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"Nonstop" Shelling by Russians at Mariupol Steel Plant; Six Injured in Missile Strike in Eastern Ukraine; Ukrainian Nurse Who Lost Legs in Blast Dances with Husband; Beijing Residents Undergo Mass Testing; Iranian FM Asks Sweden to Release Former Iranian Official; Russia Stepping Up Attacks on Ukrainian Infrastructure; E.U.'s Plan to End Russian Oil Imports Facing Roadblocks; Amber Heard Takes the Stand. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 10:00   ET





ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And you are listening to Ukrainian soldiers singing the battle hymn of the Ukrainian

army as battle rages outside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.


GIOKOS (voice-over): And --


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: You can see just in the length of this queue here, the scale of the desperation that we are

talking about here. People fleeing Russian occupation, leaving this morning, a first flight from the city of Kherson.

GIOKOS (voice-over): These people have chosen exile rather than a life under Russian occupation, as Nick Paton Walsh finds out.


GIOKOS (voice-over): Plus --


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A dance in a hospital room - - watched more than a million times online -- viral because the 23-year-old bride is recovering from having both legs amputated.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Despite life-changing injuries, this Ukrainian bride says she is determined to walk down the aisle with prosthetic limbs.


GIOKOS (voice-over): I am Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Hello and welcome. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

"If there is hell in the world right now, it is inside the last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol."

Powerful words, from an adviser to the city's mayor. He describes nonstop shelling of the Azovstal steel plant. These extraordinary images reveal

what hundreds of women, children and elderly people trapped inside Azovstal have endured, a relentless bombardment by land, air and sea.

Ukraine says Russian forces were able to actually enter the plant's territory but were repelled by Ukrainian fighters inside. The Kremlin, for

its part, denies its troops broke into Azovstal, saying that there was no order to storm from President Putin.



GIOKOS (voice-over): We started the show with a song and we mentioned that earlier, these are Ukrainian soldiers, singing in the battle hymn of the

Ukrainian army. This is brand new video of troops holding out in the compound's underground bunker. And they say it is sweeter for us to die in

battle than to live in chains.

Russia meanwhile claiming today that it will open humanitarian corridors for civilians to evacuate Azovstal. But a commander inside the compound

says that Russia has already broken that pledge. About 100 civilians were able to leave the plant Sunday but none has emerged since.

As many as 300 people are still believe to be holed up inside.


GIOKOS: Meanwhile, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, missile strikes have left at least six people injured and seven buildings damaged, including a

kindergarten. CNN's Sam Kiley is there with the devastating aftermath and filed this report earlier.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kramatorsk was hit overnight with at least six missiles. Now they have had clearly a

devastating impact. This is a heating or a pumping station, sewage area. The size of the building would indicate that it was -- in no way could've

housed any kind of military equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I just got lucky. I went to the restroom. I heard a bang. I sat down on the bed and it hit me. And all the

furniture fell down.

KILEY: The scenes here are absolutely extraordinary, the way that these trees have been completely decapitated, torn to shreds. And the same goes

also for these homes. Now amazingly, very few people here, considering the scale of the damage, were injured and none were killed. There were 25

injured; six have been hospitalized. One is in a critical condition.

The reason for that is that at least two-thirds of the city of Kramatorsk have already left. But this, without any question, is yet another strike by

the Russians on a civilian residential area -- Sam Kiley, CNN, in Kramatorsk.



GIOKOS: Also in Eastern Ukraine, Russia continues to target the supply line that is putting weapons from the West into the hands of Ukrainian

forces. A regional Ukrainian officials say two missiles were fired at the city of Dnipro. One was shot down and the other caused damage to a railway

bridge and brought train traffic to a stop.

Meanwhile to the south, Ukrainians claim they have won back settlements along the border of Kherson. Hundreds of people have fled that city,

leaving their homes and lives behind after weeks of living under Russian occupation. Nick Paton Walsh spoke with some of them as they tasted freedom



WALSH (voice-over): The road to salvation here is a dusty track, where a few know the route and just follow the car in front.

Above the trees, a dust likely from fires caused by distant shelling. These are over 100 cars that have run the gantlet out of Kherson, the first city

Russia occupied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No school, no almost hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, it's terrible. There's so many Russians, military there.

WALSH: What do they do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They, at the moment they do nothing.

WALSH (voice-over): Eyes here tell of exhaustion, hours held at Russian checkpoints. The only emotion left after two months under the Russian gun,

a slight smile of freedom, the idea dawning that life under occupation is behind them, even if a life displaced by war is ahead.

