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Potential Effects Of Debt Default On Small Businesses; Air Travel Reaches Almost Record Levels, Result Of Millions Of Passengers; Memorial Day Holiday, Americans Will Spend Less On Fuel; Russia's War On Ukraine; Former U.S. Soldier Killed In Bakhmut; Russia Intends To Cause "Massive Provocation" In Zaporizhzhia; Ukraine Hit Russian- Occupied Mariupol, According To Moscow-Backed Officials; Prisoner Exchange Releases 100 Ukrainian POWs; Bakhmut Reports The Death Of A Retired Special Forces Soldier; 86-Year-Old Pope's Wellness Is A Source Of Concern; DeSantis Takes Aim At Trump; Turkey Votes In Runoff Sunday; Search And Rescue Operation Over In Dnipro; Russia Ramping Up Strikes Ahead Of Ukraine's Counteroffensive; German Police Investigate Roger Waters; Celine Dion Cancels All Shows Due To Health Conditions. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 27, 2023 - 04:00:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And a warm welcome to all of our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. Ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM, while negotiators race to reach a debt limit deal. The impact on small business owners, they're message is simple one, get a deal done.

And the summer holiday travel season is here. How the cost of filling your tank compares to this time last year? And what's behind the change?

Plus, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on the offensive. And there are clear signs that the gloves will be coming off now that he's officially running for the White House.

ANNOUNCER: Live in CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Paula Newton.

NEWTON: So, the White House and Republicans could be on the brink of reaching a deal that would allow the United States to keep paying its bills. Negotiators have been hammering out the details in late-night talk. And a source tells CNN that an agreement on raising the debt ceiling could come as soon as today. But even if a deal is reached it still, remember, has to pass both Houses of Congress to avert a financial disaster.

Manu Raju has our report.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The clock is now ticking, June 5th. The new date to avoid the first ever debt default in the United States if Congress and the White House cannot agree on a deal to raise the national debt limit which now stands at $31.4 trillion. The default could have drastic economic ramifications in the United States and around the world, and it starts with getting a deal between Speaker McCarthy, his top allies, and the White House.

And at the moment, there is no deal yet. They are very close to one, though. They've been negotiating furiously for days, late into the night, as they've horse traded on a whole wide range of issues. And as Republicans have pushed for spending cuts to be attached to any piece of legislation to raise the national debt limit. There are indications the White House is moving closer to the Republicans' position on that. And there are also some indications that the Republicans are giving a little bit more to the White House on how long to extend the national debt limit for.

The White House wants it done through the 2024 elections. Republicans initially proposed to do it just for one year so they can get back and have this fight again next year. The White House does not want to have this fight again. It appears that Republicans are -- would allow for a two-year debt limit increase.

There are other major sticking points as well, including over the issue of work requirements. That means actual -- for social safety net programs. What Republicans want to impose on programs like food stamps, new work requirements for those beneficiaries. Democrats believe those -- that push will hurt needy families and it could be detrimental to a lot of people who rely on that for their nutrition and for their daily lives.

But all the negotiation as part of the discussion now going forward and as Garret Graves, one of the top negotiators told me earlier in the day, that he will insist on work requirements to be part of any deal.

REP. GARRET GRAVES (R-LOUISIANA): Democrats right now are willing to default on a debt so they can continue making welfare payments for people that area refusing to work. And I'm talking about people that are without dependents, people that are able-bodied between 18 and 55. And that's crazy to me that we're even having this debate today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to drop that work requirements in a --

GRAVES: Hell no. Hell no, not a chance.

RAJU: Even if a deal is reached as soon as Saturday, getting this into law is a whole other question because they're going to need to have the votes in both chambers to do that. And we're already hearing pushback. Democrats don't like the compromises the White House is making. The orator (ph) raises a national debt limit, particularly on work requirements and spending cuts.

Conservatives don't like the fact they have watered down, in their view, the position the Republicans had in April when they passed their own bill to raise the debt limit out of the House. It included a slew of spending cuts, and also had things like reining in Joe Biden's policies, including on student loan forgiveness. That won't be part of this ultimate deal. But -- and so, a lot of these conservatives, dozens of them, are threatening to vote against this final deal.

So, the whipping will take place by the leaders -- try to get their members in line and to push this through in a matter of days. Then it goes over the United States Senate, assuming they can get the votes in the House. That could take several days itself. As a lot of members are concerned about what they are hearing about this. And senators, themselves, have been shut out of these negotiations that have taken place between the speaker's team and the White House.

