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Olaf Scholz Sworn in as German Chancellor; South African Study Says Omicron Variant Partially Evades Pfizer Vaccine; Video: Boris Johnson Had Party during Lockdown; France Frees Mistaken Khashoggi Suspect; Pfizer Says Booster Protects against Omicron; U.K. and Australia Join Boycott of Winter Games; Japanese Billionaire Arrives at ISS. Aired 10-10:40a ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 10:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The first look at how vaccines may protect us from the Omicron variant. What the initial studies are telling

us -- just ahead.

Also, Angela Merkel passes the baton after 16 years. We'll look back at the legacy she leaves behind.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the prime minister think he has the moral authority to lead?

KINKADE (voice-over): The British prime minister under fire after a leaked video shows staff is joking about an apparent Christmas party held during

COVID lockdown.



KINKADE: Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade in Atlanta, filling in for Becky Anderson. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.

We'll get the latest developments on the Omicron variant in a moment. First, it's the end of an era for the world's most powerful woman. Moments

ago Angela Merkel passed the baton after 16 years at the helm.

Before she left, her successor offered her flowers and kind words. Merkel is handing the reins to Olaf Scholz, the former finance minister, who faces

a long list of challenges as the head of Europe's largest economy, including immigration, COVID and the environment.

He's also got a lot to live up to. In her time, Angela Merkel was one of the voices of calm and reason. CNN's Fred Pleitgen takes a look at Angela

Merkel's legacy.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A farewell with the highest military honors. After more than 16 years in

office, Angela Merkel received the so-called Grand Tattoo ceremony of Germany's armed forces, a changing of the guard in German politics.

ANGELA MERKEL, FORMER CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): It is now up to the next government to find answers to the challenges that lie

ahead of us and to shape our future.

For that, dear Olaf Scholz, I wish you and the German government, led by you, all the very best, good fortune and best of success. I'm convinced

that we can continue to shape the future well if we don't succumb to discontent, envy and pessimism. Like I said elsewhere four years ago, get

to work with joy in our heart.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's the end of a political career that was never easy for Angela Merkel, often belittled in the male-dominated world of

German conservative politics.

"Mein Madchen," "my girl," is what legendary German chancellor Helmut Kohl called Angela Merkel as she rose through the party ranks.

Ralph Bollmann, who wrote the authoritative Merkel biography, says many rivals mistakenly failed to take her seriously enough.

RALPH BOLLMANN, AUTHOR: When they realized that a woman from the East is able to play this game of power, it was, too late, of course for them.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): When Angela Merkel became Germany's first female chancellor in 2005, her style was completely different than previous

chancellors: calm, quiet and reserved.

But what Merkel lacked in fiery rhetoric she made up for as a crisis manager, both during the Lehman collapse in 2008 and the Greek debt crisis

in 2012. She took bold action to prop up the German economy and ailing E.U. member states, possibly saving the single currency, the euro.

MERKEL (through translator): Europe will pay if the euro fails and Europe will win if the euro wins.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Arguably, Angela Merkel's biggest hour came in 2015, as hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly displaced by the Syrian

civil war, were literally on the E.U.'s doorstep, seeking shelter. Angela Merkel led the E.U. as it opened its gates, taking in well over a million


MERKEL (through translator): We have achieved so much, we'll manage this and, wherever something gets in the way, we will overcome it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But integration of the refugees proved more difficult, giving rise to nationalist forces in Germany.

While Angela Merkel did manage to win a fourth term in 2017, her popularity was waning and she announced she would not seek a fifth one. Still, the

challenges kept coming, with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in 2016 and Trump's alienation of many of the U.S.' allies.

Merkel, a quantum chemist, often appeared stunned by some of the U.S. president's remarks.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have German in my blood. I'll be there.



PLEITGEN (voice-over): Angela Merkel led Germany through the coronavirus pandemic but her party's support collapsed in the final months of her


Her Christian Democratic Party lost the 2021 elections, paving the way for a Social Democratic-led government, which will take power after Angela

Merkel's final political goodbye.


KINKADE: Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Berlin.

After 31 years in politics and 16 years leading Germany, Merkel retires and the vice chancellor now stepping in.

