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CNN International: Moscow Mayor: Minor Damage To Buildings From Drone Strike; Ukrainian FM Calls For More Air Defense Systems; Biden & McCarthy Scramble To Sell Debt Deal To Lawmakers; Deal Facing Backlash From Some U.S. Senate Conservatives; China Sends Its First Civilian Astronaut To Space; North Korea To Launch Spy Satellite Despite Opposition; Human Rights Groups: Iran Resumes Executing Protesters. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, drone strikes hit Moscow as Russia continues its own assault on Ukraine. We're live from one of the impact sites in Kiev.

Then dozens of NATO peacekeepers are injured during violent clashes with (inaudible) protesters in Kosovo. And the U.S. warns it could sanction Uganda after it passed extreme anti-gay legislation. But how effective will those sanctions be?

We begin with a swarm of drone strikes in both Kiev and Moscow. The unusual strike in the Russian capital comes as Kremlin forces continue to pound the Ukrainian capital for a third straight day. Moscow's mayor says the drones caused minor damage to several buildings. No one was seriously injured. Ukraine has denied direct involvement.

Kiev says it destroyed 29 of the 31 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched at the capital. One person was killed in that bombardment.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is at one of the sights that was hit and joins us now live from Kiev. Fred.


Well, it certainly was a pretty tough night here for the residence of Kiev. In fact, we were also hearing for several hours as those Shahed drones were loitering basically overhead here in the capital. You could hear there engines in the night. And then also hear the Ukrainian Air Defense frantically trying to shoot them down. And you're absolutely right, I'm at - I'm actually at one of the places that was hit overnight. And if we pan over here, you can see that there was actually substantial damage that was sustained here. There's a lot of debris still laying around in front of this residential building. And if we pan up, we can see that actually the top floors of that building also pretty heavily damaged. This is also the place where a 33 year old woman was killed in these strikes as they happened.

And Max, earlier today, I was actually able to speak to the mayor of Kiev, the former boxing champ Vitali Klitschko. And he called what happened here terrorism on the part of the Russians. Let's listen in.


VITALI KLITSCHKO, MAYOR, KIEV: Actually May (ph) we have a lot of attacks to our city. Not just to capital of Ukraine, also in other cities and a lot of people killed from Russian terrorists. It's terrorism. It's not a war.


Vitali Klitschko there. At the same time, the Ukrainians are saying they believe that their air defenses were actually quite effective. You noted that a lot of those Shaheds that were coming here towards the Ukrainian capital were actually shot down.

And, in fact, even here at this building, the Ukrainians are saying that the drone that struck it was actually fragments of a drone that had before that been hit by air defense. Now at the same time, we, of course, have the situation there in the Russian capital in Moscow and lot of folks there very concerned this morning as they were seeing drones flying towards the Russian capital.

But we also have further information from the Russian Defense Ministry, from the authorities there. They say that there were eight drones that were involved. They blamed the attack, of course, on Kyiv. The Ukrainians say it wasn't them. The Russians are saying that three of those drones were taken down using electronic countermeasures.

In other words, they then went off course and crashed. But they also say that they had to activate their air defenses to take down five of those drones. Of course, a big incident and certainly a first for the Russian capital since Russia's full on invasion of Ukraine has begun.

And just a quick note, Max, the Ukrainians are saying that they were not behind the attacks that happened in Moscow, but they also say they believe that incidents like that will happen again in the future. Max?

FOSTER: Interesting wording, isn't it? Fred, thank you very much indeed.

Well, Ukraine's President says a decision has been made on the timing of his country's long awaited counteroffensive. He made the announcement during his nightly address on Monday but gave no additional detail. It comes as Ukraine's foreign minister calls on western allies to send more air defense systems and ammunition following a third wave of attacks on Kyiv.

CNN's Clare Sebastian is following all these developments. It does suggest that everything's in place, at least for the counteroffensive, even if we're not going to be finding out about the timings.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's interesting the way that they're handling this because on the one hand, they are letting the suspense build, right? Zelenskyy making these comments, which is an advancement from what we saw a couple of weeks ago when he was in the U.K. and said we need more time. Now he says, we know when, we're just not going to tell you yet.

