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Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Visits Liberated Kherson; Kherson Tries to Rebuild After End of Russian Occupation; Residents in Southern China Defy COVID Measures; NASA's Moon Rocket Slated for Wednesday Launch. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 15, 2022 - 04:30   ET



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

Republicans are closer to reaching the 218 seats needed to hold a majority in the U.S. House. Key wins in New York and Arizona put Republicans at 215 seats total. And Democrats are seeing big victories in gubernatorial races. CNN projects Katie Hobbs defeats Kari Lake to be Arizona's next governor.

NOBILO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces destroyed all of the critical infrastructure in Kherson before they withdrew from the city. But he insists that Kherson's liberation now marks the beginning of the end of this war. Earlier on Monday he visited residents there to celebrate their freedom. CNN's Nic Robertson has the details.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Flanked by troops who helped liberate the city, President Zelenskyy made a lightning trip to Kherson Monday, the nation's most significant victory in months.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: This is the beginning of the end of the war. You see our strong army, we are step by step coming to our country to all the temporary and occupied territories.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): A morale boost for the country and president alike.

Zelenskyy pledging peace on Ukraine's, not Russia's terms and vowing to reconnect Kherson's residents to the rest of the country. To make them feel that we are not only talking about it, he says, but we're really returning, really raising our flag.

Today's flags, a much needed temporary cell phone tower erected, reconnecting residents to loved ones, cut off since the retreating Russians destroyed the phone and Internet services. And a truck full of humanitarian aid, the first to arrive since liberation. Candles, bread, water handed out to eager residents who have been without electricity and water since the Russian retreat.

ROBERTSON: How much is this needed here?

SVEYATOSLAV YRASH, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Desperately, I was thinking about people what was lacking, what they have, what they've lost, and basically the supermarkets don't work, shops are crazy expensive or don't work.

ROBERTSON (voice over): In the city's neighborhoods, poorly stocked street markets hint at how much more help is needed. Some goods like drinking water nearly impossible to find.

ROBERTSON: What help do you need from the government now here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Electricity, water, and very cold in the home -- very cold.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Within hours of Zelenskyy's visit, Russian artillery destroyed a house in the north of the city, a reminder Russian troops are not far away.

Where they retreated Friday, the pontoon they used to flee across now partially sunk. The once mighty Antonovsky Bridge crippled by U.S. made HIMARS that helped trigger the Russian collapse in tatters too. But the Russians didn't go far.

ROBERTSON: And that's where the danger is for Kherson just on the other side of the bridge, that's where the Russian positions are. They've dug in within easy shelling range of the city.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Zelenskyy's visit perhaps the closest to the front line since the war began.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


FOSTER: Let's discuss with military historian and Vietnam War veteran, Captain Douglas Cohn. He joins us live from Kherson. Thank you so much for joining us. We heard the Ukrainian president yesterday describe this as the beginning of the end of the war. Is he right?

CAPT. DOUGLAS COHN, MILITARY HISTORIAN: Yes, I would agree with that.

NOBILO: How does it move from here then? How does this end the war?

COHN: The key right now is the Dnipro River often called the Dnieper. What has happened here is the Russians had a plan A, which was to take Ukraine and that failed. They went to plan B which was to take Novorossiya which is all the way from the Donbas all the way over Moldova. That failed when they lost at Mykolaiv and they pulled back into Kherson. And Kherson, they had that as a bridgehead.

Then they made a huge blunder and this could not have come from a military person. They then reinforced the bridgehead but they couldn't sustain it because the Ukrainians could knock out the bridges and they did. They either disabled them or knocked them out. As a result, these people, the Russians in this local, became stranded. It couldn't work. The Russians tried to get about 24,000 of them out of here. That didn't work.

Then the command announced from Moscow that they were going to retreat. Nobody ever announces a retreat so they could have only done that for one reason. They were hoping for a free passage out and they didn't get it. And so, what is going on now is plan C is to hold a portion of what they had originally intended in the south of Novorossiya and that is to use the Dnipro River as a barrier.

They assumed they can't get back across this river so they assumed the Ukrainians couldn't and in that they have made a mistake. Because the Dnipro River has a dam across it. And here I can give a quick example. The Dnipro River goes northeast like this and as it comes up you hit Kherson, stay with me on that. You come a little north you hit the dam. Beyond the dam you have lakes. The lakes nobody crosses, nothing's going on there. If the Ukrainians can cross that dam -- which is the only passage still left over the river -- they can breach this entire line to the south.

They're also trying to breach that line in other places here to the south. As a result, if they breach the Russian line on the Dnipro, the entire front collapses here and it's wide open all the way to Crimea and that would end the war.

