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Zelenskyy Visits Germany; Millions in Path of Tropical Cyclone Mocha; Sweden Wins Eurovision Song Contest. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 14, 2023 - 03:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak.

Already in Berlin, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Germany as that nation prepares to supply billions in aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.

Bracing for disaster, millions of people in Bangladesh and Myanmar in the path of powerful Cyclone Mocha.

And Eurovision has a winner. Sweden takes home the top honor in this year's song contest.

Good to be with you.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Berlin right now meeting with top German leaders who are providing some much needed military support. He landed there hours after Germany announced its biggest batch of military aid, which includes 30 Leopard tanks. The $3 billion package also includes armored vehicles and reconnaissance drones. Germany was reluctant to deliver weapons to Kyiv in the early stages of the war, but it later made a policy U-turn, becoming a major arms supplier to Ukraine.

For more now, Salma Abdelaziz joins us from London. Salma, President Zelenskyy now on his first visit to Germany since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. What kind of reception is he getting?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, you're going to receive the reception of an ally, of a friend, of a close partner in this war. Germany has been critical, has been pivotal to Ukraine's fight against Russia. And it is Germany, really, that became, if you will, the center of this debate around tanks just a few months ago. Germany initially seemed reluctant to provide those tanks.

I know you describe it as a U-turn, but, really, at the beginning of this conflict, most western allies were highly concerned about providing any weapons that might seem to be offensive, that might escalate that conflict with Russia, that might show some sort of direct involvement that would further instigate the war with the Kremlin. Of course, that calculation has now changed more than a year into the conflict. And, again, it was a few months ago that once that deal was reached for the United States provided Abrams tanks that Germany, in turn, also provided those very critical Leopard tanks that are already on those frontlines. Of course, before President Zelenskyy arrived in Berlin, Germany, Germany's defense ministry announcing this $3 billion aid package that will include more of those tanks, more help ahead of this expected core offensive.

And if you're asking what to expect to happen during this visit in Germany, I think what took place in Rome is a good indicator, is a good prelude. There, of course, yesterday, President Zelenskyy met with his counterpart, met with Pope Francis as well, Italy's prime minister pledged unwavering support, pledged to push and help Ukraine in its bid to join NATO. Pope Francis emphasized the humanitarian aspect.

Of course, you can see or expect, rather, very similar lines coming from Germany, and all of this, again, ahead of this push on the ground, this expected counteroffensive. President Zelenskyy yesterday signaling that the first steps of that could come soon. Laila?

HARRAK: Salma Abdelaziz reporting from London, thank you. Salma.

Liana Fix is a fellow for Europe at the Council of Foreign Relations and the author of Germany's Role in European-Russia Policy, a New German Power. A very welcome back, Liana.

Germany announcing a significant aid package, substantial military support for Ukraine. Is this coming off the shelves of the Bundeswehr, German army? And when do we expect weapons to be in Ukrainian hands, how long will it take before it will be at the frontlines?

LIANA FIX, FELLOW FOR EUROPE AT THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, this huge package is actually coming from the industry. So, it will not deplete the little things that the German army has left. And it's an important sign that actually working with the industry has improved and improving the production capacities in the German defense industry has improved. And most importantly, this package is part of that for the counteroffensive, according to the German defense minister.


But most importantly, many of these weapons are designed to get to Ukraine even after the counteroffensive and signal a long-term commitment by Germany. And that's an important sign, especially in times when the U.S. commitment and this uncertainty about the U.S. Commitment after the offensive and with view to the U.S. elections, it's an important sign to see that a big country like Germany is committed supporting Ukraine no matter how the counteroffensive ends.

HARRAK: All right. Now, let's talk about -- you referenced it there. A couple of days ago, the former president and potential future commander in chief, Donald Trump, he refused to say whether he wants President Zelenskyy to win this war. And his remarks, I'm just wondering, have they sparked concerns in Berlin and the E.U. at large over what a drop in potential U.S. support for Kyiv might mean for the continent and what the repercussions would be? And is this a signal with this aid that Germany is pledging now to Ukraine a consequence of that?

