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Ukraine Still Advancing around Bakhmut; Biden Headed to G7 in Japan amid Debt Ceiling Standoff; Ecuadoran National Assembly Dissolved, President Calls for Snap Elections; Hundreds Feared Dead in Myanmar after Tropical Cyclone Mocha; Prince Harry and Meghan Involved in "Near Catastrophic" Crash Involving Paparazzi; Elon Musk Stands by Incendiary Comments. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired May 17, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade live from Atlanta. Welcome to CONNECT THE WORLD.
Coming up this hour, the U.S. is assessing damage to a Patriot air defense system after a barrage of missiles in Kyiv.
Ecuador's president, facing a looming impeachment vote, dissolved the national assembly.
Billionaire Elon Musk says he does not care about losing money in a new CNBC interview.
And later this hour, is Victor Wembanyama the greatest NBA draft pick since LeBron James?
"WORLD SPORT" will have that story.
KINKADE: Well, even by the standards of Russia's punishing war in Ukraine, the past day has been especially intense. Russia pounded targets across
southern and Eastern Ukraine and, of course, there was a barrage on Kyiv hours earlier, in which the U.S. now says a Patriot system suffered minor
In South Korea, Ukraine's first lady said humanitarian aid is not enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLENA ZELENSKA, FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE: When there is a criminal in your house, who has come to kill your family, humanitarian aid alone will not
save the residents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Meantime, Ukraine's military reports dozens of, quote, "combat engagements" around Bakhmut, as the excruciating street by street battles
continue. Our Nic Robertson joins us live from Eastern Ukraine.
Good to have you there for us, Nic. In terms of the latest fighting, I want to get to that in a moment. But first to this grain deal. It was brokered
last year and it is set to expire tomorrow. We saw the last ship leave a short time ago.
What is the latest on that?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, that ship was carrying 30,000 metric tons of corn. And it is just part of what is needed, in
particular by poorer nations around the world; 90 percent of people in east Africa, many of whom depend in part on the grain and food experts coming
out of Ukraine, in a situation of food insecurity.
Hundreds of millions of people, in effect, depend on getting food or having food stabilized at not skyrocketing prices. That is dependent on the grain
flows that have been coming out of Ukraine through the Black Sea since a deal was brokered by the U.N. and Turkiye, a separate deal with Ukraine, a
separate deal with Russia.
But that allowed in July of last year for an estimated 30 million tons of food to be shipped out of Ukraine, which was stuck in ports because of the
war. They could not leave.
But this was dependent on goodwill from Russia, with an agreement, of course, with them, with the U.N. and with Ukraine. The U.N. at the moment,
Ukrainian officials are saying they are not seeing sort of any optimism on the Russian side. The U.N. says the talks were at a delicate moment.
And Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, is saying there are a lot of open questions about the grain deal. It is not the first time the deal has
been renewed and it is not the first time it has come down to the wire.
But each time, Russia appears to hold out and want bigger and better concessions. Of course, the grain deal came into play to let Ukraine get
its grain to the world markets. The concession that was made to Russia at the time was that it would be able to export fertilizer and foodstuffs out
through the Black Sea as well.
Despite the fact of course, that the obvious here is that they invaded Ukraine and have created the situation in the Black Sea. But this is what
it took to get the deal off the ground. Now it is stuttering, due to run out on the 18th of May.
It has made it through these difficult moments before. At the moment we are waiting to find out if progress can be made. Meetings are being held. But
at the moment, nobody is speaking about a compromise solution.
KINKADE: Yes, 24 hours to go into the deadline expires. Nic Robertson for us in Eastern Ukraine. We will talk again soon, thank you.
Well, I want to go to more now on that massive attack over Kyiv early Tuesday. Take a look at these pictures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE (voice-over): This is what it looked like when Ukraine said it intercepted Russian missiles and drones. Several local bloggers took their
own videos and posted them on social media.
Now those bloggers are in trouble. Ukraine has started criminal proceedings against six people. Authorities say sharing images of Ukrainian air defense
systems at work --
KINKADE (voice-over): -- during that attack was illegal under wartime rules and could have helped Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: During that bombardment, Ukraine says it destroyed six Russian hypersonic missiles. Russia denies that. CNN's Sam Kiley has more on those
strikes and how Ukraine has been able to defend itself.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new Russian tactic in the air assault against Kyiv concentrated fire by
missiles and drones testing Ukraine's air defenses probing for weaknesses.
