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One World with Zain Asher

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico Shot Multiple Times In An Assassination Attempt; Israel Intensifies Operations In Northern Gaza And In Parts Of Rafah; CNN's David Culver And Team Show The Disparity Between The Availability Of Guns And Of Humanitarian Aid Like Food And Like Medicine In His Report; Biden And Trump Set To Have Their First 2024 Presidential Debate; Chinese leader Xi Jinping Prepares To Welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin On Thursday. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 15, 2024 - 12:00   ET



VOICE-OVER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: All right, coming to you live from New York, I'm Zain Asher.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And I'm Bianna Golodryga. You are watching "One World" and we begin with the breaking news we've been

covering for you. Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot. His team is calling it an assassination attempt.

ASHER: Yeah, this video, take a look here, shows the Slovakian Prime Minister being bundled. Look at the chaos there, being bundled into that

Mercedes. An official statement from Fico's political group on his Facebook page, they say that he was shot multiple times. This was indeed an

assassination attempt. The Prime Minister is now in life-threatening condition.

I want to bring in Nic Robertson who's joining us live now from London with the details. Nic, the next few hours are decisive. Every moment at this

point in time counts. We don't know who the attacker is. We don't know his motive. We don't know why he shot the Prime Minister. But can you share

what details you are hearing at this point in time, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, one of the details that we are learning, and it came from an eyewitness, and she was very close to the

Prime Minister when this happened. She said that she and some others have been waiting there to shake hands and have photographs taken with the Prime

Minister. It's normal in Slovakia. He's a populist. He's a man of the people. He's used to going out and shaking people's hands and seeing them.

And these ladies were waiting to see him and do just that. And this lady said, "Well, you know, it sounded like firecrackers and then I realized it

was three gunshots that were being fired." She said she saw the Prime Minister fall towards the barriers. You can see them there in the video,

those metal barriers that were put up, a sort of security barricade there in the vicinity of where the Prime Minister was coming out of this meeting.

In terms of injuries, all she could say was that she could see a scratch on his head. And that's really about the only detail that we have. It's a non-

medical detail, of course. And what the hospital is saying that when he arrived at the first hospital that he was taken to, the local hospital, the

one that was closest by, they stabilized his condition, but that he was conscious when he went in. They said he was conscious and they stabilized

his condition, but immediately transferred him to a higher-level facility.

And they say the reason they sent him by helicopter to one that was about 30 kilometers away is they said he just needed urgent treatment, too

urgent, to try to get him to the capital, which was two hours' drive away. They sent him to this much closer facility to get this higher level of


So, the next few hours will be decisive, is what we're being told. But we have no details as yet on precisely where those gunshots -- multiple

gunshots in this assassination attempt actually impacted the Prime Minister. All we know is from that one witness, and this is a witness who's

obviously in a state of shock because she wasn't expecting this, saying that she saw him fall towards the barrier. And in her words, he had a

scratch on his head.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and Robert Fico, 59 years old, just started his fourth term in office last October, a very popular figure among some, but also a

very polarizing figure in a very polarizing country. In Central Europe, we are getting notifications of statements coming in from leaders across

Europe expressing their shock and their prayers for a quick recovery here for the Prime Minister. But give us a sense, Nic, of his politics and how

he is viewed both in the country and in Europe.

ROBERTSON: An outlier in Europe, divisive within his own country, more popular with the rural elderly voters than the younger voters who would

sort of more gravitate towards the European Union, let's say, and not like the elderly voters, perhaps harken back to somewhat of the communist era,

or at least the certainties they had in their lives back then, on the left of politics, but a real populist.

When he won the election last year, 79 votes out of, well, over 150 possible seats, he teamed up with some far-right politicians as well to

make that sort of solid governing coalition. But I think it's his politics in reference to Russia that make him an outlier in Europe.


He is pro-Putin. He was against arming Ukraine. He kind of softened on that language a little bit after he got elected. He's not dissimilar to Viktor

Orban in Hungary, who is also a populist, also a Putin supporter. And Fico -- very outspoken against immigration, very outspoken against Muslims. So,

divisive at almost sort of every level.

And he's a comeback kid, if you will, in political terms. You know, stepped out of the political arena in 2018 to come back in and win 2023. But in

that period, there were allegations of charges of corruption being leveled against him and a cloud over his circle of associates over the death of an

investigative journalist.

So, this is a politician who really plays to the populist level of politics in that environment, as much loved as hated. And when you use that kind of

language, you understand that he might have had multiple enemies.

ASHER: Yeah, he's been part of the political scene in Slovakia even well before it was Slovakia, when it was Czechoslovakia, since back in 1992, the

longest serving prime minister in Slovakia's history. If you add up all the different times that he served, going back to 2006 and 2012.

