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Florida Braces For Likely Impact From Major Hurricane; NASA To Try To Change Asteroid's Path By Slamming Spacecraft Into It; Ukrainian Military: Forces Repelled Russian Attacks In The East. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired September 25, 2022 - 15:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: The most senior order of chivalry that dates back to Medieval Times. The Queen was buried within St. George's Chapel in Windsor last Monday.

Thank you so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.

The NEWSROOM with Jim Acosta starts right now.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

A powerful storm is heading toward Florida and every resident will feel the impact. That's according to a State Emergency official, who is urging people to prepare for possible evacuations. The exact path of Tropical Storm Ian is still uncertain, but it is expected to become a major hurricane Category 3 or higher by the time it passes near Cuba and likely makes a turn toward Florida.

In the meantime, Florida authorities are distributing sandbags, asking residents to stock up on supplies like radios, canned food, medication, and water. And today Florida Governor Ron DeSantis activated 2,500 members of the National Guard and CNN correspondents are covering this from every angle.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana, Cuba; Carlos Suarez is in Tampa, Florida. But first let's get started with meteorologist, Tom Sater who is tracking the storm's path at the Weather Center.

Tom, this looks like a potentially very big, very powerful storm that could just unleash a lot of fury on the Gulf Coast, something that we haven't seen so far during this hurricane season.


ACOSTA: And it sounds like people need to wake up and pay attention to this.

SATER: Oh, everywhere from Pensacola to Fort Myers. I mean, Jim, we didn't have one named storm for the entire month of August and look at this, we've got four of them. If it wasn't for Ian, we'd be talking about Fiona, strongest storm to

ever hit Canada, massive damage up there with hurricane winds.

Visual satellite imagery knows how wide it is. The sun is out here, obviously, and you're getting the reflection, but you can see a circulation. There is the Yucatan, but the infrared satellite imagery is a mess. I mean, it just doesn't look impressive at all.

In fact at 8:00 AM this morning, hurricane hunters flying into it had a hard time trying to find that center and they did find it. It can jump around a little bit, and then if that center jumps around, it's going to change the track and that's important because that's about evacuations, I mean, who's going to go where? Well, another hurricane hunter getting ready to fly in and around it, we're going to get more information.

But here's what we do know. The warmest waters right now in the entire Atlantic are here. South of Cuba, Cayman Islands, we are within 300 miles of the Cayman Islands. This is high octane fuel. This is why we expect it to rapidly develop, become a hurricane either later this evening, overnight, but it will be soon, and then it's going to feed on these warm waters and an environment with light winds and as it heads toward Western Cuba, it could be a Category 3.

These are surface winds and notice where they are. The storm surge wrapping around these bands, it's going to smash into that Southern Coast of Cuba, possibly ten, twelve, fourteen-foot storm surge.

The models mean everything and they have been fluctuating. If you've been following throughout the week, where will it go? Yesterday's models, I wanted to bring it in, curving in from Tampa or even southward, today is mainly up toward the Panhandle. So, what the National Hurricane Center is doing is pretty much compromising and this is going to be your cone of uncertainty, is what we call it. Anyone within this cone needs to be on the alert.

Now watch Category 1, Category 3, that's Western Cuba to Category 4. Major hurricane status, even though the track causes it to weaken to a Cat 2 and maybe a Cat 1, we're going to be finding that even though it is the winds that are lightening, once it's a Category 4, it's all that water that is upwelling is going to shove right in any community on this flank here. So, don't pay attention to what the category is when it comes closer.

Now, the last one was Michael, that was a Category 5. We noted the destruction with that, but again, trying to get a handle on the models. Look at the US model. Notice the color of burgundy, that's in the Big Bend area.

