Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Kyiv And Moscow Trade Blame For Dam At UN; PGA Tour Agrees To Merge With Saudi-Backed Rival LIV Golf; Prince Harry Testifies At Phone-Hacking Trial Against Tabloids; Mark Meadows Testified To Federal Grand Jury In Special Counsel Probe Of Trump. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 01:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead here on CNN. Who done it? Did Moscow or Kyiv order an attack on the biggest dam in Ukraine? What would be the long term impact from the destruction of the dam and widespread flooding across the region?

Hey, things change. The stunningly vague excuse from the Commissioner of the PGA to explain why the tour has now merged with the Saudi rival sponsored LIV Golf.

Thicko, the cheat underage drinker Prince Harry opened up during court testimony on the role he believes the British tabloids tried to create for him as the spare heir to the British throne.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with John Vause.

VAUSE: Thanks for joining us here on CNN Newsroom. We begin with an unanswered question who done it? Who caused a massive breach in the biggest dam in Ukraine? Water has been gushing from the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine after part of the dam war collapsed just over 24 hours ago.

Floodwaters rising downriver. Evacuations have been ordered from multiple towns and cities, including Kherson.

One official says more than 1,300 homes along the west bank of the Dnipro River appear to be underwater. Kyiv says Russian forces which have controlled the reservoir since the early days of the war littered the area with explosives and mines and are responsible for the breach.

Moscow says a Ukrainian attack is to blame. Both, however, acknowledge the dam destruction will cause severe environmental long term damage.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The whole world will know about this Russian war crime, the crime of ecoside. Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers of the dam and other structures at the Nova Kakhovka hydropower plant is an environmental bomb of mass destruction.

SERGEI SHOIGU, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): In order to prevent offensive actions by the Russian army in the Kherson region, the Kyiv regime carried out an eco sabotage, in fact a terrorist act which led to the flooding of large areas and will have severe and long term environmental consequences.


VAUSE: One senior UN official says the dam collapse could be the most significant damage to civilian infrastructure since the start of the war. It was part of a heated exchange during a meeting of the UN Security Council. The official explained the dam serves as a lifeline in the region, being a critical water source for millions.

The UN Secretary General also spoke about the damage caused by this dam destruction.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, UN SECRETARY-GENERAL: We have all seen the tragic images coming out today of the monumental humanitarian, economic and ecological catastrophe in the Kherson region of Ukraine. This tragedy is yet another example of the horrific price of war on people. The floodgates of suffering have been overflowing for more than a year, and that must stop. Attacks against civilians and critical civilian infrastructure must stop. And we must act to ensure accountability and respect for international humanitarian law.


VAUSE: CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in the Kherson region reports firsthand now on the damage caused by the collapse of the dam.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Masses of water gushing from the gaping hole in the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam in Russian controlled territory here in South Ukraine. Massive flooding quickly inundating villages on both shores of the mighty Dnipro River, impacting areas controlled by Ukrainians and by the Russians.

PLEITGEN (on camera): As you can see, there's a massive rescue effort going on here. The local authorities are using boats and also heavy trucks to get as many people as out of the zone as they can.

PLEITGEN (voiceover): 65-year-old Nadiejda Chernoshova (ph) was stranded in her home with her cat Sonya for hours, fearing for her life.

Now I'm not scared, she says, but there it was scary. Why I ask. Because of the water. The water came and you don't know from where it comes and where it will go.

The authorities here say they've evacuated hundreds of people throughout the day, at times under Russian fire the head of Kherson military administration tells.

We have the water, he says. Mines. Mines are floating to here and this district is constantly being shelled. Two policemen were injured while evacuating people.


Kyiv blames Moscow for allegedly blowing up the dam, an angry Ukrainian president saying the Russians are trying to derail Ukraine's current battlefield games.

It was mined by the Russian occupiers, he says, and they blew it up. This once again demonstrates the cynicism with which Russia treats the people whose land it has captured.

The destruction of the dam comes as Ukrainian forces have been making gains on the battlefield, what some believe may be the early stages of Kyiv's long awaited counter offensive. Even though the Ukrainians haven't confirmed that.

Russia's army denies blowing up the dam, instead blaming the Ukrainians. Aiming to prevent the offensive operations by the Russian army on this section of the front line, the Kyiv regime committed an act of sabotage, or rather terrorist act, the defense minister said.

While the floodwaters are affecting ever more areas around Kherson, upstream, the levels are critically low. Around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the biggest in all of Europe, which relies on a pond connected to the river for cooling.

The international Atomic Energy Agency says so far there's no danger, but that could change.

