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Russia Denies Ukraine Shot Down Six Hypersonic Missiles; Large Areas Of Bakhmut Suburbs Liberated; Hundreds Feared Dead After Powerful Storm Hits Myanmar; U.S. Senate Panel Questions Experts On A.I. Dangers; Move Forward Party Leader Vows to Demilitarize Thailand if Elected PM; Five Men Convicted for Dresden Museum Robbery; Italy's Birth Rate Plummets to Record Low. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 17, 2023 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, so much for the much hype Russian-made hypersonic missile. Ukrainian officials say six were intercepted by air defenses over Kyiv, along with other incoming missiles.

Hundreds of the most vulnerable in Myanmar living in camps, villages and open air prisons are feared dead after Cyclone Mocha makes landfall.

And the creator of ChatGPT calls for government regulation of artificial intelligence. Warning, when it goes wrong, it can go quite wrong.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

VAUSE: Thank you for joining us and we begin this hour here on CNN in Ukraine, where air raid sirens have been heard just hours ago in a number of regions, as well as in the capital Kyiv just one night after being targeted by a barrage of air, land and sea fired missiles.

Ukrainian officials say Russia fired 18 missiles early Tuesday, among them six hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and all were intercepted by Ukraine's air defenses.

Russia though insists all targets were hit and a U.S.-made Patriot air defense system was destroyed. No comment on that from the Ukrainian military but a U.S. official tells CNN a Patriot system was damaged during the airstrikes. And while assessments are ongoing, it was not destroyed and remains operational.

For the first time in 18 years, Europe's oldest political organization the Council of Europe has gathered for a summit with leaders from 46 nations meeting in Iceland to declare support for Ukraine as a top priority. Secondary talks will begin in a few hours.

The British and Dutch Prime ministers met on the sidelines of the summit and agreed on building an international coalition to arrive Ukraine with combat air capabilities and that includes helping procure F-16 fighter jets. Welcome news for Ukraine as president Zelenskyy stresses the need for more weapons and equipment.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: There is still much to be done. Ukraine's territory is big and to make air defense results like last night's the rule throughout the country. We need additional air defense systems and missiles. We also need modern fighter jets, without which no air defense system will be perfect. And I am sure we will get there.


VAUSE: Retired U.S. Air Force colonel and CNN Military Analyst Cedric Leighton joins us now from Washington. Colonel, good to see you.


VAUSE: OK, so these hypersonic Russian missiles, which a fighter key known as Kinzhal, or that's Russian for Dagger, one of Moscow's most advanced weapons, which Vladimir Putin claimed would overcome all existing and prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems.

So, for Ukraine to say they intercepted six during the same attack, you know, six with one blow, seems either incredible or incredulous.

What are the chances Ukrainian air defenses are able to take out the hypersonic missiles, which in the past was considered possible but only in theory?

LEIGHTON: Well, perhaps the hypersonic missiles aren't really hypersonic, John. And so, that's something that we're going to have to examine.

You know, the Russians, of course, have touted the capabilities of the Kinzhal missile for several years now. And in the West, we believed that it was a very effective, highly useful weapon that was in essence a game changer in the field of ballistic missiles.

But in this particular case, I think that what we're seeing is something that the Kinzhal was less than meets the eye. And if it's true that the Ukrainians were able to shoot down six of them, that's a significant dent in the purported Russian inventory of Kinzhal missiles, which was supposedly somewhere around 50 or so according to Ukrainian intelligence.

VAUSE: So, what do you think was fired at Kyiv by the Russians if it wasn't the hypersonic? Was it sort of old wine in the new bottle?

LEIGHTON: Yes, I think -- I think that's possibly the case. I think that what we may have seen is (INAUDIBLE) that it has perhaps a sub hypersonic capabilities, could still go fast, could still be a supersonic missile, but I'm sure the missile was not going 10 times the speed of sound, which would have been the maximum speed advertised for the Kinzhal.

VAUSE: OK, well, for the Kremlin on the attack on Kyiv using a combination of air, sea and land based missiles and drones was, as you would expect, it was a complete success. Listen to this.