So, if we're going to have one, let's have it there, and the winds are not as widespread as they are. Worst case scenario is Tampa, can you imagine to get a huge surge into the bay, into the canals, or tributaries, but really, it would be South of Tampa, as well as you know, let's say down toward Bradenton, or Sarasota, Venice. I mean, it could be really be a mess. So, there is a big discrepancy is still, Jim, even with the amount of

rain, but this has got to be the first hurricane to really make landfall in Mainland US. We have a couple of scenarios and we're going to have to watch them off for the next several hours and couple of days. It's not going to take much longer though.

ACOSTA: Yes. Glad you're on topic, Tom. All right. Thank you.

And I want to go to CNN's Carlos Suarez in Tampa.

Carlos, Tom was just mentioning where you are. The city is in the storm's path potentially in one forecast model. Are they preparing at this point? Maybe Florida, they are so storm battle hardened, I suppose that they wait a little bit longer until things get closer, but I suppose at this point they need to start getting ready.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. Jim, folks across the State of Florida, they are really keeping a close eye on the latest track.

Yesterday's forecast had the storm moving a bit further West of Tampa here, but then this morning's forecast had it moving a little bit closer east and so, that's left a large number of folks across much of this State getting ready for some sort of impact with regards to Ian.


SUAREZ: Now, here in Tampa, city officials, they have opened three sand distribution sites, and they've left open the possibility that they might issue an evacuation order down in the Florida Keys. Monroe County officials there, they've postponed and they have not decided whether or not they're going to ultimately ask visitors to leave the State at the earliest on Monday or Tuesday.

Now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he said that 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard have been put on standby and he has already declared the entire State of Florida under a State of Emergency. He is just urging folks across Florida to use the time now to get prepared ahead of Ian.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It really is important to stress the degree of uncertainty that still exist, and so anybody from Tampa Bay all the way to a Escambia County, there are different tracks that would take it into any one of those places, and I would also say to other Floridians, even if you're not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there is going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the State.

You're going to have win, you're going to have water. There could be flooding on the East Coast of Florida as a result of this. It's a big storm.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SUAREZ: And so, all of the State resources as well as power crews

exactly where they will be deployed will depend on exactly where Ian makes landfall -- Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Carlos. Thank you. And before hitting Florida, Ian will likely hit Western Cuba as a major hurricane.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Havana for us.

It doesn't look too worrisome at this point, Patrick, but I know you -- I know these storms are all too well, when they come through Cuba. What are officials telling residents at this point?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, they are telling people to keep a close eye on the storm's trajectory and to prepare to evacuate, and certainly people who live on the coast, you're just hearing about that storm surge they could be facing.

There are so many people who live down near the ocean, and they will have to be moved back even in Havana, where you get tremendous flooding with a typical rainstorm to have any kind of hurricane, tropical storm type rain that can cause massive, massive flooding that can cause buildings in the city as old as this one as the city is poorly maintained as this one to come collapsing down.

So, even if the storm doesn't hit in Havana, it's going to affect Western Cuba and that can lead to buildings collapsing here in the city that's over 500 years old.

And of course, when you go into the stores, there's not much to buy on a good day here. No Home Depot to buy plywood at Jim. The economic pain that Cubans are already feeling is only going to be made worse by this storm. It's going to be hard to evacuate when there is so little transportation and there are already lines for gasoline and diesel.

So, people have been saying that they really were praying there wouldn't be a hurricane this summer, that we can get through the summer without it. That is not going to be the case. This hurricane is going to have some kind of impact on Cuba, it just remains to be seen how badly, but certainly, in terms of the economy, it is going to make a bad situation that much worse.

ACOSTA: Yes. Life has been difficult for Cubans for so long, and obviously this could just make things so much more troublesome.

All right, Patrick, thank you. Thanks for all of our correspondents.

And Ken Graham joins me now. He is the Assistant Administrator for Weather Services with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ken, are we seeing these bigger storms now, do you think because of the climate crisis? Let's start with the big picture, and then we'll talk about Ian, you know, in all of its particulars.

KEN GRAHAM, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR FOR WEATHER SERVICES, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: Yes, the big picture, you know, you look at these storms and a changing climate, one of the biggest indicators that we see is a higher rainfall rates. And so the actual rainfall is a leading cause of fatalities in these systems, Jim, is the rain.