RAFAEL GROSSI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: It is therefore vital that this cooling pond remains intact. Nothing must be done to potentially undermine its integrity.

PLEITGEN (on camera): And there's really two things that stand out when you're on the ground here. One is how fast the floodwater is rising and the other one is how much shelling is actually still going on while the folks here are trying to save people out of the flood zone. All this comes as a local official says that more than 1000 houses seem to be underwater in the Ukrainian held parts alone. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


VAUSE: We have this programming note later this hour, a life report from Kherson for the very latest on the destruction caused by the collapse of the dam.

Well, after months of outrage, lawsuits, accusations of human rights abuses and sportswashing, U.S. based PGA tour has announced a merger with its Saudi backed rival, LIV Golf. Some of the highest names in golf left the tour last year to join LIV with huge prize money and no cut events. At the time, the commissioner of the PGA, Jay Monahan, could not have been more critical of the new competition. And now it seems he's asking for a mulligan.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: There's been a lot of tension in our sport over the last couple of years, but what we're talking about today is coming together to unify the game of golf and to do so under one umbrella. And together we're going to move forward and we're going to take efforts to grow and expand this great game and to take it to new heights.


VAUSE: More details out from CNN World Sports Don Riddell.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR (on camera): You know, for the past year, the world of men's professional golf has been in a state of civil war. But now it seems that the embattled factions have called a truce.

On Tuesday morning, the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi backed breakaway LIV Tour announced that they were now in business together. It was an absolutely stunning development that seemingly took everybody by surprise, even many of the game's top players. And it is a remarkable U-turn for the PGA Tour, whose commissioner, Jay Monahan, said this about LIV less than a year ago.

MONAHAN: I think you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications. And as it relates to the families of 9/11, I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones, and so my heart goes out to them.

And I would ask, you know, any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?

RIDDELL: So when LIV became a reality with its first tournament just outside London last June, they had managed to lure some of the game's top players with contracts worth tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

As a result, those players were suspended from their tours. Now we have learned that they will be allowed to rejoin those tours at the end of this season. So no wonder Phil Mickelson tweeted this within minutes of the announcement. Awesome day today. Smiley face. Will it be that those players, guys like Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Kepka, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau get to keep all that money and return to the fold?

And if so, how are the loyal Tour players supposed to feel about that? Rory McIlroy was the most outspoken about it all. He became known as golf's moral compass. But last month, he said he didn't want to talk about it anymore because he said it was hurting his game.

This tweet from Golf Digest Joel Beall is telling he said, quote, Rory McIlroy took a stand for what he believed was which brought an invisible pain and weight that can't be measured and was sold out by the very thing he was trying to defend.


There is still so much that we don't know about all of this. No doubt there will be a lot of reaction in the days to come, not least because next week we have another major tournament, the U.S. Open in Los Angeles. There are, of course, going to be winners and losers, and who they are will depend on your point of view.

But golf fans, I guess, should be happy because now they can see their favorite players on the same golf course at the same time. The big question must be, at what cost? Back to you.


VAUSE: James Colgan is a news and features editor for GOLF, both the magazine as well as the online edition. He's with us this hour from New York. James, welcome to the program.

JAMES COLGAN, WRITER GOLF MAGAZINE: Hello. What's going on? How are you?

VAUSE: I'm not bad. I'm probably better off right now than Jay Monahan, the commissioner and self-described hypocrite of the PGA. Here he is. Listen to this.


MONAHAN: I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite, and anytime I've said anything, I said it with the information I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that's trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. And so I accept those criticisms, but circumstances do change.


VAUSE: It's an interesting question. Isn't what's changed? Because after hearing about this merger, Chris Murphy, the U.S. Senator from Connecticut tweeted this, So weird. PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudi's human rights record should disqualify them from having a major stake or having a stake rather, in a major American sport.

From what I can tell, Saudi Arabia's record on human rights has not suddenly improved in the past couple of months. So, when Monahan says things change, what does he mean? What he's no longer concerned about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. He has no longer any respect for the families who's lost loved ones on 9/11 and the emotional heartache this merger will cause them. What's changed? What does he mean?

COLGAN: I think what's changed is, as far as we know right now, that the PGA Tour decided they wanted to collect a pretty significant paycheck from the Saudi Public Investment Fund. We do not have a ton of information as to what led to this agreement happening, what led to this merger that's kind of shake the entire sports world today.

But what we do know is that there are really only a few things that it could be. It could be financial concerns or constraints facing the Tour, or it could be something related to the antitrust inquiry that's currently going up against PGA Tour right now. And that's it. Like, those are really the only two major reasons why the Tour would even consider something like this.

