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CNN International: Ukraine: 36 Drones, Missiles Downed Around Kyiv; Defense Ministers Attending Singapore Conference; Bill to Avoid Default Passes U.S. Senate 63-36; Settlements Approved for Hutchins Family; Reefs Under Threat by Mass Deaths of Sea Urchins. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 08:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN HOST: Hello, you're watching CNN "Newsroom", I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead, people in Kyiv took shelter in the city's subway after the sixth wave of attacks on the Ukrainian capital in as many days. The Leader of a Kenyan cult accused of convincing hundreds of people to starve themselves appears in court were live in Mombasa.

And a deadly disease is killing an entire species of sea urchins in the Gulf of Aqaba, getting the existence of the Red Sea's unique coral reef ecosystem. The capital of Ukraine has been pounded by another consecutive day of strikes. Residents ran for cover, and took shelter underground as Russia launched some three dozen cruise missiles and Iranian made drones.

Ukraine's air force says all the projectiles were destroyed, two people were injured. Meanwhile, Russia reports drone attacks in Kursk and some other regions, the Governor of the border region of Belgorod says two people were killed in strikes, there. CNN's Sam Kiley joins us live from Kharkiv in Ukraine. Is the pattern changing, Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is, Max, very strongly. What we've seen over the last week is the Ukrainians prosecuting more and more attacks, whether they admit it or not inside Russia. So in these latest cross border sorties, there is reportedly Russian dissident groups working under the Ukrainian banner inside Russia conducting operations in border areas not very far north of where I am, in Kharkiv in that same area.

There have been artillery bombardments, blamed on Ukraine killed two people. There have been massive evacuations of many hundreds of Russian civilians from border villages. And now we've also got this latest reporting of attack of some kind, possibly drones on Smolensk, an oil refinery there that's close on the heels of an attack on an oil refinery, way to the south in Krasnodar.

And of course, just a few days before that there were these drone attacks inside Moscow all of these part, essentially of a Ukrainian effort to open up a new front, inside Russia using what in movies and novels are often called deniable assets. In other words, groups that they say aren't directly working for, but certainly achieving the ends of the Ukrainian government.

But at the same time, of course, fighting continues in the East. But these are the effects of these attacks has been very profound with increasing level of alarm being expressed, including by Vladimir Putin, who just in the last few hours, has said that these destabilizing efforts must not be allowed to succeed indicating that they are having the effect that the Ukrainians one which is to with relatively low investment, destabilize the Russians in their backdoor, back garden, Max.

FOSTER: Yes, Sam Kiley in Northeastern Ukraine. Thank you. The strange relationship between the U.S. and China looms over Asia's most important security conference now underway in Singapore U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is attending the Shangri-La dialogue along with delegates from 49 other nations.

Or the Pentagon reached out to Beijing to see if China's Defense Minister would meet with Austin at the conference, but China declined the invitation. Ivan Watson is at the Security Summit. How do you view that as a snub? I mean, how do you interpret it, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you've got to 800 pound -- that are attending this annual defense summit here in Singapore. That is the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Chinese Defense Chief Li Shangfu. And some several days ago, the U.S. government said that it issued this invitation to a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of this conference that has just gotten underway here.

And the Chinese government responded saying no, that's not going to happen, that they don't believe in the sincerity of the U.S. government. They also oppose what they describe as illegal unilateral sanctions which have been placed on this very Chinese official going back to 2018.

Long before he was made Defense Chief in China Li Shangfu was sanctioned by the U.S. government when he was the Director of the Equipment Development Department in the Chinese Military. The U.S. government has said, well, that isn't an obstacle to these two officials meeting face to face.

But at this point, it does not look like there will be a meeting at this gathering of Defense Chiefs and top military officers from around Asia and around the world that said, Max, you do have in this rather intimate gathering here. Some remarkable scenes that I've just witnessed just in the last couple of hours where you had the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, who was speaking to journalists and gathered academics and observers and being asked directly a question from a Senior Colonel in the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

Asking about a possible cooperation between the U.S. and China on the issue of artificial intelligence, which is one of the many kinds of concerns and potential security concerns that are being discussed by delegates at this gathering. So even if these two Defense Chiefs from the U.S. and China do not meet face to face, there are plenty of opportunities and as I witnessed Q&A going on between Senior U.S. and Chinese officials gathered here.