So you have to remember, you know, we think about the wind, when you close your eyes and think of a hurricane, you sort of think of the wind, but it's the water that really, really is hurting people and that is what we really need to talk about, and it is increasingly climate change.

ACOSTA: Right. When these storms get into the Gulf, that water is so warm that it just supercharges these storms and we've seen this time and again.

When we're looking at Tropical Storm Ian right now, what's interesting is that it looks like it's going to be, and I don't know if we can show the modeling up on our screen one more time, but it looks like it's going to be a four and then potentially weakening to a two or one before it hits the State of Florida.

That is obviously no reason for people to take down their guard down, but I would think in many of these cases, you would see a storm get even stronger because of those warm Gulf waters. What concerns you when you look at this right now?

GRAHAM: Really what concerns me with that is the perception. I mean, to go from a Category 4 to a Category 2, a lot of times what we'll do is let our guard down. So, it's the physical science we talk about, but it is also the social science of this, and what happens is that that wind field expands, so you can actually have more people impacted by a storm when it expands like that, so people can't let their guard down despite the category. It is incredibly important to remember that as we go through the storm.


ACOSTA: Yes, and Tom was mentioning that just a few moments ago, don't look at the number and think, okay, you're off the hook here. You're out of the woods, not the case.

And today, a Florida official said that Ian could still produce Category 4 storm surge. I mean, that can be devastating.

GRAHAM: Oh, absolutely. And it's interesting, because, you know, a Category 2 that's large, can produce more storm surge than a stronger storm that's small. So a storm surge has so much to do when you look at the science, it has to do with the size of the storm, the speed of the storm, so much goes into the modeling of a storm surge, much more than just the category. So that's something to remember if you're on the coast.

I just urge everyone, you've got to be prepared. We've get another couple days to be prepared and listen to those local officials, just incredibly important. ACOSTA: And are you worried a little bit that folks have been lulled

into sort of a false sense of security because this has been a quiet storm season so far? But the way things are changing, we could be in for a nasty one?

GRAHAM: Yes, you look at what happened in Puerto Rico, you look at Canada, you look at Fiona and the impacts, or even the storm in Alaska, so things are very active right now. So, that's -- you can't let your guard down. And we always say, we'd like to say this, it only takes one if you think about that. So, even though it's a late start, it doesn't matter. It only takes one to have some big impacts.

ACOSTA: Yes, and we were covering Fiona last week and just how quickly things can go downhill. You know, we were seeing flash floods taking out bridges and so on. Even a storm that is just a Category 1 hurricane can just have a devastating impact.

And as Florida prepares for this, hurricane officials there say the residents should be ready to evacuate, if they give the word, but many Florida residents as you know, you've looked at these storms for so many years. I've covered a lot of storms in Florida a long, long time ago, I used to cover hurricanes down there. And you know, Floridians will just tell you, I can make it through any storm.

But when you look at Ian and the way things are shaping up right now, people really need to get ready. They need to have a plan. Isn't that a big part of this? You have to hold out the possibility that this storm might be more than what you can handle.

GRAHAM: And different from past experience. So many people judge the current storm with what they've experienced in the past and the reality is every storm is completely different. So, it is about having those supplies. It is getting ready. You've got two full days. You'll start seeing the winds get into portions of Florida starting Wednesday and Wednesday night.

So you've got two days to get ready, having supplies for five to seven days. Have everything you need -- medicine, food, water. You've got to take it serious. You can't really think about your preparedness looking at the past. You've got to think of the current. You've got to listen to those local officials as this storm heads towards Florida.

ACOSTA: That's right. If you know a relative inland, you know a few hours north in Georgia or somewhere else in the southeast, start calling those relatives now. You may need to shack up with them for a few days.

