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Authorities Searching for a Motive in Nashville School Mass Shooting; Fire on a Detention Center Caught on Video; Judge ruled Former VP Pence to Testify on the Jan. 6 Insurrection; Protests in Israel Continue despite Pause in Judicial Overhaul plan, Albeit with Less Protesters. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching "CNN Newsroom", and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. A grieving Nashville community left asking why. It's a question investigators are working to answer as they comb through ominous writings left by a school shooter.

Terrifying video shows the moment of fire ripped through a migrant detention center on the Mexico-U.S. Border, killing dozens of people.

And an extraordinary moment as former Vice President Mike Pence is ordered to testify before a federal grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is "CNN Newsroom" with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Thanks for being with us. Well, Nashville, Tennessee is planning a citywide candlelight vigil tonight for the three children and three adults killed in Monday's school shooting.

There's already a growing memorial of flowers, balloons and crosses outside the Covenant School. Nashville Mayor John Cooper says the city has set up a fund to help support survivors. The shooter killed three 9-year-olds on Monday, Evelyn Dickhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. The adult victims; 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, who was working as a substitute teacher; 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, the head of the Covenant School; and 61-year-old Mike Hill, a member of the Custodial Staff.

Police have released dramatic body cam video showing officers responding to the shooting, and they're revealing some disturbing text messages from the shooter.

CNN's Amara Walker reports, and we warn you, some viewers may find the footage disturbing. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Body cameras revealed police running toward the sound of gunfire without hesitation. About 3.5 minutes elapsed between the time they go in and when they confront the shooter. Metro Nashville Police said these two officers opened fire, killing the shooter at 10:27 a.m., about 14 minutes after the initial call for help.

CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE: I was really impressed that when all that was going on the danger that somebody took control and said, let's go. Let's go. Let's go.

WALKER (voice-over): Police still have not isolated what motivated Audrey Hale, a former student.

DRAKE: These students that were targeted were randomly targeted. There was not any particular student that they were -- that she was looking for at the time of the incident.

WALKER (voice-over): But police did reveal Hale legally bought seven different weapons from five stores and was being treated for mental health issues.

DRAKE: She was under care -- doctors care for an emotional disorder. Law enforcement knew nothing about the treatment she was receiving, but her parents felt that she should not own weapons. They were under the impression that was when she sold the one weapon that she did not own any more. As it turned out, she had been hiding several weapons within the house.

WALKER (voice-over): During the attack, Hale was armed with an AR-15, a 9-millimeter pistol caliber carbine and a 9-millimeter handgun.

DRAKE: Had it been reported that she was suicidal or that she was going to kill someone and had been made known to us then we would have tried to get those weapons. But as it stands, we had absolutely no idea, actually who this person was that she even existed.

WALKER (voice-over): Minutes before the rampage, a friend and former teammate of Hale says she got a message from the shooter that Hale wanted to die.

One day, this will make more sense that left behind more than enough evidence behind, but something bad is about to happen.

AVERIANNA PATTON, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF AUDREY HALE: So, at 9:57, I received a message from her. And at 10:08, I sent the screenshot to my dad and he instructed me to call the Suicide Prevention help line.

WALKER (voice-over): A memorial growing outside Covenant Presbyterian.


CAROLYN MODISHER, TENNESSEE RESIDENT: I just feel so for -- I'm 101- year-old and I've done a lot of things and -- but this really hurts. And I just -- I just hope they're all -- they're all with God.

WALKER (on-camera): We're getting new information as well from the Metro Nashville Police Department regarding those writings found in Audrey Hale's car and also on the shooter's body after police shot and killed the shooter on Monday. The writings, according to authorities, mentioned multiple other locations as potential targets, including a mall, near the school here, The Covenant School.

Apparently, it was determined that there was too much security at these other locations and hence this school was chosen. The writings also detail how the mass murderers would play out. That's according to police. Investigators are still reviewing these writings. And so far, they say, they have not seen any indications of a specific motive.


CHURCH: CNN's Amara Walker reporting there from Nashville, Tennessee. And I spoke earlier with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow, and I asked him with all the information police have when they might come up with a motive.


JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's hard to come up with an exact motive, right? One, because the shooter is dead, right? In the -- in the police response, they neutralize that threat. So, we will never get the full totality of what the motive was from the individual themselves.

What can we do? We can look at everything else that you had just described. One, we can look at the concerning communication that came out from this individual prior to the shooting itself. We know that there were posts online, messages sent to, you know, friends referencing basically suicidal idea -- ideation concerns for, you know, what they're going to do next, basically telegraphing this action.