WALSH: You can see just in the length of this queue here. The scale of the desperation that we're talking about here, people fleeing Russian

occupation, leaving this morning at first light from the city of Kherson, the first to be occupied by Russia at the start of the war. Some of them on

their fifth attempts to get out.

WALSH (voice-over): Something this time was different. It was easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WALSH (voice-over): "We left early when they were all asleep," she says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

WALSH (voice-over): "Goods have dried up. Everything is from Crimea," she adds.

Eddik (ph), in front, squeezed 10 in here.

WALSH: They're saying, "Here is good."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language)

WALSH: "And always shooting."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language)

WALSH: "We tried for a week to get out."

WALSH (voice-over): "We were just on the way to get out and they let us pass as human shields, when things were flying over us," she says. "It was


"Five attempts," Eddik (ph) said. "They didn't let us through. Just turned us around."

They fled a city where things were not going according to the Kremlin's plan; the sham referendum Russia planned to consolidate control never


And this weekend, almost at the moment when they introduced the Russian currency, the ruble, the Internet and cell service suddenly went off. For

even the youngest, the hope ahead is palpable.

"It was sad to leave," he says, "but where we're going will be better."

This is happening as villages and roads change hands daily here. These Ukrainian soldiers in the next village, anxious to not have their location

or faces shown.

"We evacuated 1,500 people over the last week," one said. "Kids, elderly; Russians led them through, if they say they're going to Kherson. Further

on, they drop off their cars, bikes and go on foot to our side."

Across the fields, the agony of Russia's blundering and senseless invasion pours out -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kochubeivka, Ukraine.


GIOKOS: A risky, uncertain and very difficult journey faced by so many.

Let's get back to our top story, the assault on the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Ukraine and Russia's denial, Russian troops have stormed in. And

we have Scott McLean following this from Lviv for us, joins us now live.

Scott, the commander in Azovstal says that this fierce fighting, as well as the broken truce. And what we have seen from earlier this week where we saw

some people able to escape through a corridor that was opened up to very different realities on the ground at this point.

MCLEAN: Exactly, there was so much optimism when those people, more than 100 civilians who had been trapped in that plant for more than two months,

finally were able to get out.


MCLEAN: But it was also a realization at that point that there were still hundreds more, who, for whatever reason, were not able to get out in that

first batch. And because the cease-fire had held for two days at least at that point, we figured that there would be another successful evacuation

mission to go back and get them.

But it is been several days now and that simply has not materialized.

The Russians offered yesterday, somewhat of an olive branch, promising that, today and tomorrow and Saturday, humanitarian corridors would be open

to allow civilians to get out from under the plant and that they would be able to go in whatever direction they chose, toward Russia or toward


Now we heard precious little for hours and that perhaps is reassuring because, on Sunday, when that successful operation, evacuation took place

we also heard radio silence because Ukraine and Russia officials did not want to jeopardize the success of that operation.

Now we're hearing from that Azovstal deputy commander who said that there is continued fighting at the plant, claiming that the Russians continue to

try to storm the plant by ground and that there are no signs at this point that any evacuations are going to be taking place, saying that the Russians

simply have broken their word.

GIOKOS: This is why there's so much urgency around dealing with Mariupol at this moment in time.

You know, watching how this has been playing out over the past few months has been incredibly moving. And we have been seeing the impact, life-

changing impact, specifically with regard to injuries. You have been covering some of these stories.

What have you learned from some of the people that have been sharing their experiences with you?

MCLEAN: Yes, so I spoke to a newlywed couple recently who just got married. And they are 23 years old, she is a 23-year-old nurse. He is also

23. And of course, when 23 year-olds think about their lives, they all often think they have all kinds of time to get married and to mark those

big life moments.

But when the bride lost four of her fingers on her left hand and both of her legs, the groom realized that, in war, you simply cannot take any time

for granted.


MCLEAN (voice-over): An unusual first dance -- newlyweds in a hospital room -- watched more than a million times online -- viral because the 23-

year-old bride is recovering from having both legs amputated. It's been barely a month since Oksana Balandina stepped on a landmine in her hometown

of Lysychansk.