And this comes after, of course, we saw just a few days ago from the head of the Armed Forces releasing this really sort of epic trailer style, movie style video, really sort of looked like a trailer for the counteroffensive showcasing, you know, Ukrainian troops training. A lot of Western weapons on display there. Some of the more high-tech ones, HIMARS, Leopard tanks, things like that. And the caption to that was, "The Time Has Come To Take Back What Is Ours".

On the flip side, we now have Russia saying the Russian defense minister coming out today and claiming that they have hit a lot of those supplies of Western weapons. Claiming they've hit ammunition and weapons depots in three locations intercepted, he said, 29 British Storm Shadow missiles since they were donated and damaged a Patriot system in Kyiv in recent days.

Now, none of those claims we've been able to verify, but it does seem that that is certainly part of the strategy of Moscow at the moment to target those Western weapons. And, of course, that bolsters the Russian rhetoric around the idea that it is somehow under siege and at war, not just with Ukraine, but, of course, with NATO as a whole.

FOSTER: Clare, thank you.

FOSTER: Anticipation and worry in Washington, where a key vote in a U.S. House committee could stand in the way of the debt limit deal. Members of the Rules Committee must now adopt a rule to allow the bill to be approved by a majority of the House. However, the proposed deal contains some provisions that hardline conservatives don't agree with.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he's not worried the deal won't be approved. President Joe Biden also remains optimistic.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know I never say I'm confident in what the Congress is going to do, but I feel very good about it. There is no reason why it shouldn't get done by the 5th. I'm confident that it will get a vote in both Houses, and we'll see.


FOSTER: CNN's Lauren Fox joins me from Capitol Hill. I mean, one of the issues here is the people that McCarthy placed effectively, isn't it, on those committees are now working against him in a way.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. This was all part of that agreement to win the gavel in the Speaker's race a couple of months ago. He agreed to put three conservatives on this powerful Rules Committee. This committee is the one that sets out the parameters of debate on the House floor. It is the committee where every bill has to go through before it goes to the House floor. But the reason it is so critical to watch those three conservative votes is because, traditionally, it is the majority's responsibility to get a bill out of the House Rules Committee. So the makeup of the committee is nine Republicans, four Democrats. There are two conservatives who are already voicing concerns about what's in this debt ceiling bill -- Chip Roy and Ralph Norman.

And then the third conservative, Thomas Massie, we're keeping a close eye on because he could become the critical vote needed to get this out of committee with Republican votes. That was another agreement that was made in the race for the speakership in which McCarthy said that he would not bring a bill to the floor if it didn't have a majority of Republicans supporting it in the House Rules Committee.


It's always possible the Democrats could step in and try to get this bill out of committee. But that is not traditionally how things work. That is why the House Rules Committee is so crucial this morning and why we are going to be keeping a close eye on Thomas Massie, that key conservative.

I should note that back in January, Massie promised that he was not going to be using his position on this committee to stop legislation he personally disagreed with. He said if the majority of the conference supports it, he expected that he would support it in the Rules Committee to get it to the House floor. So that may be giving us a little bit of a read on where Thomas Massie goes on this, but obviously, keeping a close watch today at 03:00.

FOSTER: Lauren Fox, thank you. We'll be watching.

Officials in the U.S. state of Florida say at least nine people, including one -- a one-year-old child were wounded in the shooting on Monday evening. Police believe the shots were fired during an altercation between two groups of people. They detained one person of interest and are searching for another suspect.

The shooting happened near a busy pedestrian area by Hollywood Beach in South Florida at the end of Memorial Day, a holiday honoring U.S. military members who have died in service.

The trial is set to start today for the man accused of killing 11 people at the Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, 50-year-old Robert Bowers has pleaded not guilty to 63 charges. He could face the death penalty if he's convicted. The attack is on the -- is the deadliest ever on the American Jewish community in the U.S.