VAUSE: And back in September, the PGA lawsuit back then argued that the Kingdom was paying players astronomical sums of money to induce them to breach their contracts with the Tour in an effort to use the LIV players and the game of golf to sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities.

So, could this merger now be blocked by U.S. regulators using the PGA's own arguments against the Saudis?

COLGAN: Well, that would be a very fitting way for the U.S. Justice Department to approach this inquiry into the PGA Tour. I think there's certainly an argument to be made about the anti-competitive practices that have kind of taken hold here with the PGA Tour, and particularly involving LIV Golf. I think that what's happened today has not put those anti-competitive practices to bed whatsoever.

VAUSE: I want you to listen to just a small sample of, you know, what the families of those who died on 9/11 are feeling after finding out about this merger, here's the spokesperson. Listen to this.


TERRY STRADA, CHAIR, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: Outraged, disappointed, angry, disgusted that Monahan could now sell the PGA to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They're all a bunch of cowards. They've destroyed the PGA Tour. It is dead, as it was known before today. It's like I said, despicable. There's words I can't use on TV, but he really is the lowest scum of the earth at this moment.


VAUSE: Some of the biggest names in golf, though, left tens of millions of dollars on the table, stayed loyal to the PGA, refusing to sell their souls to the Saudis. And for many of them, respect for those who died on 9/11 played a part in that decision.

So when Saudi Arabia moves on to the next sport, and professional athletes again face this kind of ethical question, what the takeaway from all of this is? Take the money because taking a stand is for suckers.

COLGAN: Well, yes, I think that's a conversation that if you ask some of the higher profile players on the PGA Tour right now, who turned down sums of nine figures to stay on the PGA Tour and stand by sort of a code that they believed in, I think a lot of them are asking that exact question right now. Why were we doing this exactly? Because it doesn't seem like this is being an ethically driven thing.


You know, I wrote today in a story that this whole argument of morality for the PGA Tour always felt like a little bit of a convenient truth. I didn't totally believe that it was truly the full basis of where the Tour was coming from. And what we heard from them today all but can firms that to be the case.

I mean, I say that as someone who myself is from a 9/11 family, and I certainly have witnessed what's gone on and have experienced my own set of emotions as I've been going through the day today, kind of dealing with all of this.

VAUSE: It's a sad day. It just seems no matter how you look at this, it's a sad day. James, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

COLGAN: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: And the winds keep coming for the big spenders in Saudi sports. Former Real Madrid star Kareem Benzema has signed a three-year deal with Saudi club Al-Ittihad. The winners of this year's Saudi pro league announced Benzema's arrival on Instagram posting a new tiger will roar. The French forward who won last year's Ballon D'or played his final game for Real Madrid Sunday after 14 years with the club. Benzema's former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo joined another Saudi club, El Nassa SC, last year.

And still to come, Harry in court and under cross examination in his lawsuit against the British tabloids. But maybe the Prince should have skipped day two of this trial as well. And we'll explain why in a moment.

Also, another former senior official from the Trump White House testifying before a federal grand jury what investigators are hoping to learn from former chief of staff Mark Meadows.


VAUSE: In a new few hours of grueling gross examination lies ahead for Prince Harry in his lawsuit against British tabloids. He's already testified that the stories they published dredged up painful memories from the past and played a destructive role in his life. But still no new revelations on how allegations of phone hacking played into gaining the information for these stories. CNN's Nada Bashir has our report.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voiceover): A highly anticipated moment in a carefully watched legal battle. Prince Harry becoming the first senior British royal to testify in court in over a century. The Duke of Sussex is among dozens of claimants suing British tabloid publisher Mirror Group newspapers over allegations their journalists used unlawful means, including phone hacking, to obtain private information between 1991 and 2011. Prince Harry's witness statement goes into extraordinary detail about how MGN's intrusive tactics impacted his personal life, saying how much more blood will stain their typing fingers before someone can put a stop to this madness.


Meanwhile, the Duke's lawyer says newspaper articles like these show telltale signs of illegal information gathering from the intimate details of private conversations shared with his brother William, the Prince of Wales, Harry telling the court that MGN's journalist planted seeds of distrust between the two to the ups and downs of his relationship with former long term girlfriend Chelsea Davy intrusions, which he says led to huge amounts of paranoia and even bouts of depression.

With MGN's tabloids labeling him the playboy prince, thicko and dropout in his youth. But Prince Harry's testimony also details alleged evidence of pavements made to private investigators tasked with gleaning personal information about his mother, the late Princess Diana, a recent revelation which he said made him feel physically sick.