OKSANA BALANDINA, NURSE AND DOUBLE AMPUTEE (from captions): I felt like I was flying in the air. I felt a terrible noise in my head. I fell to the

ground. My husband started calling an ambulance and I felt that my feet and my legs were in a hole. When I looked down, they were gone. I understood

everything. I didn't want to live anymore.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Oksana and her new husband Viktor have been together since they were teens. They have two children together. Marriage was always

in their plan someday but after the blast, Viktor decided that day was overdue. The pair got married in a civil ceremony and came back to their

hospital room for an impromptu reception.

BALANDINA (from captions): I had tears in my eyes. I was happy and joyful but I missed my legs.

VIKTOR VASYLIV, OKSANA'S HUSBAND (from captions): I was happy. Happy for myself, happy for her. She was happy. She wanted this for a long time. Not

under these circumstances but still.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The video was taken by a friend who posted it online. It's now been shared and reposted around the world.

VASYLIV (from captions): I knew that she was strong but I never thought she was as strong as she was these last five weeks.

MCLEAN (voice-over): She'll need a lot more strength. With her current treatment in Lviv, their kids are staying with their grandparents across

the country for the foreseeable future.

MCLEAN: How has it been for your kids?

VASYLIV (from captions): They were afraid to approach me. They understood their mother was in pain. That she could be missing something. That she had

no legs. It was stressful for them. But we told them that she will have other legs -- not real but different.

The next time they visited, they were already fighting over who will be the first to push their mother in her wheelchair.

BALANDINA (from captions): I am missing them very much.

VASYLIV (from captions): I am missing them very much. We are missing them.

MCLEAN: Why do your kids make you so emotional?

BALANDINA (from captions): We have never been apart for that long with them. And I'm like missing a part of myself.


MCLEAN (voice-over): In a few days, Viktor will take Oksana to Germany to be fitted for prosthetics. Soon, she hopes she'll be walking down the

aisle. They're already planning a formal church wedding with all of their friends and family. Until then, they hope that people take a small lesson

from their story.

BALANDINA (from captions): That life is wonderful. That you don't need to give up. That you have to fight for your life and grab your life because

life is a wonderful thing.


MCLEAN: The optimism there is amazing. Viktor says that the wedding was important so that Oksana knew that he was going to be committed to her, no

matter what.

But there was also a practical reason for the wedding and that was that they had to get married in order for Viktor to be able to accompany his now

disabled wife to Germany, to get those prosthetics fitted because, of course, right now, middle aged men are not allowed to leave the country.

GIOKOS: And I am sure Oksana had a very different approach to life before this war started. Thank you so much for bringing us that story, Scott. Much


Now ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, millions of Beijing residents are lining up for a sixth round of COVID testing. What the city is doing now to avoid a

crippling lockdown, like we saw in Shanghai.

And, what's happened to Madeleine McCann?

A German investigator thinks he might have some answers 15 years after she disappeared. That is all next.




GIOKOS: The global death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is nearly three times higher than reported. According to new estimates from the World

Health Organization, the agency believes nearly 50 million people have died worldwide either directly or indirectly from COVID. Most of those deaths

were in 10 countries, including the United States, over a two-year span, from 2020 to 2021.

A subdued Labor Day break is over in Beijing. And a sixth rounds of mass COVID testing is now underway. Nearly 20 million residents are getting

screened this week in an effort to curb the spread of COVID and avoid a Shanghai-style lockdown. Selina Wang is following the story for us in


Selina, good to see you. We are talking about intense lockdowns and shutdowns, quiet streets, is what we are hearing.

Can you give us a sense of the impact of these lockdowns in an effort to try to curb the spread?


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are talking about all of that in response to very low reported COVID case numbers. Beijing has, on average,

every day only reported about 50 new COVID-19 cases.

But in response to that we are seeing very aggressive tactics to try to contain that outbreak, they have effectively shut down the city's largest

district, home to important businesses and diplomatic areas. It's cutting off a lot of transportation networks as well as telling people to work from


The city is also rolling out its sixth round of mass testing of more than 20 million residents. According to CNN's calculations, just one day of mass

testing for Beijing is costing the city about $10 million.

They have indefinitely suspended in-restaurant dining, closures of large entertainment and sporting venues, continuing to shut down more buildings

and compounds where COVID cases have been fact.

Our team on the ground there says that the streets are eerily quiet and you can see fencing around COVID-19-hit areas. But really, the significance of

this in Beijing is that, if officials can quickly and effectively quash this outbreak while avoiding the chaos of Shanghai, that will be a strong

win for leadership to say, hey, our zero COVID strategy still works.

GIOKOS: All right, Selina, great to see you. Thank you so much for the update.

