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Isa Soares Tonight

Belarusian President Lukashenko Says Wagner Leader Prigozhin Is In Russia; Russia Launches More Missiles Into Ukrainian City Of Lviv; Meta Launches Twitter Rival Threads; Trump Aide Walt Nauta Pleads Not Guilty; Russian Jets Harass U.S. Drones In Syria; Meta Officially Launches Twitter Rival "Threads"; Gas Leak In South Africa Kills 17; Eagles Announce Farewell Tour. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 06, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, where is Yevgeny Prigozhin? The leader

of Belarus says the war -- the Wagner boss is in Russia, not Belarus, as he speaks to CNN. Russian missiles hitting Lviv with a devastating effect. We

speak to the mayor of the western Ukrainian city.

And then Meta launches Threads, its highly-anticipated answer to Twitter. So what can we expect from the newest social media contender? But first,

tonight, where in the world is Yevgeny Prigozhin? When we left off last month, if you remember, the bombastic mercenary chief had agreed to exile

in Belarus. This after ending his rebellion against Russia's top generals and laying waste to parts of eastern Ukraine.

But now, the Kremlin says it won't comment on the Wagner leader's whereabouts, and the president of Belarus who, if you remember, reportedly

brokered the exiled deal says Prigozhin isn't in his country. CNN's Matthew Chance has details from the Belarusian capital.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko invited us here to the Palace of

Independence, this marble-clad edifice in the center of Minsk. It's one of his presidential offices for a press conference, and what he says was a

conversation about all the dramatic events that have been unfolding over the past couple of weeks.

Of course, the main interest was the whereabouts of Wagner, the Russian mercenary group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. So, I got a chance to

ask Alexander Lukashenko what update he could give us about that mercenary group that of course staged a military uprising in Russia just last month.

I wonder if you could provide us all with a bit of an update on the whereabouts of the Wagner leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Is he in Belarus or


ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, PRESIDENT, BELARUS (through translator): In terms of Yevgeny Prigozhin, he's in St. Petersburg, or maybe, this morning, he will

travel to Moscow or elsewhere. But he's not on the territory of Belarus now.

CHANCE: Also stunning news there from Alexander Lukashenko. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner leader meant to be here, he's not here. His fighters

are not here either. He said the deal is still on the table. Is what he insisted, but it has not been finally agreed yet. Meanwhile, in Russia, on

state television, we've been seeing these extraordinary images of what they say is Yevgeny Prigozhin's house or one of his houses in St. Petersburg

where police have raided, and they have seized gold bars, cash, passports, some with false names, with Yevgeny Prigozhin's photographs and wigs,

strangely, which could be obviously used as disguise, weapons as well.

And you know, all implies that Russia is sort of moving to discredit the Wagner leader, possibly ahead of arrest, although that's not been

confirmed. I spoke to the Kremlin earlier today, and they said at the moment, they're not commenting on it. But clearly, the deal for Wagner and

its leader to be exiled in Belarus is at the least being renegotiated, and that could end very badly indeed for Yevgeny Prigozhin. Matthew Chance,

CNN, in Minsk, Belarus.


SOARES: Well, to the extent of what's happening to Prigozhin, I'm joined now by CNN's former Moscow bureau chief, Nathan Hodge. And Nathan, I mean,

the plot really does thicken, doesn't it? And this latest story that we just heard there from Matthew, is quite extraordinary. Did anyone see this

coming? I mean, how did you read the press conference that you heard today from Lukashenko?

NATHAN HODGE, CNN FORMR MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Right, I mean, it's all as clear as mud, right?

SOARES: Yes, absolutely --

HODGE: I mean, this has added no clarity and has not really given us a better idea --

SOARES: Yes --

HODGE: Of what really happened to stop the sort of Wagner's march on Moscow, as well as the deal that was supposed to have been struck, you

know, with Yevgeny Prigozhin, this Wagner's mercenary boss. And we just don't know now. We've added further confusion now to the mix by saying,

well, you know, he is in Russia. And I was struck by one very interesting exchange during this lengthy press conference with Lukashenko, where he

talked a little bit about Putin's relationship, you know, with Prigozhin. So, it's worth giving this a listen.


LUKASHENKO (through translator): I don't know everything about the relationship between Putin and Prigozhin, and I don't want to know

everything. Putin knows Prigozhin much better than me, I just met him in the build-up to some events.