NOBILO: Captain Cohn, you've been prescient in terms of your remarks prior to the war and throughout. Obviously, when Ukraine makes gains and Russia encounters losses, sometimes that's received with an element of trepidation in the West because there's concern that if Putin feels backed into a corner, then he could resort to something extreme like perhaps a tactical nuclear weapon, et cetera. What's your view if Ukraine manages to consolidate these gains and Russia continues to be pushed back. Are you concerned that he'll resort to that or do you think something shifted?

COHN: What's important to remember is when the defense minister and the general announced a retreat, that was a major breach with Putin. Now Putin may have agreed to it, but only under pressure from them, which means that that military is now taking a more active role in the overall strategy away from Putin. And one of those things is going to be no nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are not going to be part of this.

The idea -- there are a lot of fallacies here. For example, there was a fallacy that there was going to be a trap in Kherson. That never made any sense. There's the fallacy that they're stuck in mud because of the rain. There isn't rain. There's only been four days of rain in the last 38 days. They're talking about how cold it is. Well, I'm cold but the Ukrainians aren't.


They're practically in swimsuits out here. They love this weather. This is ideal weather for their offensive. And so, I expect they're going to breach this line and when they breach it things are going to fall apart very quickly for the Russians.

FOSTER: In terms of how Russia handles, you know, more aggressive offensives by the Ukrainians, how do they deal with this without losing complete face? Because that's also a huge concern for many people when it comes in relation to Putin in particular?

COHN: You're asking how do the Russians cope with that?

FOSTER: How do they spin this if they do have to go into a full retreat?

COHN: There is no spinning it. The Russians have one and only one alternative here, surrender. Retreat. Leave. That's it. There have been mistakes on the American side. General Milley talked about it was going to take days to get the Russians out of Kherson. That was not accurate. That was simply not accurate. People have talked about there could be a stalemate. Well, that's what the Russians are pushing for is stalemate. There isn't going to be a stalemate and as a result, things are going to start to move very rapidly. And Putin is going to have to face facts. He's lost this war and this idea of negotiations is out. There is not going to be negotiation.

FOSTER: Captain Douglas Cohn, thank you very much indeed for your perspective. This is a guy who has predicted a lot of what's going to happen in this whole conflict.

NOBILO: Absolutely.

FOSTER: And continues to do so. We'll be interested to see if he's right.

Still ahead, the import gauge of inflation in the U.S. is due out in a few hours. Plus, earnings reports from Walmart and Home Depot. We'll bring them to you.



NOBILO: Welcome back. The U.S. Senate is moving forward on a bill that would codify same-sex marriage into law. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the first procedural vote is set for Wednesday.

FOSTER: The latest version of the bill was unveiled on Monday and a bipartisan group of Senators say they're confident they can get the 10 Republican votes needed for the bill to advance.

NOBILO: We're keeping a close eye on U.S. financial markets ahead of a key report on inflation. As you can see futures are looking up. On Monday the Dow lost nearly 3/4 of a percent. The Nasdaq was off more than a percent and the S&P 500 finished nearly 1 percent lower. The Bureau of Labor Statistics set to release its producer price index for October and that will give us an idea of whether inflation is easing. Retail giants Walmart and Home Depot will report earnings before the opening bell on Wall Street providing more information about consumers and financial health.

FOSTER: And one of the largest U.S. strikes in several years, some 48,000 academic employees across the University of California system walked off the job on Monday forcing the cancellations of some classes. Workers including researchers, fellows, and academic support staff are demanding higher pay and better working conditions. The strike stretches across ten campuses throughout California. Negotiations between the union and the system have been ongoing since the spring of last year.

NOBILO: Amazon is reportedly planning to lay off about 10,000 employees. "The New York Times" reported the job cuts could start as early as next week. It comes as a number of tech companies announce major layoffs in recent weeks amid the economic uncertainty. CNN hasn't been able to independently confirm that report.

FOSTER: So many big job losses aren't there.

U.S. prosecutors in New York are investigating the stunning implosion of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Once valued at more than $30 billion, FTX filed a bankruptcy days after a run on deposits left it with an $8 billion short fall.

NOBILO: Claiming it had been hacked, FTX moved its funds into offline storage and out of the reach of customers and many legal experts say it's quite likely that customers will never get that money back.

China has reported its biggest spike in COVID infections since April of last year. More than 17,000 local cases were confirmed on Monday with over 5,000 coming from the city of Guangzhou.