I will add one other point one of the key security issues overhanging this meeting is of course Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine which is being discussed. The Vice Minister of defense from Lithuania, raising this as a major concern, a hot war in Europe right now.

The Ukrainian Defense Minister is here, meeting here and attending this gathering. The Russians have not been invited. So another indication of the ongoing isolation that the Kremlin is facing at international gatherings, like this, Max.

FOSTER: Ivan, thank you. Prosecutors in Mexico believe police have found the human remains of seven workers from a call center. 45 bags containing body parts were discovered in a ravine near Guadalajara. The seven call center workers were reported missing late last month.

Forensic experts are now working with families to positively determine the victim's identities. Nigeria's government is clarifying his plans to end the fuel subsidies this after the country's new President made an apparent off the cuff remark that triggered panic buying which nearly tripled the price.

During his inauguration speech, the President declared the fuel subsidy gone. Now the government says that won't happen till the end of this month. Let's bring in Senior Africa Editor, Stephanie Busari. With the details he obviously wasn't expecting to have this impact, or maybe he was?

STEPHANIE BUSARI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR OF AFRICA: Max, I don't think he really did think through the impact and the shockwaves that his words would have on the country. It was an ad lib comments. It wasn't part of his planned speech. And it did send shockwaves a lot of panic, people started stocking up on gas, thinking that they would have to pay more, and they are paying more in some Four Courts.

The price is nearly triple. And that price is not uniform across the country as we speak. Now the labor union, the National Labor Congress has criticized his decision, his statement as insensitive decision, and they asking him to withdraw this plan immediately. But it's unsustainable.

The President has said Nigeria is currently spending about $867 million every month just to keep gas prices artificially low for its citizens. Many citizens feel that it's a right for them to have this as citizens of an oil producing country where there are a few perks to living here. But there was unlikely to be a turnaround on this by the President, but people are angry, and we've been talking to them, Max, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is affecting me personally, because I'm a single parent. I mean, we do have three kids, and all in the University. So I'm just wondering, how am I going to cope with three kids, all in the University, I pay rent, I take care of the upkeep, I pay their school fees. I need to fuel my car.

I need to buy fuel for my generator, there are no lights. So I don't really understand what the government is up to. They don't think about the poor masses at all.


BUSARI: So Max, what analysts are telling me is that there should have been a bit more empathy and a bit more of a measured announcement of a very sensitive topic here. Previous governments have tried and failed to bring to end the fuel subsidy. You'll remember in 2012 there was a nationwide protest when President good luck Jonathan tried to do it. And so this is some tough times ahead, Max.

FOSTER: Yes, absolutely, Stephanie, thank you for bringing us an update on that from Lagos. Now, an update on that dramatic rescue on top of Mount Everest, the guide who carried a struggling climber down from the part of Everest known as the death zone and says too many people come to the mountain without enough experience or training.

There have been at least 12 deaths on Everest this climbing season and the Sherpa says no one else was helping the Malaysian man.


GELJE SHERPA, MT. EVEREST GUIDE: It was massive difficult. I did like more than 55 rescues, but it was the hardest one in my life. I've done a long line of normal rescue but it was a very hard rescue. It's very hard to do rescues around the death zone.


FOSTER: Amazing. He managed to rescue that guy. Now after weeks of tense negotiations in Washington, the U.S. debt limit crisis is finally over. The Senate passed the debt ceiling bill late on Thursday removing the risk of an economic catastrophe in the U.S. and around the world.


The deal suspends the $31.4 trillion debt limit allows the federal government to pay its bills and caps non-defense spending until January 2025. The bill is now on its way to President Biden to be signed into law. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House, still, we look at the numbers and a lot of people saying at some point America do have to address this debt crisis.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look this bill does freeze spending and it Republicans are really touting this as a measure to address that debt crisis. But there's no question that it's just a small dent in the 31 + trillion dollar debt that the United States clearly has here.

But the headline from here this morning, at least, Max, is the notion that this averts a potential economic catastrophe. Remember that X date by which the United States would run out of money to pay its deal, its bills is coming up on Monday. And so this is really in the nick of time in order to avert that with the House passing this bill on Wednesday.

The Senate passing it last night and President Biden expected to now sign this legislation as early as today. And in my conversations with White House officials thus far, there's really an exhale a sigh of relief at the fact that they were able to avoid that potential economic catastrophe of first ever default in the United States history.