The first time was maybe 20 years ago. Putin has known him for much longer, probably for 30 years. From when they lived and worked in St. Petersburg,

and they have a very good relationship with one another.


SOARES: Well, this is quite -- well, how do you interpret that? But clearly distancing himself from Prigozhin, but giving us some insight of

the relationship between both men.

HODGE: Right. But he's also contradicting somewhat the official line that we got from the Kremlin when this deal was first brokered. The explanation

that we got from Dmitry Peskov; the Kremlin spokesman was that, well, Lukashenko was able to step in here because he had a 20-year relationship

with Prigozhin.

SOARES: Yes --

HODGE: And now, you know, Lukashenko is saying, well, look over here, Putin has known him for 30 years. And interestingly enough, he's also sort

of harkening back to a day, you know, that people would remember as sort of the post-Soviet collapse, free-for-all, the days of gangster capitalism in

Russia. Now, both Prigozhin and Putin, you know, share the same hometown, St. Petersburg.

And you know, in that little soundbite there, Lukashenko is saying, well, you know, he's back in Peter, you know, the nickname for St. Petersburg.

SOARES: I mean, could -- Putin will never allow him to be -- he's only in St. Petersburg or in Russia if really Putin wants it, right? I mean, that's

the reality. He is not like -- I know Peskov said it, we don't know, we don't care where he is, we are not keeping eyes on him. Do you buy that?

HODGE: Well, first of all, it kind of defies all logic that in -- you know, Russia was -- has a very formidable surveillance state, that they

would have no idea where this -- where Yevgeny Prigozhin is. You know, and of course, Lukashenko was asked about this as well. What's going to happen?

You know, will Prigozhin be knocked off? Will he fall off a window?

SOARES: Yes --

HODGE: Quite bluntly. And you know, Lukashenko kind of says, oh, anything can happen, but of course, you know, you don't need to assassinate someone

when there's already a campaign of character assassination that's underway.

SOARES: And we saw that today, and I think we got some of the images today we saw from Matthew touched from that, this reported police raid on

Lukashenko's -- pardon me, on Prigozhin's property. Just give us a sense really of what Putin is trying to do here, discredit him, but also show

authority and control.

HODGE: Well, really, what you're seeing right now is sort of like a classic kind of black PR campaign by state television where they are going

after, you know, you don't need to necessarily get a prosecutor involved to basically insinuate to the Russian public that, you know, Yevgeny Prigozhin

is a bad actor and they're showing off, you know, these multiple passports, all of -- you know, the weapons that are stored in his house, gold bars,

you know, all the props of sort of an Uber-villain.

But just remember, a few months ago, Prigozhin was being lionized by the same state media for basically the battle around Bakhmut in Ukraine.

SOARES: Very briefly, how do you see this playing out? Because we still do not know where the Wagner -- the troops are, the mercenaries are, we don't

know if they've gone taking the deal to Belarus, gone to Russia military or if they're in Ukraine. What does it mean for the forces as well --

HODGE: Yes --

SOARES: The Wagner mercenaries?

HODGE: Yes, watch this space. Because number one, we've got all of these, you know, thousands of people who have been trained and equipped by

Prigozhin. He also had a formidable media empire, what happens to that? Does that start to get dismantled? Does -- you know, does the Russian

government start to open against the promise that was supposedly made to him --

SOARES: Yes --

HODGE: You know, would a zealous prosecutor know what to go after him or do the tax inspectors just show up?

SOARES: I find that every time there is a new layer to this story, that I have more questions. There is no clarity on this, I suppose that's properly

part of the strategy too. Nathan, appreciate it, thank you very much. Now, a Ukrainian city far from the frontlines has become the target of a deadly

Russian missile strike. Lviv, as we told you in the last few minutes, has declared two days of mourning for at least, five people killed earlier

today. Our Ben Wedeman reports now from Ukraine.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even away from the frontlines, nowhere in Ukraine is safe. This is the aftermath

of a Russian attack in the western city of Lviv. At least, five people were killed and dozens injured when a cruise missile struck a residential

building overnight, Thursday.

Ages of the victims ranged from 21 to 95, including a World War II survivor. Authorities are calling it the most devastating attack on

civilians in Lviv since the war began. "The Russians say that they're bombing military objects, but they hit a peaceful house. People were

sleeping", says Lviv resident Lira Luben(ph). "How could they do it? World, help us."


