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At Least 100 Dead After Fire Breaks Out At A Wedding; Mass Exodus Fueling Concerns About Humanitarian Crisis; Ukraine "Clarifying" Fate Of Russian Commander; Kremlin: US Abrams Tanks Will Burn Like Others; Judge Finds Trump & Adult Sons Committed Fraud For Years; Federal Trade Commission And 17 States Sue Amazon; Thousands Bound For US Camped At Mexico-Guatemala Border; Braverman Questions UN Sanctuary, Asylum Policies. Prigozhin Lieutenant Appears to Be Running Show in Central African Republic; 32 European Governments Taken to Court Over Climate Action. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 27, 2023 - 00:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: Hello I am Laila Harrak. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, a wedding tragedy in Iraq, at least 100 people are killed after fireworks and candles from a celebration spark a deadly fire. Plus, fears of a growing humanitarian crisis in Nagorno- Karabakh, as thousands more rush to flee the Armenian enclave. And a landmark lawsuit against Amazon over claims the online retailer hikes prices, over charges sellers and chokes the competition.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: We begin with developing news out of Iraq where a wedding celebration has turned into tragedy. At least a hundred people were killed and 150 others injured after a fire broke out at a wedding hall in the north of the country. A wedding guest says the bride and groom are devastated but are doing fine.

Firefighters are looking through the burned out building for survivors and the prime minister says officials will, quote, "Do everything they can to help those affected by the sad incident." Well authorities say the fire was caused by candles and fireworks used during the wedding ceremony, and that the situation was made worse by, quote, "The use of highly flammable, low-cost building materials that collapsed within minutes when the fire broke out."

Now, to Armenia, where there is a growing humanitarian crisis and influx of refugees, after neighboring Azerbaijan defeated separatists in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last week. The Armenian government says more than 28 thousand of what it calls forcibly displaced persons from the enclave have arrived in the country as of Tuesday. Well the mass exodus has led to this scene, the only road connecting the region to Armenia, packed full of cars as people try to flee. Well the International Committee of the Red Cross tells CNN it is

working with officials to open more aid routes into the enclave. Doctors say many of the new arrivals suffer from malnutrition. Well Nagorno-Karabakh has been under blockade since December of last year, which prevented the delivery of food, fuel and medicine. A US official says the recent military conflict has made the situation worse.


SAMANTHA POWER, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: It is absolutely critical that independent monitors, as well as humanitarian organizations, get access to the people in Nagorno-Karabakh who still have dire needs.


HARRAK: Meanwhile, we are hearing the death toll from the explosion at a gas station in Nagorno-Karabakh has now killed at least 68 people and injured hundreds more. Armenia and the Red Cross have sent ambulances and medical supplies to help the survivors. But the blast is another strain on already scarce resources. CNN's Scott McLean reports.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A week after war, ethnic Armenians, fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh region continue to arrive in Armenia. Some shell-shocked and tired, others limping or literally out of gas, but alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was horrible. Children were hungry and they were crying. We ran away just to survive. That's all.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The journey out of the now war ravaged territory is extremely slow. Long lineups of cars wind down the switchbacks of the mountainous Lachin Corridor. One family told CNN that leaving seems impossible, instead choosing to turn back and try again another day.


This comes a week after Azerbaijani troops launched a lightning offensive to regain control over the long disrupted territory. It had lasted just 24 hours when the outgunned separatist armed forces agreed to a Russian brokered ceasefire and to disarm. Nagorno-Karabakh, for decades, has been an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan.

But populated by 120 thousand ethnic Armenians, it has long functioned as a de facto enclave of Armenia, a fragile gray area that held until war in 2020 and again last week. Thousands have now chosen to flee rather than live under Azerbaijani rule.

GAYANE, REFUGEE FROM NAGORNO-KARABAKH (through translator): Can one live with them? No, one cannot. I just survived, I've been on the road for a day. My children are hungry. MCLEAN (voice-over): An explosion at a gas depot on Monday, where people were fueling up before the journey to Armenia wounded hundreds, according to Armenian state news, straining already packed local hospitals and even field hospitals, like this one run by Russia. Even before the blast, getting the injured evacuated was difficult. Now, the International Committee of the Red Cross says there are hundreds of burn victims in urgent need of specialized medical care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heavy traffic makes it extremely difficult for us to pass across Lachin route.