And of course, as Bianna pointed out more recently, starting in October last year. Nic, please do update us as and when you get more information

about Fico's condition. Thank you for joining us this hour, Nic.

GOLODRYGA: Another other top story, the U.S. says that it's in a rush to help Ukraine. Those words from America's top diplomat, who is soon to leave

Kyiv after a whirlwind visit.

ASHER: Yeah, at a news conference earlier with Ukraine's foreign minister, Antony Blinken announced that an additional two billion dollars in U.S.

military aid is now on its way. All right. Ukraine's military says Russia's bombardment of the Kharkiv region hasn't let up just yet.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and the Ukrainian commander says that could mean further gains by Russian forces in the region. Ukraine's President, Volodymyr

Zelensky, says that he's canceling his upcoming trips abroad to keep his focus on the battlefield.

ASHER: Now, this comes, as Russia says, it's digging deeper and taking more villages. And that's prompting officials in the Kharkiv region to evacuate

more than 7500 people from the area.


UNKNOWN (through translator): What I feel -- we had to leave our livestock behind. Our house is gone. Our livestock is now roaming the streets. My

feelings -- my heart is broken. Where are we going and where will we stay? They kicked us out of our family house.


ASHER: Russia's push into northeastern Ukraine marks Moscow's most significant gains since Ukrainian forces recaptured the Kharkiv region

since back in 2022. All right. Israel is intensifying operations in northern Gaza and in parts of Rafah as well, saying it targeted a Hamas

training compound and engaged in close-quarter combat in specific areas of eastern Rafah.

GOLODRYGA: The fighting comes as the United Nations says around 450,000 people have fled Rafah over the past week. The U.N. says they lack shelter,

water and even basic toilets.

ASHER: Yeah, hospitals are struggling to cope as humanitarian aid slows down to a trickle. Israel and Egypt are trading blame over who is

responsible for the crisis.

GOLODRYGA: All of this as Palestinians mark Nakba Day, which refers to the mass displacement that happened during the 1948 war that led to the

establishment of the state of Israel. Dozens rallied - excuse me -- in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

ASHER: All right, more now on the scene in Gaza. Dr. Adam Hamawi joins us live now from the Khan Younis area. He's among more than a dozen American

medical workers trapped at a hospital there. He's a former army -- army combat trauma surgeon.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us. As I mentioned there, you have seen combat in your lifetime. You have seen war. You have gone on medical

and humanitarian missions before. So, when someone like you -- when someone with your background and experiences says that they are shocked and they

are saddened and they are heartbroken by what is happening in Gaza, that really should force people to sit up and take notice. Describe what you are

seeing there.

ADAM HAMAWY, AMERICAN SURGEON TRAPPED IN GAZA: I'm seeing a utter destruction of you know, buildings and people and basically a whole

civilization that's going on here. This war that I'm seeing is not combatants of fighters fighting fighters and trying to get a victory in

that sense. What I see is children, women, civilians as being the primary targets.


I'm seeing that their homes are completely being destroyed so that they have nothing to go back to. I just talked to a nurse that I was working

with the first week and I haven't seen him for several days. He walked in this morning and I asked him where he's been and then he broke down in


Basically, he had to evacuate his family because he was in the evacuation zone. He took his wife, his two daughters, one that's about two years old

and the other one who was three months old. They had to go to a safe zone which was basically somewhere in the desert.

They had no food. They had no water. They had no shelter or tents. He had no electricity so that he could call anyone or tell anything and he had no

bathroom. So, he said we were living like animals. He's had his weight in line from dawn for about eight hours just to get a jug of water for his

family and it wasn't normal drinking water.

This is water they're supposed to use for washing but of course they're using it to drink because they have nothing else. This is what they're

going through -- this is what they've been going through for the last eight months moving from one place to another. This is not war.

When I see kids that are 13 years old, a couple hours ago I got a one-year- old and a four-year-old with burn injuries from an explosion. This morning I did surgery on a child who had three limbs that he's lost and the

remaining hand he's lost three of those fingers. So, he has two fingers to work with. This is not war. We do not fight wars against children. We do

not fight wars just to destroy homes so they have nothing to go to.

GOLODRYGA: Doctor, we talk about the concern about getting humanitarian aid into Gaza, especially now the focus being on Rafah and the fact that since

Israel has gone in, we've seen some of those corridors once again close and concern about aid continuing to come in.

With regards to medical aid, I know that we've spent a lot of time focusing on necessities obviously like food and water. But from what you need, the

medical aid, is it there? And how, if it isn't, how are you hoping that it can be supplied?