The night time attacks smashed the roof and top floors of an apartment building and damaged several others. Ukraine says the attack was carried

out by a Russian caliber missile. A long-range hypersonic missile that carries a payload of a 1,000 pounds of high explosives. Caliber missiles

are extremely accurate, and have been used frequently in Russian attacks on Ukraine.

Emergency workers and firefighters have been removing chunks of rubble from the blast site and have evacuated over 60 people so far. Standing atop the

damaged buildings, they continue to sift through the rubble for any sign of life or death. The Ministry of Internal Affairs says as many as ten bomb

shelters were locked shut in Lviv when the attack happened.

An investigation is ongoing to understand why? But considering the city's relative safety, the strike was probably a shock for many. In the early

days of the war, the city served as a refuge for tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Russian attacks. Given its proximity to the borders of

Poland, a NATO member, many hoped they would be safer there.

But as rescuers continued to clear the rubble and repair the damage, it's clear no place here is beyond Russia's reach. Ben Wedeman, CNN, eastern



SOARES: Let's get the very latest on this attack. I'm joined live from the city by Lviv's Mayor Andriy Sadovyi. So, mayor, thank you very much for

taking the time to speak to us here this evening. You have described -- I saw the attack as one of the biggest on the city's civilian infrastructure.

Give us a sense of the devastation. I can see the rubble behind you. Give us a sense of what you have seen today.

MAYOR ANDRIY SADOVYI, LVIV, UKRAINE: Lviv, we are a safe city. We are a humanitarian hub, and we help protect UNESCO. But today, eight Russian

missiles-Kalibr attacked my city of Lviv, affect civilian infrastructure, and five people died, and 33 people received medical support. And in this

moment, 13 people in hospital. And in this moment, I am inside a risky operation.

Emergency service look for next five people. Russian missiles totally destroyed two buildings, and partially destroyed, 35 buildings and schools

and huge office center. It's very -- captivation. We must look for a new place for our citizens. And we have -- we have a special recommendation for

people from different territory, and we have this place for our citizens. Very tough to see.

SOARES: And mayor, I don't know if you heard what the Russians said today, they said they only hit military targets. Of course, it's something that

we've seen and we've heard from them time and time and again. What do you say to that? I mean, what was the military objective here?

SADOVYI: The Russian power lie about -- in Lviv, Russian missiles attacked civilian infrastructure, civilian people, civilian families. And my city

helps protect UNESCO. But this current situation very bad. And my citizens, every week must have spent time in shelter, and 30,000, my citizens near

frontline discover --

SOARES: Yes, and you spoke about the shelter. And I'm not sure whether you heard, mayor, in that report from my colleague, Ben Wedeman, he said the

Ministry of Internal Affairs said as many as ten bomb shelters were closed when the attack happened. Why were they closed, mayor? What more can you

tell us?

SADOVYI: We have in my city, 6,000 shelters. It is private shelters in local government shelters and different owners. And after missiles attack,

we made a new decision. All shelters must be open all the time.


But time from launch Russian rocket from Crimea to my city is 30 minutes. From Belarus, 17 minutes. But if Russia use Kinzhal, it is only three

minutes. But we completely must change situation about shelter. In my city today, all shelters open all time and next.

SOARES: Mayor, I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us. It is a beautiful city, I have worked from there. Wonderful people. I wish the

people of Lviv the very best. Thank you mayor.

SADOVYI: Thank you. Good luck.

SOARES: Now, a U.N. Peacekeeping force that patrols the Lebanese-Israeli border area says it's working with both countries to prevent further

escalation after cross-border strikes. Israel says it struck parts of Lebanese territory in response to an anti-tank missile fired earlier from

southern Lebanon. A Lebanese source tells CNN that missile landed in Israel and was likely fired by Palestinian militants.

I want to bring in Hadas Gold for more, she is live for us this hour in Jerusalem. Hadas, then, what more can you tell us about these strikes

conducted in southern Lebanon in response, of course, to rockets fired from there? What are officials telling you?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was initially reported as rockets, but then the Israeli military clarified that they believe it was

an anti-tank missiles, and after their soldiers went to the border, they said that this missile really landed right on the border, in fact, parts of

it landed in Lebanon, Lebanese territory and parts of it landed in Israeli territory.

