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CNN International: Critical Dam In Southern Ukraine Destroyed; Prince Harry Testifies In Court Against U.K. Tabloids; Unions Stage 14th Day Of Protests Against Reforms; Veterans Gather For 79th Anniversary Of D-Day; China Conducts Joint Aerial Patrols With Russia. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 08:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London in for Max Foster, who's sitting just beside me. Just ahead, thousands of people in Ukraine in potential danger as a massive dam is destroyed and rushing water overflows into surrounding areas. The latest on what we know at this hour.

Also ahead, Prince Harry in a London courtroom giving evidence in his phone hacking lawsuit against a British tabloid publisher. Details on who he says has blood on their hands.

Plus, demonstrators once again take to the streets in France in a bid to stop pension court.

Moscow and Kyiv are blaming each other for the destruction of a key dam and hydroelectric power plant in Russian occupied southern Ukraine.

Kherson province says nine settlements in the region are already completely or partially submerged, and Ukrainian authorities are urging residents living downstream to immediately evacuate the air area. But flooding isn't the only threat, potentially. The dam supplies water for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is also under Russian control. The IAEA says it's closely monitoring the situation there and there's no imminent nuclear safety risk.

CNN's Sam Kiley joins me now in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. Sam, this information war is raging as to who bears responsibility for this. The dam is located in Russian held territory and there have been reports about flooding and record high water levels lately. What exactly do we know?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, what we do know is that a few days ago, there was a breach of the dam. This dam, as you rightly point out, is under Russian control. The dam -- the lake above the dam was at dangerously high levels, had indeed flooded some residences upstream of that location.

And then in the early hours of this morning, there was a total breach. Now, the Ukrainians claim, without evidence at this stage that the dam was deliberately blown up by the Russians in what they say is an ecocide, an attempt to destroy the ecology and cause a humanitarian disaster downstream. The Russians flatly reject that.

And indeed, the areas affected are mostly going to be in Russian control. They are going to be on the right-hand side as you look at the map of the Dnipro River, which is controlled by Russia. 80 dwelling settlements, sorry, towns and villages, and indeed the city of Kherson are in potential danger from floodwaters.

There have been some evacuations from Kherson. The local authorities there have laid on trains to evacuate people, exhorting people to get out of the low-lying areas. The Russian authorities in Nova Kakhovka say that the town has been completely inundated.

And I think, ultimately, the blame for behind -- for who is behind this will always going to be laid at the feet of the Russians because they've had control of that dam for some time and it was breached in the past and they had laid explosives on it. We do know that because that is something the Ukrainians have been very concerned about in the past. It is also slap bang on the frontline between the two sides here, Bianca.

NOBILO: Sam Kiley for us in northeastern Ukraine. Thank you very much.

Britain's Prince Harry has been testifying at the high court of justice in London as part of his lawsuit against U.K. publisher Mirror Group Newspapers. From the witness box, he accused tabloids of having blood on their hands and said their reporting has caused him distress.

MGN has admitted that one of its tabloids unlawfully sought information about Harry on a single occasion, but it has rejected all of his other allegations, saying he has no evidence for his claims.

With me on set is CNN Anchor and Royal Correspondent Max Foster. So they're alleging that Prince Harry has no evidence for these other claims. And this is a really key moment for Harry, given that his book, the Netflix documentary, even leaving the Royal family, they're all bound up in these allegations.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So central to this case is that he said his phone was hacked, that's the central allegation, or other phones around him in his circle. And that information we used in articles which caused him stress growing up, particularly around the death of his mother.

This cross examination, which is very unusual to see a royal undergo, and you can feel the sense of awkwardness as well. I don't think he's used to being questioned like this in any sort of forum. But what the cross examination barrister is doing on behalf of the Mirror Group is trying to undermine each of the articles that Harry is pointing to.

So he might be saying, do you remember reading this article? He'll say, I don't remember reading this article. So the barrister is saying, how could you have been distressed by it if you don't remember reading it until you prepared for this case? And other examples are that information could not have come through hacking because it was already in the public domain and the palace had already confirmed it in another newspaper.

So it's a forensic cross examination which Harry doesn't really seem prepared for. But his general point is always that taken together, these invasions of his privacy caused him distress and made him suspicious and paranoid and affected his mental health.

NOBILO: And he keeps making reference as well to the fact that he was a minor throughout a lot of this, doesn't he?


NOBILO: Because I was listening to what you were listening to. And this isn't the only legal case that Prince Harry is involved in at the moment.

