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Xi And Zelenskyy Speak For First Time Since Russia's Invasion; Doctors In Sudan Struggle To Treat The Wounded As Supplies Run Out; House Passes Republican Bill To Raise Debt Limit. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 27, 2023 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine some 14 months ago. Xi spoke for an hour with Zelenskyy as Beijing renews efforts to be a potential peacemaker in Ukraine. Zelenskyy called it a long and meaningful phone call but also making clear no concessions would be made to end the fighting.

CNN's Steven Jiang joins me from Beijing. On the surface, Steven, this seems to indicate progress is being made, but Xi has been very close with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has not denounced this war. Talk to me about the significance of this call.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Christine, it's significant and symbolic given China's longstanding claim of neutrality. Now, this, of course, had long been rumored, especially after Xi came back from Moscow last month and after that flurry of diplomatic visits to Beijing by European leaders, not to mention China's growing desire to be seen as a global peacemaker, as you mentioned. So some see this call as a reward from Beijing to Europe. Europe has the willingness to engage with China on this issue.

But let's not forget the Chinese ambassador to France just caused a huge uproar across Europe by questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet states. So the need for damage control, according to some observers, may finally tip the scales in favor of this rather modest gesture in the form of this call on Wednesday.

Now, Xi Jinping, of course, reiterated a lot of Chinese talking points but he did pledge for the first time to send a special envoy to Ukraine and other regional countries to discuss quote-unquote "a political settlement." But even as the media here has acknowledged this is not likely to happen anytime soon given how far apart Russia and Ukraine are -- and it's going to take a lot more than a phone call to convince China's critics that it is now being serious to be impartial despite its known partnership with Russia.

But this call does indicate China is now willing to engage with Ukraine more regularly and it's trying to show Europe it's willing to play a more constructive role in ending this war at a time, Christine, when Europe is increasingly a battleground in this strategic rivalry between China and the United States -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, Steven Jiang, thank you so much for that.

Sudan's army and rival paramilitary forces are still clashing this morning, undermining the uneasy 72-hour ceasefire set to expire today. As diplomats and foreign nationals scramble to leave the country, food and medicine is dwindling and hospitals are overrun with injured people. The Health Ministry reports more than 500 people have died and thousands are wounded here.

CNN's David McKenzie joins me live from Johannesburg. David, the head of the army has signaled his willingness to extend this ceasefire by another three days. What's the likelihood of that happening? And you report that there have been skirmishes and clashes all along. It's not much of a ceasefire to begin with.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, you're right. This is a ceasefire in name only, frankly. And though the head of the armed forces has said they're willing to extend the so-called ceasefire even this morning there has been clashes in Khartoum and likely in other parts of the country -- very heavy fighting, in fact, as the ceasefire supposedly goes on.

So the situation in the country is dire. In the capital, in the hospitals, doctors are trying everything they can in terrible circumstances to try and save lives.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): A brave Sudanese doctor takes us inside a frontline hospital in Khartoum, filming over several days.

DR. HOWIDA ALHASSAN, ALBAN GADID HOSPITAL: (Speaking foreign language).

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Doctor Howida Alhassan and her team are barely coping at El-Ban JAdeed Hospital.

ALHASSAN: (Speaking foreign language).

MCKENZIE (voice-over): "They talk about ceasefire but there is no ceasefire. The wounded keep coming in," she narrates. "The same staff have been here for 11 days."

They're facing a deluge of civilian victims, many with multiple gunshot wounds, wiping away the blood because the casualties never stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

MCKENZIE (voice-over): "My son was wounded," says this man, because many hospitals aren't working.

ALHASSAN (through translator): I'm astonished how we are able to continue. We don't sleep. I wouldn't call what we do sleeping; I would call it fainting. We faint and we wake up again. I'm surprised how we are managing.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Dr. Howida says everything is running out. They are giving smaller doses of medicine to ration their supply.

ALHASSAN: (Speaking foreign language).


MCKENZIE (voice-over): "We use the equipment and the instruments more than once," she says. "We can't sterilize properly. There are just too many wounded."

ALHASSAN (through translator): Soon we'll have no bandages, no medication, no anesthetic drugs, and no oxygen. The situation is bad -- with all the meaning of the word.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Bad, and it will get worse unless help comes soon or the fighting stops.

Sudan's doctors' union says that more than two-thirds of hospitals are shut in the capital. Eyewitnesses and doctor's groups say hospitals are being targeted with heavy weapons by both sides, which they deny.

As foreign governments spirit their diplomats and nationals out of Sudan, Dr. Howida says her conscience compels her to stay.

ALHASSAN (through translator): I believe the number of casualties and wounded will increase after the foreigners are evacuated. God knows if we will be alive or dead.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): "Sudanese blood is one blood," she told us. "I beg you to silence the sound of the rifles."


MCKENZIE: Christine, the thing that really struck me is that they're having to reuse medical instruments for surgeries even before they've managed to sterilize them.