What can we expect from him?

PLEITGEN: About an hour ago, Angela Merkel gave the reins to Scholz. They both said we worked together for an extended period of time. So you can

expect there to be a good deal of continuity and stability.

Angela Merkel generally talked about what it means to be a chancellor and what the responsibility of that entailed. I want to listen to what she said

as she was handing off power to Scholz.


MERKEL (through translator): I know from my own experience that it's an emotional moment to be elected to this office. You may have guessed that

it's an exciting, fulfilling task and also a demanding task.

But if you approach it with joy, then it's perhaps also one of the most beautiful tasks there is to bear responsibility for this country. I

sincerely wish you all the best in this work and always a happy hand for this country.


PLEITGEN: Angela Merkel there, wishing the best of success to her successor, Olaf Scholz. And the biggest task at hand right now is fighting

the coronavirus pandemic. You can see that cooperation between Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz, met with state authorities a couple of days ago and

put in place tougher measures to combat the pandemic.

So you could see the old government and new government trying to ensure there is a steady flow of the work that needs to be done to combat the


The other thing from Olaf Scholz that is important, he's a true and very deep believer in strong transatlantic relations and is a big fan, actually,

of President Joe Biden and the way President Biden of the United States has been conducting himself.

He said yesterday he really values that new multilateralism that President Biden brought back to the United States in working with its NATO allies in

Europe and here, especially when it comes to the situation there in the east of Ukraine, with those Russian troops, of course, amassing there.

So I think strong transatlantic relations will be a staple of this new government. Also when it comes to the new German foreign minister, the

first female foreign minister here in this country, who is also very tough on Russia, Lynda?

KINKADE: Certainly a lot of challenges for the new chancellor in Germany. Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

We are getting our first look at how the current coronavirus vaccines may fare against the Omicron variant. Pfizer and BioNTech say a booster shot

will protect people against Omicron based on early lab studies. Take a listen to the Pfizer CEO.


ALBERT BOURLA, PFIZER CEO: Three doses against Omicron are almost equivalent to the two doses' effectiveness we had against the wild type

original variant. This is very good news, preliminary because we're waiting to see more data, more accurate data with the -- more accurate assays that

will come in a week or two and then of course we are (INAUDIBLE) data.

But so far, looks like a third booster improves dramatically the efficacy of the (INAUDIBLE).


KINKADE: Researchers are coming out with similar findings in South Africa where the variant was first discovered. CNN's David McKenzie has been

connecting us with that part of story and joins us live from Johannesburg.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, these are early results. We must stress that but they found, while there was significant dropoff in the

immune response to the Pfizer vaccine in particular with this new variant, it wasn't a total collapse of that response.

And the lead researcher -- we were in their lab earlier this year when they were studying the Beta variant -- doing challenge tests on this live virus

in the lab, said he saw this as good news because it could have been a scenario that there was no immune response whatsoever to a standard

complement of the Pfizer shots.


MCKENZIE: And then also, they expect that a prior infection and vaccination should give more robust response. That is important to note, as

the Pfizer CEO said, this is not all to be told in the lab. It's about real world results.

And also, scientists have been stressing to me for many months that the body has a variety of ways to respond to viruses; it's not just about

antibody response. So there could be broader protection with these vaccines.

Still, we don't know yet how Omicron will work or evade the other vaccines on the market. But it is certainly, I think, positive news this isn't the

catastrophe that at first was feared. Lynda?

KINKADE: It certainly is -- does give people hope they can get the vaccine and boosters.

In terms of the cases in South Africa, they were initially soaring.

What's the situation right now?

MCKENZIE: Well, cases are still rising very quickly. The positivity rate has sort of plateaued for the moment. And the epicenter of this wave, at

least for now, is here where I'm sitting in Gauteng province.

There is a sense still from clinicians, Lynda -- and I must stress it is early days -- of several people I've spoken to over the last few days do

say that they are still seeing relatively mild disease from this variant.

And they are seeing that the prior vaccination is protecting people from severe disease in their estimation. But we have to be very careful of

drawing too many conclusions too quickly while the entire world wants to know just how bad this variant is. It could take several weeks.