HAMAWY: You know, these things need to be supplied in trucks, not in suitcases brought in by, you know, a couple dozen medical aid workers. I

came in, we were all told to bring in about like, you know, five or six bags of the things that we need. I brought 15 and they're all gone.

Basic things like -- I need to do surgery. I brought things that I thought my anesthesiologist would need like, you know, endotracheal tubes because I

figured, hey, I might need this. They're re-using endotracheal tubes are the breathing tubes that we use in surgery so that the anesthesiologist

could kind of like, put the patient to sleep and relax them and do the breathing for them.

These tubes are being reused here. So, normally, these get thrown out and we have to wash them as best as we can, you know, sanitize them using some

kind of bleach or detergent and then reuse it on another patient.

We are running out of sutures. We don't have gloves of all different sizes. We don't have the proper dressing. So, I might use a dressing on like one

patient today and tomorrow that's not available. So, I have to cover the burns with something else. You know, these are, you know, such basic things

and these are not something that you could say, oh, that could be used for war or that could be used for some military, you know, some military uses.

It's just silly, the level, like soap. What's someone going to use soap for? We have like not enough soap to be able to wash our hands properly

between patients. Not enough soap for, you know, not just us, but our patients and everyone around here to bathe properly.

GOLODRYGA: You're talking about the screening process, right? You're talking about how things are brought in, the screening process when you're

talking about soap. What would it be used for? How could it be used as a weapon? That's what you're referring to.

HAMAWY: Yes. When we were driving in here, we drove through like miles, you know, we drove about half an hour down the highway with trucks stopped

along the road that were ready to go in with aid. And I'm sure they carried everything. They had food in there. They had, I'm sure, medical supplies.

But these trucks were standing on the Egyptian border waiting to come in, but they were not allowed to come in for whatever reason.

We were allowed to come in. We came in with our suitcases. We went through a screening process that took six hours. You know, like, every bag was

opened and searched and, you know, we got most of our supplies in, but that's the rigor that everything is going through.


And meanwhile, the people here are suffering and we can't provide the level of care that our skills are able to provide because we just don't have the

equipment and we don't have the personnel to support it.

ASHER: I mean, the access, obviously, to medical supplies, to obviously humanitarian supplies more broadly is an issue. But I was really struck --

I was really struck by what you said in your first answer that just this morning, I think you said it was just this morning, you had to perform

surgery or an amputation on a child that had three of their four limbs essentially missing.

And I imagine that performing an amputation on an adult is one thing, but performing an amputation on a child, on an innocent child who not only are

they dealing with bullets and bombs, but they also at the same time literally have absolutely no idea where their next meal is coming from, if

that next meal is coming at all.

Dr. Adam Hamawy, we have to leave it there. Thank you so, so much for the work that you are doing there in Gaza. We appreciate you and we really do

hope that we can have you on in the short term in the near future. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

HAMAWY: Thank you for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Well, guns and ammunition are still flowing free into Haiti despite a U.N. weapons embargo. They're coming in by air and by sea,

earmarked for violent gangs who essentially run Haiti's war-torn capital of Port-au-Prince.

ASHER: Yes, CNN's David Culver shows the disparity between the availability of guns and of humanitarian aid like food and like medicine.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NAIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Touching down in Haiti's gang-controlled capital, we move quickly, armed guards holding

the perimeter as a long line of anxious passengers hurry out the way we came in. Driving deeper to Port-au-Prince, we pass those desperately trying

to survive a crippling humanitarian crisis.

CULVER: Can you give us a sense how dire the situation is getting with each passing day?

JEAN-MARTIN BAUER, COUNTRY DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Look, we're very worried. Right now, you've got five million people in Haiti who are acutely

food insecure. That's the highest on record, the highest it's ever been, and we're going through the worst crisis in Haiti since the 2010

earthquake. It's that simple.

CULVER (voice-over): The WFP warns food supplies across the country are rapidly dwindling as hunger worsens.

CULVER: For folks who are getting this, how many of the meals a day are they getting?

BAUER: This will be their one meal.

CULVER (voice-over): And delivering that one daily meal to starving communities? Increasingly risky.

CULVER: The logistics alone are incredibly challenging. I mean, just every corner, you don't know what you're going to come across.

CULVER (voice-over): Not to mention the constantly shifting gang boundaries.

CULVER: Do you ever get scared delivering the food?

UNKNOWN: Sometimes.

CULVER (voice-over): The U.N. estimates gangs control more than 80 percent of Port-au-Prince, severing crucial supply lines for food, fuel, and

medical supplies. And yet, while basic necessities are scarce, guns and ammo seemingly plentiful and ravaging this country. How are the weapons

getting here, and from where?

UNKNOWN: All right, we'll do one low pass. We'll make a hard right turn. We'll be back inbound.