Bowers had been posting attacks on immigrants and Jewish people on social media in the weeks before the shooting. Prosecutors have rejected a plea deal to remove the death penalty in exchange for a -- for life in prison.

Police in Mississippi have captured one of the two escaped inmates who went missing during a prison headcount early on Monday morning. The man faces escape charges whilst police are still searching for the other fugitive. It's the second time in just over a month that prisoners have escaped from the same detention center.

Last month, four men were able to break out, with two being recaptured and the other two found dead. The local sheriff has apologized.


SHERIFF TYREE JONES, HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: We believe that they were able to get access to an air duct within a facility which led to the exterior of the facility, where they were able to go over a fence and escape the facility as well.

Once again, I know I apologize before. Here we are once again, and I'm apologizing to the people of Hinds County regarding what I would consider another public safety breach in our facility.


FOSTER: Tensions between ethnic Serbs and Albanians are spiking in Kosovo and NATO peacekeepers are caught in the middle. NATO says 30 peacekeepers were injured in the northern part of the country on Monday as they tried to calm Serbian protests. Kosovo is mostly Albanian, but there are pockets where Serbs are in the majority, and Serbia still considers Kosovo to be part of its territory.

Barbie Nadeau tracking this for us. Obviously, very unusual to see members of NATO being targeted like this. It really does show how tense things have become there.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. And, you know, most of these troops that were injured are Italian and Hungarian so, you know, it is a very important story here in the rest of Europe. But this is just a tinder box, this area. It has been, you know, 2008 when Kosovo declared its independence.

As you said, Serbia didn't recognize it, neither did Russia. Serbia is a big, you know, supporter of Russia's war in Ukraine. And so a lot of people are really concerned about this. NATO is on high alert right now. Serbia -- the Serbian president is urging people, urging the Serbian majority in that northern little strip of land there, not to engage with Kosovo or with -- so sorry, with KFOR forces there.

And so it's just a really volatile moment in an area that has not ever really seen very comfortable peace, let's say, Max.

FOSTER: OK, Barbie, thank you. We'll keep an eye on it.

China calling its first launch, carrying a civilian into space a success.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)


FOSTER: The Shenzhou-16 rocket blasted off earlier on Tuesday, bound to China's newly completed space station. The three man crew will stay on the space station for the next five months. Among them is a college professor. They'll be carrying out space experiments.

CNN's Will Ripley joins us in Taipei with a closer look. A lot of China, of course, have their TVs on today to see that moment of history.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's interesting, Max. Yes, this is the first civilian for a manned space flight in China. Previously, all of the astronauts were members of the People's Liberation Army. And yet the thing that they're talking about the most on Chinese social media is the fact that this professor at the prestigious aeronautics university, Beihang University in China.


He was wearing glasses, and previously, all the astronauts, you know, were required to essentially have perfect 20/20 vision. And so that was what people were talking about on Chinese social media. Wait, you have glasses, you can go into space.

And that's what China says is indicative of the fact that their space program is really becoming bigger. It's becoming broader. The fact that they can now have a civilian who does not have perfect eyes site, but wears glasses, which, by the way, NASA also has allows people with glasses, you know, depending on the severity of their vision impairment, to also travel into space.

It shows that China is really advancing very quickly here. I mean, it's remarkable that now they have a space station that may actually outlive the International Space Station, depending upon how long it's able to maintain this low Earth orbit. China will be probably talking with other countries about international partnerships.

And remember, it wasn't too long ago, just 2011 that the United States excluded China from work on the International Space Station, citing concerns that it would use the technology shared by other countries to grow its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.

Well, now China is there. They have a permanent presence orbiting the Earth. They want to go to the Moon. They eventually want to go to Mars. So this really is a space race shaping up. Very interesting, Max.

Also, not sure if this is related or just coincidental, but Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, along with Tesla and Twitter, he's actually in China meeting with the foreign minister today, put out a statement calling the Chinese people diligent and intelligent, talking about supply chains, you know, opposing decoupling and chain breaking. But interesting timing that Elon Musk of SpaceX is there on the same day of this launch.

FOSTER: OK. Will Ripley in Taipei, thank you for bringing us that.

