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Villages At Risk Of Flooding After Russia Destroys Dam In Eastern Ukraine; Suspect Arrested After Shooting And Stabbing Attack In Japan Leaves Four Dead; White House, GOP Negotiators Inching Closer To Deal In Debt Ceiling Crisis; Washington Post: Trump and Aides Allegedly Carried Out Dress Rehearsal for Moving Sensitive Documents; Two Leaders of Oath Keepers Sentenced to Prison; Study Finds Alarming Global Loss of Wildlife; Some E.U. and U.S. Lawmakers Criticize COP28 Presidency; Seychelles' Uncertain Future Thanks to Climate Change; Luton to Face Coventry in Richest Match. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 26, 2023 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome coming to you live from Studio 4 in the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, villages in Ukraine at risk of flooding after Russian forces take aim at a dam. Looking for a motive were alive in Japan for you as officials investigate a rare deadly attack. And nearly half of the world's species are seeing a rapid population decline. How you and I are playing a big part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Officials in eastern Ukraine say three villages are in danger of flooding after Russian troops destroyed a dam. Ukraine says the dam on the Karlivka Reservoir was the target of constant Russian shelling. This video appears to show the water gushing through the structure.

Officials say communities in the area have already been warned of the dangers and that civilians will be evacuated if needed.

To the north Russia has begun transferring some of its tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus. That's according to the Belarusian state news agency which quoted President Alexander Lukashenko. The two countries announced the plan in March, but the U.S. said at the same -- at the time that there's no need to change its nuclear posture. Russia said those weapons will still remain under its control.

Now, Ukraine says more than 100 of its soldiers are coming back home after a prisoner swap with Russia. It says they were captured during brutal fighting in Bakhmut. Ukraine is praising them as heroes saying their fate prevented Russia from advancing further or faster.

Dozens of them were considered missing before the swap. All of this happening as Russia's Wagner mercenaries say they began their pull out from Bakhmut. Fred Pleitgen with more.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Just as the Ukrainian military save their forces are retaking ground on the outskirts of Bakhmut, Wagner boss Yevgeny Pregorgen says his mercenaries are moving out.

That's it moving out in 10 to 15 minutes he tells these tankers. Everyone leaves before June 1st. We'll rest, prepare and then get a new task. Wagner's exit could mark a turning point in one of the bloodiest battles in Europe since World War II.

The mercenaries assaulted Bakhmut for months often using human waves to try and storm Ukrainian positions. Pregorgen trying to prove to Putin his hired guns can get the job done where regular Russian units fail. Even during the withdrawal a swipe at Russia's defense minister. Pregorgen joking he'll leave to scrawny fighters behind to help the army when they take over Wagner's positions.

That is Bieber and that's Deutlich, he says. The moment the military are in a tough position they'll stand up and block the Ukrainian army. Guys don't believe the military. While the Ukrainians tell CNN they cannot confirm Wagner is really pulling out of Bakhmut. They believe a withdrawal could give them a boost in key its quest to retake the city.

SERHII CHEREVATYI, UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES (through translator): Compared to other units of the Russian army, Wagner did fight better and conducted more offensive actions, but this was literally due to bloody discipline and threats of execution.

PLEITGEN: While Moscow is army struggles in Ukraine, Russians clearly feel threatened on the home front as well. The Intelligence Service FSB releasing dramatic footage of arrests from earlier this month of what they claim were Ukrainian intelligence operatives plotting to attack two nuclear power plants in northwestern Russia. While the Ukrainians haven't commented, Russia blames Kyiv. Moscow also lashing out after a U.S. intelligence assessment saying Ukraine may have been behind a drone attack on the Kremlin in early May.

DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): Behind this is the Kyiv regime. We know this and we are carrying out our work based on this.

PLEITGEN: Russia using the incident to justify its war against Ukraine where Putin's top mercenary is regrouping his forces and vowing to return. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


HOLMES: Ukraine says Russia has used about 1,200 Iranian drones since the war began. But just how are these weapons finding their way to Russia as Salma Abdelaziz now reports for us. Some ships and planes have a way of making deliveries largely unnoticed.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These calm waters are home to a secret Russia doesn't want you to know. Experts say Iran is quietly sending weapons on ships like this one across the Caspian Sea to replenish arms for Moscow's war on Ukraine. Concealing movement at sea is considered nefarious and potentially a violation of international law.