FOSTER: No. So his alleged drug taking -- actually, it's not alleged, he admits it in his book, he took drugs -- will come up again this afternoon in America. This is a think tank based in Washington going to the government, wanting access to Harry's immigration, his visa application to go to the United States.


Normally, if you asked, have you taken drugs? So they want to know whether or not he admitted taking drugs. If he did admit taking drugs, how does he get his visa? Why did he get a waiver on that? If he didn't admit taking drugs, then there's a question about whether or not he should be allowed to keep the visa. So that's a separate case.

NOBILO: Plenty of things for us and you in particular to keep your eye on. Thank you so much, Max Foster.

Hundreds of thousands of people across France are taking to the streets for a 14th day of protests against a new pension law. Trade unions insist the fight is not over yet, even after the bill was signed into law by President Emmanuel Macron in April. The reform raises the retirement age from 62 to 64 and was pushed through parliament without a vote, using special constitutional powers.

Earlier, protesters stormed the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. And CNN's Melissa Bell joins me now live from Paris, where march is also expected to start this hour. Melissa, realistically, what impact could further protest have on moving the dial in the political debate here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think on the problem, the question, Bianca, of this particular reform, what these many months of disruption and protest, often violence have shown, is that they really didn't manage their main objective, which is get the government to back down.

This is what the -- one of the main unions has said is likely to be the last big day of protests, and already really, at this hour, numbers far down on what they are normally. In fact, what the police are expecting is about 600,000 people across France, Bianca, substantially down from before. And that's partly, of course, because the protest movement in terms of

its potential to make the government back down, has really reached the end of its road. Parliament is to have a debate, but the government's found a mechanism for getting around any opposition there. So this will become law. And I think that's partly why you see fewer people.

It's also why you've also seen, I think it's important to fall, Bianca, in the public support for the movement. This time, it is just 57 percent of the French public, according to the polls, that back today's action up -- down from much higher levels just a few weeks ago.

Now, that isn't to say that today will end calmly. They are expecting about a thousand radicals on the streets and have deployed many thousands of policemen. But a distinct feeling that this particular movement is reaching the end of its road ahead of the summer, Bianca.

NOBILO: CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris. Thank you.

79 years after the D-Day invasion of Normandy that helped change the course of World War II, dignitaries and veterans from around the globe gathered there to pay tribute to fallen comrades, including French President Emmanuel Macron. He was there, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chief's General Mark Milley. Austin is meeting with his French and British counterparts at this hour too.

And Oren Liebermann joins us now from Normandy in France with the details. Oren, how have these leaders been commemorating today?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, this has very much been a memorial of what happened here 79 years ago. And there is no better or more moving place to get a sense of that than where we're standing here, the Normandy American Cemetery.

Behind me is Omaha Beach, one of the beaches where the allied forces landed to begin D-Day, to begin the invasion that would go on to liberate Europe. About 160,000 paratroopers, many of them gave their lives. And you can have a sense of that right here. An American flag and a French flag next to every single one of the graves here, marking those who sacrificed their lives.

In fact, it was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, when he was speaking, he made that point. He said he saluted the World War II veterans that were here. About 50 of them were here able to commemorate this event. And he said they saved freedom. We have to defend freedom.

And that's the sort of heroism that he views and that so many of those here view those actions and that day and specifically the D-Day invasion itself and the massive operation and the planning that went behind it.

Austin also made the connection between 79 years ago, a D-Day, what was a counteroffensive to liberate occupied territory, and what we're waiting for in Ukraine, another counteroffensive, highly anticipated to liberate occupied territory from Russia. Here's what he said earlier today.


LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Every D-Day, citizen by citizen, we remember that we each have the ability and the responsibility to fight for the principles that drove the allied armies forward.


LIEBERMANN: Austin spoke about those values that drove not only the U.S. to come here, the Canadians, the Brits as well. And it is that unity that we've heard so much as a common theme throughout the course of the last few days that we've been here. Unity that you still see today, that was very often, in many cases, forged nearly 80 years ago between the west when it comes to supporting Ukraine, between countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia when it comes to standing up to the actions we've seen come from China.


So that theme very much running through from nearly 80 years ago to this very day and it's one that we've seen connected and over again in the speeches and the ceremonies that we've attended.

NOBILO: Tragic that it has so much resonance today. Oren Liebermann, thank you very much.