MCLEAN (voice-over): And for those ethnic Armenians who remain in Nagorno-Karabakh, there is plenty of uncertainty about how they will be treated once the mass evacuation finally ends. Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HARRAK: Ukraine now says it is clarifying the fate of Russia's Black Sea commander after Moscow released footage appearing to show admiral Viktor Sokolov taking part in a video conference. Ukraine had claimed Sokolov was killed in an attack on Sevastopol on Friday, while CNN cannot confirm if the man in the Russian video is Sokolov or when and where it was reported. Our Christiane Amanpour asked Ukraine's new defense minister about the situation.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST, AMANPOUR: Can you confirm that the head of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, Viktor Sokolov, is in fact dead or alive?

RUSTEM UMEROV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Well first of all, he is in our temporary occupied territory. So, he should not be there at all. So, if he is dead, it is a good news for everybody that we are continuing to de-occupy our territory.


HARRAK: Well Ukraine's special operations forces said Monday that Sokolov and 33 others were killed in the strike on Sevastopol. A Ukrainian spokesperson says Russia has been using Crimea as a logistics hub. The Kremlin is downplaying the arrival of the first US Abrams tanks in Ukraine, saying they will burn on the battlefield, like other weapons. But Ukraine's military has resources on hand, including the menacing vampire attack drones. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has our exclusive report.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rolling into battle as night falls, Ukraine's army attacking in the east around Bakhmut.

PLEITGEN: For the Ukrainians this is an extremely important, but also very complicated and potentially very dangerous mission. And we're going to be located very close to where the Russians are. PLEITGEN (voice-over): We're with a front line drone unit called Code 9.2, their drone, the Ukrainian made vampire, the crew attaching the bombs as artillery whistled over our heads. The vampire is fully night vision capable, and plays a soundtrack showing it means business. The team leader's call sign is Groove. He confirms, because Ukraine does not have a modern air force, tonight, they are the air force.

GROOVE, CODE 9.2 TEAM LEADER (through translator): The drones see in the night like in daylight, he says. We see the infantry. We hit the vehicles, cannons, everything we need to destroy.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Groove also says, Russians from the Wagner private military company have returned to the battlefield around Bakhmut.

GROOVE (through translator): Yes, there is Wagner here too. They swiftly change their commanders and have returned here, he says. We're breaking through their line of defense and hitting them well.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): As the drone takes off, the battle is already well underway. The Ukrainians using western extended range artillery shells and cluster munitions to attack Russian ground forces. Groove is already busy targeting the Russians.

GROOVE (through translator): Oh, something is burning, he says.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): His unit also managing to take out a Russian main battle tank by dropping several bombs on it. The Ukrainian army is now starting to push forward. Our photojournalist Dan Hodge films powerful explosions, as armored vehicles advance in the middle of the night.

PLEITGEN: We are now hearing a lot of fire, a lot of outgoing fire, a lot of incoming fire, actually, also, as well, as the Ukrainians are trying to move forward. And they say they want to take a key road away from the Russians.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Russians are fighting back, firing flares to unmask the Ukrainians' advance and hit Kyiv's forces. Groove remains unfazed, hunting a Russian tactical vehicle before destroying it. The Code 9.2 drone team often hunts Russian armor here, recently even destroying a modern T-90 tank in the highly complex operation. After more than a half dozen missions, the drone returns a final time. But as we try to get away from the battlefield, a tire bursts on the humvee. No time for a spare, we push on.

PLEITGEN: We just witnessed an extremely tough battle between the Russians and the Ukrainians, both sides going at it for hours with very heavy weapons, and the area where we were, shells landed close there on various occasions. Now we're heading back to base.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Hobbled but rolling, after a long night on one of Ukraine's most dangerous front lines. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Bakhmut, Ukraine. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRAK: More legal trouble for Donald Trump. A New York judge has found the former US president and his adult sons are liable for fraud after providing false financial statements for roughly a decade. Well, the judge also canceled the Trump organization's business certification. Trump's attorney has already vowed to appeal. CNN's Brynn Gingras breaks down the ruling.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN US NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge victory for New York Attorney General Letitia James, and gives a clearer path when that civil trial is expected, still, to begin next week. The judge siding with the attorney general in that civil lawsuit, basically saying that Trump and his sons are liable, that they defrauded, basically, overinflated their assets for more than a decade.

When we talk about assets we're talking about his golf course, his hotels, his home. The judge noting in his paperwork in his decision that he over inflated his home by three times in size, over evaluating it by $114 to $207 million saying that he is living in a fantasy world, not a real world. This also, the judge, giving a real blow to Trump who essentially rejected all of his arguments that he made in a deposition that his financial statements weren't fraudulent, and that they contained disclaimers.