So, a lot of questions here still remaining, even though there's optimism that a deal is within reach, a long way to go to avert default.


Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


NEWTON: Now, earlier, I asked political analyst Michael Genovese, how he believes the negotiations have unfolded so far. Here's what he said.


MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE AND GLOBAL POLICY INSTITUTE, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: There's a hard and fast rule, and that is, when you jump out of a plane you should open the parachute before you hit the ground. And it seems that that logic has been lost on both the Democrats and the Republicans, I think especially the Republicans who are digging their heels in.

We need to make a deal. There's no need not to make a deal. We've made deals like this before, 90 times since 1960. We've raised the debt limit without fanfare, without fuss, without bother. So, it's time for the grownups to take over, and I'm hoping that they're in the room.

NEWTON: Yes, one would hope that they're in the room. They do seem to be close. Having said that, our chief business correspondent here, Christine Romans, has been reminding us for weeks, right, that the U.S. credit rating, you know, the borrowing prowess, the U.S. dollar supremacy, it is an America superpower. And even if there is a deal right now at the last moment, that it, you know, erodes confidence because the political deal makers right now seem to have the economy by the throat.

How much do you think it will damage the standing, not just globally, but obviously with Americas as well in terms of losing confidence of what can be done?

Well, I think we've also -- already seen some damage done. I mean, global leadership is always fragile, it's always tentative, and it's built on interest and perception. Is it in the interest, for example, of another country to follow our lead? And do they believe -- do they have faith that we have the capacity to actually lead and to execute? It's not automatic. It has to be earned, and has to be earned every day. And a global superpower has to demonstrate that. It must both be and be seen as having the capacity to be strong, reliable, to have a clear and steady hand. And this manufactured crisis has called into question the very capacity of the Americas to lead.


NEWTON: Thanks to Michael Genovese there. So, what are some of the real-world implications if the U.S. defaults? When you look at how small businesses right across the country could be affected, not just the owners, but their employees and customers as well. CNN's Gabe Cohen has our report.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): From a construction site in Baltimore --


COHEN (voiceover): Brandon McCluskey is imploring Washington lawmakers to hammer out a deal and raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. government runs out of cash to pay its bills.

MCCLUSKEY: Please, for crying out loud, just show up to your job and stop putting everybody at risk.

COHEN (voiceover): He says, 60 percent of his construction firm's revenue comes from government contracts and they just started another project.

COHEN: What could a default mean for your business?

MCCLUSKEY: So, we're doing millions of dollars worth of work over the next 30 to 60 days, and maybe get paid for that. But I also have a great back wad (ph) for the second half of this year as long as we don't have an economic catastrophe.

COHEN: Hearing that, what goes through your mind?

CHRIS CHURCH, TRIDENT BUILDERS EMPLOYEE: It scares the heck out of me.

COHEN (voiceover): So, workers like Chris Church are anxious for a deal.

CHURCH: When you get four people depending on you.

COHEN: You're talking about your family.

CHURCH: My family, yes. And who knows what's going to happen, I mean, you need to think about it if you're going to have a roof over their head or food in their bellies, you don't know. COHEN (voiceover): Tens of thousands of small businesses work on government contracts but a default would even strangle the ones that don't. It would drive up borrowing costs, making it harder to get loans and credit.

JOE WALL, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, GOLDMAN SACHS 10,000 BUSINESSES VOICES: Whether they're trying to grow or just trying survive, it's going to be very tough for them if the government defaults.

COHEN: Are you worried this could push many of them out of business?

WALL: Potentially if it's a sustained default.

COHEN: How stressful has this time been?


COHEN (voiceover): At Connexus Corporation, a consulting firm that helps developing countries increase incomes for the poor. CEO Anita Campion says, 80 percent of their revenue comes from government contracts.

COHEN: You're already making adjustments.

CAMPION: Yes, definitely. We have stopped hiring. We have made plans to, kind of, limit spending, we are not being aggressive in our new business, you know, in our new proposals that we're going after. We're just kind of treading water and waiting to see what happens.

COHEN (voiceover): A long-term default could erase by one estimate about 8 million jobs and $10 trillion in household wealth. It would also stall payments for federal programs like social security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, and food stamps.

Ephraim Kassaye who runs three markets in D.C. says half his revenue comes from customers using SNAP funds.