Additionally we can look at the written notes that were left for law enforcement and that's really what they're keying in on right now is. Additionally, investigators are going to backtrack. They're going to

start interviewing everybody, all known associates context of this individual to look for any other red flags, behavioral anomalies.

Now, Rosemary, I've said this before on air, and I believe with you, it is not normal to wake up and walk into a location and start killing children. It's just a behavioral anomaly. It's on the furthest end of the behavioral continuum. And what I mean by that is that prior to this, there had to be other red flags, behavioral anomalies that we should have keyed in on to prevent this type of tragedy from happening.

CHURCH: Yeah, that is the big problem, isn't it? And of course, we have seen extensive body cam footage of police tracking down and fatally shooting this suspect. Why do police think it's important to share this with the public, and how would you assess the police response in this particular incident? WACKROW: Well, I think it's really important for the chief of police

in Nashville to release this video. Why? Because he wants to show the contrast between what was right and what the proper police response should be for an active shooter situation as opposed to what we saw in your Uvalde, Texas, where we saw law force mint sitting back and doing nothing while active killing was going on.

We want to show what law enforcement can do with the proper training tactics and experience to go and address a threat real time, and then neutralize that threat to preserve life.


CHURCH: Our thanks to CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow for his perspective.

Mexican officials have revised the death toll from a fire at a migrant detention center down from 40 lives lost to 38. More than two dozen others were injured. The incident happened in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Now, there's a new video showing the moment the flames and smoke spread through the facility. CNN's Rafael Romo has the latest, and a warning, his report contains graphic content.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one, Mexican soldiers pull people out of the building. It quickly becomes tragically clear, there's nothing they can do for some of them anymore.

Mexican officials say more than three dozen migrants, mainly from Central and South America, died at this detention center after a fire swift through the building late Monday.

Surveillance video from inside the detention center obtained by CNN shows how quickly the flames spread throughout the holding area after inmates set mattresses on fire. It also appears to show that those detained were behind bars with the gate locked.


Calling the fire regrettable and sad, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador said, the fire started Monday at 9.30 in the evening, hours before officials say 71 migrants living on the streets of Ciudad Juarez had been taken to the shelter.

The president added that the fire started after the migrants found out they were going to be deported. As a protest, the president said, the migrants put mattresses from the shelter against this door, and set them on fire. But they never imagined this was going to cause this terrible accident, he said.

As first responders tried to save victims at the shelter, family members desperately tried to get any news from their loved ones outside the building.

They're not telling us anything, this woman said, a relative of yours may die and they don't tell you anything at all.

We've seen they've been pulling people out, and we have no idea if they're alive or not, this man said. Ambulances have left one after the other, and we know nothing and they give us no information.

Located across the border from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez is a transit point where many immigrants from different parts of the world arrive daily, hoping to cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in the United States.

(on-camera): As it has been the case with other border towns in Mexico, there have been multiple riots and tense situations in the last few years due to the fact that there aren't enough shelters that can accommodate all of these migrants, and many end up living on the streets.

(voice-over): Through a statement, the Guatemalan government says 28 of its citizens were among the dead. Irregular migration, the statement said, carries with it a number of risks that have once again become evident.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: The special counsel investigating the efforts from Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election scored a big win in court on Tuesday. A Washington D.C. judge ruled Trump's former Vice President, Mike Pence, must testify.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has the latest now from Washington.


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: A federal judge in Washington has decided that the former Vice President Mike Pence has to testify to a federal grand jury about his conversations with Donald Trump.

Now, Pence had been sought out by Special Counsel Jack Smith to testify in the investigation around January 6th, a case in which there could be criminal charges against many different people, potentially Donald Trump as well. Trump is clearly under investigation here.

And what's so significant about this is that Pence has never spoken before. He's clearly the second most important person in the country on January 6th, also became the presiding officer at the U.S. Senate as Donald Trump and his supporters were trying to block the congressional certification of the presidency.

And now, Pence is going to have to speak about some of the conversations he had directly with Trump leading up to that day, especially ones where Donald Trump may have been acting corruptly. That's according to the judge in this case.

And also we know some of these conversations from other witnesses who have spoken about them are ones where Donald Trump was berating or making fun of Mike Pence in different ways, pressuring him to block the election result in which he was not willing to do.