My colleague Kara Scannell getting reaction from Trump's attorneys regarding this decision. And Trump's attorney saying this was an outrageous decision, and that they do plan to appeal. Now there is an appeal currently in front of the courts right now. We are expecting a decision on that appeal sometime this week.

That could delay the start of the civil trial, where more matters are expected to be taken up, including how much Trump will have to pay in damages for what the judge just ruled on. But that is something, certainly, we're going to keep an eye on. Brynn Gingrass, CNN, in New York.


HARRAK: The US Federal Trade Commission and 17 states have announced they are suing the online retail behemoth Amazon. They accuse Amazon of using its market size and power to manipulate third-party sellers and raise prices for consumers. For example, they say Amazon assists merchants who sell on its platform, not offer a lower price on other sites and that it effectively compels merchants to use its delivery and logistical services.


LINA KHAN, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN: People are paying higher prices, right. Consumers are paying more than they otherwise would, small businesses are having to pay 50 percent Amazon tax right now. And so ultimately, the complaint is seeking to restore the lost promise of competition. Greater competition will mean lower prices, better quality, better selection, and greater innovation. And that's ultimately what this case is about.


HARRAK: For more, we're joined by Rebecca Allensworth. She's a professor of antitrust law at Vanderbilt Law School. Professor, so good to have you with us. An important case, what exactly is the FTC accusing Amazon of?

REBECCA ALLENSWORTH, PROFESSOR OF ANTITRUST LAW, VANDERBILT LAW SCHOOL: Amazon is accused of monopolizing two different markets.


One, the market for online superstores. That's the Amazon that we're all familiar with, the one that we purchase stuff from almost every day. And the other is the seller's side. So, from the perspective of people trying to sell stuff on the internet. They're supposed to have monopolized that market as well.

HARRAK: Alright, let's take a look at what Amazon's reaction has been to the FTC lawsuit. I believe we can pull up that statement. If the FTC gets its way, the result would be fewer products to choose from, higher prices, slower deliveries for consumers, and reduced options for small businesses. The opposite of what antitrust law is designed to do. So that's the statement from Amazon. On a scale of one to 10, professor, how much trouble is Amazon in? And do you think they will now have to make concessions?

ALLENSWORTH: I think they likely will make concessions. On a scale of one to 10, I don't know, I think this suit is unlikely to be successful. So I guess I would put it at a three or a four. The kind of trouble that's worth paying close attention to. I think it's possible that they will have to change some of their tactics. But it's not clear to me if they do change those tactics that competition would suddenly be restored, or even their basic business model would be threatened.

HARRAK: So that brings me to my next question, why is it so difficult to regulate a tech giant like Amazon? I mean the company has arguably been under scrutiny now for quite some time.

ALLENSWORTH: Well, it's the fine line that Amazon itself is drawing, which is, we are cutthroat competitors, we slash prices, we innovate all the time, we produce something really excellent for you to consume. And we all live that experience. And we lived it through the Covid period.

But the problem is that if they are also, at the same time that they're doing those things, making it harder for others to take those kinds of innovative steps, if they're making it harder for others to enter into, which is the meat of the suit, is that other platforms cannot compete with Amazon because of what Amazon is doing, not just that Amazon's great or Amazon is big, but that Amazon is actually preventing them from cutting prices. If that's true, then the FTC should win.

But the problem is anytime there's an ambiguity, anytime there is a tie, the tie tends to go to the defendant. In this case, it's Amazon, that's the way the antitrust laws are set up.

HARRAK: And give us a little bit of a perspective here on the type of support there is in US congress for regulating big tech in a meaningful way, in the way that for instance, the European Union has not shied away from taking on big US tech.

ALLENSWORTH: Well, there looked like there was a lot of momentum behind it. There looked like there was bipartisan support. Some of the bills that were proposed ended up languishing and eventually failing. And so it's unclear to me how viable a statutory remedy is for this. I think it depends a little bit on how these suits go. I think if the government continues to lose, I think that will ratchet up the pressure on congress to do something.

HARRAK: A final thought from you, you know, in your assessment, what are the chances of the company being broken up?

ALLENSWORTH: I think being broken up by this lawsuit, they're very slim. I think it's very, very unlikely. I think the likelihood of winning on the merits of this case are, as I said, less than 50 percent. And then even if that happened, the remedy being to break up Amazon, that seems unlikely.