Now in a week that has seen the 15th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a German prosecutor says he is sure that the British

child, who vanished from a resort in Portugal in 2007, was killed by a suspect in the case, Christian Bruckner. He is yet to be charged.

Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told a Portuguese broadcaster this week that investigators had found, quote, "new evidence." CNN's Nada Bashir

joins me from London.

New evidence, 15 years later.

Do we know anything about what the prosecutor might have found?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly one of the most definitive statements with regard to the investigation that we have heard

from the German prosecutor over the course of this investigation.

This, is of course, one of the most high-profile cases of a missing child. We have heard from the German prosecutor, Hans Christian Wolters, speaking

to a Portuguese broadcaster on Tuesday.

His comment centered around the key suspect, Christian Bruckner, who you mentioned there. He not only said new evidence has been found, linking

Bruckner to Madeleine McCann's abduction but he is also sure that Bruckner killed Madeleine McCann.

This is one of the most significant developments we have heard over the course of this investigation. And he was careful to note that, while there

has been some new evidence, this was not necessarily forensic evidence. That has been a key line of interest. He was pressed on that in the

interview. Take a listen.


QUESTION: It is true that you find something belonging to Madeleine in the caravan of Christian Bruckner?

HANS CHRISTIAN WOLTERS, LEAD GERMAN PROSECUTOR: To the details of the investigations, I can not give you a comment.

QUESTION: But you can't deny, it can you?

WOLTER: I don't want to deny it.


BASHIR: Now the prosecutor there saying he does not want to deny it. That has picked up certainly a lot of interest. The investigation is, of course,

still ongoing. Bruckner is currently serving jail time in Germany. He is a convicted sex offender. But he has previously denied any involvement in the

Madeleine McCann abduction.

He has said that he was with his then girlfriend on the night that Madeleine was abducted but what was also significant about that interview

from the prosecutor was that he said he believed Bruckner has no alibi.

So another significant piece of evidence there over the course of this investigation. But this, as you mentioned, comes as the family of Madeleine

McCann marks 15 years since her disappearance.

Her parents issued a statement saying that this year is no harder but it's also no easier than the years before. They also spoke about closure, the

importance of getting answers.

And while these developments in the investigation are welcome, we have heard from the German prosecutor's office saying they do not believe that

Madeleine McCann is still alive.

So while this is a welcome development, this will be difficult news for Madeleine McCann's family.

GIOKOS: Well, Nadia, hopefully we are one step closer to uncovering this tragedy. Thank you so much.

Let's get you up to speed, now, on other stories that are on our radar.

Jerusalem police say they have arrested 21 people around clashes at the al- Aqsa mosque compound. The Palestinian Red Crescent says two people were taken to the hospital after being beaten by police. Today's confrontations

erupted on Israeli Independence Day.

Iran's foreign minister is calling for the release of a former Iranian official, who is standing trial in Sweden on charges of war crimes.


GIOKOS: The trial concluded Wednesday and a verdict is expected in July. The demand comes after Iranian media said this man, a Swedish Iranian

academic, jailed in Iran, will be executed by May 21st. He denies accusations of spying for Israel.

U.S. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to help tens of thousands of Afghan refugees become permanent U.S. residents. The proposed legislation

was included in a budget request last week for Ukraine aid.

If it passes, eligible Afghans could apply for a green card, which is a common path to U.S. citizenship.

Take a look at how markets are doing. Wall Street is trading, right now, in the red. And that is as investors come down from Wednesday's high. Look at

the Dow Jones, it's down almost 2 percent. U.S. stocks are much lower after posting the best day in two years.

That is when the Federal Reserve announced half a point rate hike, assuring investors that even bigger increases aren't being actively considered. That

is really important. Once you start unwinding the easing cycle, that is when investors get really worried.

And that is why we actually saw a little bit of a boost yesterday. But now, reality is sinking in. Much higher interest rates in the United States,

does mean less money in the market as well. A mixed picture in Europe as well as in Asia at this point in time.

You are watching CONNECT THE WORLD, live from Abu Dhabi. Still ahead, why a handful of E.U. sanctions say they cannot go along with a ban on Russian

oil imports, at least right now.

What Russia's foreign minister said about Adolf Hitler is impacting Israel's response to the Russian war on Ukraine.




GIOKOS: Welcome back. I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi and you are watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

Ukrainian forces have fought back Russians at that steel plant in Mariupol. That is according to an adviser to Ukraine's president. This is what the

last stand sounds like.