EPHRAIM KASSAYE. MARKET OWNER: We're going to have big reductions on the sales into our businesses.

COHEN: And what would you have to do as an owner to adjust for that?

KASSAYE: I think it's going to be very bad. I'm going to end up cutting employees.

COHEN (voiceover): So, some grocery stores are already cutting back on expensive or specialty items in case a deal isn't reached in time and sales go south.


KASSAYE: I think they need to consider about the people, the American people, they need to consider that. They need to consider about the low income in peoples. How they're going to be impacting. COHEN: And so, these businesses that are tightly tide to the government are already taking steps to prepare. And now, as for the rest of us if a deal isn't reached, the small business administration predicts more companies raising prices, cutting services, even scaling back expansion plans. In other words, we will all feel this before long unless there's a deal. Gabe Cohen, CNN, Washington.


NEWTON: In the U.S. air travel for Memorial Day weekend has already reached the highest level in nearly three and a half years. And airports right across the country are expected to be even busier over the next two days. Transportation security officials say, they expect to screen about 10 million passengers. Delta Airlines says holiday weekend ticket sales are up 17 percent from last year, and United Airlines says, this will be its busiest Memorial Day holiday in more than a decade. For passengers, what matters most, of course, is getting where you need to go. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If things run smoothly, people do their jobs efficiently, then it's a great trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pack your patience. Come prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get home without a hitch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm supposed to fly from Charlotte to Miami, then Miami to DR. But, you know, all flights, they are full.


NEWTON: For many Americas, the highways are the preferred way to travel this holiday weekend, and this year police want drivers, listen up here, to be safe and sober.


SHERIFF SCOTT WRIGELSWORTH, INGHAM COUNTY, MICHIGAN: Drinking and driving is always the one that we tell people, please don't do that. The other thing that we see often, especially when there's so much traffic, is tailgating, right? You try to give -- you're supposed to try to give a car length for every 10 miles an hour.

LIEUTENANT RENE GONZALEZ, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: People are going to want to be in a hurry to get where they're going. You know there's going to be heavy traffic so give yourself extra time to get to your destination.


NEWTON: Now, while it sounds like the roads are going to be very crowded, one thing people won't be complaining about is the cost of fuel. CNN's Brian Todd has more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): At this BP station in McLean, Virginia, pleasant surprises at the pump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am surprised because everything else is going up a lot more, so at least gas prices have kind of been stable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, I mean for the past one year I think the prices are a little bit, you know, better for the citizen.

TODD (voiceover): The cost of your holiday road trip, at least behind the wheel, is lower this year. Gas prices steeply down from a year ago. The national average standing at $3.57 a gallon according to AAA, down more than a dollar from the average at this time last year which was $4.60 a gallon. Analysts say there are several reasons for this, the global price for barrel of oil is lower but also --

PATRICK DE HAAN, HEAD OF PETROLEUM ANALYSIS, GASBUDDY: Economic head winds, globally, central bank's raised interest rates to tame inflation, that has cooled Americans desires to hit the road.

TODD (voiceover): That's the case so far this year, but this holiday weekend will see more Americas on the road, more than 37 million according to AAA, up six percent from a year ago. Another reason for lower gas prices, Russia's war in Ukraine hasn't cut Russia's oil supply to world markets as much as was anticipated.

DENTON CINQUEGRANA, CHIEF OIL ANALYST, OPIS: We thought Russia was going to disappear from the world market. Their oil is still getting to market in certain places despite the fact that the U.S., the E.U., and U.K. have sanctions on them.

TODD (voiceover): And experts believe, motorists won't see huge price changes anytime soon.

DE HAAN: The odds are against the national average hitting the $4 gallon mark this summer.

TODD (voiceover): So, we ask motorists a key question.

TODD: Will you change your travel plans for your driving habbits now that prices are lower?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I actually just drove in from Michigan today to be with my son. So, you know, I think that I'm encouraged to keep traveling and get together with family again, you know, it's been a while.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This weekend is the first weekend that I'm actually going to a beach. So, that's pretty exciting.

TODD (voiceover): Analyst Patrick De Haan says, if lower gas prices have you thinking about a longer road trip, planned or spontaneous, there is a certain time of summer that might be a better window to travel than others. DE HAAN: If you're planning a road trip, really, the closing innings of summer may be a better bet simply because the supply of that special blend of summer gasoline increases over the next six to eight weeks, culminating in a peak of gasoline supply that amasses right as the peak driving season is happening in late July.