But in the Caspian Sea, there's a growing number of gaps in vessels tracking data known as AIS, with a more than 50 percent increase in ships hiding their movement between August and September of 2022 according to maritime trafficking data.

Most of the vessels going dark are Iranian or Russian flag tankers. The timing is suspicious too this practice picking up last summer, just as White House officials revealed that Russia had purchased hundreds of drones from Iran. So why would these ships want to hide their movements? Maritime security analysts Martin Kelly tells us it is likely because of what these vessels are carrying.

MARTIN KELLY, LEAD INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, EOS RISK GROUP: There's a correlation between Russia requesting drones from Iran, dark poor cars in the Caspian Sea and an increase in dark activity. And that to me was a key indicator of these three aspects combined that something was going on probably the export of Iranian drones to Russia.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): This heat map from Lloyd's list shows were most of those gaps in AIS are concentrated mostly near Iran, Amirabad port and Russia's Astrakhan port, where ships appear to be turning off their data on approach and going dark for extended periods of time.

Now, using data like this and expert analysis, CNN was able to identify eight vessels that exhibited suspicious behavior in the Caspian Sea. This is one such vessel. It's a Russian flag tanker that was seen in early January, leaving Iran's Amirabad port making its way across the Caspian Sea to Russia's Astrakhan port.

Now, we cannot independently verify what this tanker was carrying. But experts tell us the shipment was likely linked to the arms trade.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): And there are signs that Tehran could be air mailing arms to. The U.S. and Ukraine both accused Tehran of sending supplies to Russia by plane. CNN analyzed the tracking data of for Iranian cargo planes flagged by the U.S. Commerce Department for potentially carrying drone shipments.

Collectively, the aircraft made at least 85 trips to Moscow airports between May 2022 and March 2023. Iran has admitted that it sold a small number of drones to Russia, but it says the sale was a few months prior to the war in Ukraine.

CNN has reached out to Iran and Russia for comment, but has yet to receive a response. But given the much larger volume cargo ships can carry the Caspian Sea corridor is likely the primary conduit and experts say it is the new frontier for weapons trade between Moscow and Tehran tucked away from Western interference. It provides an easy avenue for sanctions evasion expert Aniseh Tabrizi says

ANISEH BASSIRI TABRIZI, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, RUSI: I think the perception in Moscow is that Tehran can teach a lot to Moscow about how to go and how to still have a significant economy, even when sanctions are imposed.

ABDELAZIZ: And there is very little the U.S. and its allies can do to stop it. And more could be on the way. Intelligence officials warned in November, Iran plans to send ballistic missiles, ammunition and more sophisticated drones to Moscow, a bustling corridor potentially providing a much needed arsenal critical to Russia's land grab in Ukraine. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


HOLMES: The White House and congressional Republicans are hopefully moving closer to a deal to avoid a U.S. government default. The potential compromise would reportedly raise the debt ceiling but cap federal spending for two years Veterans and Defense spending would be spared. But as CNN's Manu Raju reports nothing is final.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): And negotiations between the speaker and his top allies and the White House still ongoing, still unresolved, even as the U.S. is stirring the prospects of the first ever debt default as soon as next week and amid warnings of the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded if the national debt limit was now stands at $31.4 trillion is not raised.


The dispute still over federal spending and how far to go in cutting spending. Republicans have demanded that as part of the negotiations have also pushed for a range of policy measures including new work required on certain social safety net programs, like food stamps, something Democrats have resisted, but the White House is now, is indicating it could go along with in order to get a deal to raise the debt limit, potentially through the end of 2024.

Now, there are a number of concerns. Some progressives are concerned and developed a number of others, even some moderate Democrats, about the Democrats, the White House giving up too much in the negotiation. And some conservatives are worried that the speaker is watering down the Republican position and are warning they may not support any deal that is reached.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): I'm very frustrated, you know, I called on the president to invoke the 14th Amendment and mince a coin and do not negotiate with hostage takers. I mean, we don't negotiate with terrorists globally, what are we going to negotiate with the economic terrorists here that are the Republican Party.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): And if that were true, that would absolutely collapse the Republican majority for this debt ceiling increase.

RAJU: Republicans would vote against it/

GOOD: I don't want to make predictions because I haven't seen what is. You know, I've just heard some rumors that there may be some sort of a deal that would be less than desirable, I believe, to the majority of Republicans.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): So it looks like we're watering it down, which is not acceptable. The 218 passed a bill that would make sense.

