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NATO Official: War Momentum Has Shifted In Ukraine's Favor; U.S. Move Will Likely Push Russia Closer To Foreign Debt Default; Biden Leaves Today On First Official Trip To Asia. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A NATO military official says momentum has shifted significantly in favor of Ukraine. The official says Ukraine's forces are now on the offensive against Russian troops in several areas. There's even talk of Ukraine possibly being able to retake Crimea and portions of the Donbas currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live in Lviv, Ukraine with the very latest. Suzanne, that NATO assessment also suggests both sides are in this for a long time.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Laura, and it's a difficult message for Ukrainians. Obviously, good news for them when you think about the fact that this military official is saying that the momentum has shifted significantly in their favor. But nevertheless, the same official saying that yes, it's going to be a long slog for the Ukrainian people here. They don't expect any significant developments either way in terms of wins or losses on the battlefield.

And what we have seen actually bears that out. The report from the Ukrainian military today confirming essentially over the last 24-hour period what you are seeing is an escalation in the fighting that is occurring on the east.

You've got increased artillery, increased airpower on the Russian side. More cross-border skirmishes that are going on. Increased shelling that's happening in the south. More Russian casualties. And yet, that same military official saying that there are no gains in terms of territory on the Russian side.

And if you take a look at the video here -- this is what the Ukrainian military is providing us -- video of them blowing up a bridge to prevent the Russians from getting further -- from advancing there. The Ukrainians also getting much closer to that critical supply line that the Russians depend on such much.

Having said that, Laura, this is still very much an active war. And so, four -- at least four civilians -- Ukrainian civilians killed overnight. And we're keeping a very close eye on Mariupol -- that steel plant.

Those evacuees that continue to come out -- what their state is. The wounded as well as those who have been trapped inside for many, many weeks.

New numbers now. Russian officials saying at least more than 770 just in the last 24 hours have been evacuated, bringing it more -- closer to more than 1,700. The International Red Cross also now registering and trying to track those same evacuees to make sure that they know about their well-being. That they're able to make sure that they're well taken care of -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Suzanne. Thank you.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: OK. A move by the U.S. Treasury will likely push Russia closer to default on its foreign debt. Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen says the U.S. is unlikely to extend a sanctions exemption that allows Moscow to make payments on its international obligations.

I want to bring in CNN's Clare Sebastian live in London. Another part of ally's effort to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christine, 100%. The sanctions that came into force in the early part of this conflict on the Russian central bank -- they were some of the most -- frankly, surprising to the Russians themselves -- some of the most impactful. But they did have a carveout at the time that would allow Russia to continue to make payments on its external debt.

It looks like Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, says it's reasonably likely that exemption will expire on May 25, which would, of course, as you say, push Russia closer to a default.

As to the impact of that default, it's not clear that there would be much impact. They are already, of course, shut out of international borrowing markets. But it would be humiliating and it would be symbolic. And it would add to the already mounting cost of sanctions, and those are costs that Janet Yellen also laid out. Take a listen.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation have already had enormous impact. Russia's experiencing recession, high inflation, acute challenges in their financial system, and an inability to procure the material and products they need to support their war or their economy.


SEBASTIAN: And, of course, one part of the economy Russia has been able to manage during this conflict is its currency, the ruble. It is now at a -- basically, a 2-year high against the dollar. It's the best-performing currency in the world this year. That, of course --


SEBASTIAN: -- could waver if there is a default.

ROMANS: I want to talk quickly about the food problem here. I mean, there are -- Janet Yellen is among the people who have warned that there could be an international food crisis. I mean, people could die of starvation because of Russia's manipulation of the ports and Russia's invasion into the breadbasket of the world.


David Beasley, who runs the World Food Program, yesterday, was just heartbreakingly honest at the U.N., pleading with the Russian president -- listen.


DAVID BEASLEY, UNITED NATIONS FOOD CHIEF: It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine. This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak. So I ask President Putin if you have any heart at all to please open these ports.