TODD: But De Haan and other analysts say this optimism over gas prices this summer, especially in the late part of the summer, comes with the usual caveat. They say, if there's a major hurricane in the later part of the summer, or more than one hurricane that disrupts refineries along the Gulf Coast, prices could shoot up again. Brian Todd, CNN, McLean, Virginia.


NEWTON: And while we're on the topic, weather, right? Millions in the United States are flocking to beaches for the Memorial Holiday weekend, but the weather may not cooperate in some places.


Along the southeast coast, expect heavy rains, gusty winds, rip currents and coastal flooding. Parts of the Carolina coast are under threat of excessive rain and flooding Saturday. And severe storms and -- are possible right across the Great Plains from Texas all the way to Montana.

Meantime, super typhoon Mawar is moving west-northwest over the open Pacific Ocean. It's been the strongest storm on the planet in years. Equivalent to a strong category 5 Atlantic hurricane. Mawar is expected to turn away from the Philippines and slowly weaken as it moves further north over cooler waters. And now, earlier this week, the storm lashed the U.S. territory of Guam with powerful winds and torrential rains, leaving significant damage and flooding, but luckily it was not as bad as initially feared.

A former elite U.S. soldier dies in the Ukrainian City of Bakhmut. Still ahead, we retrace the final steps of Retired Army Sergeant Nicholas Maimer and the events that led to the terrifying death.

Plus, Turkey goes back to the polls tomorrow in a runoff election that will determine the next president. We will take you live to Istanbul after the break.



A Ukrainian intelligence agency says, Russia plans to simulate a nuclear accident at the occupied Zaporizhzhia plant. And it says the plan is to carry out a strike at the facility and then falsely announce a radiation leak in order to thwart the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russian officials deny the claim in which Ukraine didn't back up with any evidence. So far, there's been no response from the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Meantime, pro-Russian officials are accusing Ukraine of missile strikes that have hit Mariupol. They say, Friday's attack caused casualties or major damage in the occupied city. Ukraine is not officially claiming responsibility but a Ukrainian political adviser says, the target was in fact the city's Azovstal steel plant where he says Russia had set up an ammunition depot.

More than 100 Ukrainians who were captured after fighting in the Bakhmut area have now been released in a prisoner swap with Russian forces. Kyiv commended the troops saying they prevented the Russians from advancing further east. The soldiers' range in age from 59 years old to as young as 21. Many of them were previously thought to be missing. Ukraine says, three bodies were also repatriated during the exchange, two foreigners and a Ukrainian woman. And officials say, one of those bodies belongs to a former U.S. Special Forces member who was killed in Bakhmut.

For more on all of this, we're joined by Clare Sebastian in London. Clare, glad you're following this story for us. And, you know, these exchanges are always obviously quite emotional because when you have family members do not know what happened to their loved ones. Tell us more about how these exchanges unfolded?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting, Paula. We've seen a number of these exchanges over the course of this war. In a sense they are a diplomatic achievement but should not, of course, be read as a sign of any diplomatic rapprochement between the two in this conflict. If anything, they are further apart than ever.

Interestingly, the role that Wagner played in particular in this one given that they essentially spearheaded the Russian advance in Bakhmut, Yevgeny Prigozhin had promised in a video where he uncovered the body of this American serviceman to return him in a dignified manner, ended up, it seems, fulfilling that promise.

But we've been looking into the circumstances of the death of this America veteran, Nicholas Maimer is his name. His story and the way he died unfolded in what ended being really the final days in Bakhmut before Wagner and Russia claim to have taken the entire town. Of course, Ukraine still disputes that Russia has control of the entire town. But take a look at how that unfolded and what it tells us about this battle.


SEBASTIAN (voiceover): Undercover of darkness, a Russian military blogger films Wagner's Chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin heading into what he calls the nest. The Russian nickname for a group of what were once high-rise residential buildings on the western edge of Bakhmut, one of the last areas to fall under Russian control. Prigozhin is taken to see a body, we're not showing it as it's graphic, an America citizen identified by these documents and a friend as Nicholas Maimer, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier.

PERRY BLACKBURN, FRIEND OF NICHOLAS MAIMER: On the night of 14th, 15th, Nick was in the Bakhmut area. He was with some other fellow territorial defense soldiers and they came under attack. And unfortunately, the area that Nick was in, that particular building took a direct hit from an artillery round. And the area that he was at in that building collapsed in on him, and he was unable to make it out.

