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CNN International: Very Costly Joke; Authorities: Crimea Freight Train Derails after "Intervention of Unauthorized Persons"; Jerusalem on Edge ahead of Annual Flag Day March; What do we know about what happened to Harry & Meghan; Fierce Fighting Rages in Battered City of Bakhmut. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2023 - 08:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNNI HOST: Hello and welcome to CNN "Newsroom", I'm Bianca Nobilo in London in for Max Foster. Just ahead, U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Japan for the G7 summit, which looks set to be dominated by the war in Ukraine and concerns about China's rising power.

We'll have more from Hiroshima. Also ahead, stunning aerials give us a glimpse into the bombardment of Bakhmut. More details about the fighting in the embattled Ukrainian city. And heavy-handed punishment for comedian's joke that made reference to China's Military. And now measures against the Chinese women who defended him.

The projection of unity and strength in a city with international and historical significance, U.S. President Joe Biden is in Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the world's first ever nuclear attack for the G7 summit, which is set to begin on Friday. Earlier, the President met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, he emphasized close relations between Tokyo and Washington amid China's growing military and economic threat, and he acknowledged the challenges that global leaders now face.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As you said, back in January when you were at the White House, I think the quote is we faced the most one of the most complex environments in recent history, security environments. And I couldn't agree with you more. But I'm proud that the United States and Japan are facing it together.


NOBILO: Mr. Biden referring to Russia's war in Ukraine right there and CNN's Chief White House Correspondent, Phil Mattingly, joins us now live, in Hiroshima, Japan. Phil, great to have you with us, are we actually expecting any position shifts or tangible commitments on rising China and Russian aggression to come out of this summit?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think, on both fronts, there will be as they call it, in the diplomatic speak some deliverables that come it's been a major focus of President Biden's advisors, top advisors to G7 leaders in the lead up to this meeting behind the scenes Finance Ministers meeting as well.

And I think it underscores the reality of this moment certainly set to an almost visceral backdrop here, given the tenuous nature of the geopolitical scene at this moment in time when it comes to the war. And Ukraine, the G7 economies, nearly 50 percent of the global economy has been absolutely critical to the Western alliance and the Western unity behind the support for Ukraine over the course of this year plus war.

And you will see more of that both on the economic sanctions front and also on lethal assistance at coming out of this meeting. There are some disputes still, the U.S. is still holding back on pursuing F-16 fighter jet capability for the Ukrainians. That has been something that has been simmering for several months that is unlikely to change in terms of the U.S. position.

But the primary goal will be to continue to maintain that public show of unity that's been so critical. And I when it comes to China, the U.S. actually much further along than perhaps some of their allies here at the G7 on the economic side, as well as trying to build up defense capabilities in this region.

And I think there's probably no better place a no better leader than Prime Minister Kishida a demonstrate just how dramatically, things have shifted here in this region over the course of the last year and a half the kind of connective thread between what has happened in Ukraine.

And what allies in this region view as a distinct possibility as it comes to Taiwan amidst China's rise is certainly a driving force behind dramatic domestic shifts here in Japan but also regionally, something the U.S. has certainly supported been behind and trying to kind of push more towards.

And I think both of those issues will certainly be something that President Biden has focused on. But you can't forget that what's happening back home in the U.S. is certainly going to be hanging over all of this. There is still a debt ceiling deadline just two weeks away, Bianca, the President's negotiating team is still back in the U.S. working on that for leaders used to this at this point.

The U.S. does this a lot when it comes to these deadlines, but certainly, given the scale of the global economy or economic power that's here. They would like to see some kind of resolution on that front.

NOBILO: Yes, always distracting for world leaders to have domestic issues hanging over their heads when they're big international summits. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for being with us. To Ukraine now where in the past few hours the army has declared new gains around the embattled City of Bakhmut.

A military spokesman says units are advancing despite a shortfall in ammunition and personnel. You're looking at some of the very latest images to come out of Bakhmut. Russia's Wagner mercenary fighters say that they're making progress there too. Elsewhere, at least one person was killed in a missile strike in the Southern Port City of Odessa.

It came amid a large wave of new strikes. Ukraine says it shut down 29 out of 30 missiles launched by Russia overnight. While in Crimea, a freight train has derailed. For more on that let's go to our Sam Kiley, who's in Southeastern Ukraine.