ROMANS: It is planting season in Ukraine and you've got farmers whose fields have been laid with land mines.

How serious is this?

SEBASTIAN: Yes, Christine, it's extremely serious. It's one of the most serious aspects of the sort of spillover of this conflict. At the moment, we've got, as you say, the blockade at the ports on the Black Sea where about 80% of Ukraine's grain was previously exported from. We've got a disruption to the planting season, as you say, not only because of it being sort of in the battlefield areas but also farmers have gone to fight as well.

And then we have issues of what's happening because of the fact that Ukraine isn't exporting its grain. The silos are filling up. If we get to the sort of next harvesting situation with this situation unresolved, they won't have anywhere to put the grain that they're harvesting. And meanwhile, they're not, of course, getting paid because they're not exporting that grain.

So it's a situation that is mounting by the day and time is running out.

ROMANS: And there's some reporting of Russians actually stealing some of the grain in the eastern part of the country and searching for markets for it.

Clare Sebastian, thank you so much for that.

And, Laura, it's so interesting to me because sometimes when they're talking about a debt default it can sound so dry and it's high finance. You can really understand when you're talking about a farmer --


ROMANS: -- with his -- with his goods.

JARRETT: His livelihood.

ROMANS: And you're in the middle of a war and this is -- Russia and Ukraine feed the world here.

JARRETT: Yes, it's really critical. I'm glad you were able to shine some light on that.

All right. Since Russia's war on Ukraine began it has perpetuated its own version of events, maintaining control of the narrative through state-run media, calling the war a special military operation. But as CNN's Matthew Chance reports, the official veil of denial may be slipping.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defenders of Ukraine turned prisoners of war. The latest images released by the Russian military have Ukrainian forces surrendering after their defiant stand, some limping with wounds or exhaustion, as one of this conflict's most grueling battles at the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol finally draws to a close.


CHANCE (voice-over): "Nearly 1,000 Ukrainians have surrendered, so far," Russia's Defense Ministry spokesman announces triumphantly before detailing Russia's latest rocket attacks from what he says are U.S.-supplied weapons on the battlefield.

As ever, no hint of any problems or setbacks in what Russia still refuses to even call it a war.

Shocking then the Kremlin-controlled television would allow Russia's special military operation to be ripped apart on air by a respected military commentator and former Russian colonel. He pulls no punches.


CHANCE (voice-over): "Let's not take information tranquilizers," the retired colonel advises. "and pretend Ukraine's armed forces are nearing a crisis of morale because that's not even close to reality," he says.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): The pro-Kremlin anchor pushes back, saying there have been individual cases that show otherwise. But the colonel is insistent. KOHDARENOK: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): "With European military aide now coming into full effect," he says, "a million Ukrainian soldiers could soon join the fight while, frankly, the situation for Russia," he says, "will get worse. It is scathing."

But he went on.

KOHDARENOK: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): "We are geopolitically isolated. The whole world is against us even if we don't want to admit it," he says. Telling millions of Russians who get their news from this state channel what many of them, given the international sanctions on Russia, must already suspect.

RAMZAN KADYROV, CHECHEN LEADER: (Speaking foreign language).

CHANCE (voice-over): Recent days have seen the official veil of denial slip, too. Like when the pro-Kremlin Chechen leader, whose forces have been fighting in Ukraine, tried to tell Russian students what's really going on there.


"We are fighting Ukrainian nationalists backed by NATO, and the West is arming them," he says. "That's why our country is finding it so difficult there," he reveals -- "though it's a good experience," he says.

Not the experience, though, Vladimir Putin, who presided over a slightly muted annual Victory Day parade earlier this month, is likely to have expected when he sent his troops across the border. Russia hasn't lost its latest war but expectations of a quick and easy win are being rolled back.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


JARRETT: Thank you for that piece.

ROMANS: All right. President Biden turns his attention from Putin to Xi. More on his big international trip that kicks off in just a few hours.