We spoke to Dr. Howida this morning. She says the clashes are ongoing in parts of the capital. They've run out of oxygen at that hospital -- one of the few hospitals remaining in the capital that's actually seeing people. And it's not just, of course, those directly impacted by gunshot wounds or blast injuries, it's those who have cancer or diabetes, or other serious ailments who are not getting seen. It's really a very bad situation, indeed -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, it sure is.

Thank you for taking us behind the scenes. Important for people to see that. All right, David, thanks.

Quick hits around the globe right now.

A high-ranking cleric has been assassinated in Iran, according to state media, as attacks on the theoretic rule -- theocratic rule increase. He was part of the panel that helps pick the next supreme leader after the current ayatollah dies.

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis gives women the right to vote at a key meeting for Catholics. Changes to the Synod of Bishops will now include women and young people. Normally, only bishops are allowed to vote.

And Ya Ya, the giant panda, is back home in China. The panda who was shipped out Wednesday has been the center of controversy the past few months. Social media critics in China have accused the Memphis Zoo of poor treatment, pointing to videos showing a skinny Ya Ya. The allegations have been denied by the zoo, saying the panda has a genetic skin disorder.

All right. Just ahead, prosecutors calling the classified documents leak suspect a flight risk just ahead of a detention hearing today. And the NFL draft kicks off tonight in Kansas City. What you need to know, next.



ROMANS: Here is today's fast-forward lookahead.

E. Jean Carroll expected to continue her testimony today in her battery and defamation trial against Donald Trump. Carroll alleges Trump raped her in 1996, then defamed her as he denied it years later.

The Air National Guardsman suspected of leaking classified documents appears for a detention hearing today. Prosecutors now say the information Jack Teizeira allegedly took far exceeds what has been reported.

South Korea's president will speak at a joint session of Congress today. He's the first South Korean president to do so in a decade.

All right, to sports now.

Jimmy Butler and the Heat eliminate the top-seeded Bucks from the NBA Playoffs in an overtime stunner.

Andy Scholes stayed up late to watch it for us.


ROMANS: He's got the Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.

SCHOLES: Yes, good morning, Christine.

For just the sixth time in NBA history, a one-seed has lost to an eight-seed in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. And, you know, the Bucks were the favorites to win it all but they won just one playoff game.

And it was "Playoff Jimmy" rallying the Heat once again in game five. Down 16 in the fourth, they come all the way back, and Jimmy Butler with this bucket in the final second to send the game to overtime. What a play there. Butler had 42 points in the game.

The Heat then had a two-point lead in the extra period. Time winding down for the Bucks and they don't even get a shot off to try to save their season.

Miami with one of the biggest upsets in NBA history knocking out the Bucks in five with a 128-126 comeback win. The Heat now going to move on to face the Knicks in round two.

New York easily beating the Cavs 106-95 to win the series four games to one. The Knicks are now in the second round of the playoffs for just the second time in 23 years.

Now, star forward Julius Randle, though, did have to leave this game in the second quarter after reinjuring his left ankle. That's a concern.

Game one of the Knicks-Heat series tips off Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

Lakers fans, meanwhile, are going to have to wait to see if they make it to round two. Ja Morant and Desmond Bane combining for 64 points as the Grizzlies would win 116-99 to force a game six Friday night in L.A.

But a Lakers-Warriors second-round matchup looms. Steph Curry was super pumped up last night. He got this bucket and the foul late in the final minute to put the Kings away in game five. They now lead that series 3 games to two.

Just one game on the schedule tonight. You've got the Celtics and the Hawks, game six. You can watch that one on our sister station TNT at 8:30 eastern.

All right, the New York Jets introducing Aaron Rodgers as their new quarterback yesterday. The four-time NFL MVP said he's well aware that his new team hasn't made the playoffs in 12 seasons, which is the longest drought of all the big four pro sports teams in the U.S. But Rodgers says he thinks the Jets can win it all for the first time since Joe Namath back in 1969.


AARON RODGERS, NEW YORK JETS QUARTERBACK: I grew up watching old VHS tapes of the Super Bowls and so, obviously, I know about the guarantee and "Broadway Joe." It's been a while since then. I noticed walking in this morning that the Super Bowl three trophy is looking a little lonely, so --



SCHOLES: All right. And finally, the NFL draft kicks off tonight from Kansas City with the first round. An estimated 300,000 fans are going to be there this week and weekend to see the largest stage in league history -- a stage the size of a football field.

The Carolina Panthers are going on the clock at 8:00 eastern with that first overall pick. They're going to be followed by the Texans, Cardinals, Colts, and Seahawks in the top five.

And, Christine, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young the overwhelming favorite to be the top --

ROMANS: All right.

SCHOLES: -- pick. But then it's where it gets really interesting. The Texans, at the second pick -- no one really knows what they're going to do. So lots of drama heading into tonight.