All right, Ken Graham, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

The impending storm is also impacting space missions. NASA scrapped its third launch attempt for Artemis 1 that was originally set for Tuesday. So will the world's most powerful rocket ever get to space? We will talk to astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. There he is. The foremost expert on all things not just space, but everything. He's terrific.

We'll talk for just a few moments.



ACOSTA: It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi thriller, saving the world from an asteroid hurtling toward Earth. But this is real, don't worry, though. It's only a practice run.

Tomorrow night, NASA will test whether it can knock an asteroid off its current path, although instead of blowing it up Armageddon style, it is going to crash a spacecraft into it. We mean that seriously.

I want to bring in astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. His new book is "Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization."

Neil, I know they've tried this in the movies, and I think it was part of "Don't Look Up." I believe that's another cultural reference we can make here. Is this a good idea?

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTROPHYSICIST AND AUTHOR, "STARRY MESSENGER": Well, after I saw "Don't Look Up," I was certain there was a documentary based on my life experience --

ACOSTA: All of our life experiences. Yes.

TYSON: And the press and politics. So, I think it's one of the best ideas ever put into a space mission, because built into it is the future security and safety of our species, and of course, other species on Earth.

So, the day an asteroid is discovered, headed towards us, you want to know that somebody has tested what it would take to deflect it. And by the way, all this talk about let's blow it out of the sky, you know, like in America, were good at blowing stuff up and less good at knowing where the pieces go afterwards. So deflecting an asteroid is by far the most sensible, intelligent thing to do. So, this is a test mission for that. We should have been doing that years ago.

ACOSTA: I mean, I was wondering, do we have anything that is big enough to blow up an asteroid? I mean, that's the other question. So, I suppose maybe crashing something into it in the hopes that it would knock it off of its path, I guess, might be the most feasible alternative. But I mean, how real of a threat is this?

TYSON: No. Yes. Sorry. I want to make it clear. This is called the Double Asteroid Redirect Test, and what we're doing here, we, NASA, we, the United States is there is an asteroid that has a little asteroid moon, I guess we'll call it a moonlet and the little moonlet is orbiting that asteroid and all we're going to do is crash into the moonlet and see what it does to the orbit of that moonlet around this asteroid.

So, it's not like this is headed towards us right now and then we're going to deflect it to save humanity, you know, a Bruce Willis style. No, it's a test. ACOSTA: So, a slightly bigger story today.


ACOSTA: That would be a slightly bigger story today if we are indeed trying to save humanity from a killer asteroid.

I would hope so. I can't promise you that, but I would hope.

Let me move to Artemis because I'm starting to wonder whether or not this mission, you know was born under a bad sign or something like this. The third launch attempt of Artemis 1 was set for Tuesday, but NASA has since called it off because of Hurricane Ian, which obviously makes a lot of sense.


ACOSTA: NASA says it will evaluate whether to roll back the Space Launch System to the Kennedy Space Center. Are you frustrated by this? Or I guess, they are showing the appropriate amount of caution? And why do you think this is so important this mission?

TYSON: So, a couple of things. First, it's been 50 years since we've last been to the moon. So, I can wait a few weeks. It's not a problem, okay.

And I'm glad we have enough data on the launch specs and the launch circumstances to know when to scrub a mission and delay it and when not to.

And of course, a hurricane in Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. So, this is just another, you know, of course, you are going to delay it. And by the way, there are no astronauts on this mission to the moon. It's basically a test of what is now the most powerful rocket on Earth.

And in case people didn't know, this Artemis program, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo. So that was a classy thing to do, I thought there.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

TYSON: Just as a reminder that there are more genders in the world than, you know, men with crewcuts who sound like Mission Control. There is a whole lot.

ACOSTA: Speaking of Hollywood.

TYSON: There are people we need to spend into space.

ACOSTA: You're right, speaking of Hollywood, that tells you everything we saw.

TYSON: Yes, so, I look forward to -- I think there's another one that's also uncrewed, C-R-E-W-E-D, and then I think it's the third one that will have a crew that will go. So, we're looking forward to this. It's been a while.