Sam, Crimean railways have said that this train derailment has happened because of outside interference. But a Ukrainian official had said that the railway simply got tired. What really happened and what does it tell us?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got used, Bianca, haven't we? To this tongue in cheek responses to what the Ukrainians want us to believe but don't bother to prove or don't wish to prove, which are attacks behind the lines deep inside particularly when it comes to the Crimean Peninsula.

There's every evidence that this was a partisan or special forces attack against the railway infrastructure of Crimea supplying much needed logistical support between two principal towns in that Peninsula area which of course illegally annexed by Russia after their invasion in 2014.


They in the past we've had to sort of nudge-nudge wink-wink that there was somebody was messing around with their cigarettes when a number of aircraft and other facilities were burned in the Crimean peninsula. So we've heard this before. I think we can assume that it was a Ukrainian action or partisan action against the railway.

The Russian authorities or the Russian backed authorities in Crimea, saying that they're going to be able to fix it fairly quickly. But this is also part of the psychological operations being worked on against the Russians in advance of the much anticipated Ukrainian offensive on the ground here, Bianca, because it starts to tell the Russians that they're vulnerable, even in their very deepest relocations, Bianca.

NOBILO: Sam Kiley, for us thank you, always good to see you. Now, let's cross to Northern Italy, where devastating floods have claimed the lives of at least -- people and forced thousands to leave their homes in the Emilia-Romagna region. Rescue operations are underway several people are still reportedly missing.

The area is under a red alert and residents are advised not to leave their homes. CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us now live from Rome. Barbie, it is expected that more rivers will burst their banks. What protections or safeguards are the governments tried to put in place to help people if that does happen?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, right now the focus is on evacuating people who are in the waterways you're in in the areas that are most at risk. And what we're hearing from a little bit too are people who got out of there. And you know, we've been hearing from some of these residents. Let's listen to what this man had to say about just how quickly this water came up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It all happened how rapidly we were prepared with barricades and everything but the barricades were only 40 centimeters high. And only after five minutes the water had risen to 50 centimeters and entered to the houses. Here. The road was clean, one second after we heard the noise and the water was about knee level.

We were upstairs and we saw what was happening underneath. Have you got children? I have a four month old baby which I didn't think this could happen. We were organized. Last night. I had to come back to the apartment to pick up nappies and other things. And the water comes up to here. I didn't have any boats, nothing.


NADEAU: And you know, Bianca, when you hear those stories of harrowing stories of people, a tiny children, you know, there are still people missing. This is still very much an ongoing search and rescue operation. And the rain has stopped for today but they're expecting there could be some rain coming over the weekend, Bianca.

NOBILO: Barbie Nadeau in Rome. Thank you. Jerusalem is on edge ahead of a controversial march with the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Security forces are on high alert today. In just a few hours thousands of marches with Israeli flags will celebrate Flag Day. The annual parade marks Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.

Previous marches have seen violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. CNN's Ben Wedeman joins us now live from Israel's Old City. Ben, what are you expecting to see today? And how do you think it will be shaped by the wider political and security context right now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Bianca, we already spoke with these Police spokesman for Jerusalem he said they expect thousands. Now obviously, there's probably going to be tens of thousands perhaps more than 100,000 marchers, many of them ultra nationalist Israeli youth.

Now we're at the Damascus Gate, which was one of the main entrances to the Old City. Here you can see some of these are border guards. And in fact, if I'm -- , our camera man turns around you can see another group of Israeli youth, many of them as I described them before ultra nationalist.

So tension is very high. We've already seen small scuffles between some of these youth and Palestinian residents of the Old City, the police broke them up. We also saw the police forcibly closing some of the stores in the Old City. So the expectation is that there is going to be tension, there's a high probability of some clashes.

Now this marks the 56th anniversary of Israel's conquest and occupation, the beginning of the occupation of Eastern Jerusalem and even some in the Israeli media consider this to be a provocation. In fact, here is what we saw in the editorial, the main editorial of audits, which said that the essence of the flag march this is part of the Jerusalem Day festivities, is to poke a finger in the eye of the city's Palestinian habits to humiliate them.


And drive home the fact that 40 percent of the residents of Israel's capital, live under occupation. And so clearly, on the one hand, some might call this a celebration, but for most of the residents of the Old City in the Palestinian areas and elsewhere in Jerusalem, this is a provocation, Bianca.

NOBILO: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much for your reporting and for giving us that 360 sense of what's going on around you. There's more fallout in China over a very costly joke that loosely referenced the military. This week, Beijing imposed a $2 million fine after a comedian known as House used a phrase associated with the People's Liberation Army.

