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Presidential Race Headed for Run-off in Turkey; Cyclone Mocha Batters Myanmar's Rakhine State; Voters Deliver Powerful Rebuke of Thailand's Military Elite; Ceasefire Between Israel and Islamic Jihad Appears to Hold; France, Germany Pledge Additional Military Support for Ukraine; Chinese Special Envoy Visiting Ukraine and Russia. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 15, 2023 - 00:00   ET


LAILA HARRAK, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome to all of our viewers, watching from around the world. I'm Laila Harrak, ahead on CNN NEWSROOM.


Decision delay. Final vote counting is underway in Turkey at this hour, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be headed for a run-off vote.

Assessing the damage from Cyclone Mocha, skirting a direct hit to the world's most vulnerable.

And, shoring up support. Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes his rounds in Europe, getting promises of military aid ahead of an expected counteroffensive.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: We begin in Turkey, where preliminary results indicate the country's hotly-contested presidential race is likely headed to a second round of voting.

With more than 98 percent of returns counted, state-run news is reporting that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads with 49.34 percent of the vote. Opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has 45 percent.

While results are not official, neither candidate looks to have reached the 50 percent threshold required to win the presidency outright. Still, Mr. Erdogan struck a self-assured tone while speaking from the balcony at his party headquarters. Take a listen.


RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translator): We have already surpassed our closest competitor by 2.6 million votes in the elections. I believe that this figure will rise much higher with the final results. We do not know yet whether the presidential election is over in the first round, due to the 50 plus 1 percent vote limit of our electoral system. If the decision of our nation shows the elections have been completed, then there is no problem.


HARRAK: Kilicdaroglu was similarly confident as he told supporters he welcomed a possible runoff.


KEMAL KILICDAROGLU, TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Despite all of his smear campaigns and insults, Erdogan did not get the results he expected. Nobody should get excited about a fait accompli. Elections are not won on the balcony. Election data still continue to come in. If our nation decides on a run-off with our pleasure, we will definitely win this election in the second round. Everyone will see it.


HARRAK: CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Istanbul with more on all these developments.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the polls predicted, this is turning out to be a very, very tight race. Ballot counting is continuing into the early hours of Monday, and so far, it doesn't seem that either of the candidates have been able to achieve that 50 plus 1 percent threshold that is needed to win the presidency.

This is President Erdogan's toughest election he has faced in his 20 years of being -- in leading the country.

We heard from President Erdogan tonight, coming out, addressing his people, addressing his supporters, in an appearance on the balcony of his headquarter -- the headquarters of this party in the capital, Ankara. That's usually where he delivers his victory speech.

And tonight he came out, and he said that he felt he needed to come out and speak to the people from that same balcony, saying that, while there are no official preliminary results out yet, and that the vote counting is continuing, he did sound confident, saying that he believes that there are in the lead.

But at the same time, accepting the possibility that this is headed towards a second round.

We also heard from the opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, he also was coming out and saying that they are ready for a runoff if this is what the Turkish people have decided.

Now, here outside the headquarters of President Erdogan's AK Party in Istanbul, we have seen his supporters coming out all night is saying that they are here to show their support for President Erdogan. And if this is headed towards a second round, they are going to continue supporting him. [00:05:11]

They know that this has been a tough election for him, and they believe that this is the man who represents them, who they want to represent Turkey and continue to lead the country. They believe that he has transformed his country into a regional power, a power on the world stage, and they want to continue on that path.

On the other side, you've got the opposition that has been promising people change, promising to unseat President Erdogan, who they say has turned this into an autocratic country. And they are promising to reverse his policies and take this country back to a parliamentary and a real democratic system. And as we are seeing these results coming out, you can see it reflects

the divisions in this country. And you can see what a polarized country this is.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that this is the most consequential election in the modern history of this country, and this is not just about the next five years. They would tell you this is about the future direction of this country.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HARRAK: For more I am joined by Soner Cagaptay. He's the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of "A Sultan in Autumn: Erdogan Faces Turkeys Uncontainable Forces."

Soner, a very warm welcome to CNN. What a nail-biter. We heard from both the incumbent and his top challenger, the main opposition leader. What were the main takeaways for you?