ACOSTA: Yes, I guess, I'm just impatient. I want to see this happen. But of course, we have to do it safely. And I have been wanting to get your take about the Webb telescope and these incredible images that are coming in.

I wonder what you think of them? Because you've been studying this for so long, and I guess, does this blow you away? I mean, this week, we got these images of Neptune and its rings. This is the first time the rings have been seen in infrared.

Are you just -- again, are you just blown away by this? Do you get blown away by anything? And does this -- is this one of those things?

TYSON: It should all get our minds blown at least once a day. Okay?


TYSON: So I can tell you this that there were so many contingent things that had to work to get the Webb telescope out there a million miles from Earth. This thing was folded up into the fairing of the rocket, because we said, how do we get a telescope bigger than the size of the fairing itself and engineers said, "We have an idea. Let's create a foldable rocket." More like the petals of a flower, right?

And they fold it up, send it out, unfurl it, and there it is parked a million miles away from Earth, opposite the sun and everything worked as planned. And so, I think we're all shocked that it met the specs, okay.

ACOSTA: Right.

TYSON: It did exactly what we wanted to do and that was enough to just freak us all out. The high resolution, the fact that it is a bandwidth that lets you see things differently, that image of Neptune. That's what it looks like if we had infrared eyeballs. So, this idea that everything that is the world that the world is or should be is visible to our eyes. We've known as astrophysicists long ago, that so much of the universe is happening and it comes to us in bands of light that are outside the visible spectrum, and that's why you need telescopes and detectors and engineers right alongside to help us make those measurements.

ACOSTA: Yes, gadgets and gizmos, so they are important.

And before I let you go I have to get your reaction to the US Space Force's original song that was released this week. Let's play a snippet and let's get your thoughts.

TYSON: I hope so.


TEXT: Boldly reaching into space. There's no limit to our sky. Standing guard both night and day, we're the Space Force from on high.


TYSON: Actually that's the first I've heard it, but it sounds very 1950s, you know, kind of like, what you'd sing when the channels went off the air at midnight, but I kind of like it. I kind of like it.

ACOSTA: I kind of like it, too. And you know, I guess folks might be in this age of trolling and so on and social media. Folks might be tempted to take a shot at it, but I think it sounds very patriotic. And, you know, there are some really great people who work over at the Space Force., right, so why not have a fight song? Will they have a football team? That's the question that I have.

TYSON: And what's funny or curious is that the other branches of the Armed Forces, the songs tend to be songs that you would march to, you feel that urge to get up and march, but Space Force, you want to be able to feel like you want to launch something, and I didn't feel launch-y with those lyrics or with the rhythms, but maybe if you watch a rocket launch while you hear it, that'll reset how we think about the mood we should obtain as we listen.


ACOSTA: Absolutely. And we're playing the music right now as you're speaking, Neil, and what you're saying sounds so much better with that music playing behind you, so there must be something to it.

TYSON: I told you.

ACOSTA: Neil deGrasse Tyson, thanks so much. Thanks for indulging me, having a little fun this afternoon talking space, we really appreciate it.

TYSON: Always good to be serving our good curiosity.

ACOSTA: All right, thanks a lot. And my mind has been blown. So, I appreciate it. As always, thanks so much.

Good to see you, Neil.

And check out his new book, "Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization." And Neil, as always, great. Thanks to you. Just a terrific person on the show whenever we have him on. Thanks so much.

Moving on to other news, a shocking video coming out of Russia showing people who are drafted fighting with authorities in Russia as police force them on a bus, a report on the increasing pushback on Putin's mobilization efforts. That's next.



ACOSTA: New developments in the war in Ukraine.

Today, Ukraine's Military says its forces have driven back Russian attacks in four areas near the front line east of Kramatorsk. That's not all. The Ukrainian military says it also successfully hit 10 Russian weapon and military hardware targets in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is calling on newly drafted Russians to help Ukraine and sabotage Russia's war efforts.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Ukraine and has more on Zelenskyy's appeal.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As Russia's so- called partial mobilization gathers pace and runs into some resistance, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling upon those who are summoned to serve to do everything they can to sabotage the Kremlin's war effort.