And in response, the Israeli military responded with artillery shelling and the Lebanese news reporting it was about 15 shells that mostly landed in

open areas, and there was no injuries reported on either the Lebanese or the Israeli side. Now, no one has claimed responsibility for this. But as

you noted, the Lebanese security sources pointing the finger at Palestinian militants, which then, of course, brings up the question, what is this

potentially connected to?

Is it potentially connected to all the events that we've been seeing in the occupied West Bank, in Jenin? Keep in mind, we saw those five rockets fired

from Gaza by Hamas on the night that the Israeli military began withdrawing. Could it be connected to that or could it be connected to --

there have been a few sort of minor scuffles along -- among the border, involving -- some involving Hezbollah setting up tents.

And there's other issues that have been happening along the border. It could be connected to that as well. But there are so many sensitivities

about this border and also about involvement, potentially with Hezbollah. Keep in mind that the last time there was a major conflict on this border

or major action on this border, was back in April when 34 rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel.

Once again, the finger was pointed at Palestinian militants. And that was in connection to events that were happening here in Jerusalem. But there's

always sort of a question about whether Hezbollah is going to get involved. And every time, I talk to Israeli security officials, Israeli security

sources, they always talk about how their biggest concern about Israel's borders is Lebanon.

Because a war with Hezbollah is on a whole other level than other -- any sort of recent conflicts we've seen recently between Israel and Hamas in

Gaza. This would be, you know, incredibly destructive, both for Israel and for Lebanon. And that's why there are so many sensitivities about whatever

happens amongst that border.

Then, we also had today not only the action on the Lebanese border, but another shooting attack, actually, in the occupied West Bank. This is near

the Israeli settlement of Kedumim. We know that an Israeli was shot dead and then after a search of some kind, Israeli forces then stopped what they

said was a suspicious vehicle.

The person in the vehicle began firing at them, they fired back at this person, ending up killing him. We've seen images of this car, this white

van that the assailant was allegedly driving, and it had Palestinian license plates. And now, Hamas has taken credit for this shooting, tying it

in direct connection to what happened in Jenin this week.

Of course, Hamas had called on all of its members to strike Israel wherever they could. We saw that ramming attack in Tel Aviv that Hamas took credit

for. And now we have this shooting attack that Hamas is taking credit for. And I think we're going to continue seeing this sort of -- this sort of

back-and-forth of potentially more attacks.

And we will probably see more Israeli military operations because keep in mind, of course, that Israeli officials, Benjamin Netanyahu has said they

reserve the right to go back into Jenin if they feel as though they need to. But in some good news, Isa, for Jenin, the United Arab Emirates just

announcing a $15 million donation to UNRWA; the U.N. agency specifically to help the people of Jenin. Isa?

SOARES: Hadas Gold for us there in Jerusalem at this hour, thanks very much, Hadas. And still to come tonight, record-setting heat this week right

around the globe. And a new report says June also hit a new record. We'll take a look at what might be behind this. And a valet for Donald Trump

provides a Miami federal court. We'll tell you what happened inside, a live report next. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Now record-setting temperatures continue across the globe this week. Tuesday hit a new record temperature, high of 17.18 degrees Celsius,

or 62.92 degrees Fahrenheit. Wednesday's temperature tied that heat record. And now, a new report is out showing that the month of June also set a heat


The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service says this past June was the planet's hottest, and by a quote, "substantial margin" the previous

record was just set in 2019. Joining me now for more on all this, to make sense of this is meteorologist Chad Myers and CNN's chief climate

correspondent Bill Weir.

And Chad, I mean, to you first, we seem to be breaking records almost daily now. I think I've spoken to you and to Bill, two or three times this week,

and we're not even at the peak of Summer, in front of the northern hemisphere. Just talk us through the records being broken this week,

leaving June for just a second.

CHAD MYERS, METEOROLOGIST: They are truly hard to keep track of. I mean, we did not break the hottest temperature day on record, we know that from

satellites. Now, we only had satellites since 1979. So that's how far those data goes back. But we broke records in Texas, we broke records in China,

and we broke an all-time record for the U.K. in the month of June.

So, let's get to this. This is what we know, and the problem here is that the old record that we set back, the hottest temperature on record in an El

Nino year, because we're in El Nino, that's why we're so warm this year, was in 2016, and it was in August. All of a sudden, we're above that number

right here, and we're only in July.

So, here is where that -- that's where 2016 came from. I can easily see 2023 going up here and breaking more records almost on a daily basis.