SONER CAGAPTAY, DIRECTOR, TURKISH RESEARCH PROGRAM, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: It's a pleasure to be with you. I think the biggest takeaway is that, in what was supposed to be a very competitive race, President Erdogan pulled up ahead of his opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, perhaps not surprising but not shocking, given that President Erdogan enjoys a whole bunch of incumbent advantages.

He's been running Turkey for 20 years. In the last half decades, his rule has turned autocratic. He's erased checks and balances and autonomy for a lot of institutions, from courts, to electoral bodies, to media. His control of the media, as well, especially, I think, gave him the upper hand in the election campaign.

Businesses loyal to Erdogan control 90 percent of the media in Turkey. Eighty percent of Turkey citizens do not read languages other than Turkish, so Erdogan can curate reality for them.

The media, therefore, throughout the entire campaign season. That is the reality for 80 percent of the electorate. Not about the earthquake and how it is devastating and whether government relief agencies provided provided aid, not about inflation reaching 50 percent, not about democratic transgressions, but the fact that Erdogan had made Turkey into an industrial power.

And I think if Erdogan wins the runoff, if there is one, this will perhaps be a new election and globally, and going to record, won on what I call post-truth narrative, where the leader creating a narrative that has nothing to do with reality, but that narrative becoming reality because it's repeated so often and so frequently.

HARRAK: Now, as you -- that illustrates -- I mean, the deck seems to have been stacked against the opposition. And I know you say that you're not surprised, but still, there is some element of surprise that Mr. Erdogan finds himself in this position.

Twenty years of consolidating power, as you just outlined. For the first time, he might find himself having to go to a second vote. What does that tell you?

CAGAPTAY: That's significant. You know, Erdogan has built a base, a loving base that adores this leader. He's a Janus-faced politician, I think. He does demonize, brutalize, and crack down demographics unlikely to vote for him.

He does erase democratic checks and balances. He's an authoritarian populace.

But he's also lifted people out of poverty for at least the first decade and a half of his role from 2003 to '18. He improved access to services including health care. Basically, people started to live under him better.

And he's got a base that loves them. I think that's the main challenge for Erdogan. The economy is not in a good shape for the last five years, and he's never won national elections while not delivering growth. That was not an exception; he did not win outright.

Notwithstanding the fact that he's got the institutions and media supporting him and the race was not fair, although the vote was free. So, not surprising, he did not win, because the economy has not done great in Turkey.

HARRAK: But what are the options right now for the opposition?

CAGAPTAY: So, what was another surprise of the campaign was that what was supposed to be a two-way race between President Erdogan and opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, turned into a three-way race. Unexpected entry into the race of a third candidate, who is campaigning solely on the platform, but mostly on the platform of anti-immigrant and anti- refugee message.

Turkey now has its own anti-immigrant, anti-refugee party. This politician's name is Ogan. He got 5 percent of the vote. That's not enough but enough to spoil the race for either side.

I think going forward, President Erdogan is about 49 percent and Kemal Kilicdaroglu about 45 percent, will both try to court his votes.

But the candidate is virulently anti-immigrant, anti-refugee. It's going to be really hard for either side to not fall for that kind of populism if they want to get his vote.

So I think we're going into an interesting election. In most countries, elections last a day. In Turkey they last from May 24 to May 28. Basically, 14 days of -- we almost feel like 14 days squeezed into one day of elections. A busy campaign season and busy news season from Turkey, of course.

HARRAK: I mean, and the turnout has been really very impressive indeed.

And I want to ask you a final question. Could Mr. Erdogan still lose this, or is the writing on the wall for the opposition? And, does that one man that you referenced, the third presidential candidate and ultranationalist, Sinan Ogan, hold the key now to Turkey's future?

CAGAPTAY: He sort of holds the key, He's kind of the king maker. He can or cannot make kings. We'll see how smart his strategy is. The way I look at this race, it's a united opposition and the economy was not doing well. On paper, the opposition should not have won outright. It did not. That's because odds are in President Erdogan's favor.

It's almost like a 400-meter relay race. President Erdogan ran the last hundred meters. The opposition had to run the entire 400 meters. They almost caught up with him but could not.

So he's got institutional support for him. The fact that he controls media, that will help them. And, I think that momentum is not behind President Erdogan, because his party -- his alliance, rather, won majority in the Parliament, he's going to tell the electorate, Look, you don't want split government. You want to have both branches of government in the same hands. Vote for me.