IGOR KONASHENKOV, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): The purpose of the strike was achieved. All assigned objects are hit. A high precision strike by hypersonic missile system Dagger in the city of Kyiv, a U.S.-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system was hit.


VAUSE: So, 18 missiles were fired ballistic and supersonic, maybe hypersonic, the end result of some damage to a Patriot defense system, and that's been confirmed by the U.S. That doesn't seem good bang for your buck at the end of the day.


LEIGHTON: No, not at all. And in fact, the Russians seem to have had a huge difficulty, a huge problem in keeping the target list that they were -- that they were reportedly hitting.

So, I don't think they were very successful. It's pretty clear that they achieved some degree of damage in certain areas, including hardly the Patriot system like you mentioned. But it is nowhere near what they were supposed (AUDIO GAP) what the spokesman out of Moscow said.

VAUSE: And all the time the Ukrainian president continues to press for these F-16 fighter jets. He says they're needed to secure Ukraine's airspace to repeat performance of what happened on Tuesday.

To that end, Downing Street released this statement, U.K. Prime Minister Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Rutte agreed they would work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F- 16 jets.

The Ukrainians are talking between 50 or 40 and 50 F-16s, an offer about three squadrons I think. Is this more to do with Ukraine's mid to long term security needs, because it doesn't seem they'll be in action for this counter offensive?

LEIGHTON: Yes, they're definitely not going to be an action for this counter offensive unless they've been preparing them in secret, which is doubtful.

But what I think we're looking at is like you alluded to John, a mid to long term prospect, especially as Ukraine integrates itself even further into the NATO defense structure. And when that happens, which I'm sure it will, they are going to be

getting F-16s or similar aircraft to really, in essence, put together not only in Air Force, but an integrated air defense package that will protect their airspace and much better than they've been able to do before.

VAUSE: We've heard from the Kremlin, which is warn Britain that there will be a military response after supplying these long range missiles, cruise missiles to the Ukrainians as well as doing this training for the Ukrainian pilots on the F-16s. What exactly does that mean, some kind of military response?

LEIGHTON: It could mean several things, John, what I think they're looking at is they're trying to make it as difficult as possible for the British to provide support to the Ukrainians. The British are importing that. And they're proceeding with the training for the tanks for the various missiles that they're providing. And now, for aircraft training, fighter jet training.

So, what the Russians will probably do is they'll probably try to up their game, perhaps in the cyber realm, perhaps in other unconventional areas, perhaps some sabotage actions. Those are the kinds of things that we can perhaps see but the British are not going to be deterred by anything that the Russians are going to plan at the moment.

VAUSE: Looks like -- it certainly looks that way. Colonel Leighton, thanks so much for your time, we appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet John.

VAUSE: Ukraine's military claims to have liberated about 20 square kilometers north and south of the battered city Bakhmut. CNN has not verified that claim. Some analysts have questioned whether or not those gains are in fact real. They suggest more modest gains may in fact be the case.

CNN's Nic Robertson has our report.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): On Bakhmut's destroyed streets to Ukrainian soldiers bolster flagging spirits with dark humor. Oh, that boom, boom, boom. Is that on us? One says, oh, no, the other jokes, we're enchanted, they're not for us.

Russia's push for the remaining Ukrainian controlled high rises around them has not relented despite recent successes, taking ground north and south of the meat grinder town.

In a field hospital nearby, troops concuss by heavy Russian shelling inside Bakhmut.

ROBERTSON: How was the fighting in Bakhmut compared to Kherson and other places? ROBERTSON (voice over): Coolsign White (PH), a 47-year-old former

warehouse manager tells us Bakhmut is his hardest battle yet. It's hell, he says.

ROBERTSON: How is the morale at the frontline?

ROBERTSON (voice over): He pauses, sighs and whispers, it's hard.

Tanks too are getting chewed up in the Bakhmut meat grinder. This Soviet era T-72 blasted by shelling there, repairs made in hedgerows because workshops are getting targeted.