He's out of a job and the company that hired him is responsible for that huge fine. And now we've learned that a woman in Northeast China who defended him on social media was detained by police. Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong to discuss this further. It's a high wire act to be a comic and China, what did he say?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's go back to where this all began on Saturday in Beijing during his standup said you have a Chinese comic, otherwise known his House his Chinese name is Li Haoshi. And he just riffed on this well-known military slogan that's been used by the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

He made this joke about watching his two rescue dogs is two adopted stray dogs chase a squirrel and reminded him of the slogan that Xi used to praise the People's Liberation Army and his work ethic. Now that joke, it went online, it went viral. And then on Wednesday, Beijing police launched an investigation into Li and authorities also find the company that represents him nearly 2 million U.S. dollars.

Now, we heard this from the Beijing Municipal bureau of Culture and Tourism. They said this we have the statement for you, "We will never allow any company or individual to wantonly slander the glorious image of the People's Liberation Army on this stage in the Chinese capital."

Now the bureau added that the company would never be allowed to stage any future shows in Beijing. The company which had earlier already issued an apology has fired the comedian. The comedian pictured on your screen the harsher he has apologized profusely online.

Now, some context here and China, insults slander against the military are illegal. In fact, in 2021, that was trying to pass a law banning insults against military personnel and the Chinese public. If you look at social media posts a peer to be divided over this, you know, some people online, they're praising the government's decision saying that joke was insulting but others are, fearing a wider crackdown on comedy and it's very easy to see why?

Just on Tuesday, a woman a Chinese woman in Northeastern China, she was detained by police after defending the comedian on social media that too, Bianca.

NOBILO: So interesting, Christie because humor or comedy is so often seen as a barometer of the freedom of speech of a country and this seems to be a relevant example. Thank you so much.

STOUT: Thank you.

NOBILO: Montana is the first U.S. state to ban TikTok not just for government employees but for everyone. Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law Wednesday. It sets potential fines of $10,000 a day for app stores that host TikTok. The Governor is worried about privacy on the Chinese own platform.

The ban takes effect in January, but is likely to face legal challenges. Still to come, Prince Harry and Meghan say that they were involved in a "near catastrophic" car chase in New York. CNN's Max Foster will join us to discuss what we know about the incident and pronounce his name correct.



NOBILO: What do we know about the paparazzi car chases involving Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan in New York City? The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were pursued by photographers after leaving an event in Manhattan on Tuesday night. The couple spokesperson described the incident as a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.

This Relentless Pursuit lasting over two hours resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians, and two NYPD officers. The Sussexes had to switch to a taxi to try and lose the photographers. The taxi driver who drove a couple for short time spoke to CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know that you were in danger?

SUNNY SINGH, TAXI DRIVER: Not that I feel like I was in danger. But you know, Harry and Meghan, they look very nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sunny, have you ever seen anything else like this and your years of driving?

SINGH: No, I've been driving now since 2018. This was the first time I saw this.


NOBILO: The NYPD confirmed the incident but said that there were numerous photographers who made the transportation challenging. There were no reported collisions, injuries or arrests. Let's bring in CNN Anchor and Royal Correspondent Max Foster. Max, welcome to your, show.

There has been much made in the British media indeed the global media about potential discrepancies in the accounts of the NYPD, the taxi driver and the Sussexes themselves. Do you think that has been exaggerated?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it is a complex, nuanced story, actually, when you look at all of the sort of things that play into and actually what happened, I think, you know, initially, we got that very dramatic statement from the Sussexes, which felt as if something really serious have happened to the couple that never actually said something had been seriously it happened.

And then we had a statement from the New York City Mayor saying he couldn't really imagine a two hour high speed chase occurring in New York. And that set people off saying, well, you know, of course they couldn't be and where are the pictures? To be fair to the Sussexes and they never said it was a high speed chase, when I spoke to someone in their entourage.

They made it very clear there were sticking to the speed limits and the rules of the road. They never felt under threat. But they did feel the lives of other people were under threat by the paparazzi going up onto the sidewalk crossing the road going through red lights, and then potentially harming other people.

Playing into this, of course, is Harry's perception of all of this. He very much blames the paparazzi for the death of his mother. He's talked about how he gets triggered by the sound of flashbulbs It was late at night, it is a scary situation. And he would feel certain vulnerability in that situation, tied with the fact that he committed to protect his wife from that.

