add up 46,000 forms we'd know who the president is. But short of doing that, you see headlines like this. Kenya's biggest newspaper saying it's a cliffhanger, and that is true.

One of the other Kenyan newspapers here, it's too close to call as the nation awaits, and the nation is truly awaiting to figure out exactly who will be the next president of Kenya. Between William Ruto, the deputy president and he's running for the first time, or Raila Odinga, the former prime minister who's running for the fifth time. Right now, everybody thinks their candidate has won.


MADOWO (voice-over): The Kenyan presidential race is turning out to be a nail-biter. Results could still be days away, but the celebration has started for some.

Deputy President William Ruto has upset the traditional political order and appears to be on track for a strong performance delighting his supporters.

(On camera): How does it look so far? Do you think Raila or Ruto is winning?

UNKNOWN: Yes, Ruto is going to win.

MADOWO (voice-over): Ruto's Kenya First Coalition has taken it, he believes.

UNKNOWN (through translation): We are going to win.

MARGARET KAMAU, WILLIAM RUTO SUPPORTER: The last time, 12 years I've never voted, but this time around, I went to the vote because I wanted Mr. President, (inaudible) Ruto. MADOWO (voice-over): This painstaking wait for results is familiar to

Raila Odinga, who ran for the fifth time. His supporters think this will be his year.

(On camera): Are you afraid that maybe Raila will lose this thing?

JOYCE ADHIAMBO, RAILA ODINGA SUPPORTER: (Inaudible). No chances of losing. Yes. We are confident.

MADOWO (on camera): Every vote cast in Kenya eventually ends up at a place like this. So, there is more than 16,000 of them for every elected seat because people don't trust the process. The only way they can believe it is if they can manually count the votes one by one.

(Voice-over): This happens everywhere in the country and sometimes takes all night, even though many of the 46,000 plus polling stations submitted results faster than expected. But the verification before they are officially announced could take days. Everyone is trying to make sense of the early results.


(On camera): Can you say definitively at this time who is going to be the next president of Kenya?

CHARLES NYAMBUGA, LECTURER AND POLITICAL ANALYST, MASENO UNIVERSITY: Actually, it's very hard to tell. The elections have been thrown asunder once more and any of the two candidates, that is Raila Odinga or William Ruto can actually have it.

MADOWO: The conventional wisdom appears to be that William Ruto did much better than expected in this election.

NYAMBUGA: William Ruto started campaigns immediately after the 2017 general election. And he was able to define the agenda for this particular election.

MADOWO (voice-over): Kenya's Electoral Commission has until Monday to declare the results. But that won't stop the whole nation from speculating.


MADOWO (on camera): Somewhere we are in the west of the country, is the heartland, the back bone of Raila Odinga's support. It's where people are so hopeful that he finally wins this thing after the fifth attempt. But also, where we are seeing some of the worst violence after previous contested election.

It has been a peaceful election process so far and the hope here for every Kenyan or the international community as well is that after the result is declared, maybe the next 24 to 48 hours, it will remain peaceful. Alison?

KOSIK: Alright, Larry Madowo thanks for all that great reporting. Thanks. An investigation is underway to determine whether the owners of a Mexican mining company are responsible for the accident that's left 10 miners trapped underground for more than a week. CNN's Rafael Romo has the details.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been already a week since the miners became trapped inside a coal mine in northern Mexico. Authorities have been facing the same problem all along. Water that keeps flooding the mine makes it unsafe for rescuers to get inside. Wednesday morning, a top Mexican official said rescuers were hoping they were only hours away from being able to enter the mine and rescue the miners.

Laura Velazquez, Mexico's national coordinator of civil protections said they were hoping to lower the water level to about 1.5 meters, which would make it safer for rescuers with scuba gear to enter the mine. When the rescue operation started only hours after the mine flooded and the walls collapsed, water was 34 meters deep.

A total of 25 pumps are being operated around the clock to extract the water inside of the mine. A submergible drone was used earlier this week in an effort to determine if there was any opening that would allow divers to reach the miners, but the result was negative.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Mexican prosecutors have already opened an investigation to determine if the flooding and subsequent collapse was the result of negligence.


ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translation): An investigation is being carried out to determine any responsibility on the part of the owners of the mining company and everything that ensues from that since it is regulated. What happened is that the procedures were not followed. What needs to be seen is to review how they were carrying out the contract if it was allowed to make these wells for the extraction of coal.


ROMO: The coal mine in the state of Coahuila suddenly flooded last Wednesday. This caused some of the walls to collapse, trapping the miners inside. Within the first 24 hours, rescuers were able to safely extract five miners but there are 10 others who have been trapped since and there has been no communication with them and their fate is unknown.

Nearly 700 members of Mexico's military police and other government agencies have been deployed to the site of the collapse to aid in the rescue efforts. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

KOSIK: A daring rescue to save a whale trapped in France's Seine River comes to a tragic end. We'll look at what went wrong, next.



KOSIK: Now to some heartbreaking news out of France. A beluga whale stranded for days has died during a rescue mission. Belugas usually live in the icy waters of the Arctic, but this one ended up stuck in the Seine River. CNN's Max Foster has the story.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An unusual sight in France's Seine River, a beluga whale, first spotted more than one week ago. Trapped in a freshwater lock about 43 miles, 70 kilometers downstream from Paris.

A rescue team of more than 80 people worked through the night, Tuesday into Wednesday, lifting the whale onto a barge designed to transport the stricken passenger back to sea. Veterinarians hope the salt water tank would revitalize the whale's ailing health.

In transit however, the whale had to be euthanized after its breathing had deteriorated. It had lost significant weight and was refusing to eat. The prognosis for survival was poor.

GUILLAUME LERICOLAIS, DEPUTY PREFECT OF LISIEUX (through translation): Six veterinarians unanimously advised us to proceed with euthanasia of the animal, which was too weak to be put back in the water. So, it was a decision that we took collectively. And so, I am sad to inform you of the death of the beluga.

FOSTER (voice-over): In recent years, many species of marine mammals have been reported in France, far from their primary habitat. In May, a sick orca separated from its pod died in the Seine after attempts to guide it back to see failed.

The all white beluga normally live in arctic and sub arctic waters. Loss of sea ice in the arctic has opened the area up to more shipping, fishing and other human activities. All of which impact the beluga whale's ability to communicate and navigate. Whilst it's impossible to say how this one lost its way, finding food and the search for mates has become much more difficult for the species. Max Foster, CNN.


KOSIK: Thanks for watching. I am Alison Kosik. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @AlisonKosik. "CNN Newsroom" with Max Foster is up next after this short break. You're watching CNN. I'll see you soon.