The shrapnel holes don't matter, this tank commander tells us. What's important is the engine and the reactive armor.

ROBERTSON: Locations of repair hideaways like this one are a closely guarded secret. Once the counter offensive begins, they will be even more vital to keep the military and its machines moving.

ROBERTSON (voice over): In a combat bunker buried outside Bakhmut, troops have no idea when or where the big offensive will come.


ROBERTSON: The monitoring the battlefield from here, we can't show you the screens that they're looking down from drones. As soon as the Russian soldier puts his head up and moves, you see it.

ROBERTSON (voice over): Morale here high because they've recently made games across fields surrounding the town. Early success in the coming counter offensive will be critical. The lessons of Bakhmut, momentum and motivation is all.

Nic Robertson, CNN, eastern Ukraine.


VAUSE: Fighting appears to be intensifying in Sudan as the conflict between the army and paramilitary group is now to its second month.

The doctor's union reports more than 800 people have been killed as one ceasefire after another has collapsed. Witnesses in the capital Khartoum report a sharp increase in airstrikes and artillery fire, resulting in a haze of dark smoke on the horizon. The fighting is forced to leave million people from their homes and created humanitarian crisis.

Hundreds of the most vulnerable people in Myanmar are feared dead, rescue groups wanted a large scale loss of life following one of the strongest storms ever hit the country.

The shadow government there says at least 400 people are dead and unspecified number missing after Cyclone Mocha barreled into Myanmar's coast on Sunday, unleashing floods and landslides and complicating rescue efforts. Among the hardest hit areas is Rakhine State. The Human Rights Watch

says 600,000 members of the Rohingya minority have been living in open air camps under government persecution.

CNN's Vedika Sud live for us this hour in New Delhi with the very latest.

What do we know about this death toll? Is there any kind of rescue efforts underway by the international community in Myanmar?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: You know, John, it has been over 72 hours now since Cyclone Mocha battered the western coast of Myanmar. And we've got news coming in that more than 400 people have died like you just mentioned and that's from the shadow government in Myanmar. CNN cannot verify the death toll or that figure. We also know that several remain missing.

But here's what we do know, it's those Rohingya camps refugee camps across the western coast, especially in Sittwe, which is the capital of Rakhine State that has been completely battered and damaged. Most of the deaths have taken place in these refugee camps.

And while aid agencies are still trying to get to these places, because, you know, the damage has obstructed the roads and telecommunication is still down. What we're hearing from aid agencies and the shadow government is that the death toll could go up anytime soon.

I want to now look at some images that have been released by Maxar. These are satellite images from Sunday just moments after the cyclone hit the western coast of Myanmar. And they've compared these images to those taken in February this year. You can see the widespread damage. You can see the destruction of homes, you can see the tin roofs that have blown off and you can see a bridge that was completely submerge moments after the cyclone hit the city area and the villages nearby.

Now, according to sources, many of these refugees have been burying their loved ones according to Islam customs religious customs. I want you to hear what a man had to say after he lost nine of 14 family members.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nine out of my 14 family members were killed, only five survived. They were killed because they couldn't resist when strong winds rave them away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): All of my belongings, rice, and even dishes are gone. Now I have no money to rebuild my house. We are starving. I haven't eaten for two days. How many days does a person have to go hungry?


SUD: There's no power, there's very little food, agencies are struggling to get to the hardest hit areas in and around Sittwe. This is perhaps one of the strongest cyclones to hit Myanmar in the

last 10 years. And the death toll John unfortunately could be going up anytime soon. Back to you.

VAUSE: Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud live for us there with the very latest in New Delhi.

Well, when we come back, a call for government regulation from one of the A.I.'s leading developers. This industry now says the threat -- he will tell us rather what the threat is if the A.I. industry is left unchecked.


SAM ALTMAN, CEO, OPENAI: My worst fears are that we, the field, the technology, the industry cause significant harm to the world.