HARRAK: Alright. Rebecca Allensworth, thank you so much of this conversation.


HARRAK: Still ahead, a growing migrant crisis in southern Mexico. How thousands of people are crossing into the country from Guatemala, with many hoping to eventually reach the United States.



HARRAK: It's not just the US-Mexico border that's seeing a record breaking surge of migrants this year. The Mexico-Guatemala border is facing its own crisis as thousands of desperate asylum seekers arrive there hoping to make it to the US. But as CNN's David Culver reports, they must survive dire situations before they have any chance at a better life.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As you touch down in Southern Mexico, be ready to share the road with migrants. We spot group after group marching north, many of those who just illegally crossed into Mexico head here, this outdoor park turned migration processing center.

We met folks camping out for days, some weeks, waiting to claim asylum in Mexico, or to get transit documents so as to pass through legally, or to sign up for, well, some aren't quite sure what they're signing up for but they do it anyways. Rafael Torres Martin, from outside Havana, Cuba, at 26 he sold his house, left behind a six-year-old son, and is traveling north with his dad.

CULVER: He wants to go legally into the US. So, he wants to go through this process here, get his documentation, and then get to the northern border, and eventually across.

CULVER (voice-over): He wants to pave the way for the rest of his family to follow. Heido Eduarte traveled from Honduras with his wife and their two young boys. He's done this before.

CULVER: Four years ago, he lived in Minnesota, says he was painting water towers, water tanks. And he says he was deported from Minnesota to Honduras, and is now making the trek again.

CULVER (voice-over): In the already impoverished state of Chiapas, Tapachula feels the migrant strain. It is overflowing.

CULVER: A lot of it is just waiting to get into an office and processed eventually. But you've got people from all over. I mean we've met people from Haiti, from Cuba, from Honduras, and they're here for, many of them, an unknown period of time.

CULVER (voice-over): Last year, Mexico says some 77 thousand migrants applied for asylum in Mexico. More than half of them do it in Tapachula. This year on track to be nearly double that, a record high. Not everyone sees it as a burden.

CULVER: For some of the Mexican locals, all these people who are not from Mexico, are a business opportunity too. Look over here, you can see some of the stands that are set up to sell food, vendors.

CULVER (voice-over): To get to Tapachula, it's an hour's drive or days walk from the Suchiate River, Guatemala on one side, Mexico on the other. And in the shadows of the official crossing between the two countries, an armada of rafts, casually ferrying group after group.

CULVER: She says it's a really, really hard trek. You can tell they just have such a rush of emotion when they get to this side, and some of them come ready to just continue on.

CULVER (voice-over): Others, like Mikele Marchan and her husband Javier Dien are using this as a moment to catch their breath.

CULVER: Wow, they're having their first child. She's five months pregnant.

CULVER (voice-over): Days earlier, they crossed the treacherous jungle terrain of the Darien Gap, connecting Colombia and Panama. All they own now fits in this small bag. They were robbed and held at gunpoint for hours. But that does not compare, they say, with what they saw.

CULVER: Oh my God, they are just describing passing through the Darien Gap and they said several people who have already passed away. A lot of kids, they saw the remains, and he says, children who were abandoned.

CULVER (voice-over): Those images haunt Suzannah Alaman. Describing the journey she made with her four young kids, but even admits to her tear filled pain, little ones lighten the load.

CULVER: Got a little shampoo left in his hand.

CULVER (voice-over): His 12-year-old sister, Sophia, helping clean it out as Joandre turns questions on me.

CULVER: Oh, she says I'm older than her dad.


CULVER (voice-over): Curiosity brings their siblings and cousins. And Joandre takes over the mic, telling me why they left Venezuela.

CULVER: Six years old, he even speaks of Venezuelan economy as bad.

CULVER (voice-over): But as they share, disturbing memories surface.

CULVER: They're talking about, these are children mind you, having gone through the Darien and the bodies that they saw. He's describing seeing a blonde woman.

CULVER (voice-over): Sofia's pain as she remembers saying goodbye to loved ones.

CULVER: A little heartbreaking, the friendships that she's lost.

CULVER (voice-over): So much behind them, yet far from over. More than a thousand miles until the US border. David Culver, CNN, Tapachula, Mexico.


HARRAK: And as the UK seeks a solution to its own migrant crisis, the British Home secretary says the influx of asylum seekers poses an existential challenge to her country, and to the West as a whole. This year alone, nearly 24 thousand people have been detected crossing the English Channel from mainland Europe. The Conservative politician says it's proof the UN Refugee Convention isn't working for modern times.


