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Isa Soares Tonight

IDF Retrieves The Bodies Of Three Israeli Hostages; A New Video Shows Sean Diddy Combs In A 2016 Video Assaulting Former Girlfriend; U.S. Says Aid Deliveries Are Underway Via Floating Pier; Scheffler Back At PGA Championship After Being Detained; Russia Expands Push Into Kharkiv Region; U.N.: "Time Is Running Out" To Address Crisis In Sudan. 2-3p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: All right, a very warm welcome to all of you watching at home, I am Zain Asher in for my colleague, Isa Soares.

Tonight, we are following two breaking news stories this hour. First, Israel says that it has recovered the bodies of three hostages who were

killed on October 7th.

And CNN has exclusively obtained very disturbing videos showing rap star "Diddy" assaulting his former girlfriend, Cassie Ventura back in 2016.

Those stories and much more ahead. We begin though with breaking news this hour on the Israeli-Hamas war, and the Israeli military announced that its

forces have recovered the bodies of three hostages from Gaza.

The IDF says they escaped from the Nova Festival on October 7th and went to a Kibbutz where they were killed. Chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari

says the hostages were celebrating life at that festival when they were brutally murdered. He delivered the somber details at a news conferences

just a few hours ago.


DANIEL HAGARI, SPOKESPERSON, IDF: It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that last night, the Israel Defense Forces and ISA forces rescued the

bodies of our hostages, Shani Louk, Amit Buskila, Itzhak Gelerenter, who were taken hostage during the Hamas massacre on October 7th and murdered,

and was murdered. They were murdered by Hamas.


ASHER: Let's bring in international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, who is in London, of course, a lot of us know Shani Louk, remember her face,

remember her story, she was at the Nova Music Festival and then she was killed, kidnapped, taken into Gaza, and her body was essentially tortured.

She was tortured and her body was paraded around.

Just explain to us though the intelligence and a bit more about the operation that led to the IDF retrieving these bodies in Gaza. Nic, walk us

through that.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the IDF is in this, this is something that happened last night, the recovery took place

last night. We understand that was in a tunnel that's where the operation took place.

This was a combined operation between the IDF military and the Shin Bet; the Intelligence service, using Intelligence that they -- that they had

found or been given. It's not clear -- and it's not clear, you know, how many forces needed to go in, whether this was like a hot military zone

where they had to fight their way in or what the environment was.

But this has been so important for the IDF to do, for the government to show Israelis, all Israelis, not just the families of hostage members -- of

hostages. But show everyone that they are prioritizing, bringing the hostages home, and really, this was just a very sorrowful way to say that

they had found three on that board, three of them home.

But the story that Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesperson laid out there is staggering really in the detail. He talked there about how they managed to

get away from the Nova Film Festival, then got to a Kibbutz, Mefalsim, which is about 10-15 minutes drive away, maybe.

And we know that at least one of the hostages who we now understand because Hagari has told us that the three of them were killed October 7th, and it

was their bodies that were taken into Gaza, disturbing enough for the families because they've been not knowing what happened to them.

But Amit's(ph) cousin said that he was on the phone with her for about an hour and a half during a lot of what was happening. And he said he can hear

a lot of shooting that was going on in the background, and the family just kept hoping that she was alive, and that, that sense of torture that the

families have gone through worrying and knowing that their loved ones are being potentially held in a tunnel, potentially starved, potentially, you

know, being traumatized in other ways.

All of that, now they have the bodies and they can bury them in Israel, which is what all the other families at this stage are asking for. But it's

-- but it is significant and important, I think for the government, which I think is why we heard about it in this way from the IDF to show that

they're prioritizing getting the hostages back.


Because actually more people right now, more Israelis want the hostages back than they want the military operation to continue in Rafah. So, it's

contentious and the government needs to show that it's -- that it is putting priority on the hostages.

ASHER: Yes, I mean, that's actually great point. You know, there's been so much controversy around the IDF's operation into Rafah. I mean, it's losing

friends in terms of the international allies over this very operation. And so, they really need to show -- they have to show, Nic, that this is

actually worth it, especially when you consider the number of IDF soldiers who lost their lives during the seven-month war in Gaza, Nic.

ROBERTSON: Yes, and even this week, the IDF has lost a number of troops. It was four or five and friendly fire in an operation that's actually

escalated and got bigger in northern Gaza who were killed, others injured, a tank fired twice on their position.