Ukraine says it shot down 18 missiles, including six Kinzhal Russia's hypersonic weapon. It was once considered invulnerable to air defenses. Now
not so much.
YUNI IHNAT, SPOKESPERSON, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE COMMAND (through translator): Six of these missiles were fired in the direction of the Capitol. They were
all destroyed by our air defense.
KILEY: Russia has been trying to overwhelm Ukraine with air attacks for months. The results though have been more pledges of air defenses from the
U.S .and especially the U.K. and now even Germany after months of holding back.
On the ground, the conflict grinds on in Bakhmut. Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, releasing a new video purporting to show him in the
city. He demonstrates uncharacteristic sympathy for an alleged American volunteer killed fighting for Ukraine.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, FOUNDER, WAGNER GROUP (through translator): We will hand him over to the United States of America. We'll put him in a coffin
cover him with the American flag with respect because he did not die in his bed as a grandpa. But he died at war and most likely a worthy death.
KILEY: The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence documents suggest that he tried to trade Russian intelligence for ceding territory
around Bakhmut. Prigozhin denies the claims, Russia has said that the allegations Prigozhin offered to spy for Ukraine are a hoax.
But in the Kremlin, they might one day be considered treason, making this town perhaps a safer place than Moscow for Russia's top mercenary -- Sam
Kiley, CNN in southeast Ukraine.
KINKADE: U.S. President Joe Biden heads to Japan today for the G7 summit, with debt ceiling negotiations looming over that trip. In a continued debt
standoff prompting Mr. Biden to cancel the second leg of the trip, including a meeting of the Quad leaders in Australia as well as a stop in
Papua New Guinea.
In Japan, the G7 leaders are expected to address Russia's war in Ukraine as well as China's growing geopolitical influence. We will talk about the
summit and the debt standoff now with Marc Stewart in Hiroshima, Japan, and Priscilla Alvarez, who is at the White House.
Good to have you both with us.
I will start with you first, Marc. So the U.S. President's canceled this part of his trip to Australia and Papua New Guinea, which, of course, is
very disappointing for those countries. But he's on his way to Japan, where we will see the world's most advanced democracies meet for three days.
So what can we expect?
MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lynda. Good to see you. Let's talk about expectations. First about Russia and Ukraine. The G7
historically has had some success in trying to deal with this war in Ukraine, in the sense that it is the G7 that really organized an economic
financial punch in the gut, if you will, to Russia after its invasion.
Now the question for the G7, as this war has entered its second year, will it perhaps create even further penalties?
Europe's still exporting some items to Russia. We are talking about everything from cars to chocolate. Japan, where I am now, actually imports
energy from Russia.
Will that continue or will we see an even further crackdown?
Lynda, as you mentioned, the big question about China, there are so many different directions that conversation could take. Certainly there is
China's influence over Russia. That is something that could be discussed, as well as the Taiwan situation, as well as the economic practices of
China, with many trading partners around the world.
Not too clear exactly where that conversation will go.
Will we see a communique from the G7?
And if so, just how harsh to China would it be, Lynda?
And, of course, to you, Priscilla, given that part of this trip was canceled so that the president could come back, return early to the U.S.,
to focus on this looming deadline, explain for us where there might be some common ground between the Democrats and the Republicans to ensure that they
meet this deadline before June 1st.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, the clock is ticking as they work toward finding a solution before the June 1st
deadline, where there could be a potential default.
Just yesterday, President Biden met with congressional leadership on this issue to try to find some common ground. Prior to that meeting, there had
been staff level meetings between congressional staff as well as White House staff.
So yesterday, there was a little more optimism, though just not quite there yet. They essentially agreed to at least find a framework. They have also
narrowed down the negotiating table, which might sound counterintuitive.
But the idea there is to have the key White House aides, aides to President Biden, working with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's aides, so together they
can find that common ground.
We have heard that initial discussions began last night and will continue in the coming days. It's partially the reason, as you mentioned, why
President Biden has cut his trip short, to come back and work on this and avoid again a potential default on June 1st.