VAUSE: Place are under talks between Republican congressional leaders and the White House over the debt ceiling have ended with no sign of any real progress. The U.S. is now just over two weeks away from default unless the borrowing limit is raised by Congress. But negotiations are now more direct between the Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's team and the Biden administration.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is an overwhelming consensus I think in today's meeting at the congressional leaders, that defaulting on the debt is simply not an option.


VAUSE: Looming debt default has caused President Biden to cut short what was meant to be an eight-day official visit to Japan, Australia, Papua New Guinea studying Wednesday.

Now, he will only attend the G7 summit in Japan before returning home to meet with congressional leaders again.

Well, the growth, very fast growth of artificial intelligence seems limitless so to the threat to humanity, but it might be possible to lessen the dangers with government regulations. That's the key takeaway from Tuesday's U.S. Senate hearing with tech industry leaders about A.I.

Lawmakers peppered experts with questions about the technology and how best to regulate it to prevent disasters.

CNN's Nick Watt reports.


ALTMAN: My worst fears are that we, the field, the technology, the industry cause significant harm to the world.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today's Senate hearing is a crucial step in humanity's effort to prevent that harm and to rein in the handful of players controlling this tech.

ALTMAN: I think there needs to be incredible scrutiny on us and our competitors.

WATT (voice over): His company created ChatGPT, you know, it can write a term paper or a song, captured imaginations and headlines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Artificial intelligence soon put us all out of work.

WATT: A.I. has potentially world changing benefits equitable education, helping eradicate disease, transportation. A.I. can be life enhancing or maybe an existential threat to humanity. We know some of the risks like rampant misinformation.

GARY MARCUS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: These new systems are going to be destabilizing, they can and will create persuasive lies at a scale humanity has never seen before. Democracy itself is threatened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's our jobs.

ALTMAN: GPT-4 will, I think automate away some jobs, and it will create new ones that we believe will be much better.

WATT (voice over): There are risks like automated weapons we can imagine.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Could A.I. create a situation where a drone can select the target itself?

ALTMAN: I think we shouldn't allow that.

GRAHAM: Can it be done?


WATT (voice over): And there are risks we can for now barely even comprehend.

ALTMAN: As these systems do become more capable and I'm not sure how far away that is, but maybe not super far. I think it's important that we also spend time talking about how we're going to confront those challenges.

WATT: So, what do we do?

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Talk in plain English and tell me what if any rules we ought to implement? ALTMAN: Number one, a safety review, like we use with the FDA, prior to widespread deployment.

WATT: Sugge (voice over): ions today to license developers and or the most powerful A.I. systems.

ALTMAN: I think a model that can persuade, manipulate, influence a person's behavior or a person's beliefs, that would be a good threshold.

I think a model that could help create novel biological agents would be a great threshold.


WATT (voice over): There was support in this room for a brand new government agency to oversee A.I. but --

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): For every success story in government regulation, you can think of five failures.

WATT (voice over): And this technology is moving very, very fast. Google, Microsoft and others pouring in billions of dollars. Government can be glacial.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): When you look at the record of Congress and dealing with innovation, technology and rapid change, we're not designed for that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've come to the conclusion that it's impossible for Congress to keep up with the speed of technology.


WATT (on camera): There is of course, an election in the U.S. just about 18 months away and an avalanche of misinformation no doubt on its way.

So, there's not much time to deal with at least some of the issues at play here.

Another big question, should the U.S. just create its own agency and then hope that the rest of the world will follow? Or should people be concentrating on creating a global initiative, a global body to oversee A.I.?

Now, listen, three minutes on Capitol Hill or three minutes on television is not nearly enough to deal with this massive topic. That committee of the Senate will be meeting many more times, many brains around the world working on this problem.

And experts telling me that we, you, me, all of us, we need to also educate ourselves about A.I. so we know what's coming down the pike and how it might impact us.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles. VAUSE: Joining us now is Will Oremus, the technology writer for The Washington Post. Will, thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: OK, so Sam Altman was pretty blunt during this appearance before lawmakers like this moment here, listen to this.


ALTMAN: I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening. But we try to be very clear eyed about what the downside cases and the work that we have to do to mitigate that.