So, you know, if the majority of the population want the hostages returned in a deal and want the fighting to stop, then you have to understand behind

that, people are saying, well, why are our soldiers dying? Now, they're very patriotic. The country is very patriotic, people do national service.

They all understand their duty and their role, but they're able to show that they actually are delivering, are bringing some of the hostages home.

That's a very key political thing. Although, we heard this from the IDF, but it's a key political thing for the government to need to be -- seem to

be achieving. But, this is not what the families want. They want -- they do want the fighting to stop. The vast majority of them, and they do want a


And Hamas two weeks ago, beginning of last week indicated that there might be a deal that they'd signed a version of a deal that made it tantalizingly

close, that the hostages could be released. They talked about not by name, but specifically the categories of hostages who might be released, how

many, how far they'll be spaced apart, and how many Palestinian prisoners and what category of Palestinian prisoner they wanted released in return.

So, it all became you know, much more real for the families that a deal seemed to take shape, and therefore, perhaps, be even closer. But I think

one thing you do hear, and I've heard from talking to hostage families a lot, is they have no trust for Hamas, they know that it's a psychological

warfare that's being played on them.

And in essence, taking the bodies of those three people into Gaza along with other people that Hamas had killed, and holding them and treating. And

in the discourse, sort of treating them as hostages and therefore, potentially alive, but them, actually being dead. It has been a form of

torture for those families and a real form of manipulation.

ASHER: God knows what those families have been through, and by the way, continue to go through and especially with a ceasefire talks, you know,

they get their hopes up, and then last minute, those hopes are dashed and the cycle continues. It is cruel as you point out. Nic Robertson live for

us there, thank you so much, right.

Let's dive deeper into this breaking news today, and let's talk about Israeli politics and deep divisions among leading politicians over the

post-war plans for Gaza. Amir Tibon is a diplomatic correspondent for "Haaretz", a leading newspaper in Israel, who joins us live now from Tel


Amir, it has been a while, always good to see you and always good to have you on our shows. I do want to talk about the news that we got just a

couple of hours ago. This idea that these bodies, these three Israeli bodies had been retrieved -- recovered, and retrieved from Gaza.

Obviously, a somber day. I mean, Nic, our correspondent there just talked about half of these families, this has been psychological torture. You

know, you get your hopes up, you think your loved one may be alive, and only to have those hopes dashed in the most vicious and cruel way.

Just explain to us what the reaction in Israel is this evening to the news about these three hostages.

AMIR TIBON, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, HAARETZ: Obviously, it's a very sad evening. Every time we hear, you know, of people who had been kidnapped

into Gaza, and we were hoping they're alive over there, and when we find out that they are dead, it's heartbreaking country, so anxious for any bits

of good news and the best news we can hope for.

If anything that has to do with the release of our hostages, and so when you hear that soldiers are bringing new bodies, on the one hand, I think

most Israelis commend courage of these soldiers who went into the line of fire and under very difficult circumstances, made harrowing efforts to find

these bodies.

And at the same time, many people are asking themselves, what can we do to bring back our people who are still alive? Because we keep waiting and

waiting and waiting -- that we will have only dead bodies to retrieve.


ASHER: And that's the sad part about it. I mean, this is really a lesson in powerless essentially -- powerlessness, essentially, there's absolutely

nothing that they can do, you know, other than put pressure on the prime minister, which a lot of hostage families are doing. And the fact is, our

Nick Paton Walsh was -- our Nic Robertson rather was speaking about this just a second ago.

This idea that more people in Israel right now care about bringing back the hostages than they do about the long-term goals of the war in Gaza.

TIBON: Well --

ASHER: So -- go ahead --

TIBON: Part of the issue, we have a beautiful division on this question here. Home Israeli -- and I've seen polls that show different numbers, I'm

not going to say what is the more popular position, but just in terms of laying it out, some people are saying the most important thing is defeating

Hamas, and that's what we have to focus on over-time, we're getting further away from, mostly will, so be it.

And in essence, that is the position of the Netanyahu government. Mr. Netanyahu and the far-right ministers surrounding him. Other people are

saying the war against Hamas has been going on for seven months, eradicating Hamas will probably take you more months at the very least.