But I have to say also, with the clinical side of the picture, which is ultimately the most important side, at this stage, they are believing that

it's certainly, in their view, not more severe than previous variants. And possibly there is good news to come.

The rise in cases hasn't yet been met by a rise in hospitalizations and many of those people in hospital are not on oxygen. But again, I think we

have to wait two to three weeks, even up to a month, to know for sure whether there is some good news out of this troubling variant. Lynda?

KINKADE: Yes, still early days since that variant was discovered. David McKenzie, thank you.

"I apologize unreservedly," that's from the British prime minister Boris Johnson. Saying he's sorry for any offense caused by a controversial leaked

video. The footage obtained by ITV News shows Downing Street senior staff joking about an apparent Christmas party held during last year's COVID

lockdown. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've just seen reports from (INAUDIBLE) that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night.

Do you recognize this?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- party of cheese and wine (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just be careful (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was cheese and win all right?

It's a business meeting.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this recorded?

It's a fictional party. It was a business meeting. And it was not socially distanced.


KINKADE: Well, that footage has sparked a political firestorm. A short time ago, Mr. Johnson said he had been repeatedly assured that there was no

party and that no COVID rules were broken. But the prime minister's now launched an investigation.

That didn't stop state of emergency British lawmakers from voicing fierce anger at the prime minister, especially the British opposition Labour

leader, Keir Starmer.


KEIR STARMER, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: This virus isn't defeated. We're going to face other tests, where the British people may be asked by their leaders

to make further sacrifices for the greater good.

Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she had been married to for 73 years. Leadership, sacrifice; that's what gives

leaders the moral authority to lead.

Does the prime minister think he has the moral authority to lead and to ask the British people to stick to the rules?


KINKADE: News of the party caused outrage across the country, especially among those who lost loved ones and were forced to abandon their own

Christmas plans. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is joining us live now from Downing Street.

And what an absolute fiasco. You have everyone in Britain, trying to follow the rules, and people in government, flouting them and thinking it's a

joke, while people are dying of COVID.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lynda, this is definitely a watershed moment for this country. Millions of people have seen that video you played

out, where seemingly these aides are mocking restrictions and are sarcastically talking about enjoying a party, allegedly, that could have

taken place on December 18th, according to affiliate ITV for CNN.

And you can imagine the anger and frustration this has led to. There are reports since last week essentially of a party. But this was really the

nail in the coffin. This video playing out again to millions of people across this country, making them feel that the rules simply don't apply to

those in power.

So it was the first thing that the prime minister addressed today when he walked into Parliament today for prime minister's questions. And this is

what he had to say.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: May I begin by saying that I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing Number 10

staff, seeming to make light of lockdown measures.

And I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people, who have been setting the rules, have not been following the rules, Mr.

Speaker, because I was also furious to see that clip.

And Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I apologize unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up and down the country and apologize for the impression that

it gives. But I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that I have been repeatedly assured, since these allegations emerged, that there was no party and that no COVID

rules were broken.


ABDELAZIZ: Now the prime minister has again denied any knowledge of a party taking place on Downing Street. The prime minister also denied any

COVID rules were broken but did promise an investigation.

But in the court of public opinion, the decision is made and very few people believe the prime minister and very few people trust the prime

minister. We can say quite fairly this is quite a scandal-prone administration under Boris Johnson.

But I want to paint you a picture of what was going on in the country at that time to understand the level of frustration. When this alleged

incident took place on December 18th, this country was under tier 3 restrictions. That means no mixing indoors.

There was a variant that was sweeping through this country like wildfire; hundreds of people were dying every single day of COVID-19.

On December 19th, the day after this alleged incident, the prime minister took to the airwaves and essentially cancelled Christmas across the

country. So everyone will remember that period in time and calling their families and telling their parents they won't see them that weekend.

People who are bereaved will remember that their loved ones were in the hospital dying of COVID-19 and they couldn't reach them. It is hard to

separate that public consciousness from this moment.

And this could very well turn into a moment in which you watch prime minister Boris Johnson fight for his survival within his own party and

across this country.

KINKADE: Yes, and I want to ask a bit more about that.