FIX: Absolutely. I mean, there is a lot of nervousness already since the midterm elections in the United States, in European capitals about, where U.S. politics are going, how the next elections will look like, I mean, obviously a lot is still in the air. But the Europeans are very aware that they cannot compensate the U.S. military support for Ukraine because it's just so huge. But they want to make sure that they demonstrate that they will continue to help Ukraine even if there's a change in U.S. policy.

So, this package was negotiated already weeks and months before, but it is now a very good timing to announce the package, also with Zelenskyy having just arrived in Berlin to demonstrate, well, whatever happens in the United States, this is a war which is existential for Europeans.

HARRAK: Existential for Europeans, and you just referenced there the visit by Mr. Zelenskyy to Germany. How much of this is part of efforts by the chancellor to reset relations with the Ukrainian leadership, which, as you know, has been at times rocky?

FIX: Yes. This is, indeed, long overdue, the same way as Olaf Scholz has been late visiting Kyiv, and he only visited Kyiv in June last year. It is pretty late that Zelenskyy now is coming to Berlin after he has been to Helsinki and to the Netherlands. It's not a beauty contest, but it's still surprising that this visit is coming relatively late.

And so the sign that is sent with this visit by the German chancellor and by the government is perhaps relations between Ukraine and Germany are not as warm, are not as strong in rhetoric (ph) as other countries' relations are, but they are substantial. And they are fundamental for Ukraine in their fight against Russia's invasion.

HARRAK: And, Liana, in conclusion, beyond this military aid package, is there a willingness for Berlin to play a more prominent role, and specifically for people unfamiliar with Germany's reluctant to export weapons to conflict zones? Can you explain how much has changed and what led to this moment where we're at right now?

FIX: Yes. So, there was a lot of skepticism after Germany announced just three days after the invasion of Ukraine, when Russia was basically at the gates, that it will change entirely its acuity in defense policy, will spend 2 percent and so on. And Germany's hesitancy in supplying Ukraine, for instance, with tanks at the beginning of this year, has led many observers to question this historic shift that the German chancellor has announced.

But what we see now is that actually the implementation of this shift is making real progress, especially the new German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, is really putting a lot of effort into making the nitty-gritty of such a shift work in terms of giving Ukraine the weapons that they need quickly, approving to export weapons quickly, getting, for the German army, the weapons that they need.

So, we do see remarkable progress, which is a good sign not only for Germany but also for Germany's allies, for the United States and Europe, that Germany is finally delivering what it has promised.

HARRAK: In a few words, is Berlin prepared to play a more prominent role besides this?

FIX: It definitely wants to. That is the ambition. But it has to sustain this ambition with those acts that we see right now over a longer period of time to also make sure that the German public, for which this is an entirely new era, is coming along.

HARRAK: Liana Fix, thank you so much.

FIX: Thank you.

HARRAK: The Biden White House is praising a ceasefire that went into effect late Saturday between Israel and Islamic jihad.


It ends a round of deadly hostilities that erupted last Tuesday when Israel launched another operation against militants in Gaza.

Well, that set off waves of rockets flying towards Israel, and Israel retaliating with more airstrikes. At least 35 people were killed over the past week, nearly all of them Palestinians.

The IDF says its operation in Gaza killed six Islamic jihad commanders and struck hundreds of militant targets. While this strike on the alleged home of one commander came shortly before the ceasefire took effect.

Journalist Elliott Gotkine is covering these latest developments for you. He joins us now from us Jerusalem. Elliott, fill us in on what is the latest and is the ceasefire holding?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Laila, it took awhile. It was supposed to come into effect at 10:00 P.M. local time. But for more than an hour after that, the Islamic jihad militants were continuing to fire rockets towards Israel and Israeli airstrikes continued until around about midnight. But for the past ten hours or so, peace and calm has prevailed and returned to both Gaza and the communities in Israel surrounding the Gaza strip, which have pretty much been under lockdown and in bomb shelters for the past five days.

And the border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip are also being gradually reopened. We've already seen trucks carrying fuel going into the Gaza Strip as well. So, things returning to the way things were before this latest round of hostilities.

And, overall, as you say, we've seen, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, more than 1,200 rockets fired by Islamic jihad militants towards Israel these past five days. Israel saying that it struck more than 370 targets, 33 Palestinians killed inside Gaza, including militants and also women and children. And there were two people killed inside Israel as well.