That's just how this year is going to go, 17.18 degrees Celsius now above where we were by about a quarter of a degree. Why? Why Summer time in the

northern hemisphere? Because there is so much land up here. It's all land.

We don't get record heat in the Winter time in the northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, Summer time, because there is not as much land to heat

up. You just start baking the northern hemisphere land because land heats up so much faster than water does. So that's why that almost that bell

curve, that sign wave is there in the northern hemisphere Summer.

Nine out of nine years now are the hottest nine on record. The next warmest thing we talked about here, this is from the Copernicus Climate Change

update, 1.41 degrees sea above pre-industrial levels.


Remember a couple of years ago, we were talking, let's not get above 1.5? Well, that's just way too close this quickly from when we said let's not go

there because we're almost there.

SOARES: Yes, we are very much almost there. And Bill, you know, this was just Tuesday, Wednesday, June, of course, also hitting a record. Just put

this into a wider context for us. Because what I noticed also was that ocean-surface temperatures also rising, Bill, also hitting records. And of

course, as water expands -- I remember, you were telling me this, as water expands, this, we're talking about higher sea levels as well. And that is

of huge concern.

BILL WEIR, CNN CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, as much as this ice goes away, as much ice going away down at the South Pole that could cover the area of

India. And then that's not reflecting anymore, it's absorbing now. And so, yes, you talk about Chad's data sets, as you said, the U.S. is working with

data that goes back to 79, Copernicus goes back to 1940.

But if you talk to people who study ice course and corals and can go back millennia, we're not living the hottest earth in a 100,000 years, they

would say. And of course, humanity evolved in this very precise sweet spot of a temperature, you know, that's predictable and weather patterns are

predictable. Unfortunately, we don't live on that planet anymore.

And the news, as we look at these sort of record sets as we will continue through the Summer, we have to remind ourselves it's also the coolest 4th

of July we're going to have for the rest of our lives. One of the coolest. This trend is just clear, and now it's not just a matter of mitigation,

stopping the source of the heating, which is fossil fuel use, but it's adapting to a world that's already here and we're seeing community struggle

with that now, cooling centers, you know, zoning laws around the coast.

SOARES: Yes --

WEIR: This is just the beginning, unfortunately.

SOARES: And Bill, I mean, for viewers who may be rolling their eyes at the fact, here we go, another record, yet another record. Just talk to us about

the impact this is having on the way we live, our health, our economy because it's all tied together.

WEIR: Absolutely, everything is tied together. Public health, diplomacy, foreign policy, how we live and build and dress and eat, all of these

things affect us. The supply chains break down when say the tarmac on a runway gets too hot to lift off a plane, or train tracks buckle, you know,

under this intense heat as well. There is the lack of productivity. Murder rates go up. Test scores come down.

Now, all the bad stuff is amplified when we get above that livable golden life zone of human experience. Crops are harder to grow -- there's too much

water in some places, there's not enough in others, as the water cycle gets all wonky there as well. So --

SOARES: Yes, and I learned --

WEIR: You know, unfortunately --

SOARES: I learned that last week when my cherry tree, after more than 20 years is starting to die. And the tree surgeon said, look, this, we're

seeing more and more of this, we just can't explain it. Climate change, basically, they're behaving differently, of course. No Summers, Spring

coming way too soon, too hot. This -- we're all living it as much as we perhaps may want to turn our attention away from it.

Chad and Bill, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

WEIR: Good bye --

SOARES: Still to come tonight, American drones in Syria on a mission against ISIS, apparently harassed by Russian fighter jets. We'll show you

the video. And a new app from Facebook aims to take on Twitter's social media space. How is Thread different from Twitter? Our tech expert is here

to explain.




SOARES: Welcome, back everyone. You are watching Isa Soares tonight live from London.

Donald Trump's right-hand man entered a not guilty plea in Miami federal court today. Trump's valet, Walt Nauta, who left the courthouse without

saying a word, as you can see there, was charged on the same indictment as the former U.S. president.

Now facing six felony charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and several counts of mishandling classified documents. The Justice Department

says it has surveillance video of him moving boxes of the documents around the property. CNN's Carlos Suarez is outside the federal courthouse.

Carlos, what is next in this case?

The arraignment was pretty short.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Isa. Now that both former president Donald Trump and Walt Nauta have entered a not guilty plea

in their respective indictments, the Justice Department can now start sharing some of its evidence with both legal teams.