SEBASTIAN (voiceover): By piecing together the circumstances of Maimer's death, CNN has built up a picture of the intense battle for these final scraps of a town that has come to symbolize the destructiveness of Russia's war.

This is where they pulled our America out, says Prigozhin pointing to the building where he says Maimer was found.

That same building also identified by Maimer's friend, Perry Blackburn, based on information he got from a member of the same brigade Maimer was with in Bakhmut. Here it is on a satellite image on May 13th, intact, then, just two days later the day after night Maimer is believed to have died, this plume of smoke, evidence of the sudden artillery hit. A few days after that an obvious crater in the building's roof.

BLACKBURN: I mean, its World War II tactics using 2023 technology. And so, the idea of, you know, a classic (ph) bombardment of artillery and missile strikes is a usual thing there. But for us in the U.S. we're a lot more clinical than that.

SEBASTIAN (voiceover): Over just a few days, this entire area evidence of those tactics.


Satellite images revealing a battle fought from high rise to high rise, chunks blown out of apartment blocks, even a school, all of this damage appearing within just two days.

The enemy has been beaten out of the nest, says this Wagner fighter in video published on May 20th by Russian state news outlet, "Izvestia". CNN has geolocated the video, it was shot from inside the building where Nicholas Maimer died. You can see this distinctive light blue building, once a day care center and in the distance the spire of a partially destroyed church. Here are all three locations seen from above. After nine months of slow brutal fighting Nicholas Maimer had found himself in the midst of a fierce fast onslaught.

BLACKBURN: Nick wasn't with them when they withdrew from the building and they were trying to recover -- do a recovery operation when it was, you know, reoccupied by the Russians. So, they weren't able to do it.

SEBASTIAN: And then Wagner got there first.

BLACKBURN: Wagner got there first.


SEBASTIAN (on camera): Well as for Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin said, as of Thursday, they have begun to withdraw their forces from Bakhmut, handing over to the Russian regular army to defend those gains. For the family and friends, though, of Nicholas Maimer, that is now the retrieval of his body to the Ukrainian side. Now, the biggest hurdle cleared in their effort to bring him home, give him a proper burial, of course, particularly poignant, Paula, on this Memorial Day weekend.

NEWTON: Absolutely. Certainly, we'll give them a measure of comfort. And extraordinary, the images that you uncovered there, Clare. It just, really, making a stark, stark picture of the kind of brutal battle that was going on there. Clare Sebastian for us in London, really, really, appreciate it.

Now, the Vatican says, Pope Francis will resume his regular schedule today, that's after he cancelled meetings on Friday due to a fever. CNN's Delia Gallagher is in Rome with the latest on the 86-year-old pontiff.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: The Vatican said early Friday afternoon that Pope Francis had a fever and therefore didn't have any meetings in the morning on Friday. A few hours later, the cardinal secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told journalists at the sidelines of a conference that the pope was tired, that he had a particularly intense day on Thursday.

And that speaks to one of the issues here which is that Pope Francis keeps up a very grueling schedule at the Vatican. Meeting groups from about 9:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon, nearly every day. Often giving speeches to those groups and trying to meet each of those people individually.

Francis is 86 years old. He was hospitalized in March for bronchitis. So, obviously a fever is concerning. The pope also has a mobility issue, which we have seen, that compounds his health issues. He has a problem with his knee, which has made him use a wheelchair for some time now. His knee has gotten a bit better, he's able to stand and walk a bit, but still obviously not getting that, kind of, brisk exercise which would be important to keep his health up.

Now, the pope does have a busy schedule as well this coming weekend. On Saturday, he has meetings as well as a big mass on Sunday for Pentecost. And on Monday he's due to meet the Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Vatican. So, we will be monitoring the situation, of course, and bring you updates as we get them. Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


NEWTON: Just ahead for us, so, look at how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is taking aim at Former President Trump, his main rival for the Republican presidential nomination.


[04:30:00] NEWTON: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton. And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

More now on our top story, the White House and Republican negotiators are closing in on a deal to avert a financial catastrophe. We're told an agreement to raise the debt ceiling could be reached as soon as today, any deal would then need to be passed by both houses of Congress before June 5th. That's the date the U.S. is expected to run out of money to pay its bills.