Now the White House press secretary spoke to this decision earlier today, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: America does not default on its debt. That's why the president is cutting his trip short. That is
why he is going to return, to continue these conversations that he has had with congressional leaders, as he has directed his staff to continue their
He is optimistic, he's optimistic that we will get to a reasonable bipartisan budget deal, that can get to his desk that he can sign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALVAREZ: Now we should note, part of the message that President Biden wants to send when abroad is that America is back. We hear this in his
remarks. Now he is going to attend this G7 summit, as back at home, they are racing to find a solution and negotiation to that debt ceiling.
So all of this really coming to a head as President Biden goes abroad. Hopefully, when he comes back, trying to find a place where they can agree
and avoid any default.
KINKADE: Exactly as you say, the clock is ticking.
Good to have you with us, Priscilla Alvarez and Marc Stewart. We will speak again soon.
Well, Ecuador's embattled president is taking drastic measures to fend off impeachment. Guillermo Lasso has dissolved the national assembly,
triggering snap elections.
This constitutional procedure known as mutual death, the move effectually holds the impeachment proceedings against him. He's accused of turning a
blind eye to corruption, which he denies. Let's get to journalist Stefano Pozzebon for more on these developments.
Which of course, are unfolding rather quickly, Stefano. So the country's national assembly is going to be dissolved; there will be snap elections.
Explain what happens in the next few days and weeks.
STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Lynda. It is a very fluid situation, a very moving (sic) situation down in Ecuador.
And just yesterday, we were talking about this muerta cruzada, the mutual death, which is a provision of the presidential -- of the Ecuador
constitution, that gives the president the power to resign and at the same time, dissolve congress and call for a snap election, essentially sending
everybody home and start a new term, with new powers in place all at the same time.
We talked about it yesterday, you and I, Lynda, as a possibility. Well, it happened early this morning in Ecuador, at about 7 am in the morning, with
an address that president Guillermo Lasso made to the nation.
Once again, he denies all of the accusations, saying that the embezzlement he is accused of, which relates to contracts for the export of crude oil
products from Ecuador, shipping contracts from the Ecuador petrol authority.
He says those contract predates his time in congress -- his time in the presidency, sorry. And that he believes that the congress has a political
motivation to destabilize the government, destabilize the country and send him home.
However, it is hard to see and to predict what the situation brings forward for Ecuador, which is in the middle of a considerable security crisis, with
several high-profile massacres, attacks on institutions in the last few weeks and months.
Everybody you speak with in Ecuador seems to agree that institutions need to get a hand on the situation, need to restore some confidence and some
stability in the country.
And with all powers soon to be replaced, it's hard to see how that could happen perhaps.
KINKADE: And give us a sense, what Lasso is saying about all of this right now, Stefano?
POZZEBON: OK, yes. Lasso is saying that all of this is the creation --
POZZEBON: -- of his opponent's international (sic) assembly. Lasso enjoys only 25 seats in the national assembly of more than 130 seats in total. So
he says that this is essentially a move from the opposition to go after him politically. This is from this morning's statement to the nation, take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUILLERMO LASSO, ECUADORAN PRESIDENT (through translator): My fellow citizens, it is not possible to solve Ecuador's problems and address the
serious challenges of crimes and terrorism we face, with a legislature who has the political goal of destabilizing the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POZZEBON: As it often happens in these highly polarized times, Lynda, not just in Ecuador but pretty much in the rest of the region, both the
government and the opposition agree of what the problems are.
They both agree that security and stability are the concern and the priority for Ecuador right now. They just disagree on who is the right
person to fix it. That is why the president is calling for snap elections.
KINKADE: All right, Stefano Pozzebon, we will talk next hour. Good to have you with us on this very rapidly developing story. Thank you so much.
The leader of Thailand's Move Forward Party outlines his plan for a new government and it does not include military rule.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PITA LIMJAROENRAT, MOVE FORWARD PARTY: First is to demilitarize; second is to de-monopolize and third is to decentralize Thailand.
KINKADE (voice-over): Ahead, more on Pita Limjaroenrat's vision for Thailand in the wake of those national elections.