Whether or not the election will go for that continuity or they'll go for change, it is up to Mr. Kilicdaroglu now to inspire the opposition in a way that, perhaps, he has not done effectively and to say you do want change. You don't want more of the same. Otherwise, I think President Erdogan will win on May 28.

HARRAK: Soner Cagaptay, thank you so much.

CAGAPTAY: Thank you. A great pleasure.

HARRAK: Tropical Cyclone Mocha has battered Myanmar's Rakhine state with strong winds and heavy rain. Winds of more than 200 kilometers an hour blew the roofs off of building, uprooted trees, and knocked down power lines.

Mocha made landfall early Sunday along the coast of Northwest Myanmar. The remnants of the storm are now over Hunan (ph) province in China, with a little rain.

Well, Mocha brought heavy rainfall and strong winds to the Cox's Bazar area in Bangladesh, but no casualties have been reported in the Rohingya refugee camps there.

Let's get to the latest now from CNN's Vedika Sud, live for us in New Delhi.

Vedika, forecasters predicted this was going to be a catastrophic weather event. How bad was it?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very few details right now, Laila, but what we do know is that it did spare Cox's Bazar, like you mentioned. That's the biggest refugee camp in the world, with over a million Rohingya refugees residing there for years now.

And initially, that was the concern and that was the worry, that it would hit the camp. But it seems to have passed over. And what we're getting to know now from the U.N. is that the Western coast of Myanmar has been battered. We're talking about, like you mentioned, the Rakhine state.

And what we're hearing now is that the storm surge, the strong winds have led to the inundation and the flooding of streets in the capital of Rakhine, which is Sittwe. And that has been severely impacted.

According to the U.N., they still tried to contact people. The power lines are down. The telecommunication lines are down at this moment, but they will be picking up humanitarian aid and responding to what the refugees there need, the people of the state there need today.

But we're hearing from people who witnessed this severe, externally severe Cyclone Mocha in Bangladesh. A farmer spoke to the media, and here's what he had to say.


ABDUR RAHIM, SHOPKEEPER (through translator): I run a shop here. The shop has also been blown away by the storm. I have a betel nut garden, but it also has been destroyed. I've seen the cyclones of 1991 and 1994, but today's was more dangerous.


SUD: According to the U.N., this is one of the strongest cyclones on record to hit Bangladesh. Of course, we're still waiting for news from perhaps any casualties, which we don't know as of now in the country of Myanmar.

But what we do know is that this is one of the strongest cyclones to hit the area.

And what's worrying right now is the fact that this has been happening very often in the area, cyclones battering Bangladesh. The coastlines of Bangladesh, more often due to a lot of climate change issues in the area and that will perhaps continue through the year like we saw even in 2022, Laila.

HARRAK: Vedika Sud there, reporting from New Delhi. Thank you very much, Vedika.

And joining us now is Hasina Rahman, the International Rescue Committee's country director for Bangladesh. Good to have you with us.

When the cyclone made landfall, there were fears of a humanitarian catastrophe, especially because, of course, the storm made its way through very vulnerable communities.

What can you tell us about how the people in the impacted area are doing? Have they been able to reach out to them, communicate with them?

HASINA RAHMAN, DIRECTOR FOR BANGLADESH, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Yes, thank you so much. And be aware that we have over 900,000 refugees living in the camps in Cox's Bazar. And there were around 500,000 people in the host communities that half of them are extremely vulnerable and also living in poverty.

And yes, with the news of the cyclone there was a lot of, like, fear and frustration amongst the communities and the government of Bangladesh, the aid workers, the U.N. agencies.

We've been working together relentlessly on the preparedness to be able to move people to safety and also to make them aware about what to do in case of a cyclone.

I must say, it's been a close call for us in Bangladesh and in the refugee camps. There haven't been any casualties. There's been -- we've received reports of seven injuries. There has been excessive damage within the camps in terms of the shelters, because most of the shelters in the camps are temporary in nature. And they are made of tarpaulin and bamboo.

So there have been reports of damage and -- full damage and partial damage of several shelters and also the facilities that are provided by the government and different agencies. There has been a sense of damage.