And we haven't at least -- angle we're doing. Everything that we need right now, take a break and focus on bringing back the hostages. This is a debate

that is tearing apart Israeli society. A very complicated debate, because you sign right now an agreement to end the war and bring back the hostages,

and that's Hamas' key demand.

What does that mean for the Israelis living in the southwest of the country along the border with Gaza, are they going back to their homes with Hamas

on the other side of the border fence, they blame Hamas that committed the atrocities of October 7th.

For me personally, just from my opinion, I support going for a deal right now because I think our hostages are running out of time, that should be

the highest priority. But at the same time, it is a very complicated issue.

ASHER: It is a very thorny, very complicated issue, especially when you consider the fact that the IDF is now having to retake areas that in the

northern part of Gaza, you think about the Al-Shifa Hospital, same thing happened with that hospital, specifically the idea of retaking areas that

were already supposed to have been cleared, which to me signals that this war against Hamas is going to last a very long time.

If they can't even secure, permanently secure areas that are supposed to have been cleared. And just so -- you know, you touched on this idea that

listen, you think that the hostages are -- should be a priority right now. How much pressure is there on the Netanyahu government to focus on a deal,

focus on a ceasefire right now?

TIBON: In the last two weeks, the ceasefire negotiations have completely stopped, there's nothing really going on at the moment and we're stuck.

That's the sad truth. The Israeli government blames Hamas disagreed going into something of an agreement, although that agreement was not accepted by

Israel. The real influencers are Qatar, Egypt, the United States, it feels like they are helpless.

And that's the Fed reality we are in right now. You know, for me, the hostage issue is very personal. They have too, neighbors, friends from my

community, Ibod Michal-Oz(ph) on the border with Gaza, who are in the hands of Hamas as we speak -- fathers of young children.

And I know several of the female of the other hostages, and I mean, it is very frustrating. If I'm putting aside for a second night, especially I

could get it also from a personal point of view, the fact that these negotiations are now stuck is very frustrating.

And you know, the Biden administration is prioritizing this, and wants to renew the talk, but we're in a very difficult situation at the moment.

ASHER: And I remember you saying to me that you don't live far from the border with Gaza, and obviously, what you went through personally on

October 7th, there were some really harrowing, scary moments. You texted me, I think it was on October 8th because you were hiding and it wasn't

just a terrifying day, so I completely understand why you would take off your journalistic hat, because this is a personal issue for you.

Amir, we are out of time, always good to have you on the show, I do hope we can have you on again, I -- you know, we miss talking to you. I remember we

used to talk all the time when the whole judicial --

TIBON: Right --

ASHER: Reform was happening, and we would love to have you one more often. Amir Tibon, live for us, thank you so much.

TIBON: Thank you.

ASHER: Of course. All right, the World Food Program is warning Israel that military escalation in Rafah could quote, "bring humanitarian operations to

a standstill". This announcement comes as Israel expands its ground offensive in northern Gaza, where Jabalya is seeing intense combat.


And according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Israeli strikes have killed at least 31 people in Gaza in just the past 24 hours alone.

Meantime, U.S. officials say trucks that are carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza have begun moving ashore, this after arriving through the floating

pier built by the U.S. military.

All right, I want to turn now to really disturbing video, that's been exclusively obtained by CNN, it seems to support at least some of the abuse

claims against Sean "Diddy" Combs. Graphic surveillance footage appears to show Combs, a.k.a. "Diddy", assaulting his then girlfriend, Cassie, inside

a hotel back in 2016. I really want to warn you before we show you this video, it is extremely disturbing. I want to play Elizabeth Wagmeister

report on that video.


ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New surveillance footage obtained exclusively by CNN appears to corroborate

some of the allegations of abuse against music mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. The video captured on multiple cameras shows Combs assaulting his then

girlfriend Cassie Ventura in a hallway at a Los Angeles hotel in March 2016.

A lawsuit filed by Ventura in November last year and settled the next day, referenced actions that seem to match those seen in this video. There is no

audio. According to the complaint, Combs became extremely intoxicated and punched Ms. Ventura in the face, giving her a black eye, which according to

the lawsuit, prompted Ventura to try and leave the hotel room.