Plus heavy flooding and mudslides wreak havoc in northern Italy, claiming lives and forcing thousands of evacuations. We will have a live report
KINKADE: Well, hundreds of people are feared dead after a powerful storm barreled into one of Asia's least developed nations. Cyclone Mocha
unleashed widespread destruction on Myanmar Sunday, hitting conflict scarred Rakhine state especially hard. It's home to hundreds of thousands
of displaced people. CNN's Vedika Sud has the story.
VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The United Nations says a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha that pummeled
the western coast of Myanmar Sunday. More than 5 million people are estimated to have been in the storm's path across Rakhine in the northwest.
Hundreds of people, including Rohingya Muslims, are feared dead and an unspecified number are still missing. The storm, one of the strongest to
hit the country, washed away shelters, destroyed homes, uprooted trees and brought down power lines.
The embattled state of Rakhine, home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, has been hit hard. Videos from the region bear testament to the widespread
damage, especially around state capital, Sittwe.
SUD: Myanmar's shadow government, the national unity government, says people living in refugee camps drowned in floods after seawater raced into
Sources speaking to CNN says many bodies of Rohingya victims have already been buried according to their religious customs. It has been a truly
terrifying experience for those in the path of the cyclone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nine out of my 14 family members were killed. Only five survived. They were killed because they could not
resist when strong winds waved them away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): All of my belongings, rice and even dishes are gone. Now I have no money to rebuild my house. We are
starving. I have not eaten for two days.
How many days does a person have to go hungry?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUD: Damage to communications and road infrastructures, making it difficult for agencies to get deliver aid to effective areas. It may take
days to understand the true impact of the cyclone in one of Asia's least developed countries -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.
KINKADE: The U.N.'s World Meteorological Association (sic) is warning a key global warming target is likely to be breached within the next five
years. The new report says there is a 66 percent chance that the 1.5-degree threshold set out in the Paris agreement will be exceeded for at least one
year by 2027.
In 2015, the chance of that happening was practically zero. The WMO says the breach may not be permanent and a chance the five year average will
exceed 1.5 degrees is only 32 percent.
The WMO report also predicts major weather changes, saying the chance of one of the next five years beating 2016 as the warmest year on record is
almost certainly at 98 percent.
The Arctic will see disproportionate climate change, with winter temperatures there rising three times faster than the global average.
In northern Italy, flooding and mudslides have claimed at least eight lives and forced more than 13,000 people to evacuate. Rivers have burst their
banks amid torrential rainfall and more rain is forecast.
We have also learned the Formula 1 is forced to cancel this week's Grand Prix, due to the flooding. CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joins us now from
So Barbie, we have got the F1 canceled; people drowning, others missing. Give us a sense of the extent of this flood.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is really devastating. They have not even begun to count the economic cost. It's a very important cultural
area. They are still looking for the (INAUDIBLE), the rain is still falling.
We've seen incredible damage to infrastructure, bridges taken out by this flooding, flooded rivers and things like that. They are really just in the
middle of the rescue operations right now. They're taking people out of the upper floors of houses, rescuing them, using dinghies on the streets in a
lot of the small towns and cities.
It's just really devastating. They're warning that the worst may be yet to come, Lynda.
KINKADE: All right, Barbie Nadeau, we'll stay on that story, thank you very much.
Well, Croatia has had to call out the army to help respond to flooding from heavy rains there. Officials say the situation is also critical in parts of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. On Tuesday, the Croatian interior minister went to see the flood impacted town of Obrovac, with hundreds of sandbags stacked
along the flooded streets and the embankments.
CNN's weather unit says more rain is expected in Croatia and Bosnia.
KINKADE (voice-over): Let's get you up to speed on some other stories that are on our radar right now.
Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan says police have surrounded his house in Lahore and they are planning to rearrest him. (INAUDIBLE)
government is confirming plans to raid the house again.
It accuses Khan of sheltering aides wanted in connection to attacks on the army. Following Khan's arrest last week. He was later released on bail.
Police in New Zealand are treating a deadly fire at a hostel as arson. At least six people died after a fire engulfed the top floor of the four-story
building in the capital, Wellington. It happened just after midnight on Tuesday. Officials are trying to figure out if the building is safe enough
to search to find any other possible victims.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has lost his appeal against a 2021 corruption conviction. The Paris court of appeals upheld his three-year
prison sentence, with two years suspended and one at home, wearing an electronic bracelet.