But we are very lucky that we -- that the preparation that we took for the havoc that we are expecting, it was a close call. And we're just really happy that we've been able to contain this and damage with minimal loss.

HARRAK: A very close call indeed. What are you most concerned about right now?

RAHMAN: Right now, the concern is obviously, after the cyclone, the access to the -- to the camps is still restricted. We do have our stuff on the ground. RSC (ph) runs 24/7 primary health care centers. Even during the cyclone, some of our staff were actually based in the locations, ready to provide emergency support as needed.

The worry now after the cyclone is the -- there are still -- there are still risks of landslides happening. And there are risks of other facilities and everything not being -- reconstructed quickly enough.

So these other things that we're looking out for and also providing, finally, healthcare services and getting everything up and running as soon as possible, because the services that are provided within the camps are critical and life-saving.

Any kind of any disruption will bring (UNINTELLIGIBLE) back to the communities that are living there. So the resumption of those services and providing immediate support to people who are living in the camps, that would be important.

HARRAK: Hasina Rahman, the International Rescue Committee's country director in Bangladesh. Thank you so much for speaking to us and thank you for the important work that you're doing.

RAHMAN: Thank you so much. Thank you.

HARRAK: And still to come, a search in young voters demanding change in Thailand. Why this election could deal a blow to the military's influence.

Plus, a relative calm between Israel and Palestinian militants as a cease-fire eases five days of deadly violence. Details on the heavy toll from the fighting.



HARRAK: The winds of political change are blowing in Thailand, where voters have delivered a powerful rebuke to the military elite. With 98 percent of the votes in, opposition parties have swept the board. The progressive Move Forward Party is projected to win 149 seats, with the Populist Party second place with 138 seats.

Despite the obvious mandate for change, it is not clear at this point who will take power.

All right. Let's go talk to CNN's Paula Hancocks. She joins me from Seoul from where she is monitoring developments.

Paula, where do you think things stand right now?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laila, as you say, more than 98 percent of the votes have been counted at this point. This is an unofficial result.

So we do know that election officials will take several weeks to validate the official result. But as it seems, the two progressive parties appear to be well in the lead.

Now, it does seem as though this is a fairly stunning rebuke to the military elite, a rejection of the military-backed rulers who have been in power in Thailand for years.

So, the one party who has done remarkably well is the most progressive party, Move Forward. They have been running on a policy of deep structural reforms, so reforming the economy, reforming the military. They said they do not want military involvement in politics anymore in Thailand.

And also, something that is really quite remarkable, saying that they want to reform the once untouchable monarchy.

Now, just a few years ago that would be unheard of to talk about, but they have returned a taboo subject into a public debate in Thailand.

So, at this point, this appears to be the leader that will -- the party that will win the most seats, closely followed in second place by Pheu Thai, which has effectively won all of the elections since 2001, at least when it comes to the most amount of votes, the most amount of seats.

But the problem is that the deck has really been stacked in favor of the military. With this military-backed rule over recent years, they have managed to change the constitution, which really gives military- backed parties an edge and a significant advantage.

Each party will put forward a candidate that they believe should be prime minister, and there will be 500 MPs who will vote on that. But, on top of that, you have 250 Senate members who will vote, and all of them have been elected to the Senate by a military-backed party.

So certainly, even though we see two progressive parties well in the lead in this count, it doesn't necessarily mean that one of their candidates will be prime minister.

Now certainly, what we were looking for with this election is the turnout of the youth vote. The -- the youth have really found their voices. They have become empowered in the political scene in Thailand, and they are calling for more democracy. They are calling for structural reforms to the way that Thailand is run.

And certainly, that is what we are seeing, with the results that are coming through from Thailand -- Laila.

HARRAK: And Paula, I mean, that of course, begs the question will the army respect the democratic outcome of these elections?


HANCOCKS: It's a good question, and we don't know the answer to that at this point. They have said that they -- what we have heard from many experts, they believe a military coup would be unlikely at this time.

But bear in mind, there have been two military coups in the past 20 years. When there's a party in power that the military does not favor. They have carried out a coup.

There have been a dozen of them since 1932, so it's not something that can be ruled out. But, certainly, I think the anger against this kind of military coup in today's Thailand would be significant.