The surveillance video obtained by CNN begins as she enters the hallway. The complaint says, as she exited, Mr. Combs awoke and began screaming at

Ms. Ventura. He followed her into the hallway of the hotel while yelling at her. The complaint goes on to say he grabbed her and then took glass vases

in the hallway and threw them at her.

In the surveillance video, Combs can be seen grabbing Ventura and throwing her to the ground. As Ventura lies on the ground, Combs then kicks her

twice and attempts to drag her on the floor back to the hotel room. Ventura is seen picking up a hotel phone, Combs seems to walk back to the hotel

room, then returns and appears to shove her in a corner.

Moments later, he can be seen throwing an object in her direction. According to Ventura's now settled lawsuit, the pair began dating several

years after they met in 2005. They parted ways in 2019. Combs attorney said the decision to settle was in no way an admission of wrongdoing.

Ventura declined to comment on the video, but her attorney told CNN, the gut-wrenching video has only further confirmed the disturbing and predatory

behavior of Mr. Combs. Words cannot express the courage and fortitude that Ms. Ventura has shown in coming forward to bring this to light.

The video hasn't been seen publicly before, and comes on the heels of a series of civil lawsuits alleging Combs' involvement in sex trafficking and

sexual abuse, allegations Combs has repeatedly denied. And in December 2023 statement, Combs responding to the claims in other lawsuit saying,

"sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do any of the awful

things being alleged."


ASHER: For more on the story, I want to bring in Areva Martin, an attorney and legal affairs commentator here at CNN, and Segun Oduolowu; he's the

host of "Boston Globe Today"; and multi-platform for news and sports and entertainment show. Thank you both for joining us.

Areva, let me start with you, we'll get to the legal aspects of this in a moment. But as a woman -- as a woman, Areva, what do you make of this

video? What's your reaction?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm almost speechless. What I saw in that video is so shocking, so horrifying, and the package reminds us that Sean

"Diddy" Combs said that there were sickening allegations made against him. Well, that video is sickening.

He used that word to try to, you know, refute the allegations and several of the civil lawsuits. But what we saw on that video, what we are

witnessing with our own eyes is indeed one of the most sickening displays of domestic violence that we've seen in a very long time.

And I am also so proud of Cassie Ventura for coming forward, for having the courage. We know that domestic violence victims often have a very difficult

time reporting the crime that they experienced against their abusers. She did come forward. I don't know where the law enforcement agencies that are

involved in this case are with respect to investigating his conduct, but I surely hope that he is held accountable, not just in civil courts, but in

criminal courts as well.


ASHER: And Segun, I mean, gosh, my reaction -- I had so many different reactions watching this video. I never want to see it again, is my point. I

never -- I never want to see anything like that ever again, watching it once was painful enough. But I will say that one of those sort of really

sad things and surprising things about this, is that you think that Cassie is a very famous, very successful woman, and I look at this and I think, oh

my God, if this could happen to her, that means it can literally happen to absolutely anyone.

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, HOST, BOSTON GLOBE TODAY: Yes, this is true that domestic violence exist. And if a picture is worth A 1,000 words, I hope this video

will now silence all words of the people who have been standing up for "Diddy" and saying, oh, wait until all the evidence come out, and the guy I

know wouldn't do this, because here's proof positive that he was abusive, that he abused Cassie is -- corroborates what she reported.

And I do not like the word "allege", because it's so flimsy, we throw it around. Here's an allegation here, here's an allegation. I prefer reported.

She reported years of abuse, and she wasn't believed. And people were defending him even with all of the smoke swirling around him, he still had

people on his side.

I hope now all of those people will be quiet. "Diddy" is famous for saying, I thought I told you that we won't stop. I hope everyone stops defending

this man because that video in the hallway shows a deranged, abusive person taking out whatever his frustrations or madness is on a defenseless woman.

It is sickening as Areva said, it is horrifying to watch, and I hope personally that it is the nail in the coffin for abusers everywhere. We

need to start believing women face value when they raise these allegations because of the strength it takes to walk away from an abuser, someone as

famous as "Diddy", then you said it, if it can happen to Cassie, it can happen to anyone.