Israel, while thanking Egypt for its mediation efforts, reiterating after the ceasefire came into effect that quiet, in its words, will be met with quiet. Adding that if Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything it needs to do to defend itself. And the militant factions in the Gaza Strip also saying that this round of fighting may be over, but the will to fight has not receded.

And there are a couple of other interesting takeaways here, which is, first of all, Hamas, the bigger and more powerful militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, was not targeted by Israel. Although it was saying that it was involved, Israel says that it was differentiating between what Hamas was saying and what they could see that it was doing. It said that Hamas was not involved. And so Israel was not targeting Hamas, even though in previous outbreaks of hostilities, Israel has targeted Hamas, blaming it, saying it is responsible for any rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip.

And I suppose the other thing is that this coming Thursday is the flag march where usually religious nationalist Jews march through parts of Jerusalem, including in Eastern Jerusalem, to celebrate what they see as the reunification of that city. Well, because we've just had this outbreak of conflict and a ceasefire, the fear of hostilities breaking out again have receded somewhat. Laila.

Elliott Gotkine there reporting from Jerusalem, thank you.

HARRAK: Tropical Cyclone Mocha made landfall moments ago in Myanmar, and aid agencies are bracing for disaster as the storm threatens millions of the world's most vulnerable people. Its outer bands were already bringing rain and winds equivalent to a category 5 Hurricane to parts of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Disaster response teams handed out aid and food in Myanmar and helped residents get to temporary shelters. In Bangladesh, meanwhile, about 1 million Rohingya refugees are now at risk from the cyclone.

CNN Meteorologist Britley Ritz is tracking the storm for you and she joins us now live. Britley, what are you seeing?

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Unfortunately, it did make landfall 12:45 local time on the northern coastline of Myanmar with winds that are at least category 5 strength in the Atlantic basin on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That's the equivalent. We're talking about winds over 300 kilometers per hour with gusts.

And there it is, that system, the eye no longer can be seen, so there is some sense of weakening as it hits the friction of the land but still a strong and powerful storm nonetheless, gusts of 315 kilometers per hour, sustained winds of 216 kilometers per hour as it continues its track northeast at 20.

It's still holding on to warm water, sea surface temperature anomalies where temperatures are about a degree to a degree and a half Celsius above where they typically should be this time of year. So, that's just fuel for the storm to really continue its strengthening process as it takes on the water. Once it gets over land, you won't have anything to worry about at that point and you get the weakening. But there is that warm water really fusing the storm, but the dry air across Pakistan and India trying to filter in, not much but just enough to cause the left-hand side of the storm to really fall apart.


Landfall already happened as it moves inland over the next 24 to 36 hours. Again, the friction of the land will tear it apart to basic area of low pressure regardless strong winds and heavy rain will continue over the next two days. So, the winds will start to fade out as we move into Monday but the rain continues on Monday into Tuesday, the heaviest being today and into Monday.

And then, again, scattered showers afterwards regardless, even heavy rain afterwards, scattered, with cause issues, mudslides, landslides, especially higher elevations and areas that are typically going to pick up about 100 to 150 millimeters of rainfall. Isolated higher amounts are possible up to 250 millimeters. So, expect quite a mess here in the upcoming day. Laila?

HARRAK: Terrifying moments, Britley, for those impacted regions. Thank you so much.

Now, it's been two days since Title 42 expired in the United States. Just ahead, we'll take you to the southern border to see how the end of the restrictions might be affecting the number of migrant crossings.

Plus, the threat of severe storms continues at the southern U.S. border after a deadly tornado struck the Texas coast. Details after the break.



HARRAK: The Biden administration is warning migrants that the U.S. southern border is not open now that Title 42 has expired. While shortly after the regulation ended Thursday, a top homeland security official said there was no substantial increase of migrants at the border. The long lines of people waiting to enter the U.S. have tapered off dramatically. And some border communities say they've yet to see the massive surge many were expecting.


MAYOR JAVIER VILLALOBOS, MCALLEN, TEXAS: Locally, the immigrants all are heeding the advice. So, we are -- of course, we're concerned because we still know about the numbers, and the numbers coming from different areas. But as of right now, we are within capacity and we're logistically doing well.