ROMANS: Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen is calling for some of Trump's tariffs on China to be dropped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YELLEN: Some of the tariffs that were imposed by President Trump in retaliation for China's unfair trade practices -- some of them, to me, seem as though they impose more harm on consumers and businesses and aren't very strategic.


ROMANS: Lifting them, she says, could help ease inflation.

A lot of business groups have asked the Biden administration to consider dropping those tariffs to help American consumers and business.

JARRETT: Later this morning, President Biden leaves on his first trip to Asia since taking office. He will visit South Korea and Japan. The trip intended to demonstrate U.S. engagement in Asia. It's also aimed at sending a message to China and North Korea that U.S. alliances in the region remain strong.

Let's bring in Josh Rogin, CNN political analyst, and Washington Post columnist.

ROMANS: Hi, Josh. How are you?


ROMANS: What should be the top priority for the president as he heads to the region?

ROGIN: Sure. Well, here we say 80% of success is just showing up. In Asia, that's about 90%.

So the fact that the President of the United States is making a trip to, first, South Korea, then Japan to meet with the new leaders of those countries, and then holding a Quad meeting -- a meeting of the leaders of Japan, India, the United States, and Australia at the end of the trip is hugely symbolic. It shows that America is committed to the region, and there's nothing more valuable in the U.S. government than the time of the president.

At the same time, close watchers of the region will be forced to notice that the other 10% -- the substance of the visit is somewhat lacking. There will be some economic announcements and Indo-Pacific economic framework that many have been waiting for. But big questions will still remain about U.S. commitment to the region and substantive U.S. policies for combatting both China's national security threats and its economic coercion.

JARRETT: Well, what more could the White House do to show that it's focused on those issues?

ROGIN: Right. Well, we have a situation where the region is in turmoil. Where China is locked down, causing huge economic disruption. They're feeling energy -- the energy crisis from Russia and Ukraine. And the United States, while being still one of the most important

trading partners, is yet to put together a real package of investment and economic engagement that would assure countries all over Asia that we're there to stay. They see us as distracted by the Russia war and they're not convinced that even the Biden administration, which seems committed to with Asia, will be around in a couple of years.

So, without real meat on the bone -- without real programs and real money that mean investment in Asia and U.S. commitment in Asia, and an alternative to China, these countries will still look to China as the most important country in the region.

ROMANS: You've got a new column analyzing America's response to the war in Ukraine, Josh. What did you find -- what can we learn for the future?

ROGIN: Well, basically, what I've been arguing is that all of the other countries around the world, especially in Asia, are learning from what's going on in Ukraine -- not least among them, North Korea. And we see Kim Jong Un finally admitting that they have a COVID outbreak.

At the same time, he's ramping up his missile tests, preparing for a nuclear test, and learning from Putin's playbook. In other words, we can't just assume that our old model of deterring North Korea will work because it clearly didn't work on Putin. And they're best friends and they're working together.

So I think the Biden administration is aware of this, but if they have a North Korea strategy, it's a pretty closely-held secret because a lot of people in Washington and around the region are wondering what exactly is the United States' plan to mitigate the North Korean threat and perhaps even engage them diplomatically. And that will be on everyone's mind when President Biden arrives in the --


ROGIN: -- region later this week.

ROMANS: All right, Josh. Nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much for getting up early for us. CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin.

ROGIN: Any time.

JARRETT: Thanks, Josh.

ROMANS: All right. Just ahead, T.V.'s Dr. Oz watches his razor-thin lead in the Pennsylvania Senate primary shrink even more.

JARRETT: And next, equal pay, finally, for the U.S. Women's Soccer team.



ROMANS: All right. The Golden State Warriors dominate the Dallas Mavericks in game one of the NBA Western Conference Finals.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hi, Andy.


So after a 2-year absence from the Western Conference Finals, Steph Curry and the Warriors returning in style in game one against the Mavs. Rather close in the first half but Golden State opening it up in the third. Off the Luka Doncic turnover, Steph comes down and hits the step-back three.