So I think there's a lot that goes on in here. And different people have different perceptions about what happened. But fundamentally, there was a chase it just wasn't a high speed chase.

NOBILO: And given the traumatic resonance that the events of chooser night may have had for the couple. Is it surprising that we have not received comments from Buckingham Palace or Kensington Palace?

FOSTER: Well, the game, again, a completely different set of nuance there. Because I think there's some frustration on the Sussex camp that the family didn't reach out straightaway to see if Meghan and Harry were OK. That's what a normal family would do. But, of course, there's been this massive rift between the different sides.

And I think there's a decision, you know, this isn't on the record, but I think there's probably a decision in the palaces that they have to break away from the Harry and Meghan narrative, at some point, not respond to everything because it will never end. I think that's what's happened. Now, they don't respond to anything. They don't make public comments. And they applied that to this particular situation once, it was pretty clear that the couple were fined for the media coverage. So I don't know what we read into that. I don't think we can, you know, necessarily look at this as a father not reaching out to a son involved in a traumatic experience. I think it's a much broader, you know, decision not to engage in a lot of these media narratives.


NOBILO: Max Foster in London. Thank you so much. Coming up Russia is waging an information war in addition to the fight on the ground in Ukraine. We'll look at how Moscow is telling its side of the story.


NOBILO: Returning to Russia's war on Ukraine, U.S. Officials say damage to the Patriot missile defense system was minimal following Russia's attack Nick Cave this week but Russian state television is telling a different story. CNN's Matthew Chance has more on Moscow's information war.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): State television where Russia fight sits information war. Reads story the U.S. Patriot missile battery, Russia insists it destroyed and Kyiv. U.S. officials tell CNN the system remains operational. But this is too rare a victory for the pro Kremlin media to play down.

The much promoted Patriot was destroyed by Kinzhal. The presented gloats our hypersonic missiles were so fast. They cut through Ukraine's air defenses, like a knife through butter she adds. As for the six hypersonic missiles, Ukraine says it shot down a fantasy number the presenter says and more than we actually fired.

A Senior Ukrainian official now tells CNN only minor damage was caused to the Patriot Air Defense System when one of the Kinzhal was shut down at low altitude on Tuesday morning. The Official said the U.S. aid system will be repaired soon. And an investigation is now underway into how the Patriot was targeted.

Elsewhere, Ukraine says small advances have been made around Bakhmut. These night images appear to show an armored push in the fields outside. Russian state television is in this city touring devastated front lines under constant fire with Wagner mercenaries who say they're confident they will prevail.

We will take a Bakhmut, eventually this Wagner commander tells the Russian TV crew following him around but at what cost we don't know, he admits. Another says they're shelling us from afar because they can't defeat us in close combat were too strong, he says.

Ukrainian Officials confirm fierce fighting in the city captured on this latest drone video. Areas of Bakhmut suburbs devastated, but now being liberated the Ukrainian say. And back on Russian TV, there's growing acceptance that what was meant as a short offensive in Ukraine has spiraled out of control, exposing weaknesses and divisions in the country.


It's not have a special military operation says this guest on state television but a faithful wall that Russians must win or face destruction. As Ukraine prepares for a counter offensive to reclaim occupied land, it seems Russia is also bracing for a fight. Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


NOBILO: Changing gears now, a Minnesota man is accused of stealing the most famous pair of slippers ever. Back in 2005, someone broke into a museum and stole the ruby red slippers that were worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Now Terry Jon Martin has been indicted by a grand jury on one count of theft.

The slippers were recovered in 2018, but no arrests were made at that time, and one of four remaining pairs from the film. Astronomers have discovered an Earth sized Exoplanet located about 90 light years away in the crater constellation. The data came from several telescopes and a NASA satellite.

Researchers believe the Exoplanet is likely covered in volcanoes and may experience frequent eruptions. And lastly, we're getting never before seen details of the Titanic thanks to a massive digital scan of the ships wreckage. Researchers created an exact digital twin of the Titanic more than a century after it sank.

According to a statement from deep sea investigators, Magellan and filmmakers at Atlantic Productions is said to be the largest underwater scanning project in history. 10 times larger than any underwater 3-D model ever attempted before with more than 16 terabytes of data. Thank you for joining me here on CNN "Newsroom". I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. "World Sport" with Amanda Davies is up next.