Now, despite protests from its neighbors, North Korea says it'll launch its first military spy satellite next month. According to state media, the launch is a response to dangerous military acts from the United States and South Korea.

Meanwhile, Japan has warned Pyongyang it'll use extreme force if a North Korean missile lands in its territory.

Now to Canada. This video is showing a driver navigating through heavy flames and smoke in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia as hundreds of firefighters battle multiple ferocious wildfires. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the fires there incredibly serious. Officials say they burned more than 10,000 hectares, destroyed at least 200 homes or other structures, and have forced 16,000 people from their homes.

On the other side of the country, wildfires in Alberta have been burning for weeks. Some 2,700 firefighters are on the lines there, battling more than 60 active fires.

Still to come, the U.S. says it's considering sanctions against Uganda over its new, harsh anti-LGBTQ law. We'll discuss the possible impact next.



FOSTER: How effective would sanctions against Uganda be? The White House says it's considering sanctions and visa restrictions for some Ugandan officials involved in the implementation of one of the toughest anti-LGBTQ laws in the world.

Each year, Uganda receives billions of dollars in foreign aids as significant portion of that is from the U.S. But the new law could put at risk some of the investments in the region, including the emergency plan for humanitarian relief.

The measure includes the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality, 20 years in prison for promoting homosexuality, and it criminalizes sex education for the gay community. U.S. President Joe Biden described the bill as a tragic violation of universal human rights.

David McKenzie joins me live from Johannesburg. Do you think they realized they would get this sort of blowback? Perhaps in terms of words, but not in terms of economic sanctions, potentially?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Max, I actually have to say they probably did realize that there would be this blowback. There would have been private discussions ongoing between when this law was proposed and when the President Museveni signed it.

So, yes, I'm sure there's been pressure from the State Department, from the European Union and others on directly the President Museveni. But he's been in power since 1986. He's a wily customer and he would have anticipated this.

But is he ready to deal with the consequences as you suggest? The White House saying they're reviewing all aspects of the relationship with Uganda and the U.S. More than $1 billion just from the U.S. in terms of humanitarian aid and military assistance directly to Uganda. That's a lot of money that potentially is at risk here. Max?

FOSTER: In terms of the law, we've spoken a bit about -- previously about how -- you know, what exactly is involved in the law and what people can and can't do under this extreme law, really. But when does it come into effect?

MCKENZIE: So I spoke to a leading lawyer today, Max, to ask that very question. The technical way this works now is this law, this very draconian law that could show -- send people for many years to prison for being gay, frankly, is going to first be sent by the justice minister to be gazette. Meaning, actually become the law of the land.

Now, because of the hype around this law, activists fear it could be in a few days or a few weeks, unless there's some technicality that creeps in that delays it. Now, you remember, a similar law that was pushed some time ago now was eventually struck down in the courts. And you do have domestic civil society groups ready to try and stop the law once it's actually put into effect.

But there is this area, this kind of in between phase, but activists believe that even in the fact that the president has signed, it sends a message for people potentially take the law into their own hands. Max?

FOSTER: In terms of, you know, the economic repercussions here, the country does rely, doesn't it, on some humanitarian aid. So that's one way in which other countries could hit the nation, but it would have a huge impact.

MCKENZIE: It will have a huge impact, and it would have a broad impact. And already you've seen those proponents of the law saying this is about Ugandan sovereignty and kind of pre-judging the fact that there might be punishments coming in which wouldn't just harm those, of course, in the government, but more broadly the citizens of Uganda.

But there are more directed things, I think, that can happen. One is likely to happen, which would be travel or visa bans for individuals who push this law, including members of parliament, potentially sanctions against the president and members of the leadership of that country, in particular, the speaker of parliament who was instrumental in pushing this through.

There's also something looming that is critically important, and the White House mentioned that and that's AGOA, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which is being assessed by Congress and others ahead of a deadline. Now that allows tariff free exports of Ugandan goods to the U.S.