MGN has contested most of the allegations put forward in the Duke of Sussex's claim, arguing that there is simply not enough evidence to prove that his phone was hacked. The trial comes on the heels of an incident last month where Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, were pursued by paparazzi for 2 hours after an event in New York.

The couple describing the chase as near catastrophic, though the severity of the incident has since been called into question. Despite a fierce round of questions today in court, Prince Harry is not backing down.

JIM WATERSON, MEDIA EIDTOR, THE GUARDIAN: It's pretty clear how personal this is for him. He blames the tabloid media in the U.K. for the death of his mother, for the destruction of his relationships, and for his poor mental health. He says that his family was forced to flee the U.K. because of them.

BASHIR: Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is officially now in the running for U.S. President. His campaign began with a town hall in New Hampshire Tuesday. Christie's first run for president ended when he suspended his campaign during the Republican primary in 2016.

After that, he served as an advisor to Donald Trump for a time, as well as being an advisor before the 2020 election, a decision which he says he now regrets. He does not have many kind words. In fact, he has no kind words former President Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader. The reason I'm going after Trump is twofold. One, he deserves it, and two, it's the way to win.


VAUSE: Christie believes he's the one best positioned to take on Donald Trump, while also drawing independent support away from President Joe Biden.

Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has testified before a federal grand jury in the special counsel investigation into the former President. That's according to a source familiar with the matter. We don't know whether it pertains to the classified documents investigation or the January 6 probe. Here's CNN's senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is not just a witness for special counsel Jack Smith. He is the witness. Why? Well, when it comes to the January 6 investigation, he was at the center of everything. The House Select Committee that looked into the events surrounding January 6 came to the conclusion that all roads led to Mark Meadows in and around the events of that day and the so called pressure campaign on states and officials to try to overturn the results of the election.

Now, when it comes to the investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, Meadows increasingly appears to be a possibly critical witness there, as well. Not only would he have been at the White House at present, where things are being packed up towards the end of the administration, but recent CNN reporting on a bombshell audio recording where Trump talks about having a classified document reveals that conversation was recorded by Meadows autobiographers.

So, clearly, investigators can have a lot of different questions for Meadows in either investigation, though at this point, it's unclear if he has spoken to investigators about both probes or just one. But this certainly solves a long, swirling question in Trump circles. They have been wondering, what exactly is going on with Meadows.

The former president tried to block Meadows from being able to testify, citing executive privilege, he lost that fight, so it was expected that Meadows would testify. But there had been no communication between Meadows attorneys and those for the former president, leading to some concern about whether Meadows was indeed cooperating with investigator.


But at this point, the fact that the special counsel has spoken to Meadows certainly signals that at least the classified document investigation is not only in its final phase, but likely wrapping up sometime soon. Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Mass protests over changes to France's public pension system may be losing steam. More than a quarter of million people took to the streets across France on Tuesday, the lowest turnout so far. There was some spreading violence. This trailer was set on fire, for example. But protests were mostly peaceful.

A senior French union leader said the protests will be among the last because the pension law is set to be part of the law by September. Still, the National Assembly will debate it come Thursday.

Still to come on CNN Newsroom, rising floodwaters compounding the dangers for many in the Kherson region in Ukraine. We'll discuss the situation on the ground with a journalist who's now seeing it all firsthand.

Also, a somber ceremony commemorating the Allied forces who stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II. A report from Omaha Beach is also coming up.


VAUSE: Welcome back. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN Newsroom. Floodwaters have continued to rise in low lying areas around the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine after the dam war collapsed Tuesday. Kherson residents say water came rushing in, bringing more devastation to an area already scarred by more than a year of fighting.

The head of the Kherson regional military Administration says evacuations are underway despite shelling in the area. CNN's Clare Sebastian has more now on the importance of the dam to both sides in this conflict.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDNET: The Nova Kakhovka dam sits directly on the front line of this conflict, straddling the Dnipro River, one bank in Ukrainian hands. And this red area here is Russian occupied territory. The hydroelectric power plant itself is in Russian controlled territory.

Well, this satellite image from late May really gives you a sense of the layout. This is Russian held territory here and Ukrainian up here.

Now, the Ukrainian hydroelectric energy operator says the explosion happened in the engine room from the inside. So on Russian occupied territory. And while both Russia and Ukraine say the dam was breached overnight Monday into Tuesday. There is actually evidence of damage in the days leading up to that.

Take a look at these satellite images. You can see from this image at the end of May, this part of the structure is intact. Fast forward to June 5th and clearly there's a piece missing. And it's right in the middle where we see the dam has now been breached. [01:30:02]

Well, the biggest immediate risk from this breach is, of course, flooding. This is the danger zone here as identified by Ukraine's interior minister and we are already seeing images coming out of Ukrainian-controlled Kherson City.