HARRAK: For more on this story, here's CNN's Polo Sandoval. POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here on the U.S./Mexico border, there is a general feeling among many stakeholders that the chaos that they expected with the expiration of Title 42 didn't necessarily play out. That's according to at least one senior CPB official, Customs and Border Protection, who has cited in a recently filed court document that says the ten-day average of migrant encounters currently stands at about 9,000, which is well below what was expected. However, there is some concern and projections that suggest that number could go up to as many as 14,000 in the coming days or weeks.

There is a number, though, that is critically high here, and that is the daily custody average, which is the total number of migrants that are in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. That number still stands at about 23,000. So, this what you can perhaps call a temporary respite is allowing them opportunities to process those individuals to make room for others who may possibly choose to enter the country illegally.

Now, there is speculation there on the ground when you speak to some of those who are running the shelters that receive some of these migrants after they're processed. They seem to believe that perhaps some of the news coming from the Biden administration of stricter policies could be making it south of the border. So, you have many potential asylum seekers just south of the border that are still weighing their options.

There are, of course, those numbers that are likely to grow, that is the number of asylum seekers ending up in some of America's largest cities. Because many of them here in El Paso telling me that they are wanting to go to California, some wanting to stay in Texas, but many of them continue to say that New York City is their final destination.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

HARRAK: In addition to the possible influx of migrants, officials were also keeping an eye on severe weather at the border. Flood watches remain in effect there until Sunday night.

A tornado touched down near the southern tip of the Texas coast early Saturday morning. At least one person was killed when the twister damaged his mobile home. About a dozen people were injured and many more took refuge at temporary shelters.

A threatening sound in the air that can mean the difference between life and death in Ukraine. Still ahead, we go to a town where people listen for signs of incoming missiles because their lives could depend on what they hear.

Plus, North Carolina's governor vetoes a controversial abortion bill setting up a likely showdown in the state legislature. Details ahead.


[03:25:00] HARRAK: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and Canada and all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak and you're watching CNN Newsroom.

Surviving under artillery fire and keeping watch for incoming missiles. It's become a way of life in frontline towns in Southern Ukraine where Russian strikes have become all too common.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh went there and came within eyeshot of Russian missiles.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Occupied Ukraine is aflame and evacuating its civilians. Russia's wholesale departure can't come soon enough for frontline town Orikhiv, ravaged by Moscow, where four missiles hit on Thursday alone. Rescuers left guessing what the constant bangs mean and have done.

Seeing people just down the road carrying on life as per normal, despite dust in the sky around us.

What's going on? They may not be, in fact, outgoing? He's saying this is the particular time of day when these things start, it could be any time at all, frankly.

As dusk falls, the sky lit in a jewel. All they can do here to stay alive is read the horizon. Some of it perhaps further south into occupied areas than a week earlier, but so much of it also very close.

Dawn is often jarring. We hear a jet overhead, the slowly building, grating sound of damage moving towards you. A missile, a $500,000 Kh- 31, Ukrainian officials later say, lands just 700 yards away. Another blast follows.

Either jet entrails or anti-aircraft fire settle to shape a Z in the air, the symbol of Russia's invasion. It is soon gone. The damage it leaves, though, isn't. This is where it hit, or missed.

Down here, you can get a feeling of just how massively brutal Russian firepower can be and also how indiscriminate. I can still smell the explosive down here, and you're kind of left wondering where the obvious military target is.


At the end of this road is Polohy, one of the towns Russia has said it is evacuating. We are just one mile from Russian frontline positions here, a world torn apart as Moscow tries to hold Ukraine back.

More than ten miles in that direction are the first towns that Russian occupying forces say they're going to be evacuating because of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. But look at her, the last town really held by Ukraine, absolutely battered and so few people left here, there's little need to evacuate.

Where there were once 3,000, there are 200 people trying to stay, says, Raiza (ph).

Caught in these wide-open spaces, where a distant bang can suddenly alter life in an instant.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), Ukraine.


HARRAK: Ukrainian President Zelenskyy meanwhile says the highly anticipated military counteroffensive against Russian forces will begin soon. In public, he has rejected the idea of striking inside Russian territory, but U.S. intelligence has reportedly revealed that he has considered such action in private.