As you noted the 40-year old did not say a word after leaving a federal courthouse here in south Florida late this morning. He was joined inside a

courthouse by his Washington based attorney as well as a new attorney that he has hired that is able to practice here in south Florida.

That attorney has been identified as Sasha Dadan. We're told he's a former public defender with a good amount of experience in trying cases across

south Florida. She has an office in Ft. Peters, Florida. That is the city where this trial is expected to take place for the former president as well

as Walt Nauta.

The 40-year old is accused of moving boxes that contain classified documents from a storage room at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort to other

parts of the property and lying to federal investigators about the whole thing.

Prosecutors out here say all this was an effort to get a Trump lawyer not to find some of these classified documents that had been subpoenaed by a

grand jury. And as you noted, prosecutors say they have surveillance video showing someone we believe to be Walt Nauta moving boxes across the Mar-a-

Lago resort property before the FBI searched it.

The Feds have said that Nauta lied to investigators about the whereabouts of these boxes as well as lying about the fact that he did move them,


SOARES: I suspect we have not heard anything from the Trump camp on this.

SUAREZ: We have not heard anything from the Trump campaign. We know both men have kept a relatively close relationship. Nauta was here in Miami for

the former president's arraignment last month.

But because Nauta had not found a local attorney to represent him, he was not able to enter a not guilty plea at that time, which is why we had

today's arraignment.

As for when this trial might actually get underway for both these men, right now it does seem likely that the judge handling this case is going to

have to postpone this trial from an August date to December at the earliest.

SUAREZ: Carlos Suarez for us in Miami, Florida. Thanks very much, Carlos.

Now the U.S. military has released new video --


SOARES: -- which appears to show Russian fighter jets harassing American drones. It says the drones were on a mission. On Wednesday, you can see

there, against ISIS in Syria, when Russian jets released parachute flares in front of them.

A commander says one jet also positioned itself to block the drones' view. Both countries are operating in Syria but for different reasons.

The U.S. is part of the anti-ISIS coalition, while Russian troops are there to back Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Natasha Bertrand is the Pentagon

with the latest.

What more are you learning about this?

It's not the first time this has happened, right?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not. U.S. officials have actually seen a pretty disturbing uptake in these kinds of incidents

over the last several months between Russian and American aircraft. In Syria and in the region writ large.

What happened is the three Russian fighter jets especially harassed at least three American MQ-9 drones that were, according to the Pentagon,

conducting in anti ISIS mission over Syria.

The Russian fighter aircraft started releasing parachute flares in front of the drones, ostensibly to block their view. One of the fighter jets got

extremely close to one of the drones and engaged its afterburner, again, to try to block the view of the drone and forced the operator of the drone,

who was operating remotely, to take evasive maneuvers.

We did ask the Pentagon whether these drones were forced down as a result of this harassment. And it does not appear any of the drones crashed, like

that American drone did over the Black Sea a few months ago, when a Russian fighter jet harassed it in that instance.

But the U.S. does say that this is becoming an increasing instance. Russian fighter jets have become extremely aggressive toward not only American

drones operating in the region but also manned American fighter jets operating in the skies over Syria.

The top commander for the Air Force in the Middle East said recently that it actually appeared Russian fighter jets were trying to dogfight with

American fighter jets over these skies in Syria. Obviously an alarming statement because it implies the Russian fighter jets are trying to get

into aerial combat with American planes.

So they are really emphasizing here that they need the Russians to act in the professional and safe manner. The Russians, however, don't seem to be

heeding that advice, Isa.

SOARES: A worrying pattern. Thanks very much, Natasha. Appreciate it.

Now Facebook parent company Meta is launching a new social media app that is the direct rival to Twitter. The app named Threads debuted today with

CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying some 30 million people signed up for the service in the first 16 hours.

For comparison, Twitter has a user base of some 300 million. It's also worth mentioning Zuckerberg has long-standing feud with fellow tech

billionaire Elon Musk, who bought Twitter last year. I want to bring in our technology reporter, Brian Fung.

A strong start, I think it's fair to say, for the platforms, for Threads. Talk to me about the platform, the functionality, the limitations.

Do you think it has potential here?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the best way to think about Threads is it's a bare bones version of Twitter. It's lacking a lot of the other kind

of major features that Twitter has, like direct messages or a comprehensive search function.

Twitter also has -- I'm sorry -- Threads also has an algorithmic feed, kind of like Instagram, where it doesn't show you only the content from people

you follow but also content from accounts you don't follow and basically trying to recommend new content to you.