I would furthermore say it is happening more often than we'd like to admit, and this footage shows that not only was Cassie truthful and what she was

alleging, but that "Diddy's" up -- "Diddy" is a monster. And let's just call it what it is. "Diddy" is a monster, and hopefully, this ends all


ASHER: Areva, just to sort of react to what Segun was saying there, I mean, listen, we all remember the Me Too movement, that sort of really took off

2017, 2018, and I do -- and this is not really a legal question Areva, but you know, just as a black woman, I think it's important for you to share

your perspective as well, because I always felt during the Me Too movement that the voices and the perspective of black women victims was so sidelined

by that movement.

And I just -- I really hope that after this and after what we saw with R. Kelly, that, that begins to change. What are your thoughts on that?

MARTIN: No, Zain. Absolutely so funny that you say R. Kelly, because as I'm sitting here listening to Segun, and I agree with everything he said, I

wrote down on my notes, R. Kelly. Because for decades, there were rumors about R. Kelly and his abuse of women, predominantly black women, and he

wasn't held accountable.

And people didn't believe those women, and we were talking about under age women, and the same kinds of allegations, the same kinds of rumors have

swirled around "Diddy" for decades as well. And we have this really sick thing that we sometimes do with powerful men, and that's put them on a

pedestal, that's believed them, that's revered them.

And we do so at the expense of women and particularly black women who are more likely not to be believed, more likely to be maligned when they come

out to report abuse by powerful black men. And we've seen too many examples of black women being marginalized and being vilified themselves when they

do make reports.

So, again, I just want to thank Cassidy or Cassie for opening this can of worms, for showing the world what "Diddy" is, what he is about and what he

has done to her, and that lawsuit has so many explosive incidents of violence. This is just one, Zain, this is not the totality of what was

alleged in that civil lawsuit.

So, this is just --

ASHER: I know --

MARTIN: One real example --

ASHER: That's the thing, isn't it? That's the thing, it's like -- it's one holiday --

MARTIN: This is just one example of the abuse she suffered --

ASHER: You think, gosh, this happened, what else? What else went on between them and actually obviously, between "Diddy" and various other accusers.

Segun, Areva talked about putting "Diddy" on a pedestal and how people put "Diddy" on a pedestal.

Do we -- do we as a society -- well, we as a society still put "Diddy" on a pedestal after this video is released. You talked about all of his various

defenders and people who had tried to silence Cassie. Does that now change now that we've seen this type of evidence?


ODUOLOWU: I would remind everyone, Zain, that the devil was once an angel as well, so everything that "Diddy" accomplished, all of the accolades and

the endorsements and the music that he gave the world does not remove what we have just seen and what's been alleged for years. So, if you want to try

and separate the man from the music or from the art, be my guest if you so choose to, I cannot write and I won't, and I advise and I advocate that

other people don't.

We put stars on a pedestal because why? Because they dance, because they're famous, because they threw great parties. That's not enough. When these

allegations -- and when these reports start happening, and Areva touched on it and you have as well, Zain, when women of color bring this to the

forefront, there is no pedestal high enough that a person should not be removed from, or we should at least not look at them with scrutiny and give

these women, especially women of color, especially women who are so marginalized, the benefit of the doubt.

There is nothing that "Diddy" has accomplished as a businessman, as a musician, as a producer, that justifies his actions in that hallway. And as

-- and as you said, this is the -- this is what we have on tape. There are reports of multiple cases of abuse from more than -- from more women than

just Cassidy.

We've got this on tape. I don't believe that we think this is the only one. There is no pedestal high enough that he could be on, that he still

deserves to sit on or anyone should be holding them up to when you have this in clear daylight of the man that he is.

ASHER: You know, great points by you, Segun, I feel as though -- listen, I haven't listened to "Diddy's" music in a very long time. But if I ever

heard "Diddy's" song on a radio, playing in the background of somewhere I went, I would never be able to listen to it without thinking of this video

that I just saw in front of me today.

I cannot separate them, and you know, I completely agree that there shouldn't be a separation, right? Segun, we have to leave it there, Areva,

we have to leave it there, thank you both so much, appreciate you joining us on this really --

ODUOLOWU: Thank you --

ASHER: Sickening, sad, and actually very painful story. Thank you both. All right, still to come tonight, Ukraine warns of heavy battles ahead as

Russia pushes deeper into the Kharkiv region. We'll have a live report for you from the battlefield.


ASHER: Right. A strange incident at a golf tournament today involving the world's top golfer, Scottie Scheffler was detained by police before the

start of the second round of the PGA Championship. He's facing four charges, including second degree assault on a police officer. Police later

released him.