VAUSE: One thing, which I was wondering is what is the worst case scenario here? What is Altman most concerned about?

OREMUS: Yes, you know, the worst case scenario for A.I. is hard to imagine. Because when you talk to people like Altman about what they're -- what they're worried about, they talk about A.I. becoming so smart that it escapes the control of humans and starts acting on its own.

And I guess the worst case scenario would be, it starts acting on its own, and it does so in a way that's contrary to the interests of humanity.

You know, there are even people who think they're called X risk, or people who thinks there's an existential risk to humanity from A.I. I suppose that's the worst case scenario. But there's also not a lot of evidence that it's, you know, that it's coming anytime soon.

VAUSE: Well, Altman suggested the creation of an entire new government agency to approve unlicensed new A.I., a bit like the way the Food and Drug Administration works, approving new medication.

But before there's any discussion here about what regulations are needed, and how they'll be enforced. It's the bigger problem, actually, Congress itself, which hasn't been able to agree on almost anything when it comes to regulation of the tech sector.

OREMUS: Yes, Congress has accomplished very little even when there's basic agreement, even when there's some broad agreement that, for instance, we need to overhaul privacy laws for the digital age, or that we need to find some way to rein in the power of the dominant tech platforms, they still can't agree on exactly what should be done. So, it's not clear that that will be any different when it comes to A.I.

However, they did start this hearing, saying we're trying to avoid the mistakes that we made with social media, where we just sort of had a hands off approach for years and years. And then we only began bringing in the executives for hearings, once a lot of things had gone wrong, and it had already harmed our democracy. And then sort of the horse was out of the barn.

VAUSE: And a lot of them was talking about the dangers and the need for regulation. He also gave no indication that his company would pause or slow development of OpenAI's ChatGPT. Besides, he says, we will get used to it in the end. Here he is, again, listen to this.


ALTMAN: I think people are able to adapt quite quickly. When Photoshop came onto the scene a long time ago. You know, for a while people were really quite fooled by photoshopped images, and then pretty quickly developed an understanding that images might be photoshopped. This will be like that, but on steroids.


VAUSE: Here's the problem I have with that, Photoshop can make you look thinner or younger, can do a lot of stuff that is essentially harmless on the balance, if at all. Yes, there is a downside. But the downside wasn't the potential to destroy humanity.

OREMUS: Yes, well, here's the thing. And so, you know, there's a lot of talk about A.I. going rogue or getting super intelligent, and destroying humanity. There are -- there are critics who say that that kind of talk actually obscures the real risks that are -- that are immediate, that are already happening.

And the use of A.I. to make decisions that used to be made by humans means that you are encoding biases, a lot of times that's in the data that the systems are trained on.

And so, if you have a bias in the data, and then you're applying that via artificial intelligence, it could affect millions of people instead of just, you know, one bias human's decision affecting the people around them.


VAUSE: There's artificial intelligence and then there's artificial general intelligence, which has the ability to learn and understand. And Microsoft claims, from the language to coding to medicine to law, everything it does. In all of these tasks, GPT-4's performance is strikingly close to human level performance, and often vastly surpasses prior models, such as ChatGPT.

Given the breadth and depth of GPT-4's capabilities, we believe that it could reasonably be viewed as an early it's still incomplete version of an artificial general intelligence system.

You know, if it isn't AGI then chances are, you know, it's still just a few years away. If that -- if it's even that long before it comes onto the scene. Can you regulate and control something which has the ability to learn and adapt? OREMUS: Yes, and that's a good question. And a lot of the hearing did focus on those sort of -- those sort of farther off concerns about A.I. learning to do things on its own.

I think that the thing about the A.I. systems we have today, they're very impressive, they can actually be dazzling with the right use case.

But what they're fundamentally doing is that is they're manipulating language. You know, you give it a prompt, and it will respond in the way that it has been trained to respond by reading tons and tons of websites and tons and tons of human written language. It's combining languages, manipulating language, it can manipulate images, but that's still only a small slice of what humans can do.