Then moments later, Steph is going to have the fancy pass over to Draymond Green. He goes and gets it back. He's going to hit another three.

And watch him after this. He's going to start dancing around. Luka watching in the background. A rough night for him. Luka -- more turnovers than field goals for the first time in his playoff career.

The Warriors pull away to win this one easily 112-87. They're now 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

The Mavs, meanwhile, have lost every game one so far this year.

The Playoffs continue tonight as the Heat try to take a 2-0 lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. That game in Miami, once again.


All right, in the NHL Playoffs, game one between the Flames and the Oilers was just wild. The Flames setting a playoff record, scoring two goals in the first 51 seconds. They were up 6-2 halfway through the second. But Edmonton storms all the way back, tying it up at 6-6 just over a minute into the third.

But then the Oilers ran out of gas. Calgary scoring the final three goals of the game. They end up winning it 9-6. What a start to the Battle for Alberta.

Now, Hurricanes and Rangers, meanwhile, going to overtime in game one of their series. Carolina's Ian Cole corrals the rebound, searching for space, and fires the wrist shot. The puck ends up in the back of the net. Another look -- it actually tips off the defenseman's sticks, changing the direction. The goalie had no chance.

Fans in Raleigh going nuts as the Hurricanes win game one. Two-one the final there.

All right, we're a little over two hours away from the start of the second men's golf major of the year, the PGA Championship. It's in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tiger Woods will tee off in only the second tournament since his car crash in February of 2021. Tiger says he's feeling a lot stronger now and he's ready to go. This morning, he's grouped with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, a

threesome with 22 Major titles between them. They're going to start off the 10th tee just after 9:00 eastern.

All right, the Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, are doing their part to try to heal the community after last weekend's racially motivated mass shooting. Players, coaches, staff members, along with members of the NHL Buffalo Sabres, and national lacrosse league Buffalo Bandits all paid their respects wearing black t-shirts that read "Choose Love."

The Bills Foundation and NFL Foundation also announcing they are donating a combined $400,000 to charities benefitting Buffalo's eastside communities.

All right. Yesterday, a historic day for women's soccer. The U.S. Soccer Federation announcing a new collective bargaining agreement that will pay the women equally to the men's team, and that includes an even split of the World Cup prize money earned by both teams. The U.S., the first nation to do this.

Megan Rapinoe and other soccer stars from both squads taking to Twitter to praise the move.


CINDY PARLOW CONE, PRESIDENT, U.S. SOCCER FEDERATION: And I think this deal is going to have ramifications throughout the entire world. It's a game-changing moment here in the U.S. but it has the potential to change how international soccer and international sport do business.


SCHOLES: Yes, guys. You know, awesome that this finally got done. We'll see if other countries around the world follow the U.S.' lead and pay the teams equally for the men and the women.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much, Andy. Nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy.

He is a diplomat by day, but as he showed on "THE LATE SHOW," Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a guitarist at heart.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Stephen, I long wanted to be a musician. As a kid, as a teenager, that's what I wanted to do. And I see some real musicians over there. There was just one missing ingredient.


BLINKEN: Talent. But it has been a constant thread in my life. So I've been in a -- in a bunch of bands in quotation marks.

COLBERT: As we go out, would you -- would you care -- do you guys have a guitar that the secretary might be able to use?


Secretary Blinken, thank you so much. Antony Blinken, everybody. And we'll be right back with a performance by Twice.

Please, sir. Won't you, please.

BLINKEN: (Playing guitar with "THE LATE SHOW" band).


JARRETT: All right. You can find Blinken's music on Spotify with his band -- you guessed it -- Ablinken.

ROMANS: And something that's not going to be music to your ears, what's happening in the stock market -- down again overnight and stock index futures -- just giving a quick look at those before we leave this morning. Those are all still down sharply here.

So you're going to see another triple-digit route for the Dow. The Dow is down 5,300 points just so far this year -- just ugly. And we'll talk about it. "NEW DAY" is going to pick that up in just a few minutes.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.