Patrick Snell is in Louisville, Kentucky for us now. What a bizarre day, Patrick. Quite a strange day. I mean, it's not every day that you have the

world's number one golfer detained after what he called a misunderstanding with police. But just walk us through what happened here.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Zain, a really summer day as well, I think that's fair to say. No question about that, because it was in the

5:00 a.m. hour that we had this tragic loss of life that preceded the Scottie Scheffler incident with officers here in Kentucky. The PGA of

America now confirming the name of the man who lost his life, a worker in connection with this tournament, one of golf's big four men's majors, a

huge global event this is in the world of golf.

But the PGA of America paying tribute to the life of and the tragic loss of life, basically, when he was passing away after an incident with a shuttle

bus. That was in the 5:00 a.m. hour before the Scottie Scheffler incident. And Scheffler, on his way to the course for his second round of play here,

when he had that incident, the altercation, if you like, the alleged altercation with the police officers here that just led to this whole chain

of events.

Scheffler trying to get to the course. And in a statement again coming in from the PGA of America, they say they're fully cooperating as local

authorities review what take place. But Scottie Scheffler, as you said, basically just claiming that never -- he never intended to disregard any

instructions as well. The inference trying to get to the course.

But I will say this is a man who's right at the top of his game right now, the world number one player in the world. Everything he touches on and off

the course seemingly turning to gold, really. He's looking to win his third straight tournament. He's looking to win his fifth tournament victory in

six starts. He just won the Masters Championship for a second time, the coveted green jacket.

And I tell you right now, he's out on the course as we speak, Zain, and he's having a very, very good round. Indeed, his second round a short while

ago, he was within two shots of the leader at this tournament.

So, he really has come out in spite. He got out onto the course after he was detained. And we had that video of him being handcuffed.

He made it for his tea time. The tournament play here was delayed by an hour and 20 following the tragic death that I referenced earlier. He made

his revised tea time and he came out.

So he got a birdie and a bogey, then a birdie. And a short while ago, as I said, he's just two shots off the pace. But as I said at the top, a sad and

somber day. All the headlines right now focusing on Scottie Scheffler in his quest to try and make it a third career major title.

ASHER: Yes, I mean, clearly he has nerves of steel, you know, despite the international pressure and the fact that all eyes are on him. He's still

very much focused on his A game. But just the fact that, you know, this incident took place this morning with police officers there in Kentucky, I

mean, you know, it goes against everything we know about Scottie Scheffler, the man. He does have quite a sort of proper squeaky clean image, doesn't

he, Patrick?

SNELL: He really does. You're absolutely spot on, Zain. This is a man whose Christian values are front and center. So often he'll speak about this at

golf tournaments. I myself have witnessed him talking about his Christian faith and how it helps him detach from the pressures of golf. How it

basically golf really is number two when it comes to number one importance of his life, faith and family as well. And as I say, it's just a wonderful

moment for him, the birth of his first son, baby Bennett, just a few days ago as well. Congratulations to the happy couple, Scottie Scheffler and his

wife, Meredith, as well.

But it's that magical moment of the birth of his first child just a few days ago last week, Zain, to now what he's facing here, these very, very

serious charges indeed. I will say atmosphere in terms of out on the course when he started playing earlier, there's support from the fans out there,

certainly very vocal in support of Scottie Scheffler. And judging by the way he started his round on this Friday, he certainly responded to that in

some style. Back to you.

ASHER: All right, Patrick Snell live for us there. Thank you so much.

All right. Still to come here. Russia is gaining momentum in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Our Nick Paton Walsh will bring us a live report from the

battlefield for you.

And the U.N.'s urgent warning to address the growing crisis in Sudan. I'll talk with the director of operations for Doctors Without Borders.



ASHER: All right. I want to go to Ukraine now where Russia is gaining momentum and expanding its push into the Kharkiv region. Here's a look at

the battlefield. Kyiv says more than 25,000 Russian troops are involved in the operation, though it's unclear how many of those are inside Ukraine.