You can see water flowing out on streets there and across the river in Russian-controlled Nova Kakhovka, which is the town closest to that hydroelectric power plant.

Another risk is that the reservoir that is created by that dam supplies water to Crimea down here in the south, Russian-held Crimea. The head of that region saying there is a risk the canal will run too shallow, that they have enough water for now.

And Kakhovka also supplies water up here to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to cool the reactors. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says there is no immediate danger. Now the question, of course, given the timing of this, is how it will affect Ukraine's counteroffensive?

It's not 100 percent clear until we had the full picture of the damage, but flooding over here could potentially complicate the Ukrainian effort across the Dnipro River to head south even for Crimea or even over here to the Azov Sea, if that is in fact part of their plan.

It could also divert attention and resources away from attacking other areas along this hundreds of miles of frontline.

Clare Sebastian, CNN -- London.


VAUSE: Live now to French freelance journalist, Cyrille Amoursky, who is in Kherson this hour for us.

Cyrille, thank you for taking the time for being with us. I want you to listen to our senior U.N. official describe the environmental damage from the destruction of this dam. Here he is.


MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. UNDER SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will only become fully realized in the coming days.

But it's already clear that it will have grave and far-reaching consequences for thousands of people in southern Ukraine on both sides of the front line.


VAUSE: What do we know about the impact right now? How many have been forced to leave their homes, last what we had 1,300 homes underwater. Is there an update on that number? And how bad is this expected to get in the short term?

CYRILLE AMOURSKY, JOURNALIST: Well, what we just heard is certainly true. We know that yesterday, the situation was pretty bad. If we take a look at the situation this morning, it's even worse. Before, the water was around the knee level. Now it's about the chest.

If we talk about the city of Kherson, we know that around 17,000 people yesterday evacuated the city of Kherson. And that the counselor to the president Mykhailo Podolyak says that around 80 towns were impacted. Were either totally flooded or were at least impacted by the water rising levels.

VAUSE: Ukrainian officials -- many are being evacuated from these towns, 80 or so of them which are either emerged or partially submerged with ongoing Russian shelling. So how dangerous is it for these evacuations to take place? Where are these residents being taken to? Where is it safe right now?

AMOURSKY: Yes. Shelling is ongoing and yesterday when we were on the ground there was an ongoing shelling and one of the shells landed around 100 meters away from my (INAUDIBLE) and it was the closest since the very first time that we started working which means since March 2022.

And most of these people they are being sent to other places, mainly in the Dnipro region or to other regions in Ukraine were obviously there is no impact, where there are no towns that were flooded or anything like that basically, to save their places all around Ukraine.

VAUSE: So a major disaster like this in peace time for Ukraine would be bad enough. This is a country which had been fighting for survival for more than a year now. How does that impact everything here from just simply emergency response crews to those evacuations even to long term assistance? Can Ukraine cope with the disaster alone?

AMOURSKY: It is definitely a very hard hit on Ukraine especially in the time of counteroffensive. However we should understand that the counteroffensive was probably not planned in the Kherson region because it is strategically not the best decision or not the best location to start a counteroffensive at. This is the first thing. \

The second thing is that the morale here is pretty different. I talked to some people, some people still wanted to stay in the city, whatever the situation is and whatever the risks are and now that people say that yes, of course, you want to stay in this town but to be honest this town right now is a nightmare.

First, it was occupied by the Russians. Then it was a liberated by the Ukrainian forces. And then the shelling started and now there is this flooding so it's just a nightmare town where people don't have the chance to live a simple life and live a calm life.


AMOURSKY: And obviously it does have an impact on the people's morale but overall the people remain calm. Of course, they were surprised by the decision -- not by the decision -- by what happened yesterday but the evacuations are ongoing.

And the people here, the police, the army is doing everything that it can to bring these people to other safer areas of Ukraine.

VAUSE: What do you know about how this actually happened? At the time that the wall was breached, do you know if there was any significant military activity on the way either Ukrainian or Russian forces. Were they around the area of the dam. We know the Russians have occupied it.

Has there been any more information now on how this may have happened?

AMOURSKY: We don't have any concrete information on that. We know that both sides do accuse each other. But here, if you ask the local that is pretty clear. Not a single person that I have talked to said anything else than the fact that Russia is responsible for what happened.

They know that Russia occupied their town. They know that Russia killed their citizens because shelling us ongoing here on a daily occasion. There are almost daily casualties in this town.