And so it's quite a significant win for the special counsel's investigation. But Pence does have a bit of a carve out here. He's not going to have to speak about the time where he was specifically presiding over the U.S. Senate during that vote, and also we know that this is a resounding loss for Donald Trump, who continues to try and block people's answers before this grand jury by claiming executive privilege. He could not win in that argument either. There is the possibility that there could be appeals. But again, this is something that could bring about the testimony of Mike Pence quite soon, even though a date has not been set yet.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington


CHURCH: Earlier, CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson spoke with me about the importance of Pence's testimony to the January 6th investigation.


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a significant development, right? Let's keep track what happened here. The Vice President who had communications with the President of the United States, those communications, certainly leading to the state of the mind of the actual present -- President -- excuse me -- leading up to the insurrection on January 6, 2021 is now compelled to testify before a grand jury, a judge having heard and considered evidence and information with respect to the Vice President's claims that he should not testify now must do so.


And so when you have a panel of grand jurors who are considering criminality as against the president, and let's be clear, grand juries of panel, it's 23 people, a simple majority of which vote out an indictment. That indictment could be of the president, it could not be. It could be other members who were involved.

But the fact that that grand jury now would have the ability to hear from the Vice President in his own words with respect to what, if any conversations he had with the president, I think is a game changer, indeed.

CHURCH: Right. And what will the special counsel likely ask Pence directly and what questions should be asked?

JACKSON: Yes. So, just proceeding that, it's of course important to note that the Vice President can certainly appeal this, right? There's a -- an appellate court process, and that appellate court process could provide for the circuit court, we call that, in order to determine whether or not he must be compelled. And who knows? Maybe even the Supreme Court will get it.

Presuming, however, that there is a continued loss to the Vice President, I think there are a number of things that the grand jury wants to know. Sir, you had meetings with the President. Isn't that right? Yes. And with respect to those meetings, when did they occur? Who else was in the room? What did the President talk about? Was there specifics as to him overturning the election? Did he ask you about your role, Mr. Vice President, and what you could do, and whether or not you could help not certify this election? Did you have conversations about that? Did he pressure you to do that? What was the nature of the circumstances? Did it occur more than one time?

It will be endless, Rosemary, with respect to the specific questions, they will ask him on what occasions he met with the president, what the President said, and who, if anyone else was in the room, leading up to the issue and ultimate conclusion of whether the president tried to circumvent and otherwise really suppressed the democracy in this country, which is not to certify the election and potentially to do a power grab so he could remain president.


CHURCH: Our thanks to CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson there.

Well, ongoing protests in Israel, a first round of talks and major concerns about whether a compromise can be reached over controversial judicial reforms. We're live in Tel Aviv.

And in Washington, tough talk but no clear path forward as a Senate Committee grills regulators on why two U.S. banks suddenly collapsed and what might prevent it from happening again.

All back with that and more, in just a moment.




CHURCH: Welcome back everyone. Taiwan's President is en-route to the U.S. for a 10-day trip across North and Central America. Before leaving, President Tsai Ing-Wen held a news conference at the airport. She says external pressures won't stop Taiwan from moving towards international society and that a democratic Taiwan will contribute to the well being of the world. The president will also visit Guatemala and Belize before returning home.

Israel's ruling coalition and opposition are holding their first face- to-face talks over the contentious judicial reforms that have divided the country. A new meeting is set to get underway in the hours ahead. And while the judicial overhaul may be on hold, for now, at least, there's still tremendous outrage and plenty of distrust.

CNN's Nic Robertson explains.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice- over): Anti-government protesters not giving up yet. Healthcare workers in Tel Aviv weary of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promised pause on judicial reforms. Hundreds, not the thousands on previous days, continuing their battle cry.

Many here, physicians and psychologists, deeply skeptical of Netanyahu's motives in offering compromise talks with opposition leaders.

UNKNOWN: Our Prime Minister, he is a master, in psychological maneuvers. And of course, his goal now is to calm the resistance, is to make it fall asleep.

UNKNOWN: Do not really feel that we can trust our Prime Minister even though the full minutes of things he said are yet to be clarified.

ROBERTSON (on-camera): There isn't a lot of time further talks to reach the compromise, the Prime Minister says that he wants the next session of the Knesset is barely a month away. An absence any consensus, the protests are likely to ramp right back up again.