The youth vote, as I say, has been key, and they are calling for the military to be taken out of politics. The two progressive parties, which are in the lead in the vote counting at this point, with more than 98 percent counted, are both running on a platform of keeping the military out of politics. So certainly, the expert opinion at this point is that it is going to

be considered as a last resort for the military. It is unlikely, but of course, nobody can rule it out -- Laila.

HARRAK: Paula Hancocks reporting. Thank you so much, Paula.

Life in Gaza appears to be returning to normal as a fragile truce between Israel and the Islamic Jihad group is holding for now. It comes after five days of intensive fighting killed more than 30 Palestinians and one Israeli.

Hours after the cease-fire went into effect, Israel opened two border crossings into Gaza, allowing fuel trucks and other much-needed supplies to enter.

The Egypt-brokered ceasefire started on Saturday, but it took more than an hour for the rockets and airstrikes to completely stop.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Gaza and shows us the devastation the fighting has caused there.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The cease-fire in Gaza appears to be holding. We're in a building in the Northern end of the Gaza Strip that was struck by an Israeli airstrike at 5 p.m. Saturday, just five hours before that ceasefire was supposed to go into effect.

Now, this building was four stories high. Forty -- 40 to 45 people were living inside, including several handicapped individuals.

Now, what happened was typical of how these things play out. Somebody in the building received a phone call from the Israeli military, says -- saying get out immediately. We're going to bomb this building.

The problem was, with the handicapped people, it was very difficult to get them out very quickly. Some of them can barely walk. So it took some time.

But, as you can see, the building is utterly destroyed. Their money, all of their possessions, is here under the rubble.

Now, their immediate concern is how are they going to live without a place to stay? And what we -- they told us is they're just sleeping outside in the open, essentially. Fortunately, it's not raining these days.

But sleeping outside, they're wondering how they're going to get by, given the difficult economic situation here in Gaza. There isn't a lot of money. The government, led by Hamas, doesn't have the resources to really take care of these people, let alone rebuild this structure.

And of course, when we speak to people, we really get the sense -- a sense of exhaustion. This is the third time in the past three years there's been major hostilities between Israel and Islamic militants in Gaza.

And the expectation is that, yes, there's a ceasefire now, but how long is it going to last? It could be just a few months, maybe just a year before it all happens again.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from the Northern Gaza Strip.


HARRAK: Sudan's military ruler is freezing the bank accounts of the rival Rapid Support Forces as the armed conflict between both sides enters a second month.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan issued the decision on Sunday. It covers all banks in Sudan and their branches abroad. So far, there's been no response from the RSF.

Since April 15, clashes between the military factions have left hundreds of people dead and thousands more wounded. The fighting in the nation has also caused a humanitarian crisis.

Just ahead, Ukraine's president spent the weekend shuttling between European capitals as his military prepares for a widely-expected counteroffensive. We'll have a report from Ukraine, coming up.



HARRAK: Welcome back to all of our viewers around the world. I'm Laila Harrak, and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ukraine's president met with key European allies on Sunday, earning pledges of more support as Ukraine prepares for a widely-expected counteroffensive against Russia.




HARRAK: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a working dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

In a joint statement, France promised to send more armored vehicles and light tanks to Ukraine this year. Mr. Zelenskyy also traveled to Germany, which has announced $3 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is committed to helping Kyiv for as long as it takes. And President Zelenskyy said the war could end within months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): Our support is not only humanitarian, but also political, financial, and of course, also with weapons. I have often said this, and I'll repeat it here. We will support you. We will support you for as long as it's necessary.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our territorial integrity and security, as well as the territorial integrity and security of all the European nations must be guaranteed.

Now is the time for us to determine the end of this war this year. This year, we can make the aggressors' defeat irreversible.


HARRAK: CNN's Sam Kiley has more on the story.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: With the arrival of the Ukrainian president in Paris to meet with his French counterpart in the second meeting he's had this year, a crucial step at the end of his European tour that's also taken him to Rome and Berlin, shoring up allied support, drawing out a very substantial German commitment, nearly $3 billion worth of military aid ahead of what he says will be the launching of an offensive against Russian occupiers here in Ukraine, fairly soon.

Now, at the same time, the Ukrainians have enjoyed some tactical battlefield successes around the bloodily contested city of Bakhmut, where there's been fighting now for more or less a year.