So these people they are -- they firmly believe that it is Russia, and solely Russia that is responsible.

VAUSE: Cyrille Amoursky, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We very much appreciate the update and the new information. Take care and stay safe there. Thank you.

AMOURSKY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Thousands have gathered at Normandy Tuesday commemorate the 79th anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.

The Allied invasion began the liberation of France and other parts of western Europe from Nazi Germany.

And America's defense chief pointed out the parallels with today's war in Ukraine as our senior Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann reports.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's been fascinating and very moving to be here over the course of the last few days and see the ceremonies and the events around D-Day. Up until now, it was almost a celebration largely of D-Day and what came after the liberation that came to France and then the rest of Europe.

In fact, we stayed in the first French town liberated after D-Day. And you see the gratitude passed down through the French for generations.

Today however is different. Today is purely a day of memorials, it is a day of commemoration. And that is to remember all of the lives lost here on the D-Day invasion. And you get a sense of that. About 150,000 paratroopers and forces landed here. Thousands of those

gave their lives, and you can see the gravestones here, the French and the American flags.

And in the speeches, you hear them talk about the heroism, the valor and the values that they defended and carrying out that operation. Omaha Beach here behind me, this was one of the landing spots during the invasion all along the beach head here.

Of course, the paratroopers and then the amphibious assault, the largest certainly in modern European history.

We have also heard in many of the speeches, the connection between the values that Allied Forces were defending 79 years ago, and the values that the West is standing up for in Ukraine in feeding the Ukrainian military weaponry, equipment and more.

It was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who made that connection earlier today.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: 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: There are about 50 or so World War II veterans in attendance here. I had a chance to speak with a few them, and each opportunity like that is absolutely incredible because their memories of those days are absolutely sharp and hearing what it was like, whether it was storming the beaches or the Battle of the Bulge or even fighting in the Pacific, all of those stories are incredible.

Austin himself made that point. He saluted the World War II veterans. He said, you saved the world. We merely need to defend it.

Oren Liebermann, CNN -- in Normandy at Omaha Beach.


VAUSE: Still ahead on CNN, hypersonic or just hype. Iran claims to have developed a ground breaking, new, long-range missile capable of avoiding air defenses. Could it be just another exaggeration from Tehran?

And later, Haitians reeling from an earthquake just days after deadly flooding. Why aid groups are struggling to reach some of those who need help the most.



VAUSE: Welcome back.

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken met for more than an hour with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah. This meeting comes ahead of a slash in oil output by the kingdom and its ongoing strained relations between both countries, in particular with the Saudis moving closer to Moscow in recent years.

Iran has officially reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia for the first time in seven years. An official ceremony was held inside the embassy compound in Riyadh Tuesday. Dozens of diplomats and officials were present. The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 but agreed to resume relations in March. The deal was brokered by China.

Iran has unveiled what it called its first domestically made hypersonic missile, a move likely to heighten tensions with the west if it is true.

According to state media, the precision guided missile called "Fattah" can target anti-missile systems, penetrate the most advanced air defenses including Israel's Iron Dome.

Iran says it can travel 1,400 kilometers per hour (INAUDIBLE) a range of 1,400 kilometers, almost 900 miles. Tehran calls it a generational leap in technology. Western allies say Iran tends to exaggerate, field (ph) the lily a little bit about its missile capability..

Trita Parsi, is the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He is also author of "Losing An Enemy". And it's been awhile and it's good to see you.

Welcome back to the show.


VAUSE: Ok, so, Iran claims this new hypersonic missile I think can travel at Mach 15 -- 15 times the speed of sound. They've warned in the past it can reach Israel in 400 seconds.

So here's a little more now from the head of the Revolutionary Guard Aerospace Force. Listen to this.


AMIRALI HAJIZADEH, IRCC AEROSPACE COMMANDER: At a distance of 1,400 kilometers we can accurately hit any target we want And no anti missile system can deal with it.


VAUSE: It is quite the boast6. China, Russia and North Korea all claimed to have develop hypersonic missiles which means Iran's inclusion on that list I guess was only a matter of time.

Except here's the rub. Tehran has kind of a bit of a reputation for inflating the achievements of its missile programs. Could these claims fall into that category?

PARSI: They certainly could and they have perhaps would take much of the world by surprise if it turns out that they do have this capacity at this moment. What we do know at the same time is that even if they don't have it

right now, they have achieved a lot of technological breakthroughs that were not expected.

They have the largest arsenal of missiles in the Middle East -- one of the largest at least. And the accuracy of their missiles are at a point that we did not expect them to be. So even if this specific thing maybe a boast it doesn't mean that a year from now, a year from now they will not have this technology.