SUELLA BRAVERMAN, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: Let me be clear, there are vast swathes of the world where it is extremely difficult to be gay or to be a woman. Where individuals are being persecuted, it is right that we offer sanctuary. But we will not be able to sustain an asylum system if, in effect, simply being gay or a woman or fearful of discrimination in your country of origin is sufficient to qualify for protection.


HARRAK: Joining me now from Houston, Texas, is CNN European Affairs Commentator Dominic Thomas. Dominic, a very good day. What is the Home secretary advocating here?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: The Home secretary essentially came to the United States to speak to an audience that are already converted when it comes to the kinds of questions that she is talking about here. And I think it's important to separate what we may describe as a crisis-like situation in the United States or on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and the situation in the UK.

What we have here is a Home secretary who is instrumentalizing the question of immigration for political gain, and the pillars that she is clinging to here, in order to foster this kind of fear-like situation have to do with, on the one hand, using rhetoric that the UK is being invaded. Secondly, that this represents a civilizational challenge to the UK, who are being, supposedly, overwhelmed by the latest, quote, "Waves of migration", to use her languages.

And that international treaties are not assisting in this particular process, in other words, they are not going along with potential UK rhetoric or violations of the law as they try to implement their policies.

HARRAK: Now Dominic, why is the home secretary making her case for a major reform of the UN Refugee Convention in Washington, and not in London?

THOMAS: Yeah, that's a great point. I think that she has, once again, sympathetic ears in Washington who are willing to listen to her. I think that acting like this on the international stage is a way of bolstering her own credentials. The Conservative party, as we know, will have to face a general election within the next year.

They are unlikely to survive that election, and she is positioning herself as a far right person in her political party. And I think ultimately putting the government under pressure by heightening her foreign policy credentials, by traveling abroad, and by speaking to these issues to try to bring attention to these particular questions, where in the UK now, these sorts of issues are falling on deaf ears for the most part.

HARRAK: Now, the UN agency issued a statement defending the global rules on asylum, saying in part that where individuals are at risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it is crucial that they are able to seek safety and protection. A lot of the focus of the Home secretary's speech, Dominic, was on the definition of who is a refugee.

THOMAS: Yeah, and that extends to who is a migrant? Who is a refugee? Who is an asylum seeker? And not only does she inflate numbers, but she confuses the particular issue. In some particular cases, not even being clear, as far as she's concerned, on whether people are economic migrants who have different rights, versus those who are refugees.


And here once again, she is instrumentalizing the question of sexual orientation of gender, as a way of appealing to the divisive rhetoric around culture wars.

And these particular issues are being heavily denounced by international organizations, who see these as a crucial component. Refugees or asylum seekers trying to make the case for acceptance in a particular country and seeking real persecution in their countries of origin.

LAILA HARRAK, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, Dominic Thomas. Thank you so much.

THOMAS: Thank you.

HARRAK: And still to come, a look at Wagner's operations in the Central African Republic and who could be running operations there after Yevgeny Prigozhin's death.


HARRAK: The speaker of Canada's House of Commons has resigned after what he calls profound regret for his mistake.

On Friday, Anthony Rota praised a 98-year-old Ukrainian and Canadian veteran who fought during World War II. The human rights and Jewish organizations pointed out that the man actually served in a Nazi military unit.

The recognition came during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident deeply embarrassing.

A senior U.S. defense official says it has not seen a withdrawal of Wagner forces from Africa in any substantial or meaningful numbers, after former Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin died in a plane crash last month.

But as the Kremlin tries to get its arms around Wagner's sprawling commercial network on the continent. It's still unclear who is heading the operations there.

CNN's Clarissa Ward explains reports on the man who may be the new Wagner leader in the Central African Republic.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind this door, we are expecting to find Dmitry Syty, one of Wagner's bosses in the Central African Republic.

"Access strictly forbidden to all people who don't work here," the sign warns. Our knock goes unanswered, and shortly after, we are told to leave the building.

We came back to the heart of Yevgeny Prigozhin's empire in Africa to see how his death had changed things, and found two of his lieutenants still running the show. Vitali Perfilev is in charge of the security piece, while Syty runs

the commercial side. Syty likes to keep a low profile these days, which is not surprising, given that he's survived a mail bomb attack here in December, 2022.

After the attack, locals began to wear T-shirts in support of him, a sign of Wagner's entrenched popularity here.