RAJU: Now, even if a deal is reached right away, it is still uncertain whether or not this can go through the legislative process and be enacted by June 1, or how quickly that could occur. That's because it will take probably at least two days maybe even longer to get bill text drafted and any sort of legislative framework, that is reframe of agreement that has reached also will take some time to get a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, it will take three days in order for it to move through the House given that speaker McCarthy has promised 72 hours for members to review this legislation.

And then in the Senate, it's anyone's guess. And then the individual senator can hold up progress there may be up to a week or so. So they're all indicates how difficult this will be for Congress and the White House to get this done in time and avoid that default, especially given the disagreements that still remain between the White House and House Republicans. Mana Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill,


HOLMES: Catherine Rampell is a CNN Economics and Political commentator. She's also a Washington Post opinion columnist, always good to see you, Catherine. Let's say these talks don't resolve the impasse or the hardliners in the GOP don't agree with whatever deal emerges. What then would be the immediate impact not just in the U.S. but globally, if there is a default?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOIC AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If there is a default, and a default can take many meanings, right. But let's say there are actually missed payments on some of the Treasury securities, that people around the world companies or corporation -- companies or countries around the world hold, that would have devastating impacts.

And that's because it doesn't only affect the holders of those bonds, notes, other kinds of securities, it also affects the rest of the financial system. You should think of the Treasury as sort of the building block upon which much of the other front of -- the rest of the financial system other markets rest.

So for example, Treasuries are generally considered the safest of safe assets, everything else is benchmarked against them in terms of how risky they are. If suddenly, U.S. debt, U.S. Treasuries are revealed to be riskier, that has some cascading effects that basically reset the perceived riskiness of everything else.

Treasuries are also often used, for example, as collateral in a lot of other trades, if that collateral suddenly becomes worth a lot less than people thought it was, which is what happens basically, if we default on our debt, then then that can affect lots of other markets as well. So yes.

HOLMES: No, no, sorry. I was just going to say, yes, what you're saying is terrifying is potentially huge. The immediate fallout is one thing. But, yes, what would or could be the longer term impacts on the U.S. in terms of international reputation financially reliability.

RAMPELL: Right. The United States has been very lucky over the years, because we have the world's global reserve currency, because people perceive U.S. debt as safe, the United States as a place that respects rule of law that pays back bondholders that can be trusted.

Now, the longer term consequences of revealing some of those assumptions to be questionable are potentially huge. So for example, the whole reason why we are able to, you know, martial other allies in our national security interests has to do with the fact that we have this leverage, that people want access both to the to the U.S. economy and to dollars.


This is why sanctions work, right? When the U.S. wants to impose sanctions, the threat we are generally making is, if you don't do what we say, you will not be able to have access to the to the U.S. economy or and as well as to the financial -- parts of the financial system that are interconnected with the U.S. economy.

If the rest of the world sort of voluntarily diversifies away from U.S. Treasuries, because it no longer has the same sort of, you know, significance, it's no longer seen as the safest of safe things to invest in, then that threat of cutting off access suddenly becomes a little bit less scary.

So there are a number of ways in which yes, this affects our national security, this affects our ability to get other countries to do the things we want them to do.

HOLMES: Well, we've also already, we've already got a couple of countries like China and Russia and others who would quite like the Chinese currency to be the global currency, not the U.S. dollar. And it doesn't help to, you know, just sort of put the U.S. dollar in the toilet like that.

I wanted to ask you, though, more broadly. And for those watching us around the world, just how dysfunctional is the current U.S. system of dealing with, you know, a debt ceiling at all the regular crises that crop up with this in terms of, you know, political posturing? Most other countries don't do it this way, do they?

RAMPELL: No, in fact, there are only two countries, two industrialized countries in the world that have something that looks like a debt ceiling. And we are the only country in the world in which it is regularly politicized in which the debt ceiling is actually binding. In Denmark, there is a debt ceiling, but for all intents and purposes, it's -- it doesn't really matter very much. It's so high relative to the actual spending levels. So yes, it does not help our global reputation on a number of fronts. I think it makes us look dysfunctional, makes us look at the United States, like a basket case. And that is another aspect in which it is not good for our national security.

Many national security officials have explicitly said that, you know, this sort of chaos and dysfunction -- very visible, despite political dysfunction of the United States very much plays into the propaganda that China and Russia and many of our other competitors and adversaries have been arguing that they say you can't trust the United States. It's not a reliable partner. It's not, you know, they don't really know what they're doing. They can't even pay their bills, you know, why would you trust them?