FOSTER: Officials there have set up road barriers to keep residents indoors but some people have broken through the barricades and taken to the streets in protest. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now with more. Protests breaking out across that region. What more have you learned and how much information are you getting?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Max, residents of Guangzhou are angry, they are furious and they are taking to the streets especially in the lockdown district of Guangzhou known as Haizhu. And we've been monitoring social media images that have been circulating widely online. And they show that the residents in this lock down neighborhood are defying local orders.

And some as you can see here, they've been breaking down these roadway barriers meant to confine them at home so they can set out onto the streets and to protest. And in one of these videos a woman's voice is heard in the background as she was saying, quote, they are revolting.

CNN has been able to geo locate these images. They are indeed from the Haizhu district of Guangzhou, but we cannot independently confirm them. On Tuesday there was a local press conference. And officials did confirm that large parts of the district are still under lockdown.

With one area official saying, quote, we have also realized many of our shortcomings.

Now some background here, Guangzhou is a major economic powerhouse. It's home to some 19 million people. It is now the epicenter of a nationwide COVID-19 outbreak in China. And on Monday Guangzhou reported record infections along with other major cities including Beijing and Chongqing and even though the case numbers in China are very low, especially when you compare it to the West, China is still holding tight to this tough zero-COVID policy. The policy of mass testing, of contact tracing, border controls, et cetera. Which has disrupted both lives and livelihoods. And the protests in Guangzhou become weeks after the other protests that we have been covering here on CNN in Lhasa as well as the Sitong Bridge protest, that brazen protest in Beijing. Back to you.

FOSTER: Kristie in Hong Kong, thank you very much, indeed.

Now still ahead, maybe the third time's the charm. NASA will try once again to launch its Artemis moon rocket just days after it took a direct hit from a hurricane.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am, we are landing. Sit down. Step back. Step back.


FOSTER: The FBI and the FAA are investigating an incidence on a United Airlines flight that sent two passengers and a flight attendants to the hospital. United said the disruptive customer on a flight for San Francisco was removed by law enforcement after the flight landed in Chicago. Chicago police say three people from the flight were taken to a local hospital. But no criminal charges have been filed so far.

Now NASA will try again Wednesday to launch the Artemis moon rocket.

NOBILO: This will be the third launch attempt and it came just days after the rocket took a direct hit from the hurricane. CNN's Lynda Kinkade reports.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST (voiceover): NASA says it's on track for the Artemis 1 mission to launch Wednesday. That could pave the way for U.S. astronauts to return to the moon. The launch of NASA's most powerful rocket ever, which is carrying the uncrewed Orion spacecraft, is targeting a two-hour window for lift off, beginning at 1:04 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday. That's if all goes to plan. Previous launches have been scrubbed because of bad weather and technical issues. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Launch, Rector Charlie, Blackwell, Thompson has called a scrub.

KINKADE (voiceover): NASA says the mission is still ready to go, even though the mega rocket sustained some minor damage after hurricane Nicole swept across Florida last week.


Artemis 1 was already on the launchpad when the storm unexpectedly strengthened. NASA says it was with designed to withstand high winds and needed minimal repairs. But the launch date was pushed back by two days. It's the latest in a series of delays for the Artemis 1 launch, which was initially set for late August. The first two attempts were scrapped after issues with a fuel leak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team now going into the cut off procedure after being unable to resolve a hydrogen leak.

KINKADE (voiceover): The third scuttled by the threat of an earlier hurricane, which had forced NASA to roll the rocket back to the hangar for safety. If and when Artemis gets off the ground, it has some lofty goals. The first mission is expected to be a 25-day journey to the moon's orbit and back. Artemis 2 repeats the trip, including astronauts and a lunar fly by. Artemis 3 plans to put astronauts back on the moon's surface.

Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


NOBILO: And then there were none. The NFL's last undefeated team this season, the Philadelphia Eagles fell in a stunner at home on Monday. To their division rivals the Washington Commanders and that was 32-21.

FOSTER: The loss drops the Eagles to 8-1 and it means the 1972 Miami Dolphins once again remain the only team in the NFL's history to have a perfect season. Amazing.

And now to half-court in Melbourne. A source with direct knowledge of the matter says Australia plans to overturn it's three year ban on tennis star Novak Djokovic.

NOBILO: Djokovic was deported from Australia in January after the immigration minister ruled that he didn't have sufficient grounds to enter the country since he wasn't vaccinated for COVID. The former world's number one tennis player is hoping to compete in the 2023 Australian Open.

FOSTER: Open -- just slipped in there, didn't it?

Thanks for joining us here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Max Foster.

NOBILO: And I'm Bianca Nobilo. "EARLY START" is up next here on CNN.