VAUSE: And the Iranian president. He's talked about the fact that, you know, this hypersonic missile was developed at home by domestic Iranian know-how and technology.

Here's a little more.


EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT: This knowledge of missile making and science and defense as well as missile and military industries have been indigenous in our country. It is not an imported technology so threats cannot remove this advanced knowledge and industry.


VAUSE: It seems kind of hard to believe that Tehran had no help from their BFFs in Moscow. Mind you, the Russian hypersonic missiles haven't worked so great in Ukraine to this point.


VAUSE: So the point here seems to be that this missile, if it was built or is being built is happening despite a really tough regime of international economic and other sanctions, right?

PARSI: Certainly and the thing is it is probably a significant exaggeration that this is all domestic technology in the sense that they have invented it. Tut in the sense that they are producing it at home meaning that it is beyond the reach of various forms of sanction, that is probably true because Iranians have developed under sanctions, in some aspects as a result of sanctions, a lot of these technologies and industries (INAUDIBLE) in order to make sure that they have this know-how without it being subject to the dangers of sanctions disrupting it.

And the U.S. State Department says it's worth (ph) the claims and a spokesperson also noting about ongoing efforts to try and prevent Iran from developing this technology. Listen to this.


MATTHEW MILLER, SPOKESPERSON, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: We continue the use of variety of nonproliferation tools, including sanctions to counter the further advancement of Iran's ballistic missile program and its ability to proliferate missiles and related technology to others. I would say that despite the restrictions on Iran's missile related

activities under U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, Iran continues to seek a range of missile technology from foreign suppliers and to conduct ballistic missile tests in defiance of the resolution.


VAUSE: It's doing a lot more than seeking. It's getting -- you know, the sounds of things and sanctions and isolations, you know, they may be slowing Iran down a little bit here with its missile and nuclear programs but they're not shutting those programs down completely. So at this point, what will?

PARSI: Well first of all you're absolutely right. Sanctions and isolation have not worked. That is absolutely clear. If they would've worked we would not be in the current situation.

The only time the United States has succeeded in changing a core of Iranian national security policy has been through diplomacy and the negotiation that took place around the JCPOA. That's the only example the United States has of being able to shift Iran's policy.

Sanctions and all of these different measures, at times slow down their progress but at the same time tend to intensify their determination to get that technology.

VAUSE: So, what are we looking at here? Maybe sort of reviving, you know, the nuclear agreement in spirit if you like, which has been on hold for very long to try and slow down these illicit programs, both their missile program and their nuclear program.

PARSI: Well, perhaps not the specific version of the JCPOA that was reached in 2015 but JCPOA is also not the only way in which diplomacy could achieve an agreement. There could still be negotiations that would address some of these issues and still would have an impact but it may not be entirely within the framework of the JCPOA.

I think it's important to recognize at the same time the Saudis for instance, they spent $75 billion on weapons last year, the (INAUDIBLE). The Saudis are outspending the Iranians with a factor of 11. These Israelis are outspending the Iranians with a factor of 3.5. Bottom line is there's a lot of weapons and a lot of arms purchases in the region.

If we want to reduce it, we need to have a comprehensive approach in which no single country is going to do it unilaterally.

VAUSE: Good point to finish on, Trita. Thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

PARSI: Thank you for having me.

VAUSE: When we come back here on CNN, if you thought it was impossible to squeeze more passengers onto an airline plane, guess again. Double decker seats, that's up next. We'll explain the push behind what's happening there. [01:48:36]


VAUSE: At least four people are dead in Haiti after an earthquake Tuesday. The 4.9 magnitude quake struck during the country's heavy rain season. Flooding has already killed more than 40 people.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has the latest details.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tens of Haitians were killed or injured and thousands more displaced after heavy rain flooded that country over the weekend. Images showed Haitians fleeing with few possessions, sometimes just the clothes on their backs. Particularly, as the rivers crested their banks after heavy, heavy rainfall.

This is just the latest disaster to befall Haiti and while the country's leaderships have been working with international organizations, many of these organizations have been limited in past months because of the out of control gang violence in Haiti.

And so while the international aid organizations said they'll be trying to do more to feed and clothe Haitians, provide them with shelter following this devastating flooding, of course, there are simply parts of the capital of Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country that they are not able to go into because of this gang violence as well.

An earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday causing several people to die and causing more injuries as well. And this continues to be a country where people are recovering from devastating earthquakes of the past. And the out of control security situation and just problems that prevent many people from getting adequate food and shelter. And thousands of people have already been displaced because of the turmoil in that country.

