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Finnish Leaders Back NATO Membership; Ukraine Proposes Exchange for Injured Soldiers; North Korea Declares "Major National Emergency"; Thousands Attend Memorial for Slain Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh; Video Shows Russians Committing War Crime. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 10:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) regional security provider and will further stand for NATO as a future ally.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The leaders of Finland announce their support seeking NATO membership without delay. We

are live in Helsinki.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: This is the first time she has stood in this spot since 72 days ago she was dragged out from

the rubble here.

GIOKOS (voice-over): This woman knows that she is lucky after multiple Russian rocket attacks almost killed her. Although it is hard, she shares

her story of survival with Nick Paton Walsh.



GIOKOS (voice-over): Thousands of people attend the memorial procession for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot and killed on Wednesday.


GIOKOS: I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi, welcome. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

We begin with NATO's message to Finland: come on in. NATO's chief saying that the country would be, quote, "warmly welcomed if it applies for

membership." Finnish leaders say that it must happen without delay.

A short time ago, the country's foreign minister told the E.U. that Finland in NATO would be a good security move. Take a listen.


PEKKA HAAVISTO, FINNISH FOREIGN MINISTER: So Finland decided to apply (INAUDIBLE) Finland would strengthen the security and the stability of the

Baltic Sea region in northern Europe. We know there is a regional security provider and would further strengthen NATO as a future ally.

From NATO's perspective, Finland holds solid democratic credentials that meet NATO's membership criteria and has a strong and credible national

defense. But this (INAUDIBLE) with NATO.


GIOKOS: While this is a big shift for Finland, it has been neutral since World War II. Sweden is expected to follow its lead. Russia has warned both

countries against joining NATO.

Now Britain's defense minister Ben Wallace sat down with my colleague, Brianna Keilar, a short time ago. And she asked for his take on Russian

president Vladimir Putin, in the wake of this rush to join NATO's embrace. Take a listen.


BEN WALLACE, U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Before this conflict, prime ministers and presidents warned him that the consequence of doing this would see

probably more money on defense in the West.

And what we've seen is a huge number of increases in defense budgets right across the West. So people he would consider adversaries. He was warned he

would get more NATO, not less. He's got a 100,000 troops-plus on his borders in existing NATO countries and now he's got two new countries


All of the evidence was there from 2014 when he invaded illegally and annexed Crimea, that that's the consequence. And so this is his own making.

And I think to be clear, though, because Putin was trying to allege that NATO is sort of some independent country that goes around gobbling up other

countries, people choose NATO. NATO doesn't go around choosing them.

So when Sweden and Finland, countries that have historically been very neutral, are choosing to apply, if Sweden does apply, but certainly Finland

has said today to NATO, that's a real own goal by President Putin.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I know you said it is up to Putin to find his off-ramp but is it up to the west to create some room for that?

WALLACE: Well, I think we must be very clear about our position on Ukraine. Our position on Ukraine and why the international community has

come together to support Ukraine defend itself, is that what's more important than what they do with their choice of freedom is to protect

their freedom to choose their destiny.

Whether that's joining NATO, whether that's joining the E.U., whether that's staying neutral, all of those choices are for Ukraine to make. And

United Kingdom will support Ukraine with whatever choice it does. But it is not for us to dictate terms to Ukraine.

And I think that's something we've got to be really clear about. I think it would be wrong to dictate how far they should settle -- or not -- should

settle or whether they should settle at all.

That is for those people right now who are fighting to save their country to make that choice. We all stand by them because they share our same

values and they are suffering horrendous horrors at the hands of the Russians. But what they choose to do is a matter for Ukraine.


GIOKOS: There may be a way out for injured Ukrainian soldiers, holed up in the Azovstal steel plant. The deputy prime minister is offering to exchange

Russian prisoners of war for the safe passage of those injured troops. She says negotiations are still ongoing.


GIOKOS: The steel mill is the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, which Russia has virtually destroyed. In fact, the U.N. Human

Rights Commissioner says that thousands of people have lost their lives in the city since Russia invaded.

He adds more than 1,000 have been recovered from the city.


GIOKOS (voice-over): And take a look at these satellite pictures. It shows two of the pontoon bridges that Ukraine destroyed earlier this week. That

has affectedly stopped Russian troops from advancing in the Luhansk region.

A Russian civilian has reportedly been killed on Russian soil by cross border shelling from Ukraine. This is a first in the nearly 11-week-old

war. Ukraine is not commenting.