In his nightly address, he called upon Russian soldiers in Ukraine to sabotage and interfere with military operations, to pass information to Ukrainian Intelligence and to defect at the first opportunity.

Zelenskyy pledged that those who surrender will be treated in his words, in a "civilized manner," and if they so desire will not be returned to Russia in the event of a prisoner exchange.

Meanwhile, Russia is accusing Ukrainian forces of shelling near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe, and currently under Russian control.

Ukraine has yet to respond to the Russian allegations.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN reporting from Kharkiv.


ACOSTA: And joining me now is a Ukrainian Army Sergeant who just came from fighting in the Kharkiv's counteroffensive, Sergeant Andriana Arekhta is joining us now.

Thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.


ACOSTA: Oh, it is an honor to have you with us.

Ukraine has been making a lot of progress in taking on the Russians, especially in recent weeks. It's been really impressive to everybody around the world. What can you tell us about the situation on the ground? Does it feel like you're making a lot of progress?

AREKHTA: Yes, Jim, you know. We have progress with the Kharkiv counteroffensive, but it costs a lot of losses and limitations. So, during liberating our lands, we saw mass grave of people, we saw tortured people, and the picture is not so positive. That is why our delegation is here to ask and to say thankful -- to express our gratitude to United Nations for support of Ukraine. ACOSTA: You make a good point, because while you know, back here in

Washington, it's easy for us to say, oh, well, things are going so well for Ukraine, because of the way you're handling the Russians right now. But at the same time, as you were just saying, your forces are on the ground, and you're finding evidence of atrocities.

What has that been like when you see signs of torture, when you see signs of human rights abuses, as you're on the ground encountering this?

AREKHTA: You know --

ACOSTA: These are your fellow country people.

AREKHTA: Yes, during liberating of our lands, we understand that we are fighting for a three priceless things -- life, homeland, and freedom. That's why we pay such huge prices for our freedom, for protection of our homeland, and we paid this by our lives.

So, it is critical moment now in Ukraine to liberate our lands because people are their hostages, and that's why we are asking United States to provide Ukraine with modern weaponry to give us a chance to liberate these people because, like they are hostages and civilians that are surviving on the occupied territory, they must be free.

ACOSTA: And I know you've been trying to deliver this message to Members of Congress and you've been bringing this coin along with you, what you've brought with us or brought to us to share with us. Tell us about this coin. It's a very special coin.

AREKHTA: Yes, so we've met bipartisan group of Congressmen and Senators and I explained that that this is a coin made from destroyed Russian tanks during counteroffensive in Kharkiv.


ACOSTA: Let's hold that up here.

AREKHTA: Like, this is a part of Russian tanks.

ACOSTA: So that is a part of a Russian tank, so your forces destroyed a tank.


ACOSTA: And then let's hold it up one more time. You destroyed the Russian tank and then you essentially harvested the metal from the tank, you took metal from the tank and made a coin out of it.

AREKHTA: Yes, and we presented these coins to your Senators and to your Congressmen and I said during the presentation all this coin that I changed the tank for this coin for one number, it was just for me because I want to become an operator of a modern tank. I am an operator of US weapons like stingers, but we need more. We need ground air defense system. We need to tank. We need fighter jets just to liberate and to protect our civilians and our homeland. ACOSTA: And do you feel like you're getting obviously, from the point

of view of the American government, from the White House's point of view, they are saying we're providing Ukraine with as much weaponry as we possibly can. There are concerns in inside the administration if they step up that assistance too much, that it could be a provocative move and provoke the Russians into a situation that the US and its allies don't want.

Do you feel like -- I guess, I have a couple of questions -- do you feel like you do have enough assistance coming in right now? Are you concerned that it is going to run out? And what do you say to those worries that, well, if we give them too much assistance if we provide them with too much firepower, advanced weaponry, that it could provoke the Russians into a larger conflict?