According to The Washington Post, recently leaked classified documents showed that during private meetings months ago, Mr. Zelenskyy suggested blowing up a Russian pipeline that provides oil to Hungary and that he also considered occupying Russian border villages to gain leverage over Moscow during talks. The Washington Post says the Pentagon did not dispute the authenticity of the leaked materials.

Well, in response to that Post report, a senior U.S. official told CNN, quote, we are not encouraging or enabling the Ukrainians to strike beyond their borders. We are focused on ensuring Ukraine has the equipment it needs to defend its territory and pushback Russian forces. Well, President Zelenskyy has kept the promises he has made to President Biden, and we do not believe that that will change.

U.S. President Joe Biden was cautious but upbeat on Saturday about Congress finally raising the debt ceiling so the U.S. doesn't default on its obligations. That includes big things like Social Security and Medicare. It's a long list, and the U.S. has never failed to pay what it owes.

But so far, House Republicans have refused to budge on their spending demands, even as the risk of catastrophic default grows daily. White House and Congressional staffers are racing to hammer out an agreement before it's too late.

Here's how the president described those talks on Saturday.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: So, I think we're moving along. It's hard to tell. We've not reached a crunch point yet. But there's real discussion about some changes (INAUDIBLE), but we're not there yet.


HARRAK: President Biden also delivered the commencement address on Saturday at Howard University, at times sounding more like Candidate Biden. Howard is one of America's oldest and most revered historically black universities. It's also an audience that Mr. Biden needs to reach if he hopes to win a second term.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has our report. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden delivered a commencement address to graduates from Howard University here in Washington, D.C., but much of his speech sounded a lot like a campaign speech, as he urged graduates to consider that the battle for the soul of the nation is not yet complete.

Now, the president did not mention his predecessor, Donald Trump, by name, but he did talk about some of his traits and the moments from his presidency. Biden talked about people who stoke division in the country and also those who try to cling to power. He also specifically referenced those clashes down in Charlottesville and the remarks from the former president when he said that there were very fine people on both sides. Biden warned that there are still sinister forces operating in this country to try to thwart progress, including racial progress.


BIDEN: The fearless progress toward justice often meets ferocious pushback, the oldest and most sinister of forces, that's because hate never goes away.

It hides under the rocks. When it's given oxygen, it comes out from under that rock. That's why we know this truth as well. Silence is complicity. It cannot remain silent. We have to live through this battle for the soul of the nation.


SAENZ: Now, while the president spoke, there were a few graduates who stood up in protest, holding signs relating to issues that are important to black voters. Black voters, of course, were key in propelling President Biden to the White House back in 2020, and they will be a key constituency heading into 2024.


So, it is noteworthy that he decided to deliver his first commencement address of the season at Howard University, one of the country's most prominent historic black colleges and universities, somewhere where Vice President Kamala Harris attended when she was in college. But the president today trying to take his message of unity and a push for progress to those black graduates at that school.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.

HARRAK: Iowa almost saw dueling Republican rallies on Saturday night with former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis scheduled to converge on the campaign trail. But bad weather and tornado warnings foiled Mr. Trump's plans to rally his supporters in Des Moines, and he canceled his appearance.

He hasn't yet officially announced he's running for the White House, but Ron DeSantis sure looked like he was setting out a presidential platform in Iowa.

Our Steve Contorno was there.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis returned to Iowa for a pair of events in the early caucus state meant to show that he is laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign even though he isn't in the race yet. Ahead of his trip, 37 state lawmakers in Iowa endorsed DeSantis for president. There were signs that said DeSantis 2024 line in the entrance of his event. There was a tour bus that said DeSantis for president, and there's even a pledge to people in attendance that they were going to support DeSantis in 2024.

But when it came time for DeSantis to discuss his political future, he avoided the topic all together, instead issuing this warning to Iowa Republicans about if they look to the past instead of looking to the future in this upcoming presidential primary.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If we make 2024 election a referendum on Joe Biden and his failures and if we provide a positive alternative for the future of this country, Republicans will win across the board. If we do not do that, if we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again. And I think it will be very difficult to recover from that defeat.


CONTORNO: Now, if you notice there, Governor DeSantis did not mention Trump by name even though he was clearly referring to the former president. That is by design. DeSantis does not want to confront Trump directly until he is actually in the race. And even then, he has said he's going to focus on Joe Biden.