The character limit on Threads is about 500 characters, which again is a bit different from Twitter. But overall, it seems there is a strong start

for Threads here with many users praising its basic features, even though there are still some limitations here.

And the main thing I think that is really going in the favor of Threads right now is a massive installed universe that Meta can draw on from

Instagram. The way you sign up for Threads is through an Instagram account.

When you think about the sheer number of people who have Instagram already and that is a huge number of people that Meta can push Threads to and

encourage them to sign up and potentially draw them away from Twitter to this new Twitter like app, Isa.

SOARES: You say that, Brian, and I signed up just to see, trust me, I don't need another social media site to give me extra work but I signed up.

Obviously, the followers I have on Instagram are completely different from the followers I have on Twitter.

Do you really think that it has a chance of unseating Twitter here?

Obviously, context for the viewers, Meta has copied other apps and have done so well and others have tried and failed to copy Twitter.

FUNG: That's. Right


FUNG: I think what is different about the situation is that while Meta has tried to copy other apps in the past, like TikTok and Snapchat, those

attempts really were kind of happening when those apps were on the rise. And those apps were really popular.

Right now, what is happening is Twitter seems to be getting less popular as it restricts people from being able to view tweets as much or interact with

the platform is much.

People look to increasingly be looking for a way to find other alternatives, whether that is Threads or Bluesky or Mastodon, all of which

have seen an incredible growth in just the last few days alone as Twitter has clamped down on the ability for people to view tweets.

To your other point about how often people's Instagram followers are very different from what their Twitter followers look like, I think what Meta is

banking on here is that, for most people, the average user, their social grasp on both networks may look rather similar.

It's really only for a professional users or high profile people who may need to use Twitter for work purposes, that they have this division between

a personal Instagram account and a professional Twitter persona. So it's possible that Meta here is making the bet that most people, for most

people, this will not be that big of an issue.

SOARES: Brian Fung, appreciate it, thanks very much, Brian.

Still to come tonight, a live report from South Africa where authorities are investigating a toxic gas leak. Where they think the fatal cloud came

from. That's next.

Later, high stakes trip to Beijing. What the U.S. Treasury Secretary hopes to accomplish during her visit to the world's second largest economy. Both

those stories after the break.




SOARES: Heartbreaking; that is how one official describes the scenes of the poisonous gas leak in South Africa. Authorities say 17 people have died

after nitrate gas leaked in a settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Forensic workers in hazmat suits combed the area. Officials say the initial investigation show it could be linked to illegal mining. CNN's David

McKenzie is in Johannesburg, South Africa, with much more of this.

David, what more are you learning this hour?

Who was mining this mine?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a disused mine in that area, which is swarmed by illegal miners, according to



MCKENZIE: There hasn't been a definitive connection yet but they are accusing this leak, putting the blame of this leak on these illegal miners,

which are rampant in this part of the country, often heavily armed and often acting with impunity, working on disused gold mines to get gold out

of the ground and into the market.

This particular incident is very tragic, of course. It seems like nitrate gas was released; it's not clear whether it was accidental or intentional.

Videos from the scene show those gas canisters in the tightly packed shacks, part of this informal settlement to eastern Johannesburg. One

official described coming onto the scene and the devastation he saw.


PARIYAZA LESUFI, GAUTENG PROVINCE PREMIER: The scene was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking. I regret that we had to go through that. It was

heartbreaking. It is something that we might need assistance because the bodies were scattered literally everywhere.


MCKENZIE: A resident alerted the police to the danger going on. There was a strange smell, according to police who were on the scene there. At least

one person is believed to have shut off one of those canisters, which speaks possibly to an incident of foul play.

As I say, these illegal miners are operating in all parts of this province in South Africa. They often go very deep underground, spending weeks or

even months getting illegally gold from disused mines and even sneaking into active mines in this area and terrorizing the neighborhoods based


This will be another wake up call for authorities who say they will clamp down on the illegal miners but so far no one arrests have been made and

they are really struggling to deal with these gangs that are very organized and often heavy armed. Isa.

SOARES: Talk to us about the scale of this one; you said it's happening often. I'm guessing it's also profitable, as we've seen in many other


What can be done?

How can the government fight this, David?

SOARES: You've also reported on these issues elsewhere in the world. Here in South Africa, millions of dollars are gained through illegal mines,

groups with accusations of corruption, both within the police and the government linked to these illegal miners.