So, I think that none of this is in the United States is interests, neither our narrow economic or financial interests nor our broader geopolitical interests?


RAMPELL: Because it makes us look silly. You know, we are supposed to be a global Democratic leader. And, you know, we have basically created this unforced crisis for no apparent reason.

HOLMES: I mean, it really is a circus, and it looks that way. Yes, a lot of potential fallout for the U.S. but that -- a lot of worried people around the world as well. Catherine Rampell, always a pleasure. Thanks so much.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

HOLMES: Fiscal storm clouds are also forming over Europe after its largest economy slipped into recession. Germany's latest GDP revision shows the economy shrank by point 3 percent in the first quarter, now that followed a decline of 0.5 percent during last year's fourth quarter, soaring energy prices and high inflation taking a toll on consumer spending.

There's also been a sharp downturn in manufacturing. Some economists predict the German recession will be short lived. Others predict further declines in the third and fourth quarters.

Quick break here when we come back, a man now in police custody for allegedly killing four people in a violent rampage rarely seen in the country. We'll have a live report from Tokyo. Coming up.



HOLMES: Police in London say a man crashed his car into the gates of Downing Street just meters from the Prime Minister's residence. The incident caught on video you can see there highlighted on your screen as small silver car driving at relatively slow speed at the end of Downing Street and then directly into the wrought iron gates that prevent public access to the heart of the British government. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was inside Number 10 at the time no one was injured. Though you can see there are people running away from the scene.

The driver is being detained on suspicion of criminal damage and dangerous driving. Police say the incident is not considered terror related.

In Japan, police say the son of a local politician is under arrest after a deadly knife and gun attack on Thursday. Four people were killed including two police officers. The suspect then barricaded himself for hours in his father's home before being taken into custody. CNN's Marc Stewart joins me now live from Tokyo with latest. Of course it's very rare to see gun violence in Japan. Bring us up to date Marc.

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very rare Michael. In fact, just to be blunt about it. This is not something that we see every day in Japan. In fact, if you look at the data in 2022, there were four cases, four deaths related to gun violence. That's out of a population of 125 million people. So, as you can understand this case is getting a lot of attention.

Again, to run down what we know so far, four people are dead, two of whom are police officers and now this 31-year-old man described as a suspect is charged in one of the police officers death. The ban (ph) was taken into custody after barricaded himself inside his family's home. His father again is a local politician, a little local city council member.

At the time, the 31-year-old suspect the man he fled to the family's home. At the time his mother and his aunt were inside. They were able to flee to safety. But the big lingering question behind all of this is motive what prompted this? Why did this happen? Police are starting to brief reporters. And so hopefully we'll get a little bit more detail as to what was the motivation behind all of this in the hours ahead.

Finally, Michael, on this topic of gun violence in Japan, gun ownership is also very rare. But this is a case where this suspect according to public broadcaster NHK, he actually had licensed to own four firearms. Now that does seem a little bit attention getting.

However, it's also important to remember, this man lived in a part of the country Central Japan where there are farmers, the suspects, his father are farmers. So it's not unusual for them to perhaps own firearms, in addition to hunting is also -- it's also common in this part of Japan.

Still a long list of questions, Michael, including motive. A hopefully we'll get a little bit of a more detailed narrative in the hours ahead.

HOLMES: Hopefully, yes, good to have you there for us, Marc. Marc Stewart in Tokyo. Appreciate it. Now a man wanted for allegedly killing thousands of people during the Rwandan genocide is expected to appear in a South African Court in the coming hours. He was arrested on Thursday almost 30 years after allegedly being a mastermind all then taking part in the killings in Rwanda.

A spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary General says the arrest sends a powerful message that such fugitives cannot evade justice and eventually will be held accountable.


CNN's David McKenzie with a story for us from Johannesburg.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fulgence Kayishema doesn't look like a man on the run. South African police say they found him living the good life in wine country near Cape Town. But for more than 20 years, his mugshot was plastered on top of the list of the Most Wanted perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. And even among the names that define pure evil. Prosecutors say Kayishema stands out.

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, CHIEF PROSECTUROR, UN INTERNATIONAL RESDIUAL MECHANISM FOR CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS: He was the chief of police. And his responsibility was in fact to protect civilians, and he did exactly the opposite.