Florida governor and newly minted Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, is taking the gloves off when he speaks about his rival, Former President Donald Trump. DeSantis' campaign raised just over $8 million in its first 24 hours despite the glitch-filled announcement on Twitter on Wednesday. Since then, DeSantis has been swinging hard at Trump in a series of interviews. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He understands I've got a good chance to beat him, because he doesn't criticize anybody else now. It's only me. They know I'm more likely to win the election. I mean, for him to say that we're not winning in Florida, no one has taken a state from being a swing state four and a half years ago to now being a red state in such a dramatic fashion.


NEWTON: And DeSantis told the conservative "Ben Shapiro Show" that Trump is weak on illegal immigration and soft on crime.


DESANTIS: 2 million illegal aliens he wanted to amnesty. I opposed it under the Trump administration. You know, he enacted a bill, basically a jailbreak bill, it's called the First Step Act. It is allowed dangerous people out of prison who have now reoffended and really, really hurt a number of people.


NEWTON: Meantime, Trump hit back on social media calling himself the standard bearer for MAGA Republicans.

Turkey is just a day away from its presidential runoff election. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan got the most votes in first round of voting two weeks ago but failed to cross that crucial 50 percent threshold needed for an outright win. CNN's Nada Bashir joins us now live from Istanbul.

Nada, good to see there. 24 hours left to go, right, until those polls open, less than, actually. How is the campaign going, especially given that Erdogan perhaps looks stronger in the position now than many political pundits have assumed before round one?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. And those campaigns are still ongoing with just hours to go before campaigning officially ends later this evening. We saw rallies taking place yesterday in parts of Istanbul, both in support of the opposition, and of course, in support of President Erdogan's AK Party.

Now, of course we did see that first round, President Erdogan's party securing 49.5 percent of the vote, just short of that 50 plus 1 percent needed to pass through that threshold to declare a victory. The opposition on the other hand did better than they have done in the past, just under 45 percent. And this a remarkable feat for an opposition party that has brought together six very different political parties when it comes to the spectrum on various different policies.


And, in fact, this is the most unified we have seen them, standing behind one single candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The hope now, of course, for the opposition is that this last-minute campaigning over the last two weeks will be enough to secure them those extra votes, those crucial votes needed to step past that threshold. Because President Erdogan's parties also very hopeful and the signs are looking favorable given the fact that earlier this week we heard from CNN, Ogan, the head of the Nationalist Party which actually came third in that first round of the election, they secured about 5 percent of the vote. And Ogan, earlier this week, expressed his support for President Erdogan.

Now, the hope for the AK Party and its supporters is that this announcement, this pledge of support for Erdogan will see a shift of votes from that Nationalist Party to the AK Party in this second round. But, of course, it's not set in stone. And in fact, we have heard from politicians within that party also expressing their support for the opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Now, of course, polls open tomorrow. The campaigning will end later this evening, and there are some significant challenges ahead for whoever does become the next president of Turkey. Of course, President Erdogan has been in power now for more than two decades and he has faced some real criticism over the state of the economy, we're seeing soaring inflation, many blame his unorthodox economic policies for that, and of course, the aftermath of the earthquake, both pledging to boost the economy and, of course, a rapid recovery of the southeast which was impacted by that earthquake, some significant challenges ahead. And let's not forget, this is a crucial NATO ally on the world stage.

NEWTON: Absolutely. With -- in close proximity of that Russian Ukrainian conflict. Nada Bashir for us. You'll be watching it all. Really appreciate it.

Now, for our international viewers, be sure to watch CNN's special live coverage of the 2023 Turkey election hosted by Becky Anderson. That's tomorrow 8:00 p.m. in Ankara, 9:00 p.m. Abu Dhabi, right here on CNN.

Rescuers are no longer looking for survivors at a bombed out medical facility in Ukraine, ahead. We'll go to the site of the Russian attack in Dnipro where search and rescue operations have ended.



NEWTON: Officials say search and rescue operations are over at the site of a Russian rocket strike in the Ukrainian City of Dnipro. Now, the attack obliterated this medical facility on Friday, leaving at least two people dead and more than 30 others wounded. Rescuers have finished clearing a three-story building that was part of that facility.

They say more than three dozen high rises and other buildings were also damaged in the attack, including schools and kindergartens. But there's no word on the fate of three people who are now considered missing. Sam Kiley has more now from the scene.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dnipro, like so many other Ukrainian cities, is no stranger now to scenes like this after more than a year of Russian bombardment. Now, this, though, is a medical clinic, a neurological medical clinic. It's one of dozens of hospitals and other medical structures that the Russians have attacked.