Politically what sort of fallout could we see?

What could this mean for prime minister Boris Johnson?

You mentioned an investigation will be launched.

What will that entail?

ABDELAZIZ: Well, there is a few different layers here to this and that's why it's quite complicated.

First, the guidance and the restrictions: the prime minister is yet to verify this video took place. We're still in a situation where the

government say they need to investigate this video. So this is still a contested matter and, yes, while you see that video of them sarcastically

mocking this party, it is not video of the party itself.

So the allegation still stands as an allegation. And the prime minister still needs to launch an investigation and we need to find out what

happened. That's the first step.

And if that incident took place, what rules were broken and were the rules guidance or is there a legal violation there?

Is there laws being broken?

That will be the other question.

Then he'll also face tests within his own party. That's the question.

Will the Conservative Party, his own party, continue to back the prime minister in the middle of this scandal?

Those will all lead to what I imagine will be truly, again, Lynda, a fight for the prime minister's survival and a fight in the court of public


KINKADE: Exactly. We'll stay on this story. Salma Abdelaziz, outside 10 Downing Street, thanks very much.

France has released a Saudi man after mistaking him for one of the suspects in the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi. French police detained the man at

De Gaulle airport Tuesday but officials said he was not the same person being sought by Turkey. They did an identity check and agreed.


KINKADE: Khashoggi was the Saudi journalist who was killed after going into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

They call space the final frontier. But if you've got a few million dollars in the bank, it's not that far away. Coming up, how one Japanese

billionaire got a ride into space.

Plus, more on the research being done on vaccines versus the Omicron variant. We'll hear of what the Pfizer chief executive and the chief

scientific officer told CNN a little earlier.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

We're learning that two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine may not provide sufficient protection against Omicron but the companies say a third

dose will help significantly. Even with the two doses, there is some protection. CNN asked Pfizer's chief scientific officer to clarify.


MIKAEL DOLSTEN, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, PFIZER: What we really need is data coming from observation of studies on large number of patients that

aren't vaccinated two doses and are exposed and with such data is gathering.

What we can only say is that the T cell response is still active at 80 percent -- the vaccine sequence seems to still cover the relevant responses

for Omicron.

But for your antibody response, which plays a critical role to prevent infection and symptomatic disease, it's down with two doses quite a lot. If

you get your third boost, it rises 25-fold, very dramatic.


KINKADE: So two doses, good; three, even better. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

What should we make of the preliminary lab studies from the Pfizer and BioNTech company?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Lynda, let's put this study into context. What is nice about it is that it actually jives well

with two other pieces of information we have. It jives well with the South African researchers found in their labs. That was announced yesterday and

also with what South African doctors are finding when they take care of their patients vaccinated and get infected with Omicron.

So it's nice we have three different sets of data that all agree with each other. The bottom line, it's to some extent we can have a sigh of relief.

People thought Omicron could be very, very resistant to the vaccine. And it turned out that is not the case.


COHEN: So certainly, I know I felt better each time I heard a piece of data and I think we should all feel better and all do what we're supposed

to do, which is get vaccinated and if enough time has passed, get the booster.

Let's look specifically at what these studies have found. These are preliminary studies in the lab. They tell us two doses may not provide

sufficient protection against infection with Omicron. In other words, if you had two doses, you might get infected with Omicron.

That might not be a big deal because you might not get very sick, which leads us to the second point. Two doses may still give significant

protection against severe disease.

I talked to the head of the South Africa lab that did that work that was announced yesterday. He used the word "significant." He thinks two doses of

Pfizer will give significant protection against severe disease. That's what he thinks from his work. And a third dose may give more robust protection.

That's what the Pfizer folks say, is their work shows a third dose may give more significant protection.

So the rule is get your vaccine, which you should have done a long time ago, and if a booster is available to you and enough time passed since your

original vaccine, go and get yourself a booster. It will be even better.

I talked about that third piece of information, what South African doctors are seeing when they take care of their patients with Omicron. Let's listen

to the head of -- the chair of the South African Medical Association.


DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, NATIONAL CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION; I need to stress, for now, it still protects against severe disease and as

the disease patterns what we are seeing are mild on these people that's been vaccinated.