MCKENZIE: For more than 90 days, nearly 50 years ago now, more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutu Rwandans were murdered during the genocide. Investigators say Kayishema was not just a mastermind, but was also a participant. Herding fleeing Tutsis, woman, children and the elderly and to the younger Catholic Church. At first, they used machetes.

BRAMMERTZ: When those killings were not advancing quickly enough, they brought petrol and put the church on fire, and came with this heavy machinery to have the roof of the church collapsing over more than 2,000 women and children must be worse than having an evil character to go over days and days continuing those massive killings.

MCKENZIE: When the Rwandan Patriotic Front put a stop to the orgy of killing. Investigators say that Kayishema melted in with the thousands of refugees fleeing Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He used fake papers, assumed names and fellow fugitives to get refugee status and asylum in Mozambique Eswatini, and finally, South Africa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kayishema was indicted for the murders of more than 2,000 women, men, children and elderly refugees.

MCKENZIE: At the UN Security Council, the chief prosecutor repeatedly blamed South Africa for a lack of cooperation. That all changed a year ago, he says when President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered a taskforce be formed and investigators began closing the net. MCKENZIE (on camera): What message does this arrest give to those who still remain at large in Rwanda and in other possible crimes of humanity?

BRAMMERTZ: Persons who are powerful today are not powerful anymore tomorrow. Sometimes you have to wait months, sometimes years. But the message is really very, very clearly. Well, there is no statute of limitations for those international crimes, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity. And even if it takes years, we will at the end of the day, get those guys.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Kayishema was one of the handful of those most wanted for the genocide. Rwandan prosecutors are still looking for more than 1,200 fugitives. The hunt is far from over. David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


HOLMES: Italian authorities say more than 1,000 people were rescued from two large migrant boats in distress between Libya and Italy. The country's Coast Guard said one boat was carrying nearly 700 migrants including women, children and unaccompanied minors. The other vessel had more than 400 people on board.

The migrants were taken to multiple Italian ports, another vessel carrying more than two dozen people was intercepted and returned to Libya.

Two men who played central roles in the January 6 insurrection will now spend many years behind bars. The judge had harsh words for the Oath Keepers as he handed down the tougher sentences yet. We'll have details after the break.



MICHAEL HOLMS, CNN ANCHOR: According to the "Washington Post" newspaper, Donald Trump's staff was moving boxes around Mar-a-Lago last year, just a day before they knew the FBI was coming to look for classified documents. The newspaper reports that Trump also allegedly held a dress rehearsal for moving sensitive papers before they were subpoenaed about a year ago.

Investigators reportedly view the timing as a potential sign of obstruction.

Josh Dorsey of the "Washington Post", spoke to CNN about its reporting.


JOSH DORSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS AND ENTERPRISE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": What we're learning is that one day before federal authorities came to Mar-a-Lago last June to pick up classified documents in return before the subpoena that video camera footage shows two Trump employees, two employees of the former president at Mar-a-Lago (INAUDIBLE) moving boxes back into the storage room.

As you remember when the feds arrived at Mar-a-Lago, some teams they came to the storage room, that's where the documents are, you can do a search. They would not let them in the boxes.

So what we've reported is that the boxes were previously moved after the subpoena arrived, and then the night before federal officials came to Mar-a-Lago they were put back into the storage room.

We're also reporting that federal investigators probing the classified documents (INAUDIBLE) former President Trump have multiple witnesses who have told them, he displayed classified information to visitors, left it out, and showed it to others.

And we're also reporting that before this time where they do not give the documents back, they went through what was called an apparent dress rehearsal, according to a federal judge when the National Archives asked for the documents back before.

So they have the same playbook on how not to give the documents back was what they did with the National Archives as well.


HOLMES: That was a "Washington Post" reporter Josh Dorsey there.

Now more than two years after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, two convicted ringleaders of the insurrection were handed stiff prison sentences on Thursday. But Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes who played a central role on January 6th was unrepentant, declaring himself a political prisoner.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has those details.


KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison on Thursday. That is the sentence, the largest among any January 6th Capitol riot defendant.

And the reason Rhodes is receiving that much time is because the judge decided he was the reason the members of the Oath Keepers came to Washington D.C. on January 6th, and decided to move into the Capitol in their riot gear, in military-esque gear, as a unit.

Now Rhodes spoke to the judge today and said that he had no remorse at all. That he still believes that the election of 2020 was illegal, that this was an illegitimate government governing the United States. And so the judge responded to that quite harshly by telling Rhodes, his crimes of seditious conspiracy and other crimes amounted to domestic terrorism in his sentencing. And also, that he believed Rhodes poses a continuing, ongoing threat to the American republic, to American democracy.