But there's also really a sigh of relief and a hopefulness looking forward at the rest of President Biden's term because this bill not only takes the debt ceiling issue off the table until after the next election until 2025. But it also helps to incentivize the government to pass key funding bills by the end of this year and avert the likelihood of a government shutdown.

That's because if they don't pass those funding bills, there would be across the board on both defense and non-defense spending 1 percent cuts, which is just going to be completely unpopular with lawmakers over on Capitol Hill. So an opportunity for President Biden here to be able to refocus on his economic agenda to focus on implementing those pieces of legislation that he was able to pass in his first two years in office from infrastructure to the chips Bill led to the Inflation Reduction Act.

And so I think that'll be part of the message that you'll hear from President Biden tonight, as he said to address the nation from the Oval Office at 7 pm Eastern Time, Max.

FOSTER: Jeremy Diamond, thank you. Still to come, he was behind Kenya's infamous starvation cult and now he's had his day in court. We're live in Mombasa with the outcome.


FOSTER: The Kenyan pastor accused of leading a starvation cult in Southeastern Kenya. As appeared in court today. Paul McKenzie told his followers that Apocalypse was coming and that starving themselves and their children would help them get to heaven.


The cult was exposed by Kenyan authorities in April and more 200 bodies have already been discovered in mass graves in a forest is one of the worst culture related disasters in recent history. CNN's David McKenzie has been following all of this from Malindi, Kenya and it's so baffling this case. But have we learned any more about what happened?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Max, it's certainly still unfolding very much this awful case for Kenyans are calling a Shakahola massacre from a forest about two hours from where I'm standing drive, where people were lured allegedly by this pastor to join what is rarely a religious death cult. And I say the details are still emerging because I don't think we fully comprehend yet the scale of tragedy and loss, when it comes to this call. I'm at Malindi hospital here at the coast from Mombasa, there's a refrigerated truck here brought in by the Kenya Red Cross where there are more than 200 bodies and remains of those who believed to have starved themselves.

Under the sway of this pastor, Pastor Mackenzie, they say survivors and those who managed to rescue some people that he said the end of the world was coming and they should stop them. But there's emerging evidence that many children in fact, were not just stabbed, but then killed, potentially by their own parents to accelerate the track straight to heaven.

At least that's what the pastor they say was telling them. This has shocked Kenya and the region and in the affidavit put in court today and inspector says at least 10 more mass graves are at that site. And in the coming days when they start examination again, we may begin to fully understand the scale of this tragedy.

I was in court when the pastor is having a hearing. We don't know yet whether they will extend his detention under terror laws. I expect they will. I put the first question to him managing to grab some moments with him behind an iron grate. And I asked what, is he says about these allegations?


PAUL NTHEGE MACKENZIE, LEADER OF GOOD NEWS INTERNATIONAL CHURCH: Just a matter of intimidation and wasting of other's time for nothing.

MCKENZIE (on camera): What happened in the forest with your followers?

MACKENZIE: I can tell you nothing about that, because I've been in custody for two months. So I don't know what is going outside there. Have you been there?

MCKENZIE (on camera): The people before you were in custody people were starving, and the allegations that people weren't killing their children.

MACKENZIE: But I've never seen anybody starving, even killing is --


MCKENZIE: Well, the reckonings I think is just beginning pull this nation on the seriousness of what happened in the Shakahola forest. And what this pastor potentially is responsible for. He was a televangelist had a huge following in this country. And he started preaching these doomsday prophecies some time ago, Max.

But it seems the very unthinkable actions that happened rarely began early this year in that forest and the details are certainly still just the mirth emerging about how serious this in fact is.

FOSTER: So absolutely shocking, David, thank you so much for bringing us that thank you. Still ahead, CNN joins divers and a researcher in the Red Sea, as an entire species practically disappears overnight, threatening the balance of life in this unique coral reefs.



FOSTER: A New Mexico judge has approved a settlement agreement for the family of Halyna Hutchins. She is the cinematographer who was fatally shot by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie Rust in 2021. Hutchins family far the wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin the film's producers, and other key crew members last year, they allege numerous workplace safety violations.