COHEN: Now given that this variant has so many mutations on the spike protein, I think there was a lot of fear it would be way worse. This is way

better than I think many people thought. Lynda?

KINKADE: And even the South African study team certainly said the same thing, they expected it to be a lot worse and the findings are actually

good news, right?

COHEN: That is. So this variant, we pointed out that the spike protein, which is the important part of the virus, where it infects you and gets

into your cells, there were 30 mutations on the spike protein. That's not good. You want as few as possible. And they have 30 in that important


So there was thinking, gee, will the vaccine do much of anything?

So the fact it can protect against severe disease is really important.

KINKADE: Finally, if you've already had two shots, how long after the second shot should you get the booster?

COHEN: I think different countries have different pieces of advice. So you need to follow the rules where you are. In the United States, it's six

months past your second shot. Some researchers think maybe it should be earlier than that, maybe six months is too long. It will be interesting to

see if that timeframe gets shortened.

KINKADE: All right. We will see. Elizabeth Cohen, as always, great to have you on the show. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

KINKADE: Other coronavirus stories on our radar.

China reporting a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 on the eastern coast. Zhejiang province has reported nine locally transmitted cases in the past two days.

There is a lockdown in one district and mass testing. That's the same city that saw a major outbreak linked to an airport back in July.

That seems like nothing compared to South Korea, which reported a record number of New Delhi cases on Tuesday, almost 7,200. The number of patients

in critical condition also set a record. This despite 83 percent of the country being fully vaccinated.

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, are urging more people to get vaccinated. The royal couple issued a statement marking one

year since the U.K. administered the world's first approved COVID-19 vaccine. The country has administered now almost 120 million doses.

Still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, a trip to outer space may seem like a once in a lifetime opportunity. But we'll introduce you to one man, that

says his amazing journey won't be his last.

Also ahead, two U.S. allies join a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Will others follow?

The new report from Hong Kong ahead.





KINKADE: Welcome back. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Good to have you with us.

Britain is following the U.S. call for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not send government

ministers to the games that begin in less than 60 days. That's following Australia's announcement of a diplomatic boycott today.

Other allies are weighing similar moves to protest China's human rights record. I want to bring in senior international correspondent Ivan Watson,

who joins us from Hong Kong.

More and more countries announcing a diplomatic boycott of the games to protest human rights abuses.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Biden administration announced this from Washington on Tuesday and now we have

two more governments joining on board the diplomatic boycott wagon. Take a listen to how the Australian prime minister made his announcement earlier



SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia consistently raised. We've

been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues. And there's been no obstacle to that occurring on our side.

But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues. So it's not surprising

therefore that Australian government officials would therefore not be going to China for those games. China athletes will, though.


WATSON: Beijing is not happy with this. Part of the rebuttal is, well, we didn't invite you anyway. Take a listen what the spokesperson for the

Chinese foreign ministry had to say.


WANG WENBIN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): China has not invited any Australian government officials to the Beijing

Winter Olympics. Whether they come or not, nobody cares. Australian politicians, political posturing and selfish games will not impact

Beijing's success in hosting the Winter Olympics.


WATSON: The Chinese government said the Olympics will be a success and have also threatened counter measures. We're not sure whether they might

be. Los Angeles is set to host the Summer Games in 2028. And Brisbane, Australia, in 2032, presumably the Chinese government would want its

counter measures before then.

But this is part of a larger conversation that the Chinese government doesn't want to have in the run-up to the Winter Games, discussion of its

human rights record, discussion of the crackdown that's been taking place for years in the Xinjiang region.

And compounding that the question of the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, whose very whereabouts and freedom are in question.


WATSON: Peng accused a former senior Chinese government official of sexual harassment, prompting the Women's Tennis Organization to withdraw from all

of its tournaments in China.

It's different from the Olympic issue but it's part of a bigger discussion that China does not want to have, since it seized these sports events as

chances to show off being a major host and also athletics within China and achievements there. Lynda?

KINKADE: We'll wait and see if Olympians, if athletes speak out about the human rights abuses when the games happen.