(voice-over): Briefing staffers, Netanyahu comparing the contentious talks to a family squabble.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): You can fight a little, not too much. You will come to an agreement. This is our goal to dislodge agreements.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The prime minister leading the first steps to that Monday, a closed door meeting with opposition leaders. At the protest, not just skepticism, but fear. Netanyahu has used the pause to empower one of his most hard right partners, giving Itamar Ben- Gvir, the National Security Minister and armed force reporting directly to him.

The Prime Minister has given Ben-Gvir a lot of private --

UNKNOWN: It's a private little army. That is going to come to this protests like us.

UNKNOWN: I hope that him having more power want influence it in a bad way. So, you're right. You will have the power to stop it in a more violent way.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Ben-Gvir denies his force will be used this way. Few here, ready to trust his word.

Nic Robertson, CNN Tel Aviv, Israel.


[03:25:00] CHURCH: And we now go live to Tel Aviv and CNN's Elizabeth Cohen. Good to see you again, Elizabeth. So, how is the U.S. president responding to this plan judicial overhaul? What's Netanyahu saying? And how will all of this likely impact us Israel relations going forward?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Rosemary, President Biden has been very, very direct in his criticism. He says he's very concerned about what's going on, and he says that Israel cannot continue down this road. Let's take a listen actually to what President Biden said yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know there's an inflection point, but I think it's a difficult spot again, and they've got to work it out.

UNKNOWN: So what do you hope the Prime Minister will do on that particular law?

BIDEN: I hope he, uh -- I hope he walks away from it.


COHEN: And then we have some tweets from Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said, I've known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel. The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always overcomes the occasional disagreements between us. Israel is a sovereign country, which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends.

Now, I think that many Israelis would take issue or many people in general would take issue with the term occasional disagreements, likening what Biden is saying now to any of the other disagreements between the two countries over the years.

I think this one feels very different and similar in a way to what we heard in Nic's story where the Prime Minister said what's going on in the country is he likened it to a family squabble at a holiday dinner. Speaking with many Israelis, I think they would say they don't know what family he's thinking of and what holiday dinner, but that this feels very different. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Our thanks to Elizabeth Cohen joining us live from Tel Aviv.

And still to come another day of violent protests across France over pension reforms, what unions are now calling on the government to do. That's next.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, anger rages on in France over the government's controversial move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.


Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Tuesday for another day of nationwide strikes. In several cities, protesters clashed with police, throwing stones and burning garbage. The French interior ministry estimates more than 700,000 people participated in the protest.

CNN's Sam Kiley has more now from the French capital.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten days of demonstrations and the latest march through Paris begins to feel almost routine.

Within a few hours, this though was the scene.

(on-camera): Concern over the rising level of violence has led the unions to ask for a dialogue with the government. This is what a senior union official said --

MAHER TEKEYA, SENIOR UNION OFFICIAL, CFDT: The only solution is to sit around the table and to have a constructive dialogue on how to find a way out of this situation.

KILEY (on-camera): The government's response has been this --

LAURENCE BOONE, FRENCH MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS: Now, it has been a democratic process. We've had hundreds of hours of debate at the parliament. The bill has been passed, and I think we need to move on.

KILEY (on-camera): The government said that they were expecting about 1,000 extremists to join these demonstrations. And currently, they're hell bent on trying to make sure that they don't gain the upper hand in what's beginning to turn into albeit relatively small scale but pitched battles here on the streets of Paris.

(voice-over): Interior ministry numbers put today's demonstration in Paris at 93,000. That's a 27,000 drop on the union organized protests last Thursday.

And across France, the numbers demonstrating were also down from a peak of about 1.28 million to only 740,000 today.

Opponents of the plan to raise the pensionable age in France from 62 to 64 must now pin their hopes on forcing a U-turn on the French government through street protests.

But after two months of frequent strikes, the austerity of protest in terms of lost earnings is beginning to bite.

Garbage collection will return for the first time in weeks to Paris on Wednesday, a sign perhaps that the fire is slowly going out on the opposition to pension reforms, but not opposition to President Emmanuel Macron himself.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Paris.


CHURCH: A testy hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill as U.S. senators demanded to know how two U.S. banks suddenly collapsed, and what can be done to prevent a repeat. Federal Reserve deputy chairman Michael Barr said the larger one, Silicon Valley Bank, imploded because of sheer mismanagement. He said regulators told the bank it had serious risk problems, but the bank did not act on it.


U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana responded, saying he is a dirt farmer, not a banker, but it's clear to him that no one took action.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): If it's a regulator's fault, it better be fixed. If it's a regulation fault, it better be fixed. If it's something else, I hope there's a report to this committee saying you know what, guys? This can happen again unless this happens. But it looks to me like -- I'll just say this and I'm looking out from the outside in -- it looks to me like the regulators knew the problem. But nobody dropped the hammer.