The White House mentioned this by name. There is a really big stick there for the U.S. to use against the country should they not dial back this law. But domestic politics will certainly be pressuring Museveni and those lawmakers to follow through with this draconian law.

And if it does come into place and is enforced, it will be extremely bad, say activists and just ordinary Ugandans I've spoken to who identify with the LGBTQ community. Max?

FOSTER: OK, David McKenzie, thanks for joining us from Joburg.


Now, the violent conflict in Sudan between rival military factions is now in its 7th week, and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight, despite plenty of talk about peace. U.S. and Saudi mediators say that both sides have significantly impeded the delivery of humanitarian aid during a ceasefire that is set to end in a matter of hours.

Riyadh, however, says the Sudanese Army and RSF paramilitary group have agreed to extend the shaky truce by five days.

Now, coming up, human rights groups in Iran warn the government is looking to execute more protesters in the months to come. We'll look into Tehran's crackdown on dissent just ahead.


FOSTER: This week, Iran is prosecuting two journalists who reported on the death of Mahsa Amini, the young woman who died in police custody back in September. Her death sparked months of massive protests and called for an end to Iran's hardline clerical regime.

Iranian intelligence agents accused the two female journalists of colluding with hostile powers, charges that could carry the death penalty. The first trial session of one of the journalists was held Monday in Tehran behind closed doors. The other journalist trial will start on Tuesday.

While the protests in Iran have eased, authorities there aren't giving an inch to anyone showing dissent. Human rights groups say the government has begun executing protesters once again.

Salma Abdelaziz has the details.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside a jail near Tehran, families of prisoners gathered chant, "do not hang them".

Their pleas come as Iran resumes the execution of protesters after a months-long hiatus. The brutal practice restarted this month with the hanging of three young men accused of killing three members of the security forces during anti-government protests in November.

The news sparked more demonstrations. But activists in human rights groups say the allegations against the trio are baseless.

Majid Kazemi was forced to watch video of interrogators torturing his brother, and he was subject to at least 15 mock executions, according to Amnesty International. In an audio note obtained by the organization, he maintained his innocence. CNN cannot independently verify the clip. They kept beating me and ordering me to say this weapon is mine, he says. I told them I would say whatever they wanted, just please leave my family alone.

Before his execution, the family of 36-year-old Saleh Mirhashemi, a karate coach from Isfahan, tried to draw attention to his plight. This picture of his father spread on social media. "My son is innocent", the sign reads.

But to no avail, activists shared this heartbreaking video they say is Mirhashemi's dad hugging his picture as he lay by his son's grave.

Iran has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

The total number of demonstrators known to have been executed since last year now stands at seven, according to CNN reporting. And more executions are likely imminent.


Over 100 protesters have been sentenced to death or are facing charges punishable by death, says this human rights activist.

MAHMOOD AMIRY-MOGHADDAM, DIRECTOR, IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS NGO: When authorities fear protests or right after protests, number of executions go up. The aim is to create fear in the society to prevent more protests.

ABDELAZIZ (on-camera): Do you expect that the number of executions is going to rise even more this year?

AMIRY-MOGHADDAM: It is rising already. Unless the international community takes a strong move against these executions, we might be facing a very large number of executions in the coming months.

ABDELAZIZ (voiced-over): Rights groups say that Mohammed Ghobadlou, a 22-year-old protester with a mental health issue could be one of the next victims of Iran's execution machine.

Activists are ringing the alarm. They say yet another Iranian faces death just for daring to speak out.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


FOSTER: Now, Monday was a national holiday in Latvia after the tiny Baltic nation took bronze in the Ice Hockey World Championship.

After Sunday's historic win over the United States, massive crowds celebrated in the Latvian capital on Monday. Huge turnout for the country of less than 2 million people. Canada took gold in the tournament, and Germany won silver. But Latvia still beat hockey powerhouse Sweden before topping the U.S., 4 to 3 in overtime to take third. Latvia co-hosted the championship with Finland, and its president was in the locker room on Sunday as the party began. Clearly, Latvia loves its hockey, and many of its players compete in the NHL.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Max Foster in London. World Sport with Andy Scholes is up next.