On the Ukrainian side, in Kharkiv, it was hit hard by Russian bombs. But Ukrainian troops have recaptured several towns in the area. According to

the U.K. defense ministry, Russia has withdrawn units from the region to regroup elsewhere. One Kharkiv resident returned to see the damage and told

her story to our Nick Paton Walsh.


WALSH (voice-over): Sometimes places that speak only of death throw up a jewel of life.

This is the first time Ayuna has stood in this spot since 72 days ago, she was dragged out from the rubble here. Her husband, Andrey, had been

scouring it, looking for her, for three hours.

She remembers the cupboard.

AYUNA MOROZOVA, MISSILE ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): That's where I was standing.

WALSH (voice-over): The multiple-rocket attack on this, the Kharkiv regional administration, was an early sign of the ferocious, cowardly

brutality Russia would unleash on civilian targets.

This is Ayuna then. She had been serving coffee and cookies to soldiers, saw a flash and curled into a ball.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I feel a physical manifestation of fear. I don't like cookies anymore. The box fell on me and I remember the smell.

WALSH (voice-over): She asked to step away, saying she's sick with butterflies like she hasn't felt since before races, when she used to swim


Andrey picks up the story.

ANDREY MOROZOV, AYUNA'S HUSBAND (through translator): When I heard her voice, I was crawling across the rubble. And the emergency services were

trying to kick me out. I pulled a man out and then heard her. I did not plan to leave her here.

WALSH (voice-over): The soldiers waiting in the corridor outside from her died. Three young woman in the basement below her died, their bodies not

found for three weeks. Yet somehow, the concrete here fell, shielding Ayuna.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I knew I was alive, in pain but nothing broken but was worried I would be left and never be heard. The first time

they heard me, they started to get me out and the second missile came and I was properly trapped.

WALSH (voice-over): A rescuer eventually heard her.

MOROZOVA (through translator): Andrey got closer and I said it was me and he cried. They said they shouldn't lift the baton on me but Andrey did

alone. It got easier to breathe. I was surprised, as I thought I was still at ground level. The ambulance guy said, It's your second birthday. You're


WALSH (voice-over): Fragments of the Kharkiv now passed pepper this shell. Cleaning up and trying to sweep away its trauma.

MOROZOVA (through translator): I sleep with the lights on and when there's a loud car or, God forbid, a jet plane, I brace. The nightmares that I'm

again lying there in shivering cold and that nobody hears my cries, that also stops me from sleeping.

WALSH (voice-over): Ayuna was born in Russia but can no longer talk to her relatives there. She says they believe Russian state media's absurd claims

this is a limited operation against Nazis.

MOROZOVA (through translator): They say it was my stupidity and that I don't need to be here. I hope when time passes, our children can talk but I

can't talk to them now. Russia has lost its mind and cannot control its president. They are all each responsible, every citizen.

WALSH (voice-over): The story here not of ruins lost or burial in dust but instead, of a feverish energy that burns through the building's bones as

Kharkiv gets to decide where its pieces fall now -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kharkiv, Ukraine.



GIOKOS: And as we mentioned earlier, the war on Ukraine has dramatically changed Finland's views of the Kremlin and Finland's president says

Vladimir Putin only has himself to blame. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Helsinki with the latest.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Warm handshakes, smiles and then a signature promising military support as Finland speeds

toward requesting NATO membership.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: In the event of an attack on either of us, then yes, we will come to each other's assistance, including with

military assistance.

ROBERTSON: Johnson's assurance precisely what the Nordic nations president wants, as they consider joining the Transatlantic Alliance.

NIINISTO: This is very, very good way to go forward. And we do appreciate lot this big step.

ROBERTSON: In parliament where the historic vote will happen, routine business continues, politicians cautious of stating their positions

publicly, less Russia escalate tensions.

JOHANNES KOSKINEN, FINNISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER: There's this idea that that time from the final decision making toward the application and then to the

joining to NATO should be as short as possible.

ROBERTSON: When the moment comes in a plenary session of parliament likely next week Koskinen, a Member of the PMs party is sure the vote will carry


KOSKINEN: In the plenary, the results maybe around 180 out of 200 in favor of membership.

ROBERTSON: Politicians and public for the most part in lockstep wanting to join NATO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People, of course, support especially when Russia have attacked the Ukraine.

ROBERTSON: Not just the invasion of Ukraine but a history of rocky relations with Russia spring, many here to reassess decades of neutrality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a very old father, he's 96. So he was here when we had our wars in Finland with Russia. And he's been talking about, you

know, the Russians could come anytime. And as, you know, that you were back in the 40s and take it easy and they're not, yes, you'd never know when the

Russia, they always come. I said, take it easy. And now, I just had to say to him, well, you were right.