However, Donald Trump is very focused on DeSantis. He talks about him nonstop. He posts on Truth Social about him quite a bit. He mentioned him at the CNN town hall this week, and we expected him to address DeSantis at his own event on Saturday, however, it was canceled due to threat of tornado, so Trump was forced stayed in Florida.

Steve Contorno, CNN, Sioux Center, Iowa.

HARRAK: North Carolina's Democratic governor has vetoed a controversial bill that would have banned most abortions in the state after 12 weeks while the move will likely set up a showdown with the state legislature, where Republicans have veto-proof super majority.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has more.

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Governor Roy Cooper has been touring the state trying to build support for his veto against Senate Bill 20, calling that bill a disaster. On Saturday morning, he did go ahead and stamp that bill, vetoing it, surrounded in a rally by doctors and abortion rights supporters.

Now, under the current law there in North Carolina, abortions are legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. But if Senate Bill 20 moves along and survives, which is possible, the General Assembly votes and succeeds in overriding the governor's veto, well, it would barn nearly all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy by placing duties and responsibilities on doctors, abortion clinics and women attempting to get that procedure.

Let's dig a little deeper into Senate Bill 20. Here is what you need to know. It bans doctors from performing surgical abortions again after that 12-week mark of pregnancy, with some exceptions. It does also require in-person examinations by doctors for medical abortions. It prohibits people within North Carolina from mailing drugs to pregnant women and mandates doctors confirm the probable gestational age, making sure that the fetus is no more than 10 weeks before signing off on a medical abortion.

Here's what else Governor Cooper had to say as he vetoed that bill.


GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): But I know one thing for certain. Standing in the way of progress right now is this Republican supermajority legislature that only took 48 hours to turn the clock back 50 years on women's health. How about leave the medicine to the doctors and the decisions to the women?



ROSALES: And the GOP does have a slim super majority there in the General Assembly. Recently, a Democrat switched parties in the House to the Republican side, giving them a veto-proof majority. Having said all of that, the governor in that press conference hoping that at least one Republican lawmaker will not get in the way and will allow his veto to continue for bringing down Senate Bill 20. That override vote could happen by next week.

Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.

HARRAK: Voting is under way in Turkey this hour. Millions of voters are choosing a president and members of parliament. After the break, we'll go live to Istanbul for the latest developments.

And millions of people heading to the polls in Thailand. Opposition parties hope to ride a wave of frustration into office. But can they overcome the military's stranglehold on power? That's just ahead.


HARRAK: Voting is under way in Turkey in what could be a pivotal general election. That nation's 61 million voters are casting their ballots for president and members of parliament. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing a challenge from Republican People's Party Candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu and from Sinan Ogan, the candidate of the right-wing Ancestral Alliance.

And CNN's Jomana Karadsheh joins us now live from Istanbul. Jomana, with voting now under way, Turks casting their ballots, what are people telling you?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Laila, we're at one of these polling centers here in Istanbul. In the past couple of hours since we've been here, we've seen this constant stream of voters coming in.


It's expected to have a high turnout in these elections.

People are quite upbeat. They're quite optimistic. They are getting to exercise their democratic rights today, but also there's this tense mood of anticipation, as you can imagine, when you're looking at this very, very tight race, especially when it comes to the presidential vote, because people here are voting for parliament as well as voting for their next president. So, people are quite tense.

You've got two very different candidates, two very different visions for the country, and Turks today need to make that choice. Are they going to stick with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the path that he has set this country on or are they going for change?

And we've been speaking to a lot of people who have been coming in. There's just so much on people's minds right now. This country has been going through so much, the past few years have been very, very tough for a lot of Turks.

I mean, the past few months in the aftermath of that devastating earthquake. You talk to people, they would tell you among the issues that will impact their decision today and how they vote is the government's handling and what many have described as the disastrous initial response to that devastating earthquake. You've got the state of the country's economy where we saw the Turkish lira lose much of its value over the past couple of years. You've got the double-digit inflation that has made life so hard for so many people here. And that has been blamed on President Erdogan's unorthodox economic policies.

And then speaking to a lot of the young voters, first-time voters, they tell you it's also about freedoms. It's about democracy, that they feel that they are losing or it's under threat. And today, they say they get their chance to have their say about the direction of the country and about their future. Laila?