Still to come, thousands of people are in potential danger after a critical dam was destroyed in southern Ukraine. We'll take a closer look at the scale of the devastation next.


NOBILO: What is the scale of the destruction following the breach of the Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine. The dam and hydroelectric power plant in the Russian occupied region of Kherson were destroyed early on Tuesday. Unleashing, as you can see clearly from the sepictures, torrents of water across the war zone.

Ukraine says more than 800 people have been evacuated and the country's presidential office is blaming Russia for what it calls ecocide. It says Moscow will be responsible if people in Kherson and Crimea are deprived of drinking water.

The critical dam is close to the Zaporizhzhian nuclear power plant, but the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says the situation there is currently under control and there's no immediate risk to the safety of the plant.

Let's bring in Maria Avdeeva, Research Director at the European Expert Association, and she joins me now via Skype from Kyiv. Thank you so much for being on the program today, Maria.

MARIA AVDEEVA, RESEARCH DIRECTOR. EUROPE EXPERT ASSOCIATION: Thank you for having me. NOBILO: Let's start with what your contacts are telling you from that region of Ukraine. What is the latest you're hearing about the scale of this devastation?

AVDEEVA: The scale of the devastation is catastrophic. I have several friends who are currently in Kherson, they see water on the streets. Electricity is cut off in some areas of the city because it's too dangerous. And people are being evacuated, especially from the areas that are close to the river to a more safer places in Ukraine, to Mykolayiv, Odessa and further.

And the same is happening with the animals because animals need help as well. So and we are talking just only about the first consequences of this horrendous terrorist attack because there will be much more. We know from the officials that the water will be flowing for four days and then we will see the very low-level of water in the reservoir to give you a scale and the understanding of how big it is.

It's 150 miles alone, the reservoir itself.


And the three Ukrainian regions are dependent on it, on water supply. This is Zaporizhzhia, Kherson region and Dnipro region as well. So this puts at risk not only thousands of people who live down from Nova Kakhovka, but also those who live up because they depend on this water and they need this water.

NOBILO: And Maria, just explain to us a little more about the context and the strategic important. So you've outlined some of the geographical elements there, but in terms of how this will impact Ukraine's energy infrastructure and also in terms of battlefield maneuvers.

AVDEEVA: Well, Russia was occupying this region and the dam itself from the first day of the full scale invasion. We know that the dam was mined back in October last year, and Ukrainian military intelligence warned about that.

And that is when there was also a threat that the dam will be blown up before Kherson was liberated, because when the dam was there in place, it somehow opened the way for Ukrainian troops to advance on the other bank of the river. And this is possibly one of the reasons why Russia decided to blow up the dam now, because they are panicking in -- before Ukrainian counteroffensive.

They don't know where it will happen. And so they were trying to cut out all the ways which can be used by the Ukrainian Army to move forward. And this is one of the possible areas that Russia anticipates. And now this puts on risk not only the civilian population, but Russian troops itself, because their positions are now flown with the water.

And we see videos of the mines blown up because the water is flowing on the left bank of the Dnipro River. And we understand that this -- so the water, the most massively flowing of the water is happening right on the left bank of Dnipro, where Russian troops were located previously.

NOBILO: If it is verified that Russia is behind this, that would constitute most likely a war crime. There's precedent for this. We've seen this in the Yugoslav trials for people being convicted of war crimes because of damage to dams and civilian infrastructure. What evidence would Ukraine need here to prove what they allege Russia has done?

AVDEEVA: Well, absolutely, this is a pure war crime. And the Geneva Convention specifically say that any dam cannot be attacked because this puts civilian population at severe risk. And we know from, as I have said, that the dam was already mined before.

And according to Ukrainian authorities, not only it was blown up, for example, by the strike of the missile, but it was blown up from inside. The engine department of the dam was blown up. And we saw evidences that Russia was discussing this possibility back in October openly on Russian military channels, discussing that this will stop Ukrainian advance.

And all this gives us information and evidence that Russia was planning this kind of attack, terrorist attack, back in October. And now because they're afraid that the counteroffensive might start any moment, they decided to blow it up now. And also it distracts all the attention of Ukrainian special forces to help civilians because now this is a huge disaster happening all along the Dnipro River.

At least eight settlements are already flooded with water and more water will be coming. So they distract Ukrainian forces and Ukrainian manpower to combat with these consequences of this massive flooding.

NOBILO: Maria Avdeeva in Kyiv, thank you so much. And I'm so sorry for this latest devastation to befall your country.