They were able to kill two senior Russian commanders, including a brigade commander. That has been admitted by Russia following claims made by the Ukrainians.

There are several brigades of Ukrainian troops now, threatening potentially to encircle Russian mercenary group still inside Bakhmut.

That, of course, is the Wagner mercenary group. But, at the same time, there are ongoing preparations for this major offensive, particularly psychological operations.


And of course, the shaping operations, the physical shaping operations of attacks against cities like Luhansk, and occupied territories, but logistics chain. And we're likely to see a lot more of this logistics chain inside Russian-held areas being attacked as this offensive gets closer.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Southeast Ukraine.


HARRAK: China is sending a special envoy to Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of Europe this week, in what Beijing calls an effort to promote peace talks. It will reportedly be the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Ukraine since the war began.

Let's go now to CNN's Beijing bureau chief, Steven Jiang, for more on this.

Steven, what are we expecting from these talks?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well Laila, really not too much at this stage, given how far apart Ukraine's and Russia's positions are, not to mention all the fighting that's still going.

But from China's perspective, though, they have to do this now, after that phone call between China's leader, Xi Jinping, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Zelenskyy last month, their first such phone call since the Russian invasion began. Which, by the way, that's a term Chinese officials and state media still refuse to use.

But, China of course, wants to use this -- use this trip to highlight its self-acclaimed position of neutrality, despite that no-limit partnership with Russia.

But, let's not forget, this envoy is visiting not just Kyiv and Moscow, but also Germany, France, and Poland. So this trip is very much about China's relationship with the European Union, as well, which is increasingly this battleground for strategic influence between Beijing and Washington.

So, to maintain to shore up its relationship with the European Union, China's mindful that they have to do this, because this Russian invasion has become an existential threat to Europe.

And not to mention, the huge backlash in Europe caused by China's ambassador to France just a short while ago, where he claimed on live television that there is no international legal basis for the sovereignty of former Soviet states like Ukraine.

So, all of that is the broader context, and, you know, you have to remember, the Chinese are being pragmatic here. A lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say they are say they are playing the long game. They are likely betting at some point, the fighting will have to stop. The two sides have to return to the negotiating table.

And at that point its leverage over Russia, its close ties with Putin, will give it a leg up in terms of laying this prominent role of peacemaker just like they did with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

And at the end of the day, not all of China's self-interest and goals are perfectly aligned, because, obviously, they don't want to see a defeated Russia and Putin, but they also want to have a major say and stake in the reconstruction of postwar Ukraine -- Laila.

HARRAK: Steven Jiang reporting from Beijing. Thank you, Steven.

And just ahead, an ambitious effort to restore one of Iraq's largest museums. One that was burned, bombed and looted by ISIS militants years ago.



HARRAK: More than eight years after ISIS fighters destroyed or damaged priceless artifacts of the Mosul Cultural Museum in Iraq, a major effort is now underway to try to restore the building and some of its priceless pieces.

Since 2019, French restoration experts have been working with locals to give new life to centuries-old Syrian antiquities.

Well, now the project is in its second stage, and it will focus on renovating the building itself. If all goes to plan, the museum opens -- or hopes to reopen, rather, to visitors by 2026.

And, finally this hour, a simple yet powerful message from one of the people who helped save the life of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin.

You'll recall, Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during a game in January after taking a hit while tackling an opposing player. Well, it was the Bills assistant athletic trainer, Denny Kellington, who performed CPR when Hamlin lost his heartbeat.

Hamlin, of course, has since made a remarkable recovery.

And on Saturday, Kellington got to deliver the commencement speech at his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. And he told the graduates there a good education should prepare them for any crisis they may face.


DENNY KELLINGTON, BUFFALO BILLS ASSISTANT ATHLETIC TRAINER: Thankfully, we restored Damar's heartbeat. We were ready. It's a bit odd to be the person reporters are talking about. When they say, "Denny Kellington is a hero," it's very humbling.

I've said repeatedly that I am not a hero, but I will tell you what I was that day. I was ready. When unexpected doors open, or life changes course, trust that your experiences have led you there and you will be ready.


HARRAK: And Kellington also said, quote, "Small things done with passion and intention have the potential to make a lasting impact." Wise words.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Laila Harrak. WORLD SPORT is up next. I'll be back in 15 minutes with more CNN NEWSROOM. See you then.



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