So, it's a pretty far cry from these machines being as broadly capable as humans or having you know, the kinds of things like intentions or plans or an ability to really reason.

But you know, there is reasonable believe that they are progressing quickly. It's just that a lot of these harms remain speculative for now.

VAUSE: It's one of those industries which is so exciting but yet so terrifying in many ways at the same time.

Will, thank you so much for being with us.

OREMUS: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: And read public speech author Salman Rushdie has warned that freedom of expression in the western world is under threat.


SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: We live in a moment I think that which freedom of expression, freedom to publish has not in my lifetime been under such threat in the -- in the countries of the West.


VAUSE: He was referring to recent efforts by conservative politicians to ban books dealing with themes of race and gender identity.

He also criticized efforts to rewrite and remove material considered insensitive from books written by British children's author Roald Dahl, as well as the James Bond series by Ian Fleming.

Rushdie's comments came in a video message at the British Book Awards on Monday, nine months after surviving a stabbing attack on stage at a lecture in New York.

Still to come, the leader of Thailand's more forward party -- Move Forward Party rather, outlines his plans for a new government after an election with an historic voter turnout at a landslide win and it does not include the military. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE. I'm John Vause.


And at this hour, an international search-and-rescue effort is underway in the Indian Ocean after a Chinese deep-sea fishing vessel capsized. The crew of 39 includes Chinese nationals, Indonesians, and Filipinos, now considered missing.

China has deployed at least two rescue vessels, joining search-and- rescue teams from Australia, the Philippines, as well as other countries in the region.

The leader of Thailand's Move Forward Party says he will demilitarize the country if he becomes prime minister. Unofficial results show the party secured the most seats in the general election over the weekend. That's through a surge in young voters wanting a change from the military government.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Seoul with more details on this. What are these chances, actually, of making it to, you know, actually being the prime minister, given the hold that the military has over the government?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the key question, John. I mean, whoever wins the election or wins the most seats in the election doesn't always end up becoming the prime minister.

Now we have the first interview with Pita Limjaroenrat, the head of the Move Forward Party. And he said that he believes that Thailand has shown very clearly that they want a change. He believes he has a consensus.

And he is in the process of building a coalition. The party Pheu Thai, which had the second most votes has already indicated that they would join a coalition with Move Forward. And that is key, because they need as many seats as possible.

There are 750 seats or MPs who would vote for a prime minister, but 250 of those have been elected or appointed into the Senate by the military. So in the past they have always backed a military candidate.

So we did ask him about this. He said that he didn't believe that the senators were in the same situation, had the same unity towards the military as they had four years ago, and he doesn't believe it will be a problem.


PITA LIMJAROENRAT, LEADER, MOVE FORWARD PARTY: If we keep communicating and we keep explaining what we're trying to do for the country, we -- how well we mean for the future of this country, I think that will not be a significant roadblock. And the price to pay, the cost of going against 25 million voters in Thailand, will be very hefty.


HANCOCKS: So Move Forward was the party that had the most significant changes, the most significant policies, and they secure the most amount of votes. Their key policies are they want deep structural reforms in the country. They want a reform of the economy, of the military, and also of the once-untouchable monarchy.


PITA: First is to demilitarize. Second is to de-monopolize, and third is to decentralize Thailand. I think with a three-pronged approach, that's the only way that we can fully democratize Thailand and make sure that Thailand is back to business, Thailand is back on the global arena and making sure that, you know, the country is contributing, as well as benefiting by the new definition of globalization.


HANCOCKS: But you can't talk about elections in Thailand without referring to those military coups. There have been a dozen since 1942. There have been two in the -- less than the last 20 years. So simply, that is of concern.

We heard from the incumbent prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha. He is the -- the former coup leader. He's a former army chief. And he said from now on, the formation of the new government will be in process, suggesting that he won't step in this time, as he did in previous years back in 2014.

And most experts expect you speak to think that the chances of a military coup are low, but no one is willing to say there is no chance of it at all -- John.