HARRAK: Jomana Karadsheh reporting from Istanbul, thank you, Jomana.

And for our international viewers, be sure to watch CNN's live coverage of the elections in Turkey hosted by Becky Anderson. That's this evening at 7:00 in London, 9:00 P.M. in Istanbul, right here on CNN.

And voting is also under way in Thailand, where some 50 million voters are choosing members of a new 500-seat House of Representatives. The election could lead to the defeat of the military-backed leader who has ruled Thailand for nearly a decade. It's the first election since pro-democracy protests rocked the country in 2020, while those demonstrations were led by the nation's young people who are hoping to see change in this election.

This is the second Thai election since a 2014 military coup ousted the elected government. The military has insisted it would not get involved in this election.

Still ahead, Sweden takes top honors at the world's biggest song contest, but there were other surprises as well. Details on Eurovision, next.



HARRAK: The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers will be playing game seven of their NBA playoff series in Boston later today. Up for grabs is a ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals. The winner will face the Miami Heat, who are the first eighth-seeded team to reach the conference finals in 24 years. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets will tip off in game one of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.

And Eurovision is an international phenomenon, a song contest first held in 1956 that has grown and riveted the world ever since launching such stars as Abba and Celine Dion. And as CNN's Paula Newton reports, this year's edition was unforgettable for lots of reasons, from where it was held to who emerged on top.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a winner.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was the end of a historic Eurovision with Sweden's Loreen becoming the first woman ever to win the contest twice. But the main act was a sweeping show of support for Ukraine, starting with the display of Ukrainian culture by last year's winners, the Kalush Orchestra, accompanied by a surprise appearance by the Princess of Wales. The hosts wore blue and yellow, and competing nations sent messages of solidarity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our hearts are in Ukraine and with Ukraine, so stay strong.

NEWTON: This year's Eurovision was held in Liverpool, the first time in 44 years the winning nation has not hosted the contest, and that, of course, is because of the war in Ukraine, conflict that seeped into the usually non-political show.

Russia was banned for the second year in a row. Ukrainian contestants Tvorchi wore suits with the names and weights of Ukrainian babies born prematurely due to the war. Their song entry, Hearts of Steel, about bravery and perseverance, became especially poignant as Russia bombed the singers' hometown of Ternopil during the performance.

A message felt by Ukrainians right around the world, like these watching the show under air raid sirens in Kyiv, or these, displaced in the U.K. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're living here in the U.K. right now. And we're waiting for the victory, but not in Eurovision but in the war that's going in our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, I was crying because it's like I didn't expect that. And everybody said, this is Ukraine Eurovision, it's not ours, we're doing this for Ukraine.

NEWTON: The show was not without controversy after Eurovision organizers declined President Zelenskyy's request to speak at the event, saying this would break the show's unpolitical nature.


But the event was everything but with widespread support for Ukraine becoming the embodiment of this year's theme united by music.

Paula Newton, CNN.


HARRAK: A 4,000-year-old temple has been discovered at an archeological site in Western Peru. Experts believe that the U-shaped building was used for religious ceremonies. An ancient cross symbol was also found carved into its walls. It suggests that the so-called Southern Cross was an important symbol to Peruvian cultures as far back as 4,000 years ago.

Now, sometimes you can win a race just by finishing it. In the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, 20-year-old runner Bou Samnang came in last at the 5,000-meter run. But because of determination to finish the race despite torrential rain, health concerns and a lack of training resources, she has won over the hearts of many.


BOU SAMNANG, RUNNER: On that racing day, I knew I was losing. The rain was so heavy. I had the right to abandon the race, but I did not because I have a duty to represent Cambodia. So, I did not give up for the sake of the nation.

I tried to reach the finish line because I wanted to show people that in life, even though we go a bit slow or fast, we will reach our destination all the time. We should not give up. We should try our best.


HARRAK: Well, since her rainy last-place win, she has become an inspiration to her fellow Cambodians. It seems everyone wants to snap a selfie with the runner, who just refused to quit. Wonderful.

That wraps up this hour of CNN Newsroom. I'm Laila Harrak.

Kim Brunhuber picks up our coverage after a quick break, and I'll see you tomorrow. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)