GIOKOS (voice-over): The sound of Ukrainian fighters singing their battle anthem. Officials report nonstop shelling and ongoing battles as they

negotiate for more civilians to leave.


GIOKOS (voice-over): Russia is stepping up attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure, bombing this railroad bridge in Dnipro.

Missiles hit a kindergarten in Kramatorsk. The Ukrainian military says, despite the shelling, it is holding back Russia's Donbas offensive and has

retaken villages in the north and the south.


GIOKOS: And now the E.U.'s plan to ban imports of Russian oil by year's end is hitting roadblocks. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said

they need longer transition periods than what is now envisioned.

And Bulgaria, which has had its Russian gas shipments suspended for refusing to pay rubles, may also seek an extension. The European Commission

president announced the proposed ban Wednesday, as a part of a sixth package of sanctions on Moscow. Anna Stewart is following the story for us

from London.

Anna, this was supposed to be a sixth round of sanctions, where E.U. countries came together to decide to put oil on the agenda. And we are

starting to see countries requesting extensions, others saying, if some countries can request extensions then we should be allowed to as well.

Does this bring at risk the entire sixth package that is on the table?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it definitely does. It's taken weeks for the E.U. Commission even to be able to make the proposal and as you say

within 24 hours the list of countries that either want a multi years, a very long extension or an exemption, is growing.

This is Hungary and Slovakia and the Czech Republic and we're bringing you a tweet from the prime minister yesterday, saying that they will have to

apply for an exemption before the capacity of oil pipelines from other countries increased and oil imports, the Czech Republic, are structured

from other sources, i.e., like other countries, they are saying that we need the nitty-gritty.

Where is the additional oil going to come from?

The current E.U. imports about 2.5 million barrels per day from Russia. And also, critically, how's it going to get to some of those landlocked

countries, which, obviously, cannot rely on ports?

They want more information. Meanwhile, as these talks drag on, they have been going on for weeks, now and investors have been eyeing up the

possibility of an oil embargo, those oil prices are elevated.

That means Russia's able to make hay while the sun shines, they get about $450 a day just from the E.U. for oil which really undermines the whole

point of this measure. Take a look.


URSULA VAN DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: So today, we will propose to ban all Russian oil from Europe.

STEWART (voice-over): Once unthinkable, a Russian oil embargo is now on the table. It would be a major acceleration of the current plan to end the

E.U.'s Russia energy addiction by 2027. And a significant escalation of sanctions against the Kremlin.

Oil exports account for 37 percent of Russia's export revenues. And the E.U. is its biggest oil customer, bringing it $95 billion in revenue last

year. But finding replacements for a quarter of the E.U.'s annual oil imports is no mean feat.

SIMONE TAGLIAPIETRA, SENIOR FELLOW, BRUEGEL: It is true certain countries like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates do have spare capacity. But

so far, the had senior, they are not so willing to put this spare capacity into the market.

And therefore, it will be very challenging to replace Russian oil in case of a European embargo.

STEWART (voice-over): Some E.U. members like Hungary and Slovakia, would be hit harder than others and have so far opposed an oil embargo.

ZOLTAN KOVACS, HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: The proposals, the announcement, we've seen on behalf of Brussels, is simply against Hungarian

national security, energy security and cannot be done if it's about Hungary.

STEWART (voice-over): Oil prices rose 38 percent between January and March, according to the WTO, adding pressure on to businesses, households

and at petrol pumps all over the world.

In an effort to bring those prices, down the U.S. and other IAEA member nations are releasing oil from emergency reserves, It is short term support

for prices but a longer term solution is needed. And even if Europe's supply could be produced elsewhere, a ban on oil might result in Russia


TAGLIAPIETRA: It is plausible that a reaction would be, for example, on cutting the supply of gas to Europe. Europe has options, to diminish its

reliance on Russian energy in the short term. It needs to put all these options on the table in order to be prepared for also what can be the worst

reaction from the Kremlin.

STEWART (voice-over): An embargo of Russian oil and gas could see a 3 percent drop in Europe's growth this year, according to the IMF, the shock

waves of war having far-reaching consequences across the continent.



STEWART: The question now is, where does the E.U. go from here?

They've made this big proposal, it's been weeks in the run-up to this. What do they do if three, four, maybe more countries refuse to sign up without a

lengthy extension or exemption?

Is this policy essentially dead in the water already?