A House committee hearing on the same banking collapse is set to start in the coming hours and CNN's Clare Sebastian is following all of this for us. She joins us live from London. Good morning to you, Clare. So what's likely to come out of this house committee hearing?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think we're gonna see very similar themes, Rosemary, the same three regulators will be testifying more of a postmortem of how the bank run actually happened. We found out on Tuesday that $100 billion in deposits were set to leave Silicon Valley Bank on that day, March 9th, but they just did not have the collateral to cover it. And that's why the bank eventually collapsed so quickly.

So we're going to hear more of that, perhaps more questions around the partial sale of SVB and the losses that the regulator incurred as a result of that, and more attempts to apportioned blame be it to the bank itself and its mismanagement or the supervisors or the regulators.

I think the big question now that this moves to the Republican- controlled House is will we get a sense of their appetite to update or change legislation around bank regulation, as a result of this.

It was pretty unclear if you -- if you look at the responses from lawmakers on Tuesday, exactly how the opinion would sort of coalesce around this. Republicans tend to be more in favor of looser regulation, but Senator Elizabeth Warren did survey all of the three regulators and say, look, do you -- are you in favor of tougher bank regulation, and they all said yes.

That is why we saw bank stocks fall in the U.S. on Tuesday. U.S. Futures though, looking a little brighter this morning. And here in Europe, the markets are digesting a bit of another twist in the saga around Credit Suisse and UBS. UBS has just announced that it is replacing its CEO, bringing back its old CEO, Sergio Ermotti, who essentially steered the bank over nine years through the fallout of the financial crisis. That is something that markets seem to like.

CHURCH: Right. Clare Sebastian joined us live from London. Many thanks.

Argentina's President is in the U.S. and will be visiting the White House today. Alberto Fernandez met Tuesday with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Argentina is facing some serious economic challenges, and Mr. Fernandez is hoping for some help from President Biden.

Stefano Pozzebon reports.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Labor never stops in the landfills of Buenos Aires, where an army of informal workers scavenged through the rubbish to find goods to recycle and resell. Pushed by the relentless price hikes of never ending inflation, people like Sergio Omar say their salary is no longer enough to make ends meet.

SERGIO OMAR, INFORMAL WORKER (through translator): Twice as many people are coming here because the situation is so bad. Every day is worse.

POZZEBON (voice-over): As Argentina's president, Alberto Fernandez, heads to Washington on Wednesday, his country is facing the worst economic turbulence since the early 1990s.

Inflation, one of Argentina's chronic weak spots, topped a hundred percent last month and is now one of the highest rates in the world. While according to UNICEF, two out of every three Argentinian children are either in poverty or lack access to basic services, such as education, a safe home and drinking water.

LUISA BRUMANA, UNICEF ARGENTINA (through translator): A job is no longer enough to get out of poverty. If the miners who live in poor households, 90 percent of them had at least their relative was working but doesn't make enough.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Fernandez is the first left-wing Argentinian leader to be received at the White House in a generation. His meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden will include conversations around mining, climate change and technology. But in the background will be how the U.S. can help Argentina get back on its feet. The country needs to pay back $44 billion to the International Monetary Fund and negotiations are looming. On the plus side, Argentina offers great opportunities for clean energy and agricultural development, but other investors are also looking at them.

LISANDRO SABANES, POLITICAL ANALYST, LA PLATA NATIONAL UNIVERSITY (through translator): The message from South America is that if Washington wants the region to follow them, they need to open the purse because the alternative, China, is much more generous.

POZZEBON (voice-over): Argentina is already the recipient of most of Chinese commercial loans in Latin America. And Beijing is looking for more.


Back in Buenos Aires, the people eating at the soup kitchen have more urgent problems. Dinner is safe for today. Tomorrow, who knows?

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN, Bogota, Colombia.


CHURCH: Still ahead, could a meeting between the leaders of Ukraine and China beyond the horizon? Find out what President Zelenskyy had to say about that, and what might happen if Ukraine loses Bakhmut.



CHURCH: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit Ukraine.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Zelenskyy said he wants to engage directly with Xi, who is fresh off a visit to Moscow. He also warned that a Ukrainian defeat in Bakhmut would embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And as the battle for Bakhmut grounds on, the commander of Ukrainian land forces says the prolonged fighting is working to their advantage. He says the goal is to wear down Russian forces and eliminate as many as possible so Ukraine can eventually launch a counter offensive.