The (INAUDIBLE) of the U.N. representatives of Haiti say from this latest heavy rainfall is that it could cause further mudslides as more rain is expected. The hurricane season, this year's hurricane season began on June 1st. So certainly we're getting into the months where the heaviest rainfall could take place. And that could cause even more disaster for Haitians.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN -- Havana.


VAUSE: The mayor of New York City is urging residents to limit outdoor activities because of the smoke from wildfires in Canada which is now blanketing the region.

Hundreds of fires led to this orange haze over Canada's capital, Ottawa on Tuesday. Dry conditions and searing temperatures have ignited an extreme and early start to the wildfire season there. And that smoke has drifted to the south over parts of the northern

United States. A number of states have now issued air quality warnings. We have more details now from CNN's Laura Aguirre.


LAURA AGUIRRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the city that never sleeps to the city that can barely breathe, New York briefly topping the list of world worst air quality, Tuesday by Iconic views in a haze as smoke from Canadian wild fires drift into the U.S.

Across the northeast and Midwest, millions of people are under varying air quality alerts. Several cities designated as having unhealthy air for sensitive groups. Meaning small children and the elderly should reduce outdoor activity.

In parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, another threat Tuesday, lightning -- rare dry thunderstorms are forecasted in the mid-Atlantic region where NOAA's storm prediction center says conditions are prime for possible wild fire spread.

Canadian officials say they are currently tracking more than 400 active fires. And at least 26,000 people were forced to evacuate unsure of what they have left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to go home and I'm sure that everybody else here does too.

AGUIRRE: The country's prime minister making a public appeal for donations to help fire victims.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: People can support their neighbors who are facing incredibly devastating losses all across the country.

AGUIRRE: Back in the U.S., forecasters are watching a cold front that could push the smoke further south and east before week's end.

I'm Laura Aguirre reporting.


VAUSE: There is more evidence now that global warming is happening faster than expected as we continue to pump out carbon pollution.

A study published Tuesday, in the journal, "Nature Communications" warns the arctic could be without sea ice during summer months as early as 2030's, which is about a decade sooner than projected.

CNN's Bill Weir has details.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: For decades now, we've used satellites to watch as the top of the earth has thawed and sea ice (INAUDIBLE) has gotten smaller and smaller decade by decade. [01:54:52]

WEIR: Now a new report is out says it's happening even faster than we originally anticipated. Just in 2021 the ITCC's (ph) State of the Climate Science Report are predicting an ice-free arctic by the middle of the century, the 2050s.

Now this new paper -- this paper out of South Korea looks at the latest data and it says the climate models are way too conservative. It's probably going to happen a decade sooner in the 2030s or so.

That is startling news but it is just the latest in the startling news coming out at the top of the world.

In 2021 it rained at the highest peak in Greenland, an icy place, for the first time ever. And then last year hurricane actually pushed a blob of warm air so far north it thawed out up parts of Greenland in September which has never been seen before.

Now this is playing out, oceans and surface temperatures are on the rise, on a rocket rise at the same time. And what's most troubling about losing that ice at the top is the (INAUDIBLE) effect, the reflecting power of white ice compared to dark water when it comes to absorbing heat. The less ice there is, the faster the heating comes right now.

Yet another reminder that every tenth of a degree counts and maximum speed is needed to stop the root of this that is still to burn.

Bill Weir, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: A young designer is doubling down on his idea for double decker seats on airline. Yes, there it is. The concept from 23 year old Alejandro Nuez (ph) Vincente. He will go down in infamy, will have some passenger seating directly below others, whose prototype idea went viral, some are intrigued and I would say most hate it. He said a lot of seats have more leg room, and recline more than today's economy seats.

The upper ones have more space, more room overall. He says, oh my God, airlines are interested, would love to add more seats. Of course they would.

He though says he's wants (INAUDIBLE) try and more comfortable. Well, they'll do away with double decker seats. Ok.

Just saying.

Diversity in food, restaurants and chips mark this year's James Beard award, the Oscars of the food world.

The event in Chicago earlier this week featured top chefs and restaurants from across the United States. It comes after several years of controversy of ethics and diversity issues. So among the winners, the envelop please. Bob Rubba from Oyster Rubab

in Washington D.C. named outstanding chef. Congratulations.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Philadelphia won for outstanding restaurant and Kann, a Haitian restaurant in Portland, Oregon named best new restaurant.

So if you're looking for somewhere to dine, there you go.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us after a very short break. My friend and colleague, Paula Newton takes over CNN NEWSROOM.

I'll see you right back here soon -- tomorrow.