AVDEEVA: Thank you for having me.

Up next on CNN Newsroom, in the sea and in the skies, the U.S. and China seem to be playing a dangerous game. A look at how military tensions are impacting civilian opinions, when we come back.



NOBILO: China and Russia held joint air patrols over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea on Tuesday. The exercises prompted South Korea to scramble its fighter planes just in case. It comes at a time of heightened military tensions across Asia, as the U.S. and China seem increasingly at odds.

CNN's Will Ripley has more on the growing animosity between the U.S. and China.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the streets, in the skies, and on the sea, rising rhetoric and the U.S. warns real danger of military confrontation, a growing list of U.S.-China flare ups fueling fierce anti-American sentiment among the Chinese public.

Chinese state media adding fuel to the fire, blasting the airwaves with outrage. Public perception of the U.S. plummeting. A recent Chinese poll reveals more than half of those surveyed have a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable impression of the U.S.

"The U.S. keeps picking on China", says this man in Beijing. "It feels like the U.S. is bullying China."

Another making his views clear, "I don't like the U.S. All bad things in the world are caused by the U.S. U.S. polls show many Americans have similar views about China, even in polarized Washington. Countering Beijing has rare bipartisan support.

From the Taiwan Strait to the South China Sea to Singapore, the U.S. and China seem to be spiraling closer to conflict. On Saturday, a near collision on the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. accused a Chinese warship of cutting off a U.S. Navy destroyer. The U.S. says both ships came within 150 yards, less than 500 feet of each other.

The U.S. destroyer took emergency measures to avoid a collision. A close encounter U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called extremely dangerous.

AUSTIN: I'm concerned about, at some point, having an incident that could very, very quickly spiral out of control.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Austin speaking at this Asian Defense summit in Singapore. The Pentagon says China rejected a proposed meeting with its Defense Minister, Li Shangfu. Their only interaction this brief handshake. The U.S. says they did not have a substantive exchange.

General Li had plenty to say after the near collision, blasting U.S. claims of a peaceful passage through the Taiwan Strait with a Canadian warship. "They are not here for peaceful passage", he says. "They are here for provocation".

Tensions already high, getting even higher. Just days earlier over the South China Sea, a midair incident caught on camera. A Chinese jet dangerously close to a U.S. Reconnaissance plane. The U.S. calls this an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver. China says it was just safeguarding its sovereignty, accusing the U.S. military plane of deliberately intruding into China's training area.

The government spokesperson saying, The U.S. should immediately stop such dangerous and provocative actions". Washington rejects Beijing's territorial claims over nearly all the South China Sea, saying, "The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows".

Tensions rising ever since a controversial Taiwan trip by former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last year, and this year's meeting in California between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Tsai In-wen, president of Taiwan.

China also claims sovereignty over the self-governing democracy its communist rulers have never controlled, launching two rounds of massive military drills near Taiwan, only adding to U.S. concern turns of a potential military miscalculation with massive consequences.



RIPLEY: The White House says the top U.S. officials did bring up the near collision at a meeting in Beijing on Monday. And just the fact that there is a meeting that both sides are talking is certainly a welcome development for those watching the situation in this part of the world, because animosity between the U.S. and China has been on the rise significantly in recent months, from Taiwan and the South China Sea to China's deepening partnership with Russia.

That brief thaw when President Biden and President Xi met in Bali last November that was derailed by the Chinese spy balloon has resulted in an in ability for both sides to have high level talks. Perhaps the fact that there's a meeting in Beijing could signal a turnaround.

Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.

NOBILO: Apple is done ducking around. The company will make it easier to get at your frustration by using everyone's favorite four-letter word in texts.


CRAIG FEDERIGHI, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF SOFTWARE ENGINEERING APPLE: Autocorrect is also getting more capable with refreshed design to better support you as you type. And in those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it too.


NOBILO: The announcement came as part of a developer's event on Monday. While the feature is supposed to correct spelling, autocorrect has become notorious for changing the meaning of text messages with its substitutions. Curse words have long been Autocorrect's biggest offender. You can also turn off Autocorrect to text whatever you want.

Apple has also unveiled its new mixed reality headset called Apple Vision Pro. It will cost $3,500 and will be available early next year. This device blends virtual reality and augmented reality, which allows users to overlay virtual images around them on live video of the real world.

Thanks for joining me here on CNN Newsroom. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. World Sport with Amanda Davies is up next.