And CNN's Scott McLean joins me now live from London with more. Good to see you, Scott. So, what are you learning about possible talks between President Zelenskyy and China's Xi Jinping?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary. As you mentioned it was the Chinese President Xi Jinping who is in Moscow just last week. And now, you have the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying, hey, you are welcome to visit Kyiv as well.

Zelenskyy told the Associated press in an interview, that was aboard a moving train no less, that he wants to talk to Xi, that he wants him to visit and said that they -- the two leaders had been in touch prior to the full scale war, but they haven't had any contact since then, though, Kyiv did say last week during that Chinese state visit to Moscow that there had been discussions underway to at least broker a call between Xi and Zelenskyy to talk about China's proposed peace plan.

China has tried to position itself in this conflict as a neutral broker, though, it's important to point out that China has also so far failed to call this war a -- an invasion, at least not yet.

In that same interview, President Zelenskyy also talked about the situation in Bakhmut, saying that if the Ukrainians were to withdraw from that city that President Putin would smell that Ukraine is weak, and that, in his words, would push, push, push to go further inside of the country.

He also said that, look, Ukrainian lost there would make the Ukrainian public feel pretty weary, pretty tired and that Zelenskyy worries that he would get pressure from not only international allies but from within his own country to start discussions with Russia to try to compromise to actually bring an end to the war.

Though Ukraine's deputy Defense Minister also says that, look, her country is not holding Bakhmut only for political expediency. She says that, look, there are good military reasons for Ukraine to continue to hold Bakhmut and they will hold it as long as it is militarily useful.

At the moment, the Russians have surrounded the city on three sides, or at least they have access to the city on three sides, though they have failed to actually surround it successfully, despite a lot of talk and a lot of bravado from the Russians, and also from the Wagner Mercenary group.

The Ukrainians also say that they shot down just yesterday a Russian bomber not far from the city, Rosemary?

CHURCH: Alright, thanks to Scott McLean joining us live from London.

And still to come, Vanuatu asked the United Nations tough questions on climate change after suffering hit after hit from severe weather. The island nation wants to know what countries are obligated to do about the crisis and the legal consequences if they don't act

Back with that, in just a moment.




CHURCH: In the coming hours, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on a climate change resolution that seeks to clarify exactly what big polluters are responsible for. Officials in Vanuatu have been working towards the resolution for years bearing the brunt of worsening severe weather.

CNN's Anna Coren has our report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High above the vast Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu's leader looks down on his fragile paradise. The nation is one of the most vulnerable on earth. It's people at constant risk from cyclones, earthquakes and live volcanoes.

UNKNOWN: We believe it's all because of climate change.

COREN (voice-over): A village chief surveys the damage caused this month by two category four cyclones that slammed his community in the same week.

UNKNOWN: Cyclones are getting stronger and stronger every year.

COREN (voice-over): The fight against global warming is Vanuatu's existential crisis. But it's not the only global issue that clutches at this tiny nation. The people of these islands are getting wrapped up in the great power tussle between the U.S. and China, both want greater influence across the blue pacific continent.

U.S. allies, Australia and New Zealand, have always viewed the Pacific as their neighborhood. So, when the cyclones hit Vanuatu, they were first in to help.

CAPT. JACE HUTCHINSON, HMAS CANBERRA: Australia is a direct neighbor of Vanuatu in our region. And just like all the other neighboring pacific family countries, we respond to natural disasters when our neighbors are in need.

COREN (voice-over): All know the value of winning hearts and minds in the pacific. Beijing sent them cyclone aid too, but as China and the U.S. talk about new embassies, new military bases and new economic deals in the region, Vanuatu's climate change adaptation minister says to keep old friends or win new ones, you have to listen to what they need.

RALPH REGENVANU, VANUATU MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: The U.S. and China could absolutely gain greater influence in the pacific by taking real action on climate change. If China and the U.S. profess to be our friends and want to support us, they need to deal with climate change, which is the greatest threat to our existence.


COREN (voice-over): Vanuatu wants the International Court of Justice to determine how culpable big polluters are for climate disasters in the developing world.

REGENVANU: This is a question about human rights, the rights of people to live on this planet.

COREN (voice-over): That path to climate justice could also lead great powers towards geopolitical influence in the pacific.


CHURCH: And thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Rosemary Church. "CNN Newsroom" continues with Bianca Nobilo, next.