ACOSTA: That is a lot to ask.

AREKHTA: So, first one, it is that we need more modern weaponry just to liberate and to protect our country, because Russia understands only like actions, strong actions. The answer of Congressmen and Senators with the answer of support to Ukraine, but we believe in action, courage is to act.

And about to provoke -- like Russia will be provoked, so I can say that Russia is a state of sponsor of terrorism. I saw on my eyes how Russians used phosphorus bomb, cluster weapon, chemical bombs. That's why we need the strongest answer of the West will be providing Ukraine with modern weaponry that will help us to gain victory faster.

ACOSTA: Okay, and what do you think about these Russians who are fleeing? They're trying to get out of Russia because they're being mobilized to go fight against Ukraine.

AREKHTA: Okay --

ACOSTA: What do you think of that?

AREKHTA: Like I have an answer for Russians, welcome to the hell that your occupants made in Ukraine. We welcome you to this hell that we are living in.

ACOSTA: Welcome to hell.


ACOSTA: All right and let's show that coin one more time, if we can. Can I hold it for just a second? I will give it back, I promise.

AREKHTA: No, I just present this coin to.

ACOSTA: No, you did not.

AREKHTA: And you will have the coin from Kharkiv counteroffensive.

ACOSTA: That is so wonderful. Are you sure?

AREKHTA: And maybe in future, I will be an operator, the first woman operator of Abrams brands, so I will be also the hero of your show.

ACOSTA: That means so much to me. I can think of much more important people here in Washington to give this coin to. I would probably be at the bottom of the list. But this means a lot.

We've been covering Ukraine so much and to see the bravery and courage that you and your fellow soldiers have been putting on display, it has been inspiring here in the United States. Thank you so much for this.

AREKHTA: It's an honor to be here.

ACOSTA: Honored to be with you. Thank you, Andriana Arekhta. Thank you so much. I will treasure this always. Thank you.

Coming up, an inside look at a real life succession story. The CNN's new Original Series, "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence" starts tonight. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Murdoch is the most ruthless businessman in world history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The biggest newspaper Baron the world has ever known.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fortune was built on the back of salacious tabloids. Sales are booming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His major legacy will be FOX News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rupert realized that if you can make them afraid, they'll keep watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rupert's goal was never money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got his eyes on a much bigger game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rupert Murdoch is the most powerful political force in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politicians have been sucking up to Rupert Murdoch for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is building this dynasty to hand to his children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has set it up into a trial by combat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no such thing as a sure bet in the succession battle. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a kill or be killed mentality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoever succeeds him wields this absolutely gargantuan influence.

ANNOUNCER: "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence." Two-episode premiere tonight at 9/10 PM Only on CNN.




ACOSTA: Media Titan, Rupert Murdoch has built one of the largest media empires in history over the last several decades.

Now the new CNN Original Series: "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence" reveals through exclusive reporting how one family's ambitions are shaping business, media, and politics around the globe. Here's a preview.


JONATHAN MAHLER, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: New York City in the 1970s was about as unglamorous as a place could possibly be, and yet despite all of its problems it, still remains the media capital of the country and maybe even the entire world.

That is exactly where Rupert Murdoch wants to be.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rupert lands in New York, looking for opportunities to build his empire.

JOYCE PURNICK, AMERICAN COLUMNIST: Rupert Murdoch decided he was going to put his stamp on the city of New York. "Here I am," you better pay some attention. And I'm going to have one hell of an impact.


ACOSTA: And joining us now is the man you saw in that clip, Jonathan Mahler, a staff writer for "The New York Times" Magazine. He is also consulting producer for "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence," which features his exclusive reporting.

Jonathan, thanks so much. Very important topic.

Rupert Murdoch is obviously an intensely controversial figure in American media. He's also had a toxic effect on American politics. What did you, I guess, come away as your largest takeaway in all of this? What do you hope viewers will take away from the series?