According to the World Health Organization, close to a thousand medical personnel and other medical facilities, as well as buildings, have been bombed by the Russians over the last year. And according to the French government, that amounts to a war crime. But even if this wasn't deliberately targeted, we're in a residential area. There's an apartment building there, there's more medical facilities just down the road, there are more apartments here, and indeed, a sports stadium under construction.

Now, we've seen the systematic destruction in Syria of medical facilities by the Russians, and that continues. And for the last year and a bit, we've seen it here again by the Russians.

Sam Kiley, CNN in Dnipro.


NEWTON: Meantime, a Ukrainian presidential adviser called the Dnipro hospital attack "a deliberate strike on a civilian object." And said, such attacks constitute war crimes. Now, speaking with our Fred Pleitgen on Friday, Mykhailo Podolyak also took a swing at Russia's president. Listen.


MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ADVISER (through translator): Don't overestimate Putin, this is a man with a very low level of intelligence, a man whom everyone overestimated and accordingly made wrong conclusions about his ability to analyze what is happening. And this is unfortunately one of the reasons why we have a war today. Putin's sacredness has already been destroyed, even Prigozhin has no respect for Putin.


NEWTON: Ukrainian presidential adviser there, Mykhailo Podolyak, speaking with our Fred Pleitgen.

For more on this, I'm joined by CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force colonel, Cedric Leighton. And thanks for being here with us again.

As we continue to watch spring, and now, going into summer very soon, it's all unfolding in Ukraine, the weather's good, the ground is hard. And this conflict is hitting a new more menacing stride, I would call it. We looked at that attack on that medical facility. I mean, do you fear that we will start to see more of this, certainly a more ferocious battle, and, again, more of those civilian targets?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: We will see quite a bit of these attacks. I think it's, you know, part of the Russian playbook. I think the Russians are going to be intensifying their attacks on the civilian infrastructure, and I think it's going to be something that will probably go in waves.

You'll see, you know, facilities like the medical facility of Dnipro, you will see, perhaps, it moving to, once again, the power supply and perhaps other installations. So, there are going to be some waves that the Russians will mount. They're going to go in and try to disrupt any preparations that the Ukrainians have for a counteroffensive.

NEWTON: Yes. A tall order at this point. And we should also say that when we report on Ukraine, there are reporting restrictions in Ukraine in terms of us understanding exactly where they are with that counteroffensive.

I want to move to a recent analysis conducted by the Royal United Services Institute. That's RUSI, a thinktank in the U.K. And they point out in this analysis that Russia, in fact, can still prosecute this war quite effectively. They can continue to claim victories. And the reason is that their ground strength is changing. They are adapting. They are now getting better, right, in a year plus that they've been prosecuting this war.


They are also pointing out that Ukraine's counteroffensive will have to be quite dynamic in order to, you know, come across in the way that they want to. I'm wondering what you think of that analysis, given the fact that Ukraine has already said, look, our counteroffensive will likely not be a shock and awe operation. We are still going to be going into what will be a fairly grinding assault here.

LEIGHTON: Yes. I do wonder about the idea of going into a grinding assault. Of course, you know, you look at it from the standpoint of the Ukrainians and the capabilities that they have, and, you know, that's probably, at least in their minds, the only thing that they can do. But if they can overcome that and if they can actually have an area where they can move forward quickly with lightning speed, that would definitely be to their advantage, and it's something that, you know, as far as the RUSI report is concerned, I think there's some very interesting elements to that, in particular what struck me were the intelligence aspects of this, such as the ability of the Russians to intercept Ukrainian tactical communications, and not only to intercept them but to decrypt them.

That could be a game changer, potentially, if they can use the intelligence that they gained from that to their advantage. So, that could adversely impact the Ukrainian effort.

NEWTON: Yes. And I'm glad that you point that out in that analysis as well. When you say a game changer, do you think this has taken the Ukrainians by surprise, because perhaps they wouldn't have expected them to have that kind of capacity at this point in the conflict?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think it would be very important for the Ukrainians to realize that one thing the Russians do very, very well is intelligence and intelligence collection efforts. What they do less well at is moving the information from the collection effort to the military operational side of things, and that, you know, could be the weakness that the Ukrainians can exploit. It's one thing to have the information, it's another thing to use it.