I want to ask you Ivan, about the investment. Australia, of course, and the U.S. have seen a lot of alignment when it comes to countering China and

certainly a lot of investment in terms of the military and the joint operations that they have.

WATSON: Yes, some months ago we reported on the submarine deal which attracted a lot of controversy with France but also the Chinese don't like

that. The Chinese government doesn't like when other governments kind of unite to challenge it.

And there is an awful lot of rhetoric against so-called "cliques" or "clubs," as China puts it. And Australia has been working in lockstep with

the U.S. government on a number of different fronts.

China has already had a very tense bilateral relationship with Australia, going back several years, implementing economic boycotts on Australian

goods that hurt the Australian economy.

Those measures don't seem to have stopped Australia from its position of challenging China here, when it comes to the Olympics sphere, on an issue

of human rights.

And a big question is going to be will other countries follow suit?

Canada, perhaps, which sends a lot of athletes to the games -- and you raised a very important point, Lynda. China strictly controls speech and

public expression with very strict control within China and online in China.

What will the government do if athletes decide to speak up in a way that the government does not like?

That's going to be a big question in the weeks and months ahead.

KINKADE: Yes, no doubt they're nervous about that. Ivan Watson, in Hong Kong, good to have you with us. Thank you.

Meanwhile, Russia says it does not want confrontations with anyone a day after U.S. President Joe Biden voiced deep concerns over the military

buildup at its border with Ukraine.

Sources say Tuesday's two-hour video call with Russian president Vladimir Putin was tense at times. National security advisor Jake Sullivan had this



JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president was crystal clear about where the United States stands. As we pursue diplomatic

channels, we will also prepare for all contingencies, just as we have been doing for weeks now, including through the preparation of specific

responses to Russian escalation, should they be required; specific, robust, clear responses, should they be required.

As President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now.


KINKADE: President Putin today blamed NATO, saying it's pursuing a confrontational policy with Russia. The Kremlin is demanding guarantees

that NATO would not expand further eastward. It comes as Ukraine's president also weighs in. Volodymyr Zelensky says he considers Tuesday's

talks between the U.S. and Russia leaders positive.

We are going to take a quick break. Stay with us.





KINKADE: Well, sending billionaires into space looked like so much fun, one Japanese man had to do it, too. He just arrived at the International

Space Station a little earlier -- and these are live pictures. No word yet on what the trip cost him. But there is word the fare was more than $50


I'm guessing that's a bargain because the billionaire wants to do it again. Blake Essig reports.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Move over Bezos and Branson. There's a new billionaire in space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: MS-20 with two Japanese space flight participants.

YUSAKU MAEZAWA, JAPANESE FASHION TYCOON (through translator): The first thing I think I will do when I get to ISS is to use the toilet because it

will be a long journey.

ESSIG (voice-over): That is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion tycoon who, Forbes says, is worth about $1.9 billion and will spend the next 12 days

on board the International Space Station.

MAEZAWA (through translator): I never thought I would be able to go to space but I have always had the love of stars and celestial bodies. I

cannot express how happy I feel for this opportunity and it feels like my dream has finally come true.

ESSIG (voice-over): For the past several months, the eccentric billionaire has been preparing for that moment. He's tried on space suits, attempted to

learn Russian and trained in near zero gravity.

MAEZAWA (through translator): The part that I struggled with was the spinning chair.

ESSIG (voice-over): All the while documenting his experience for his hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers, a shared experience that

won't stop now that he's left Earth. That's because the 46-year old didn't make the trip alone. He brought along a videographer to document the

journey and inspire a generation.

MAEZAWA (through translator): I hope to be able to send a message that, if you keep chasing your dreams, one day, you will accomplish them.

ESSIG (voice-over): And it won't be his last space odyssey. In 2023, he's set to take the giant leap, becoming the first civilian passenger on the

SpaceX moon trip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yusaku Maezawa, please come forward.

ESSIG (voice-over): And, true to his nonconformist, big spender style, the former rock band drummer bought not one but all of the seats on board Elon

Musk's spacecraft and is offering eight spots, free of cost, for that trip around the moon.

MAEZAWA: I choose to go to the moon.

ESSIG (voice-over): Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.