VAUSE: Paula, thank you. Paula Hancocks, live for us there with the very latest tally on Thailand election.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, arrests in what was a brazen jewel heist in Dresden, Germany, but some priceless items are still missing. At least three of the thieves get to walk.



VAUSE: Four years after a daring jewel heist in Germany, five of the thieves have been convicted, but others have been allowed to walk free. Some of the stolen items, worth around $130 million, still have not been recovered and may never be found.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It's one of the most brazen heists in modern history. Robbers shattering glass cases with hammers and making off with tens of millions' worth of museum artifacts in Dresden, Germany, in 2019.

"I don't to tell you how shocked we are, also, about the brutality of this break-in," the museum's director said at the time. "This is of invaluable art historic and cultural historic value."

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The gangsters first started a fire, causing a power outage in the Green Vault Museum. Then they broke in and stole 21 pieces of historic jewelry, some of the most valuable in the world studded with more than 4,300 diamonds. The total insurance value of the loot, around $130 million.

Five of the six suspects, all members of an infamous Berlin mobster clan, have now been convicted by a German court. One defendant was acquitted. The sentences range from four years and four months, to a little over six years. However, some are walking free after a plea bargain with the prosecution, causing angry reaction throughout the country.

"Three of the main offenders among the adults have been released, today," the presiding judge said.

But where are the jewels? While the robbers did tell investigators where some of the stolen artifacts were located, helping divers to retrieve them from a canal in Berlin, the most valuable pieces are still missing without a trace. The now convicts claim not to know where they are.

"This means that the state of Saxony can and must claim its damages within the framework of civil lawsuits," the presiding judge said.

State authorities are offering a reward of up to half a million euros for clues helping to find the missing historic jewelry, but they acknowledge some of the pieces might never be found, because they've been broken into pieces.

All this as those now convicted of stealing the artifacts walked out of a courtroom and drove off, allowed to serve their sentences at a later time.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


VAUSE: Police have seized nearly three tons of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas at a port in Southern Italy, estimated street value around $870 million.

The discovery was made using high-tech scanners and sniffer dogs.

Police say the drugs were in two shipping containers from Ecuador, destined for Armenia. They say gangs have used the port as a major smuggling hub for more than a decade. So far, no arrests.

A joint effort by Pope Francis and Italy's prime minister to try and boost an alarmingly low birth rate, which in Italy has faced a steady decline since the 2008 financial crisis.

More details from CNN's Barbie Nadeau.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italy has a baby problem. A lack thereof.


The birth rate in this country, once known for large families, has plummeted to a record low 1.24 children per Italian woman, one of the lowest in Europe.

High cost of living, low wages, and expensive housing are just some of the obstacles.

Claudia (ph) and Gabrieli (ph) say they often argue about starting a family with so many uncertainties.

Claudia (ph) says the government thinks that 10,000 euros is enough to have a child, but the incentives are temporary. A child is forever.

Gabrieli (ph) says the government ignores the youth, because they are the minority.

"The government has to take risks. They also have to take unpopular decisions if they really want to try to stimulate growth. They have to represent the side of the youth," he says.

The new government under Giorgia Meloni has focused on traditional families, with little wiggle room for anyone else.

But Italy offers very little government support or financial incentives for new mothers, in comparison with European neighbors such as France and Germany.

Meloni wants "a country where it's not scandalous to say we are born from a man and a woman, and where it's not taboo to say maternity is not for sale."

This means babies born to same-sex couples and immigrants are increasingly overlooked.

Pope Francis says the only hope for the future depends on acceptance and integration.

Demographer Maria Rita Testa points to both structural and behavioral issues.

MARIA RITA TESTA, PROFESSOR OF DEMOGRAPHY, LUISS UNIVERSITY: The big problem is to find a solid job, economic independence that allows them to get accredited to buy a house, and to start building a family.

NADEAU: If no babies are born to replace the aging population or to pay into the pension system, the future of Italy hangs in the balance. And there is no guarantee that those who are able to have children will be willing to deliver.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN, Rome.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM, but please stay with us. WORLD SPORT starts after the break. Stay you here in abut 17 and a half minutes.