Ukraine's army chief says Russia launched the offensive earlier than expected and warns of heavy battles ahead. Russian President Vladimir

Putin, who has been in China for a state visit, denies the Russian military has plans to capture Kharkiv city. But he says Russia will be forced to

create a buffer zone if shelling in Belogrod continues.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): As for what is happening on the Kharkiv axis, it is also their fault because they shelled

and unfortunately continue shelling residential areas of border territories, including Belogrod. The civilians are dying there. Everything

is obvious. They fire directly at the center of the town, directly at the residential areas. And I said publicly, if it continues, we will have to

create a security zone, a sanitary zone.


CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joins us live now from Kharkiv. Nick, it is and continues to be a really trying time for civilians where you are.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, certainly here, Kharkiv city, last night we heard drones in the sky,

heard explosions around the city. And today, too, in broad daylight, what witnesses told us were three strikes hit one part of the city and there was

thick black smoke pouring out across the skyline here. A small number of dead and dozens injured from that particular attack say, local officials.

And it's a sign of how Russian forces are focusing on Kharkiv. You said there how Russian President Vladimir Putin said in China that he has no

plan today to try and take Kharkiv city. I mean, obviously, I think many people would say taking a city of this size, nearly a million people, with

the force he's arrayed would be a very steep challenge, almost impossible probably.

But it seems like that 25,000 strong force, according to Ukrainian intelligence officials, a huge number of Russian troops committed to this

new offensive. Their goal is more to make life here exceptionally unpleasant, if not deadly, for many Kharkiv residents to get their forces

within firing distance. There's one key village Lyptsi to the north here of Kharkiv under intense pressure from Russian forces because they know if

they can get into it and put their artillery pieces there, they can just rain fire down onto this huge population center here.

So, Putin's comments you heard there about this being forced upon Russia because of Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod and the buffer zone they required

will obviously ring hollow with many Ukrainians who have seen their cities hammered over the past two years or so by indiscriminate, at times, Russian

attacks. But still, the news not good for Ukraine on those frontline areas, particularly to the north of where I am, where Ukraine's military today

suggested that in fact Russia had pushed deeper into territory.

Looking at the map, they appear to be trying to swoop around and perhaps cut off some of the villages I was referring to earlier on where they want

to put their artillery. So a steep challenge ahead for Ukraine's military without doubt. They've had to rush forces from around the country to here

from frontlines that have already been seeing fatigue, ammunition shortages, stress and significant Russian advances too.

And so ultimately, I think many are assessing this move in Kharkiv as perhaps the Russians seeing how far they can get, how much trouble they can

inflict on Ukraine's biggest -- second biggest city and also too --how much distraction they can create to force Ukraine to take overstretched forces

from frontlines where they're already losing and rush them to here. So a very steep challenge ahead and Ukraine's military today warning that it's

really heavier battles are due ahead.

ASHER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh live for us there. Thank you.

Slovakia's prime minister remains in serious condition in hospital but he is conscious and we do know that he is able to speak. Robert Fico underwent

more surgery today after he was shot on Wednesday. A 71-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder there. Fico is being dragged into a car

just after he was shot.

The country's deputy prime minister said doctors will have a better idea of how Mr. Fico is recovering in the coming days. He is also adding the

running of the government was continuing in his absence.


ROBERT KALINAK, SLOVAK DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): His condition remains very serious, but this procedure allowed for monitoring

and improvement of the healing of the individual gunshot wounds in the medical area. I think it will take a few more days before we can

definitively understand the direction of his recovery.

It is also true that all tasks assigned to the various ministries continue as usual. The functioning of the country is not frozen or halted in any

way. All processes are continuing.


ASHER: We'll be right back with more after this short break.



ASHER: A U.N. official warns that time is running out in war-torn Sudan as famine, disease, and fighting close in on the population. The top U.N. aid

official in Sudan is calling on the international community to give greater attention and resources to the country where millions are trapped in brutal

conditions as a result of civil war.

The Sudanese Army and paramilitary group RSF have been locked in battle since April of 2023, and in recent days, deadly violence has escalated in

the capital of Sudan's north Darfur state, which had previously been relatively safe.

For more on what Sudan is facing, I want to bring in Oliver Behn. He's the Director of Operations, rather, for Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins

Sans Frontiere, and has just returned from Darfur. Oliver, thank you so much for being with us.

My question to you is how do you support a collapsed health care system? Because obviously a lot of health care facilities in Sudan are simply no

longer functioning. You've got skyrocketing prices in terms of food and medicine. And then you've got this sort of humanitarian void that continues

to persist in the country. Just explain to us how you guys are navigating that.