ROMANS: OK. Well, we know you'll report all of it for us when it happens. Thank you so much. Nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Have a great morning.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," Tucker Carlson breaking his silence just days after he was fired from Fox. And next, right here, the GOP debt limit bill already dead on arrival in the Senate. Why lawmakers do not want to flirt with a potential default. Get this done.



ROMANS: Your Romans' Numeral this morning is 78. That's how many times Congress has increased the debt limit since 1960 -- 49 times. Those are passed under Republican presidents; 29 times under Democratic presidents. But in recent years it has become a political football in a game where the American people are the losing team. More on that in a moment.

But looking at markets around the world right now, Asian markets finished higher this morning. European markets are also higher here. Investors are reacting to news that Barclays and Deutsche Bank reported double-digit profit growth.

On Wall Street, stock index futures also bouncing back a little bit this morning after a mixed session yesterday. That sharp drop for First Republic Bank spurred fears about the stability of the banking sector. The Dow down about 200 points.

The bright spot for the market, tech stocks boosted by upbeat earnings from Microsoft and Meta. Shares of Meta this morning are up more than 11 percent in premarket, so watch that one.

On inflation watch, gas prices fell a penny overnight to $3.64 a gallon.

And it's another big day today of earnings. Amazon, Mastercard, and American Airlines are among the companies set to report. Also today, the first reading for first-quarter GDP and another reading on weekly jobless figures are due out later this morning, so watch this space.

All right. House Republicans hoped that passing a debt limit bill would bring President Biden to the negotiating table, but the president says extending the debt limit is non-negotiable. The government could default on its debt if a bipartisan deal is not reached by early June.

I want to bring in Ken Rogoff, professor of economics and public policy at Harvard University. Ken, right after this vote passed McCarthy spoke and he passed the buck now on to President Biden -- listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): And we just passed the bill. It's not our job to modify it. We're the only ones to lift the debt limit to make sure this economy is not in jeopardy.


ROMANS: Ken, there is a big fight ahead here. We are just at the beginning of trying to solve this problem. You say the odds of a default are not zero -- explain.

KEN ROGOFF, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AND PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, FORMER IMF CHIEF ECONOMIST (via Skype): Christine, I never thought I'd be sitting here saying this but there's a very small but material risk that this power struggle between Democrats and Republicans and, frankly, between Republicans and Republicans, could lead to the first default in a major advanced economy since the Great Depression in World War II.

It would be an accident. I mean, this would be a disaster. But we're at that level of political dysfunction in our -- in Washington where it could happen.

ROMANS: You know, what McCarthy has just passed is a package that guts the Biden agenda and would cut spending here in the near term back to 2022 levels. So it would save $4.8 trillion over a decade, which is what fiscal conservatives want. But those spending cuts -- wouldn't they slow the economy in the near term? Is this a good time to be -- to be slicing spending?

ROGOFF: Well, no. But beyond that, I think President Biden has the right position that this just isn't something you negotiate. The Republicans say well, we want to be able to pay our bill. Well, we've made the cut -- we've already spent the money. That's the bills we're talking about. We're not talking about the next 10 years.

On the other hand, I do understand the Republicans' position that the Democrats were passing these transformational bills on the size of government, the direction of government, with razor-thin majorities and they sort of want to push back. But they really should do that at the ballot box and not like this.

ROMANS: Yes. That's what elections are for -- not debt ceiling debates.

Talk to me about the health of -- the health of the banking sector because all of this is coming at a time when we're still on recession watch -- watching the banking sector for signs of weakness. What does all of this -- put all of this together for me about what it means for banks.

ROGOFF: Well, for sure, if something blew up with the debt limit it would be a huge problem for banks because of that. It's the U.S. government that came in and bailed out everyone when we had the problem in March. And the banking system -- particularly, small- and medium-sized banks -- still have a lot of losses on their books simply because interest rates went up a lot.

Given time, they can make it back. They can get back to health or get merged with someone. But if something happens suddenly it's a problem. We're still on watch.

Financial crises come in waves. We had one and there could be another one later.


ROMANS: All right, Ken Rogoff, always nice to talk to you even when political brinksmanship is causing us to pull our hair out. Thank you so much. Nice to see you, Ken.

ROGOFF: Thank you.

ROMANS: Have a good morning.

All right. Next, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Israel as his battle against Disney is ramping up. What it means for his expected presidential bid coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."


ROMANS: All right, our top of the morning this Thursday, the top trending T.V. shows.


Clip from Netflix's "THE DIPLOMAT."



ROMANS: "THE DIPLOMAT" with Keri Russell is number one.

Here is number two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Clip from Peacock's "MRS. DAVIS."


ROMANS: That's "MRS. DAVIS" streaming on Peacock.

And number three --


Clip from Netflix's "BEEF."


ROMANS: That's "BEEF" from Netflix.

All right, thanks for joining me this Thursday morning. I'm Christine Romans. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.