MAHLER: Well, I think, what is, I think, unique about this series is that it really gives you the full sweep of Rupert Murdoch's life and career across the continents, across the decades across the media, really, I mean, from newspapers, to television, to the internet.

And so by doing that, by giving you this kind of sweeping look at his life and career, I think it gives you a sort of a real sense of just how much of an impact he's had. I mean, I think without question, he is the most influential media mogul of certainly of any generation in many generations, really.

ACOSTA: And I know it, you're not sanitizing this either. I mean, a lot of people make these comparisons with the TV show of "Succession" on HBO, which is owned by CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers/Discovery, but is that the reality? Does that sugarcoat things? I mean, are we going to see how this family has had this many times, very negative effect on American media, on American politics?

MAHLER: Yes, I mean, there's no question that, you know, in particular, with the rise of FOX News, and truly in the kind of merging of FOX News and the Trump presidency, you know, you get to see the dark side of that influence for sure. And, you know, we mentioned "Succession," we're all familiar with "Succession." I think you also will learn from this series, the real story of the family, which in many ways does resemble the "Succession" story, not in every way, but there is no question, there's a lot of overlap there.

ACOSTA: Right. I'm sure. And Murdoch was a late, but strong supporter of Donald Trump back in 2016. I remember covering Trump, at his golf course in Scotland and Rupert Murdoch showed up out of nowhere. And it was one of these, really one of the more unforgettable moments of the campaign to see, you know, a presidential candidate riding around on a golf cart with the guy who runs FOX News.

And in FOX, as you were just mentioning a few moments ago, was the house organ of the Trump White House, and then January 6 happened. And I have to wonder, has Murdoch learned his lesson do you think? And what lessons can be drawn from that moment?

MAHLER: I would say, I mean, you mentioned Scotland and you're absolutely right. I mean, that that was an iconic moment when Rupert Murdoch climbs on the back of a golf cart with Donald Trump.

You know, in terms of Rupert learning his lessons, I mean, the problem is that Rupert is driven by, at this point, by FOX News has an audience and that audience is the Republican base. And Rupert is going to give that base and his audience what they want, and that is going to drive ratings.

So I don't -- there is no reason to expect that he's going to turn his back on Donald Trump, if Donald Trump happens to be the nominee and 2024. He has spent kind of a lifetime, as you know, a businessman and a businessman and an accumulator of power. And so for him to sort of turn his back on a person who can deliver ratings and also deliver power, to Rupert, it would make no sense.

ACOSTA: Right. It would be out of character, which is what we've seen up until this point.

MAHLER: Yes. ACOSTA: Jonathan Mahler, thank you very much. Looking forward to the

series. It looks like very important work.

Be sure to tune in. The all-new CNN Original Series "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence" premieres Sunday at 9:00 PM with back-to-back episodes. That's tonight only on CNN.

Coming up, who is playing in the Super Bowl? We don't know yet the teams, but we now know who will take the stage during the halftime show. That's next.



ACOSTA: All right just in, we may not know which teams will be battling it out on the field for the Lombardi Trophy, probably won't be my Washington Commanders, but we now know who will be rocking the stadium during the halftime show.


ACOSTA: It's Rihanna. The mega superstar confirmed the announcement with a simple tweet showing her hand holding an NFL football. I suppose that it is confirmation. We hope that is confirmation, but yes, no, it sounds like she will be performing at the Super Bowl halftime show.


ACOSTA: Now to a CNN exclusive interview and our first interview with a US network, the UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss was asked about how the West should respond to Putin's call for additional troops and his talk about nuclear weapons and here was her response.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: First of all, the reason Putin is doing this is because he isn't winning. He made a strategic mistake invading Ukraine. And I think he has been outsmarted by the Ukrainians. We've seen the Ukrainians continue to push back against the Russian offensive, and I think he didn't anticipate the strength of reaction from the free world.