ROBERTSON: In a way Finland has been preparing for this moment for more than a generation, they've been involved in plenty of NATO and other

international military operations, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon.

(Voice-over): Just last week, British troops were training here with Finnish, American and other NATO soldiers. Johnson's visit, promising more

of this, NATO accession should fill and ask for it is expected to be fast tracked but could still take months.


GIOKOS: Nic Robertson is standing by for us in the Finnish capital, Helsinki.

Is this a done deal?

ROBERTSON: It is. It is a done deal. As the prime minister and the president put it in their joint statement, they hope it will happen

quickly. They are quite straightforward. The prime minister's party, we already know what the prime minister thinks from the statement. On Saturday

morning, they will get together and decide their view on NATO and on Sunday the governing coalition will get together. That is already very clear.

Early next, week the foreign affairs committee will produce its report, likely along the lines of the defense committee, which has already

recommended joining NATO. Everything is aligned for this.

And we heard from that member of parliament, in the report there, who says very clearly overwhelming support.

So this, I think, was the moment the big step was taken. This discussion that has been going on and the indications that this was about to happen,

that has now broken cover. It is official. This is on track to happen. It will, of course, follow the constitutional process of having the parliament

vote on it.

GIOKOS: Nic, Russia, of course, has been saying that NATO's expansion is what forced their hand.

Is Putin going to retaliate because now we have got Finland in the fray?

Sweden might follow suit and what does that mean?

I know that the Finnish leadership have been very clear. This is about security issues more than anything else. Still two mainframes of people

with their neighbors. That is an important distinction. But I guess Putin is going to see it in a very different way.


ROBERTSON: He is. His spokesman has already described the move or the potential move by Finland as a threat. This is something that is not,

according to Dmitry Peskov, a Putin spokesman, is not something that is going bring stability to the world.

We have heard from the foreign ministry as well in Moscow, saying quite clearly that they will retaliate with military and technical means if they

feel that their national security is being threatened.

It is language that is very much on par with the Kremlin. The Kremlin saying that they will watch and see what Finland does, see if Finland puts

more military bases, more military personnel along the border.

Russia will match what they perceive is happening over the border. It is the complete opposite of what President Putin set out to achieve with his

invasion in Ukraine.

But it is completely in line with all the warnings he had in advance, that by destabilizing the region, you will only make NATO presence along your

border a bigger, more durable and enduring presence.

GIOKOS: Nic Robertson, really good to see you, thank you so much for that analysis.

Coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD, North Korea is announcing its first official COVID infection. We will have more on the dire impact it could

have on the reclusive nation.

And the Chinese crackdown on pro democracy advocates in Hong Kong targets one of the leading Catholic figures in Asia.




GIOKOS: Welcome back.

North Korea has declared a major national emergency after identifying its first-ever COVID-19 case. Then Pyongyang test-fired three long-range

ballistic missiles, a sign the emergency won't affect the country's aggressive posture. Paula Hancocks has more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is likely the first time we've seen North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wear a mask in public since

the pandemic began, ordering all cities to lock down after admitting the first COVID-19 case in Pyongyang.

MASON RICHEY, HANKUK UNIVERSITY: There have probably been cases before but they haven't admitted them.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The number of cases of Omicron are unknown but North Korea is only one of two countries in the world believed to have

delivered zero COVID-19 vaccinations.

BRIAN WAHL, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL: Even in other settings, there would be higher levels of prior exposure. So this is unique in North Korea.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): COVAX has moved to a needs-based vaccine allocation.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Saying it's currently not committed any to North Korea.

China now says it's ready to provide its full support. The level of testing is low. Just 64,000 have been tested of over 25 million. The health

infrastructure is fragile at best.

WAHL: I would imagine the high levels of malnutrition may be an additional risk factor.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): It's a population under lockdown in a country not set up for the deliver of food and survival items. Food supply is already

at a crisis in the country.

RICHEY: It could affect agriculture and harvest, interior commerce, the ability for public distribution.

HANCOCKS: Many experts wondered whether an outbreak would halt North Korea's run on missile and weapons tests. Pyongyang answered with another

launch -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.



GIOKOS: Now to get you up to speed on some other stories that are on our radar right now.

Panic buying is gripping the Chinese capital of Beijing as authorities try to shut down rumors the city is heading into a lockdown. Meantime, the

recommending that nearly 20 million Beijing residents stay home during another round of COVID mass testing, starting Friday.