There was another person sentenced today too. A deputy who was working with Rhodes on January 6, a man named Kelly Meggs from Florida. Meggs was a very different defendant in that he did express remorse. He said he was sorry to be involved in an event that put such a black eye on the country.


POLANTZ: But the judge also gave him quite a significant sentence believing it too amounted to a crime of domestic terrorism, seditious conspiracy And the judge gave him 12 years.

Kelly Meggs whenever he was receiving his sentence was crying. But the judge also took a step back and told him, quite sternly that violence was not the answer and is not the answer for people who disagree with the political process in the United States.

Judge Amit Mehta, he also, we have a process. It is called an election. You don't take to the streets with rifles. You don't hope that the president invokes the Insurrection Act so you can start a war in the streets. You don't rush into the U.S. Capitol, with the hope to stop the electoral vote count. We will slowly, but surely descend into chaos if we do.

More sentences for Oath Keepers are to come, but these were the most significant sentences so far in the January 6th seditious conspiracy cases.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN -- Washington.


HOLMES: Coming up here on the program, scientists say we are in an ongoing extinction crisis driven by human activity and nearly half of the world's species are in decline.

Also, the Seychelles is home to spectacular beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves and they're all being impacted by climate change. Coming up what the country's president has to say about it.


HOLMES: Super typhoon Mawar is becoming even stronger in the open waters of the western Pacific. The storm now has sustained winds of almost 300 kilometers per hour.

It is expected to weaken slightly before threatening the northern Philippines or Taiwan early next week.

Much of Guam is still without power and water after Mawar pelted the island with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds. It was one of the strongest storms to ever strike Guam. No deaths, fortunately or even serious injuries were reported.

Now to some startling news from a study on global wildlife. Nearly half of the planet's species are experiencing rapid declines in population. The study's authors analyzed more than 70,000 species across the globe from mammals to birds and fish, even insects.

They found 48 percent have seen their population shrink. About 28 percent are under threat of actual extinction. The main factors driving the destruction is the destruction of habitat, and also of course, climate change.

While mammals, birds and insects are all seeing declines, amphibians are particularly, affected because of disease and climate change.


HOLMES: Now, Daniel Pincheira-Donoso co-authored the study, the senior lecturer from the School of Biological Sciences at Queens University in Belfast joins me now. Thanks so much for doing so.

This study -- it was interesting because this study was different to others because it didn't just look at if a species was threatened with extinction, but where the numbers were declining or stable or increasing. The trend lines, if you like. These findings are, frankly, frightening. As we said 48 percent of species are undergoing decline. Only 3 percent are thriving. What are the current and future impacts of trends like that?


So the impacts are getting worse, and worse. As we see one of the important findings of this study is that compared to previous mass extinctions, we have a massive amount of declines and a very small amount of species that are increasing. Therefore, we have a net loss of species.

In previous mass extinctions, you have as species are lost, other species takeover, those species that become available. And this case it's really imbalanced which means that as time goes, the situation might get even worse.

HOLMES: You called it the beginning of a mass extinction, and I think your words were, it is considerably more alarming picture of species declines than previously thought.

How much worse? What is the trajectory if nothing is done?

PINCHEIRA-DONOSO: So in terms of your first question, the situation is more alarming because the traditional method to estimate the magnitude of this extinction crisis has been based on the conservation categories which is basically a snapshot about how well or bad a species is doing right now in time.

The method we have used instead, takes into account the trajectories species population trends over time. And as we measure with the previous or traditional method, we know that 28 percent of bio diversity is threatened with extinction.

With this measure of population trends over time, not a snapshot, we have found that it is 48 percent. So the amounts of species that are declining is a lot more severe than based on the previous method. But also it shows that some of the species, we have found that out of the species we have today, classed as non threatened, so doing well, 33 percent of those are declining which means that many of the species of toady have not crossed the line from being safe to being threatened will very likely be threatened in the next couple of years.

HOLMES: And that's why this study is so important because of how you did that and the pointers it gives us.

So explain to people why this matters? I guess, you know, how interwoven the world species are. And how, you know, losses of some has a snowball effect on our world?

PINCHEIRA-DONOSO: That is the exact way of putting it. What happens is that the planet is a system. It is a system that is interconnected. And every ecosystem is connected to the other ecosystem. And all the species in every ecosystem are connected between them.