We first met Syty back in 2019. Officially, he was acting as a translator. But documents showed he was the head of a now-defunct Wagner-owned company called Lobaye Invest, and that he had started working with Prigozhin to influence U.S. elections in the so-called troll factory back in 2016.

Educated in Paris and fluent in French, English, and Spanish, Syty later created the Russian cultural center in Bongi (Ph), which investigative group The Sentry says Wagner uses as a front to sell its gold and diamonds to VIPs and manage its timber and alcohol operations.

The center is one of the last places Prigozhin was photographed alive, seen here with Syty standing by him. We filmed covertly at the cultural center, where a woman who called herself Nafisa Kiriyanova told us that Prigozhin's death has not changed the status quo.

NAFISA KIRIYANOVA, HEAD OF RUSSIAN CULTURAL CENTER, BANGUI: So the mission continues to be, the Russians cultural house continues to be.

WARD: And so Dmitry doesn't have that job anymore?

KIRIYANOVA: Why not? He is responsible for the whole mission. He runs this job. He runs some other directions.

WARD: OK, OK, OK. So it's all the all the same people, basically?



WARD (voice-over): In a rare and recent interview with Russian media, Syty says he hopes the mission will not change.

DMITRY SYTY, WAGNER DIRECTOR (through translator): If we start to retreat, then everything that has been built will also crumble. This is our chance. We're now looking for new friends, partners, new markets. Africa is a chance for Russia.

WARD (voice-over): Over the weekend, video emerged of a ceremony to commemorate the death of Prigozhin. "Prigozhin, best friend of Central Africans," a banner reads, as Wagner security chief Vitali Perfilev looks on.

One month after his death, Prigozhin's lieutenants are still standing, watching over his empire.

Calista Ward, CNN, Bangui. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRAK: And still to come, a landmark lawsuit gets underway soon involving dozens of European governments. Why they're being accused of climate inaction by some very young plaintiffs.


HARRAK: The Hollywood Writers Union is giving its members permission to go back to work, even before they vote on that tentative new agreement.

The boards of the Writers Guild have declared that their months-long strike will officially end in the coming hours. But union members will vote next week, and could still refuse to ratify it.

Well, the tentative deal goes through May 2026 and includes pay increases, better benefits, protections against artificial intelligence, including that A.I. cannot write or re-write literary material, and compensation for streaming programming.

But settling the writers' strike is just one part of getting Hollywood back to work. The actors union is also striking but has not reached an agreement with the studios yet.


Six young people from Portugal have accused dozens of European countries of climate negligence. Their landmark lawsuit gets underway at Europe's top human rights court in the next few hours. They're seeking a legally-binding verdict that could force governments to act. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz explains.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Destructive hurricanes, widespread fires, massive floods. Scientists say catastrophes like these are becoming more common because of climate change.

Now, six young Portuguese, including Andre and Sofia Oliveira are taking 32 countries to court. They want the E.U., Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the U.K. to act faster.

SOFIA OLIVEIRA, SUING OVER CLIMATE INACTION (through translator): We need you to do a better job. I've noticed that climate change has a big impact on my life.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Their case is being heard this week, but the buildup started six years ago, after the 2017 fires in central Portugal, the country's deadliest.

More than 250 people were injured and 66 killed, many of those, unable to escape when the flames reached this stretch of road, died trapped inside their cars.

The tragedy spurred the applicants into action, especially some, who like Catarina, lived close to the area most affected by the fires.

CATARINA MOTO, SUITING OVER CLIMATE CHANGE (through translator): None of our family houses burned down or anything like that, but we obviously felt it, and we could increasingly feel the impacts of climate change in our summers.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Catarina and others say climate change is already having a negative impact on their lives and are asking the European Court of Human Rights to protect them. A true David versus Goliath case, but their lawyer believes they have a shot.

GEAROLD O CUINN, FOUNDER, GLOBAL ACTION NETWORK: We believe this is an opportunity, of course, that they should take, and we're optimistic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they will recognize the opportunity and the demand that states do more to avert climate catastrophe.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): A win would legally bind countries to take action on climate change. But even if they lose, Catarina is happy they've been able to raise awareness.

MOTO (through translator): This entire process has been very positive, and we've been able to achieve a lot. If the court outcome is positive, that would be the cherry on top.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): A cherry in the form of government action, to secure a future that doesn't look like this.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


HARRAK: I'm Laila Harrak. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. But first, WORLD SPORT starts after the break.