The new head of government in Sri Lanka is a familiar face. He was sworn in a short time ago as prime minister. He's held the job five times. The

previous prime minister was forced out Monday after some violent protests of the handling of Sri Lanka's economic crisis.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is praising the victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the Philippines. Xi said he expects China and the Philippines to

stand together through thick and thin. Marcos Jr. has indicated he would seek closer relations with China.

Four pro democracy campaigners in Hong Kong were arrested this week in what appears to be an expanding crackdown by the Chinese government. Among those

arrested were a 90-year-old cardinal and a pop star. We get more from CNN's Kristie Lu Stout.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The national security crackdown here is not over. A number of prominent democracy activists,

including a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal, have been arrested on charges of collusion with foreign forces.

Those arrested include Cardinal Joseph Zen; Margaret Ng, a former lawmaker and barrister; canto pop singer Denise Ho and academic Hui Po-keung. They

were trustees of the now disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, helping protesters arrested in the 2019 protests.

Known as the conscience of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen is one of the most outspoken critics about the Hong Kong government and Beijing and the

Vatican has reacted.

In a statement, the Vatican press director said, "The holy see has learned with concern the news of the rest of Cardinal Zen and is following the

evolution of the situation with extreme attention."

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong adds this, quote, "We've always upheld the rule of law. We trust that, in the future, we will continue enjoying

religious freedom, under the base of law. We urge the Hong Kong police and the judicial authorities to handle Cardinal Zen's case in accordance with

justice, taking into consideration our concrete human situation."

The arrests condemned by human rights organizations as well, including Amnesty International, which called them a shocking escalation of


China's foreign ministry office in Hong Kong has dismissed criticism, saying, "The foreign forces should know crystal clear where they have been

and what they have done."

The arrests come just days after the appointment of John Lee as the next chief executive of Hong Kong. He was the security chief of the city during

the 2019 protests. Supporters say the law ended the chaos of 2019 and restored order.

It also virtually wiped out the city's opposition and civil society organizations. These latest arrests are stoking concerns of more crackdowns

to come -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.




GIOKOS: A day of sadness and anger in the West Bank where thousands attended the memorial procession for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The Al

Jazeera reporter was fatally shot while covering a Israeli military operation in Jenin.

Al Jazeera and the Palestinian government say Israeli forces killed her. An Israeli military spokesperson told CNN it's not yet known who killed her.

Israel has offered a joint investigation with the Palestinians. Hadas Gold was at the memorial.

We just saw some of those images. Thousands of people gathered to remember Shireen. Give me a sense of who was gathered there and importantly, the

messaging from some of the speakers.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Eleni, right now I'm just outside of her home. This is where her family has been gathering to

memorialize her, to grieve together. Along the street we've seen flags put up, as well as posters with her face, especially a picture of her wearing

that press vest.

Of course she was wearing that when she was shot and killed. Earlier today, in Ramallah, at the Palestinian Authority president's residence there was a

huge memorial service for Shireen. Her body was brought in with full honor guard ceremony to the palace.

The Palestinian Authority president gave a speech and there was probably thousands of people, not only within the compound itself but also all

around the streets surrounding it.

Even before we heard the sirens of her motorcade bringing her body to there, we heard the crowds chanting, including things about how she was the

honest voice for them and they would always remember her.

There was a huge range of people. There were religious speakers, there were politicians. There were so many journalists covering the event, including

journalists who were her colleagues, who were her friends.

We also saw political figures, including some Arab members of the Israeli parliament. They were all in attendance there. It was an emotional moment,

at times. At times the entire place was entirely silent except for the sounds of people crying.

The Palestinian Authority president gave a short address, where he said the Palestinian Authority will not participate with the Israelis in the joint

investigation. Take a listen to what he had to say.


MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): This crime is not the first of its kind. Tens of Palestinian journalists have

fallen before Shireen. We hold the Israeli occupying forces fully accountable for her killing.

We will not let them hide behind their crime. We will not let it go unpunished. We reject it and continue to reject the joint investigation

with the Israeli occupation authorities, because they committed the crime. And we do not trust them. We will go immediately to the International

Criminal Court to track down the killers.


GOLD: Now Israeli officials say they are conducting their own investigation but they want to do a forensic investigation. They had asked

the Palestinians to share with them the bullet that killed Shireen but the Palestinian prime minister said they will not do so.

GIOKOS: Yes, Hadas, such an important story. One we will be following very closely. Thank you so much for that update.

Now Ukrainian prosecutors are looking into possible Russian war crimes. In at least one case, a horrifying video might provide the evidence they need.

That's next.





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

Russia could see NATO expanding further along its doorstep. Finland's president and prime minister saying they supported joining the alliance,

given Russia's attack on Ukraine. NATO's chief has promised a swift membership process.