Could some countries, like Germany, a major oil customer for Russia, go it alone and unilaterally decide they will not buy Russian oil anymore?

So far, they've been fairly insistent that they need to do this together as a bloc. And in that, case to bring some of these holdout countries like

Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, even Bulgaria, if they want to bring them on to the table, they will really have to give them more detail as to

where this spare oil capacity will come from, once they've decided not to accept any Russian oil.

And as of today, with OPEC+ meeting, that doesn't look like it's coming from the major oil producers, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, even though they

have the spare capacity. They are sticking to their guns and doing very small increases month by month.

GIOKOS: Such a good point, so much at risk. So economic impacts on one hand and then the sense of urgency and the loss of life on the other. Thank

you so much, Anna.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Israel has been hesitant to directly criticize the Russian president or his government. As Hadas Gold tells us,

Israel's stance is changing after Russia's prime minister said Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood.


HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Golan Heights, all tanks in what's known as the Valley of Tears remind Israelis

of the fierce battles fought here in the 1973 Yom Kippur war against Syrian forces.

Such memories hang heavy as Israel attempts to navigate a new and very complicated geopolitical situation.

GOLD: Israel's frontier with Syria is just through this valley. We can even see Syrian towns from where we are standing. We're more than 1,000

miles away from the war in Ukraine. But Israel's position on Russia's is heavily influenced (ph) by what is happening just over there.

GOLD (voice-over): Israel often carries out airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, something it seems as critical to its security. But as

Russia has expanded its military presence in the country in order to avoid unnecessary conflict between Russia and Israel, the two countries now have

a direct hotline.

Jonathan Conricus, a former Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, says the deconfliction mechanism is necessary because the Syrian battle space is so


JONATHAN CONRICUS, FORMER ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES SPOKESPERSON: Before an Israeli airstrike is conducted, there is a call to make sure that Russian

troops aren't in danger and Russian aircraft aren't operating in the area where the Israeli aircraft are.

GOLD (voice-over): But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Israel found itself in a tight diplomatic spot. It initially took a more cautious stance, to act

as mediator, worried about the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia and Ukraine and its freedom of action in Syria.

Although Israel has condemned the invasion, accused Russia of war crimes and has sent planeloads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it's been

criticized for not doing more.

But comments by Russian foreign ministry on Israel's most sensitive nerve, the Holocaust, drew one of the strongest Israeli reactions to date. And as

Russia has amped up even more absurd claims about Hitler having Jewish ancestry and Israel supporting neo-Nazis in Kyiv. The rhetorical war of

words could mean real on the ground consequences, on Israeli strikes in Syria and any possible future operations against an even bigger enemy:


CONRICUS: Russia has the ability to interfere with Israel's capabilities to defend itself and to negate Iranian military capabilities simply by

being present with their advanced weaponry in Syria.

GOLD (voice-over): But the pressure is growing, as many believe, Israel can afford those risks in order to be on the right side of history.

CONRICUS: Security is one, thing it's very important that we need to make sure that we are on the right side of our moral values and our commitments

to ourselves to freedom and to other democratic countries.

GOLD (voice-over): For, now the situation here on Israel's frontier with Syria is unchanged. But as the diplomatic tangles continue, it's not clear

how much longer that will last -- Hadas Gold, CNN, the Golan Heights.


GIOKOS: The agony and the ecstasy: players experience every emotion during a classic game of football in the Champions League semi-finals.

And a Russian cosmonaut is now in control of the International Space Station, hear what he had to say in a handoff transcending global tensions.





GIOKOS: There is a new leader aboard the International Space Station.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I relinquish control of the command of the space station to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept command. I accept command. Thank you (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

GIOKOS (voice-over): And just before he headed home to Earth NASA, astronaut Tom Marshburn handed the ceremonial key to Russian cosmonaut Oleg


He thanked Marshburn for his friendship. The handover ceremony is routine but it has special significance with the geopolitical tensions caused by

Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Marshburn and three crew members are on their way back from the space station right now. And they are due to splash down just over 12 hours from


Camaraderie outside of the confines of Earthly issues, great to see.

All, right so actress Amber Heard has testified for the first time in the defamation case filed by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. Heard took to the

stand on Wednesday and described the early days of the celebrity couple's romance. She told the court she endured both physical and sexual abuse

during the marriage.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, over a 2018 op-ed where she described herself as a victim of domestic abuse. In earlier testimony, Depp said he

has never struck a woman and that Heard was abusive toward him.