Sarkozy's lawyer says he is innocent and will appeal to the French supreme court.
KINKADE: We have some breaking news just in to CNN. Prince Harry's spokesperson says the prince was in a near catastrophic car crash involving
paparazzi photographers. His wife, Meghan, and her mother were also in that vehicle on Tuesday night in New York.
KINKADE: The spokesperson says that this happened after they attended an awards ceremony. As we get more information on that, we will bring it back
Well, still to come on CONNECT THE WORLD, Elon Musk says he stands by his controversial comments, even if it costs him. We will break that down with
a guest next.
Plus, a chief (sic) in -- a chef in Nigeria has smashed a world record. We will have the details on that story next.
KINKADE: Welcome back, I'm Lynda Kinkade at the CNN Center. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. We have some breaking news just in to us.
Prince Harry's spokesperson says the prince was in a near catastrophic car chase involving paparazzi photographers. His wife, Meghan, and his mother -
- and her mother were also in that vehicle on Tuesday night in New York.
A spokesperson says it happened after they attended an awards ceremony, happening between the hours of 10:00 pm and 12:30 am. Prince Harry's
spokesperson describes a relentless pursuit by the paparazzi, which lasted about two hours. As we get more details on that story, we will bring it to
Well, outgoing Twitter chief executive Elon Musk, standing by his controversial comments, even if it costs him money at Twitter or Tesla,
where, of course, he is the CEO.
In an interview with CNBC, the billionaire said he did not care if his tweets, which often support conspiracy theories and extremist views, and if
they scare away Tesla buyers or Twitter advertisers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to share what you have to say?
ELON MUSK, TWITTER OWNER: I will say what I want to say. And if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Musk made those comments Tuesday when he announced Tesla will began advertising for the first time in its history.
My next guest knows a thing or two about the importance of Twitter. Van (sic) Schiller is the former global chair of news at Twitter and the
current executive director of Aspen Digital. She joins me now from Maryland.
Good to have you with us. So this is Musk saying, I will say what I want to say, even if it means losing money. I mean, you can only have so much money
that it doesn't matter if you lose any.
He claims he was defending this tweet, where he falsely claimed that the Allen, Texas, mass shooter was not a white supremacist, despite plenty of
evidence to the contrary including Nazi tattoos on his arm and his torsos (sic).
What is your reaction to that defense of his tweet?
VIVIAN SCHILLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASPEN DIGITAL: Yes, well, it is part of a pattern, right?
SCHILLER: I mean, it's -- if anyone is indisputably a Nazi sympathizer, it is this individual with a swastika on his arm and with plenty of social
media posts to the contrary.
He also, in just -- this is just in recent days, I mean there is a laundry list of tweets that we can point to over the last six months and beyond. In
recent days, he has also tweeted anti-Semitic tropes and other false statements across the board.
He is -- parrots white supremacists, anti-Semitic and generally other racist memes all the time. So that is his version of free speech, I guess.
KINKADE: So Vivian, what impact does this have on Elon Musk and businesses, when he engages in these right-wing conspiracies and obviously
is in need of advertisers?
SCHILLER: Well, before we talk about the impact on advertisers, let's talk about the impact on the real world. He has a tremendous amount of
followers, for better or worse. He is an extremely influential figure.
And when he propagates this kind of hatred, it translates into real world impact. We know that the evidence is ample, that real world attacks based
on racism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism, are rising in this country.
And when Elon Musk tweets, all he does is give license to those people.
As far as his advertising, you know, according to his own admission, he has lost advertisers.
Can you blame them?
Twitter is not a safe space for an advertiser to sell their products. He is making it a much less safe space.
KINKADE: And of course, Musk gave this analogy about buying Twitter, saying it was like being teleported into a plane that is nosediving, headed
to the ground, with the engines on fire, the controls that do not work.
The thing is, even if Twitter was in a bad state, which it was when he bought it, it appears to be in a worse state now. And after he dramatically
slashed the workforce by 80 percent, he is now admitting that some people were let go that should not have been.
How would you describe the way that he has managed Twitter?
SCHILLER: Well, I will just extend his metaphor. He bought a company that --
KINKADE: Vivian, I apologize, I'm going to have to interrupt. We've got some more breaking news. We've just got to get to it right now.
SCHILLER: Thank you.