OLIVER BEHN, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Yes, thank you very much for having me, and thank you also for making the time for

Sudan, which is a really truly large humanitarian catastrophe that we are seeing ongoing and further unfolding. It is not easy to work in Sudan for

nobody, but as Doctors Without Borders, we are able to supply our projects from various directions.

We are coming by a chart. We are coming also through Port Sudan in the east of the country, and particularly the cross-border supply that we are doing

into chart allows us to run very large-scale projects in the region. And that's also how we can support our colleagues in the country, our

international colleagues and Sudanese colleagues.

It is a particular challenge because the Ministry of Health, whom we are in very close contact with and work in partnership with in the Darfur region,

is cut off from the supply of the central level from the government, and they haven't received any salaries or funds or medical supplies coming in

from their side and are purely relying on what we can bring in as Doctors Without Borders because we unfortunately also see a lack of response from

the wider international humanitarian system.

ASHER: Yes, and that was actually going to be my next point. I mean, I think what's heartbreaking about this particular crisis is that Sudan

needed humanitarian assistance even before the war began, let alone after the war began. And unfortunately, a byproduct of the war starting is that a

lot of humanitarian aid agencies left the country. And so how much more pressure is there now on your organization, on Medecins Sans Frontiere, to

sort of step in where other aid organizations have decided to leave?

BEHN: I mean, the pressure that our colleagues in particular in Darfur experience is enormous. We are running in South Darfur, to give you that

example, for a population of six million people, the only two pediatric wards for the whole of that part of Darfur.


And that's covering six million people in the city of Nyala, which has 1.2 million people. We have -- we are overwhelmed in the wards. Our doctors and

nurses and the colleagues from the Ministry of Health are working around the clock. And what we are seeing is that the health system has completely

collapsed. So, the prevention in the communities, the community health care, primary health care, and even the secondary health care has


And what it means for the people is that they are coming very late to the hospitals. It's not secure to travel on the road. It is often also an issue

of financing the travel. We are seeing people coming from four or six hours away. And it results, of course, that the children or pregnant women that

are delivering are coming very, very late to our facilities. And we're having a mortality rate in our pediatric wards from about 20 percent within

the first 24 hours of those children arriving. And that is really, truly heartbreaking.

And also brings us to the point of where we can't do much more anymore. And where we really need to see that scaling up, particularly from the U.N., to

become operational in Darfur in order to release the pressure on us. But that's less important so, but to actually provide the assistance that is

needed for the population.

ASHER: And you think about, I mean, it's not just Sudan that needs assistance. It's also the people, or the countries rather, that are taking

in refugees from Sudan as well. They need help too.

Just in terms of actually distributing humanitarian assistance. I mean, obviously, it's difficult for Medecins Sans Frontiere throughout the

country, as you point out, especially in Darfur. But for people who have been displaced, people who have had to flee their homes, many of them are

sort of sheltering in abandoned buildings with almost zero access to humanitarian assistance. So, how do you get to those people?

BEHN: Well, what we are trying to do is that we are in Sudan itself, where we are talking to all parties of the conflict, to the SAF and to the RSF,

in order to be able to move safely around with our colleagues, to do the assessments, and then to provide through mobile clinics care. But not only

medical care, we can also provide support for water and sanitations. We are distributing non-food item support in order to cover these first needs.

It is, however, also not easy for us, both for security reasons, so one has to be very careful, everything has to be very well planned, and we are not

always getting the travel permits that we need.

ASHER: And Oliver -- yes, Oliver, I mean, it's such an important story. I'm so glad you came on. We do have to leave it there because we are out of

time. I didn't even get to the fact that there are five million people in Sudan on the brink of famine as I speak, but hopefully we can have you on

the program again to talk about that aspect of things.

Oliver Behn, life for us. Thank you so much. We'll be right back with more.



ASHER: All right, welcome back, everybody. At 81 years old, former Beatle Paul McCartney is still setting records. He's now the first musician from

the United Kingdom to be worth, get this, one billion pounds with a B. The Times has just published its annual rich list attributing McCartney's

success, his longevity, and popularity across generations. Baby, he is a rich man indeed.

All right. Thank you so much for watching. Stay with CNN. We'll have "NEWSROOM" with Jim Sciutto up next.