So the problem is like I always say is like you need to think about the engine of a car. Every engine of a car is made of multiple parts, small parts, big parts, but all of them operate together to make the engine work.

In this case, we have ecosystem working in the same way. So every species interacts with other species and every ecosystem interact with other ecosystems like a system. So if you start removing species from those ecosystems, you know that the ecosystem is going to collapse overtime.

So we should worry about it, because as somethings happen, as we find that there are epicenters of extinction, those will send shockwaves. But also all species are related to each other, and we are part of this ecosystems. We are animals that belong to this ecosystem. And our welfare depends on the functioning of those ecosystems. So it is -- it is worrying because --



What happens to them impacts us. And as I said, because of how the study was conducted, it is an early warning. A glimpse into what could be down the line. And probably is down the line.

The question then is, as it always is, can it be turned around? And turned around in time to mitigate the worst of the potential fallout?

PINCHEIRA-DONOSO: That's right. So a realistic solution depends on a realistic agenda and at the moment, we cannot get ahead of ourselves. We are in a situation where we need to concentrate on trying to mitigate the situation, this increasing rate of climate change, of habitat destruction, of species decline.

We need to focus on how we mitigate that. Once we are there we can start thinking about how we revert it. But at the moment, we need to start finding solutions for the most immediate problem which is this increasing rate which is going to take us global cooperation, it's going to take us a couple of decades.

HOLMES: It was important -- an important study as I said in terms of how it was conducted and frightening and yet another wake up call.

Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us early in the morning there in Belfast.

PINCHEIRA-DONOSO: Thank you very much.


HOLMES: Appreciate it.


HOLMES: Now tater this year, the 2023 U.N. climate conference or COP 28 will be held in Dubai. But for some, the United Arab Emirates is a controversial host because it is one of the world's largest oil producers of course and also because it has named Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the national oil company as COP president.

Earlier this week, a number of U.S. and E.U. lawmakers published a letter calling for the removal of Al Jaber from his role saying quote "The decision to name as president of COP28 the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil and gas companies risks undermining the negotiations."

But UAE leaders have praised Al Jaber's role in shaping the country's clean energy path and he says that he brings a pragmatic and realistic approach. Have a listen.


SULTAN AHMED AL JABER, COP28 PRESIDENT: The world needs all the solutions it can get. It is not oil or gas or solar or wind or nuclear or hydrogen. It is oil and gas and solar and wind and nuclear and hydrogen. It is all of the above.


HOLMES: Now the Seychelles is one of those countries that will be heavily impacted by climate change. In fact it is already seeing the effects. This tiny island nation facing an uneasy future with rising sea levels and dying coral reefs.

CNN's Eleni Giokos sat down with the country's president and asked him if he has seen any of the billions that were promised to vulnerable nations.


WAVEL RAMKALAWAN, PRESIDENT, THE SEYCHELLES: The disappointment from us who feel the effects of climate change is the fact that these promises keep being postponed and you go to when we had the Euro Africa Summit again billions were promised but nothing so far has materialized. But at the same time for me it is the hypocrisy of those nations that

have made promises. It is the hypocrisy of those nations that are responsible for climate change. They promise and don't deliver. But yet they tell you, you have to keep protecting the planet.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is the gap between the promises and the commitment in terms of reality? Is it funds? Is it knowing how to deploy that capital? Is it, I mean, you know, how do you close that gap?

RAMKALAWAN: My issue is I just don't have a clue as to what is actually happening but on the other hand, you see funds being deployed very quickly. The Paris promises were done years ago but then you had the Ukraine war, the European war and funds were released.

The West started talking about trillions and everything else and funds were actually released.

GIOKOS: When do you think we can actually finally get on to the path of working together to figure out a solution for this?

RAMKALAWAN: Well, I hope it is soon.

GIOKOS: Do You think it will be COP28?

RAMKALAWAN: I have high hopes for COP28 and I think between COP27 and COP28 there have been so many disasters related to climate change. I mean the forest fires, the floods, the droughts and everything else, which of course are related directly to the effects of climate change.

So I hope that the fact that we have seen those changes that the world leaders and especially the leaders of those countries which have the resources to make a difference will actually come and say ok, now we're no longer talking about promises. Now is the time for us to put our money where our mouth is to make the difference.

GIOKOS: You've seen it all, right. You've been here your whole life?