Hutchins was shot whilst rehearsing a scene with Baldwin during which a prop was prop gun was loaded with live ammunition. Financial details of the settlement haven't been made public though. One of the world's most delicate ecosystems is in danger. Scientists say the coral reefs of the Red Sea are under threat after nearly all the Black Sea Urchins died off in just a matter of days. CNN's Hadas Gold has that story.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The pristine waters of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea reefs teeming with colorful fish. But something is missing and it's threatening this entire ecosystem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a very short time, we experience a massive catastrophe of failure, talking about losing species that used to live forever.

GOLD (voice over): In January, Black Sea Urchins here started dying in mass. Within days, entire populations of thousands are getting sick, and literally disappearing.

OMRI BRONSTEIN, FACULTY OF LIFE SCIENCE AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: We've never seen any fluctuations on that magnitude. And now to say that sea urchins were completely gone, that whatever is giving them is still defined as a waterborne pathogen, we know that it is transmitted through the water, they don't need direct contact that it takes 48 hours for an individual to go from a live healthy individual to basically bare skeleton.

GOLD (voice over): Vital to keep the delicate balance of life here. These Urchins consume the algae that can choke reefs already stressed by human activity and the effects of climate change. Dr. Bronstein and his team of researchers from Tel Aviv University show us how the beauty and health of the reefs are under attack. We do not spot a single Black Sea urchin.

BRONSTEIN: The thought that we might be seeing something that is going to be radically changed is simply a very sad thought. And it is probably the most unique coral reef in the world. It is our responsibility to make sure that there will remain here for future generations. GOLD (on camera): This coral reef is unique in the world, because of its ability to withstand high temperatures, making it more resistant to the effects of climate change. And that's why this reef is so ecologically important to the globe.

GOLD (voice over): These tanks that the Inter University Institute for Marine Sciences in a lot Israel, once filled with the jet black urchins. Now, they are covered in algae. A small scale example of what scientists say is happening in the sea.

BRONSTEIN: Without external regulation that the sea urchins provide. Corals do not really stand the chance in this competition with algae because the growth rate of algae is order of magnitudes higher than those of corals.

GOLD (voice over): Only a few have survived this epidemic like this young juvenile. He seems rather lonely.

BRONSTEIN: Oh, yes, a few individuals, even when they survive, that's not enough to sustain a population.

GOLD (voice over): A similar pathogen wiped the urchins out of the Caribbean in the 1980s and reared its head again last year. Dr. Bronstein said its likely spread by ships impossibly helped along by climate change, and it's spreading. Researchers are using DNA technology to make a difference.

LISA-MARIA SCHMIDT, RESEARCHER AT TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY: To basically just establishing a new monitoring with it, a high throughput and non- invasive one. It's allowing us to follow processes in the water of different species.

GOLD (on camera): So in a way you're trying to predict the future -- ?

SCHMIDT: More or less there without going to the water. Yes.

GOLD (voice over): But the time to say these Black Sea urchins are running out Dr. Bronstein says governments need to move within weeks.

BRONSTEIN: And decisions makers need to understand that the window of opportunity to take action is very, very narrow and it's closing rapidly.


If we don't move quickly to create the brood stock populations based on the Mediterranean population the remaining population, if we don't take extra care about what we pump into this environment, we may find ourselves in a huge problem in a huge situation.

GOLD (on camera): Is all shares this gulf and this problem with Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which you can see just behind me, and with which Israel has no official relations, but under the water, there are no boundaries, and no politics and international cooperation will be a key to fixing this problem. GOLD (voice over): These fragile reefs were everything plays its part in the cycle, desperately waiting for help. Hadas Gold CNN, Eilat, Israel.


FOSTER: A biggest collection of ancient bronze statues ever found in Italy is going on display this month, but it wouldn't have been happening without the key and I have a retired garbage man, Stefano Petrini remembered seeing bits of Roman columns in his friend's garden in Southern Tuscany.

He tipped off local archaeologists who found the statues among the treasures on earth the statue of a boy who apparently had a bone disease, and a 2000 year old lock of curly hair. Mars is making its streaming debut the European Space Agency is set to stream images on YouTube directly from the Red Planet.

Whilst it's not truly live, new images will refresh every 50 seconds. This event is in honor of the 20th anniversary of the launch of SA's Mars Express which took three dimensional images of Mars's surface. The stream will go live as it were at 6 pm Central European light time, or noon Eastern Time on Friday.

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