Moscow blasted the news as a threat. Meantime, Ukraine says it's willing to exchange Russian prisoners of war for its wounded fighters at the steel

plant in Mariupol.

New images reveal Ukrainian forces have destroyed at least two pontoon bridges the Russians installed over a key river in the Luhansk region.

Graphic and disturbing surveillance video of Ukraine shows Russian soldiers basically shoot two unarmed civilians before they ransacked a business near

Kyiv. Prosecutors have now opened a war crimes investigation. CNN's Sara Sidner is in Ukraine's capital with those details for us.

This video is absolutely harrowing, Sara.

The question is, what transpired around the shooting?

Do we know why they were specifically targeted?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Eleni, there are a multitude of investigations into potential war crimes going on here at the hands of

Russian soldiers. Ukrainian prosecutors are looking at so many different things. But this particular video that we obtained shows, from the

beginning to the end, what exactly transpired here. And what we see in this video is Russian soldiers shooting two men in the back as they walk away



SIDNER (voice-over): This is a stark example of a potential war crime perpetrated by Russian forces, an example the world has not yet seen,

Russian soldiers shooting two civilians in the back.

CNN obtained the surveillance video taken from this vehicle dealership that sits along the main highway to Kyiv. The video is from the beginning of the

wary as Russians tried and failed to shell their way to the capital. The fight along this road was clearly fierce.

But what happened outside this business was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians. It was a cowardly, cold-blooded

killing of unarmed men by Russian forces.

The soldiers show up and begin breaking in. Inside of a guard shack, two Ukrainian men prepare to meet them. We tracked down the men's identities.

One is the owner of the business, whose family did not want him named, the other was hired to guard it.

YULIA PLYATS, LEONID'S DAUGHTER: My father's name is Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats.

SIDNER: His daughter, Yulia, wanted the world to know his names and what the Russians did to him, both civilians, both unarmed. We know this because

the video shows them greeting and frisked by the Russian soldiers and then casually walking away. Neither seemed to suspect what was about to happen.

That is when a member of the civilian fighting force who talked to the men a couple of days before the attack told CNN. He did not want to be

identified for security reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We came there earlier, warned people to leave that place. We also hoped for the humanity of Russian soldiers. But

unfortunately, they have no humanity.

You see the two men walking in the shadows toward the camera. Behind them, the soldiers they were just talking to emerge. A few more steps and their

bodies drop to the ground, dust shoots up from the bullets hitting the pavement. The soldiers have opened fire.

Minutes later the guard, Leonid gets up, limping but alive. He manages to get inside the guard booth to make a call to local guys for help.


SIDNER (voice-over): This is one of those guys, a Ukrainian truck driver turned civilian soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, we felt a big responsibility. We knew we should go there because the man needed our help. He was still alive.

SIDNER: He's the commander of a rag tag team of civilians who took up arms to fight for Ukraine and tried to save the men. When the guard called them,

he explained what transpired with the soldiers. He said, the soldiers asked who they were and asked for cigarettes then let them go before shooting

them in the back.

When his man finally got to Leonid, he had lost massive amounts of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man from our group went there and the guy was still alive. He gave him bandages, tried to perform first aid but the Russians

started shooting.

SIDNER: They tried to fight back but were unsuccessful.

They didn't have the firepower to save their countrymen.

Yuli, have you seen the video?

PLYATS: I can't watch it now. I will save it to the cloud and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know about this crime and always

remember who our neighbors are.

SIDNER: Her neighbors to the north, these Russian soldiers, show just how callous they are, drinking, toasting one another and looting the place

minutes after slaying the two men.

What were the last words that you remember he said to you?

PLYATS: Bye-bye, kisses, say hello to your boys.

SIDNER: Her boys will be left with a terrible lasting memory, the death of their grandfather now being investigated as a war crime by prosecutors.


SIDNER: Yulia says that what hurt so much is that her father was in good health. She says he had many more active years to live. They had just

talked about that the week before. And here he is, trying to do his duty and continue a job that he said he was going to do. And he ends up being

shot and killed. Eleni.

GIOKOS: Sara, completely senseless loss of life. Very tragic story, thank you so much.

We will be back after this short break. Stay with CNN.






GIOKOS: Astronomers have just released the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*.


GIOKOS (voice-over): This is an exciting moment. The big reveal came at a ceremony in Washington. The photograph shows a ring of light bent by the

gravity of the black hole, which is 4 million times more massive than the sun.

Hundreds of astronomers around the globe worked for years to capture and confirm the image, using multiple satellites.

This is a wonderful moment, one I'm very excited about, I have to say.