NEWTON: Yes. Such a good point. I also want to point out the fact that "The Guardian" newspaper is now reporting that Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Former President Donald Trump this week in the United States, the mission apparently was to try and convince Trump that the Ukrainian cause is one that should be sustained, given that he along with some other Republicans are -- and specifically Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, you know, are saying, look, we -- this is not a blank check, we will not sustain Zelenskyy for an indefinite period of time. You know, how durable is U.S. support? And if it's not durable, what does that mean?

LEIGHTON: Yes. If it's not durable, that's a problem for Ukraine. So, you know, it really depends when you look at the divisions within the Republican Party in the United States when it comes to Ukraine, it's actually quite profound. On the one hand you have those two presidential candidates saying that they want to modify or terminate aid to Ukraine depending which day of the week you talk to them. On the other hand, you have a lot of members of Congress saying that they absolutely want to continue aid to Ukraine for as long as it takes. Basically, adopting the Biden administration.

So, with these factors, you know, have to play into Zelenskyy's calculations. And I think Zelenskyy is looking at this, you know, he definitely realizes that he has a clock that he has to beat in this case. And the more territory that he can gain, the better off he's going to be, and that is, I think, what the real goal is here. He wants to have a good position when all of this ends in whatever form that end might take.

NEWTON: Yes. And as you said, the clock is ticking and he will know that, and especially given those diplomatic efforts, if you call them that, from Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it was an interesting development this week.

Colonel Cedric Leighton for us, thank you so much as always.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Paula.

NEWTON: Still ahead for us, is it satire or incitement? Roger Waters, the co-founder of the band, Pink Floyd, is under investigation in Germany. Why police are looking into the outspoken rock star? That's next.






NEWTON: So, police in Germany are investigating ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters after he wore a costume that resembles, and is meant to satirize, a Nazi uniform during performances of the band's classic album. "The Wall," in Berlin last week. CNN's Scott McLean picks up the controversy from there.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this requires some context on both sides. First, the costume is worn as part of a performance of the 1979 album, "The Wall," in which the protagonist hallucinates that he's a fascist dictator. Obviously, it looks like Nazi uniform, it has the red armband and everything, but instead of a swastika, it has two crossed hammers, which is part of the imagery of that album.

It is meant to be satire. It's something Waters has been doing for decades now, but it is the first time that it has attracted a German criminal investigation. But the Berlin Police justified it by saying in part, the context of the clothing worn is deemed capable of approving, glorifying or justifying the violent and arbitrary rule of the Nazi regime in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disrupts public peace.

The performance has been controversial for a while, so much so that city officials in Frankfurt tried to get the venue to cancel it this coming Sunday. It ended up in a German courtroom. And according to "The Guardian," the court ruled in Waters' favor saying that, though the performance uses symbolism manifestly based on that of the nationalist socialist regime, it did not glorify or relativize the crimes of the Nazi's or identify with Nazi racist ideology.

Now, after that court ruling, and earlier this month, Waters went on a podcast where he responded to the criticism. Listen.



ROGER WATERS, MUSICIAN: Well, I can be allowed to do a show because it's theater, darling. The idea that nobody can dress up in a Nazi uniform ever to do anything in a theater or a film is ludicrous, obviously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And also, just so people know, you don't dress up as him in a pro him or pro-Nazi way, it's a scathing critique.

WATERS: Quite right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are playing a villainous character.

WATERS: It's a parody.


MCLEAN: That explanation is not satisfying all of the critics. The Israeli foreign ministry has been critical of his performance, and Jewish groups will protest his concert in Frankfurt on Sunday. Waters has been a very harsh critic of the Israeli government. Earlier this week, he called the State of Israel a tyrannical racist regime, but he has consistently denied that he is antisemitic.

Scott McLean, CNN, London.




NEWTON: That's Celine Dion, it's her 1996 hit song "All Coming Back to Me Now." The superstar says she's cancelling her Courage World Tour and will likely never perform again, and that is according to a source close to the singer.

Now, Dion has what's known as stiff person syndrome. It is a rare and incurable condition that causes progressive body stiffness and muscle spasms. Dion shared her disappointment in a Twitter post Friday saying, even though it breaks my heart, it's best that we cancel everything until I'm really ready to be back on stage. I'm not giving up, and I can't wait to see you again. And we certainly hope to see her again on stage.

I'm Paula Newton. I want to thank you for your company. I'll be right back in just a moment with more CNN NEWSROOM.