I've covered the story here as well in South Africa, gone down those tiny shafts where illegal miners will go down often with very limited gear. One

of the aspects of the story which links these to miners are the gas canisters themselves, the nitrate used for the processing of the soil, of

the ground taken out and then the gold separated from it.

That does indicate very firmly that this has something to do with these illegal miners. Also the location of this incident is right near one of

those disused mines. I think it speaks to the difficulty of law and order in this country, in particular when it comes to organized crime.

SOARES: Yes, David McKenzie for us in Johannesburg. Thank you very much, David.

Bringing you here to London where an 8-year-old girl has died after a car crashed into a school in Wimbledon. Eight other people were injured in the

collision, including six children.

Authorities say the driver of the vehicle, a woman in her 40s, has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

The owner of the Titan submersible that imploded underwater has suspended all exploration trips. OceanGate's website says it will pause both

exploration and commercial operation. However, the website still features highlights of past expeditions, including a tour of the Titanic wreckage.

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was one of five people who died when the Titan submersible imploded in June. The group, if you remember, was trying to

view the titanic wreckage.

Still ahead right here, the U.S. Treasury Secretary says she is looking to promote healthy economic competition during a high stakes visit to Beijing.

Can she achieve that?

That is next.





SOARES: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is on a mission to strengthen ties between the world's two largest economies. She began a four-day visit

to China on Thursday, saying the U.S. seeks healthy economic competition. Anna Coren is in Hong Kong with more.


ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. Treasury Secretary has arrived in Beijing, where she will continue attempts to improve U.S.-China

relations, which have been at an all-time low.

It follows U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken's visit just two weeks ago. Janet Yellen is expected to receive a warm welcome because of her

economic pragmatism. She wants to improve communications and lower the temperature between the world's two largest economies.

Beijing sees her as the voice of reason in the Biden administration, where she has pushed to maintain economic ties with China. She's argued against

tariffs and restrictions on investment in China and while giving testimony to Congress in April she warned that decoupling would be disastrous.

Her itinerary is yet public but she plans to meet with her Chinese counterpart and other high-ranking officials. But she's not expected to

meet with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Yellen's meeting will not be without tension.

The Treasury Secretary has spoken out against China's human rights record and believes American supply chains need to diversify away from China.

Yellen will try to convince Beijing that the U.S. is not trying to harm or contain the Chinese economy by blocking access to sensitive technology,

such as semiconductors, in the name of national security.

Beijing is not buying it. Just this week, China retaliated by announcing it would restrict the export of certain minerals critical for the production

of semiconductor chips, solar cells and other tech products.

A short time, ago we heard from China's commerce ministry, criticizing U.S. restrictions on chip exports to China saying, quote, "The U.S. approach not

only infringes on Chinese companies' legitimate rights but also undermines interests of many countries and regions and will hinder global technology

exchange and trade cooperation.

"This will eventually backfire against the U.S."

At the end of the day, the world's two largest economies are deeply entwined with $700 billion in trade between China and the U.S. each year.

The economic global uncertainty only adds to the importance of the relationship.

China is struggling to reboot its economy post COVID while the U.S. is trying to contain inflation and avoid recession. Economically, the U.S. and

China both need each other -- Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


SOARES: A familiar sound is going away.



SOARES (voice-over): You will be singing that for the rest of the your, day you are welcome. The Eagles announcing Thursday that they will embark

on a final tour later this year. The first of U.S. 13 cities on the tour but says many more will be added and the tour may not end until 2025.

They are not going away quite yet. The Eagles closed the announcement by saying this is our swan song. But the music goes on and on, apparently

until 2025.

Now described as a brave pioneer and a music legend, tributes are pouring in for Hong Kong born singer CoCo Lee who died on Wednesday at the age of

48, several days after what was described as a suicide attempt. The star had been battling depression, according to a statement from her sisters.

Beloved actress Asia -- beloved across Asia as the voice of Disney's "Mulan," in Mandarin, Lee charmed the world performing the Oscar nominated

theme song for the film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," at the 2001 Academy Awards.

Her 30-year career is celebrated for breaking down barriers for Chinese artists in the international music scene.

Back in 1999, she told CNN this. "The whole world, that is my goal, to break into the whole world because I believe I can do it."

With those words, we leave you tonight. Thank you very much for your company. Do stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" with Paula Newton is up

next. See you soon.