RAMKALAWAN: Of course. Of course. When, for example, on some of the beautiful beaches we now have rock armoring simply to protect the coast, where we have to build seawalls to protect the roads that go along the coast and also simply to protect the erosion that takes place --

GIOKOS: It is not something that you can be in control of?


GIOKOS: Because you are in the middle of it?

RAMKALAWAN: We are in the middle of it rightly so. The only thing that we can do is to try and set up artificial reefs so that these artificial reefs will break the surge, the strength of the waves and therefore it will be more gentle on the island. GIOKOS: You said something earlier, and it kind of stuck with me. If

you find fossil fuels, if you find oil or gas in your seas, in your oceans, would you extract?

RAMKALAWAN: Well, we've made it clear, we are doing the exploration and we are hoping that whilst we do the exploration, all these promises will be fulfilled and if we discover oil, that will mean we will not have to go that route.

But at the end of the day, it is about survival. It is about survival.


HOLMES: That was our Eleni Giokos there interviewing the Seychelles president.

India's efforts to reintroduce cheetahs to the country are suffering a major setback. Three of four cubs born in late march have now died. Their mother was relocated from Namibia to a national park in India last September. The government didn't say what killed the cubs but temperatures in the region have been up around 46 degrees Celsius.

Experts are monitoring the mother and remaining cub at a local hospital. Cheetahs have been extinct in India for 70 years.

Two clubs from humble English towns are fighting for a chance to get back into the Premier League. Ahead, what is known as the "richest match" in football.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: The Premier League champions have already been crowned, but there is still tremendous suspense in English football as two clubs from the second tier compete this weekend for a spot in the top tier. Both of them clawing their way back from obscurity.

And as CNN's Darren Lewis explains the winner gets quite the windfall.


DARREN LEWIS, CNN SPORTS SENIOR ANALYST: It is widely regarded as the richest game in world soccer and this year the championship playoff is dripping with nostalgia as Coventry City and Luton Town FC both of whom were in the top division of English football in the 80s square up for a place in the Premier League.

The clubs hail from humble towns rooted in the automotive industry. But in recent times they struggled financially. Now they are in the fast lane and success on Saturday could lead to a more than $200 million increase in revenue, according to an analysis from last season.

ETHAN HORVATH, LUTON TOWN FC AND U.S. GOALKEEPER: We've had a fantastic year this year. the group is just so together, you know. We always bounce back and we've never lost two games in a row this year.


HORVATH: And I think the semifinal is a perfect example. We went on the road, had a difficult defeat and took that to heart. Came back home and we responded and we have just grown so much and gotten stronger each game.

LEWIS: This eagerly awaited playoff final really is one for the romantics. Luton Town epitomized the charm of a small team with a big heart on the cusp of winning soccer's lottery.

Their vintage 10,000-seater stadium for instance is right here on this road behind these terraced (ph) houses. It sums up the charm and the beauty of the English game in many ways showing just how football clubs can be quite literally knitted into the fabric of the communities they are in.

GARY SWEET, CEO, LUTON TOWN FC: Luton is a warm hearted place. It is industrial, hardworking town with its hard edges. This is what we are as a football club. We reflect the town.

Not just that but we have a determination like no other football club.

I'm a firm believer (INAUDIBLE) hard on myself but I'm a firm believer that we remain failures until we succeed. And I think that is also the case --

LEWIS: Really?

SWEET: Yes, absolutely. Because there is no silver medal. This is all about the one prize. We want promotion, we want a place at the top table.

LEWIS: Luton are just one game away from a magical end to their season. It has been 30 years of hurt, confusion, chaos and pain but the stunning form of their team has revived the pleasure. Now Wembley could be their field of dreams.

Darren Lewis, CNN -- Luton.


HOLMES: Good luck Luton.\

Well a Nepalese Sherpa has broken his own record after climbing Mount Everest for the 27th and 28th time within a week. Kami Rita Sherpa sets the new record of the world's tallest mountain on Tuesday, the most any mountaineer has done.

He received a warm welcome as you can see from family and friends afterwards. The 53-year-old first climbed Everest in 1994 and has made his way to the summit almost every year since. Kami Rita says he has no plans to hang up his climbing boots yet. And by the way a friend of his named Persang Dawa Sherpa (ph) is close on his heels scaling Mount Everest for the 27th time on Monday. A bit of competition going on there.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN.

Do stick around. Paula Newton picks up our coverage after a short break for all of the Canadians out there.