CULVER: We're flying over the Central Plateau. This is an area that, for years, has been known for drug smuggling here in Haiti.

CULVER (voice-over): More recently, the U.N. says weapons also come in this way, arriving into Haiti's mountainous and hard-to-reach rural areas.

UNKNOWN: Likely it's going to be a light, light airplane. I've seen a lot of Cessnas. But it does look like that grass has been tampered with right


CULVER (voice-over): Often landing in the dark of night under the radar, or smuggled across the land border, or by sea. Law enforcement believe arms

and ammo arrive at the dock of what once was a flour mill, taken over and now controlled by gangs. Haitian security sources sharing with us these

images of seized weapons from other locations. The U.N. says most guns are shipped illegally from the U.S. and end up in the hands of various gangs.

VITEL'HOMME INNOCENT, HAITIAN GANG LEADER: There are always guns that come in. There are always bullets.

CULVER (voice-over): One of the most influential gang leaders, Vitel'Homme Innocent, even explaining how easy it is to import guns and ammo compared

with food or medicine, though not confirming where the weapons originate from.

CULVER: Are there weapons coming in from the U.S.?

INNOCENT: No, I don't go to the U.S. I cannot accuse the U.S. to say weapons come from there.

CULVER (voice-over): To be sure, we had weapons experts review our footage with members of Vitel'Homme's gang, examining images like these. They tell

us that many of these firearms and accessories are, in fact, made in the U.S., smuggled directly or stolen from Haitian police. The end result here

is often the same.

With the innocent caught in the crossfire. Like 8-year-old Woodjina Cadot, shot earlier this year while playing with friends. When we visited in

February, her family was living in this makeshift encampment as she was recovering from surgery. Her little sister, keeping watch. But days later,

gangs torched the whole neighborhood.


CULVER: Hi, Woodjina. How are you? Good to see you. You are walking.

CULVER (voice-over): We meet again as Woodjina heads to a doctor's appointment. We learn her family now sleeps on a church floor. Woodjina's

sister, sent to live with other relatives. Her mom says it was too difficult to flee the gangs while carrying both kids.

LOVENCIA JULIEN, WOODJINA'S MOTHER (through translator): When we had to run, I could not have run with both of them.

CULVER (voice-over): Back alongside the WFP, we arrive at our stop to distribute those meals. It's a school turned displacement camp. We step out

to a crowd of several hundred. Recent gang violence forcing most here to become refugees in their own city.

CULVER: And did you see that firsthand? Some of the violence?

UNKNOWN: Yes, I ran from it.

CULVER: You ran from it?

UNKNOWN: I ran from it. I ran from a lot of shots, a lot of things.

CULVER: People shooting at you?

UNKNOWN: People shooting and burning houses.

CULVER (voice-over): Folks here, grateful for the one meal they'll get today.

CULVER: What about tomorrow?

UNKNOWN: We don't know about tomorrow. We're just hoping for tomorrow.

CULVER (voice-over): Here, thinking about tomorrow? Even that is a luxury. David Culver, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.



ASHER: All right, the President of Slovakia says an attack on the prime minister is also an attack on democracy. We have much more now on our

breaking news story, which is that Slovakia's Prime Minister, Robert Fico, has been shot several times. He was shot in a clear assassination attempt.

That's according to his official Facebook page. His social media account states that right now he is in life-threatening condition.

GOLODRYGA: In this video you're about to see shows the Slovakian Prime Minister being bundled into a car after being shot. He was rushed to a

nearby hospital. Now, the shooting happened at a government meeting in Handlova, which is about two hours away from the capital Bratislava. An

eyewitness says she heard three shots.


LUBICA VALKOVA, EYEWITNESS (through translator): We went to shake hands with Mr. Fico. I was taking pictures of him when he walked out of the

building. We were waiting for a long time. We were excited. We wanted to shake his hand, even one man next to me. And at this moment we heard

something like a bang. We thought someone made a joke and threw a firecracker on the ground. That was my first reaction.



ASHER: A suspect was detained at the scene by law enforcement officers, according to Slovakia's state news agents. You see somebody there on the

ground there in handcuffs. We'll have another update for you on this story in about ten minutes from now.

GOLODRYGA: Meantime, you're going to want to mark your calendar for June 27th. No vacation day for you, then.

ASHER: Yes, that's actually an off --

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, we'll be watching from home because that is when Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have their first debate. And it will be done right

here on CNN.

ASHER: Yeah, the debate is going to be held in primetime here in the U.S. and it will be done at CNN studios in Atlanta, Georgia, which I'm very

excited about.

GOLODRYGA: Where the magic happens.

ASHER: There will not be an audience present. CNN wants to maximize time for answers rather than interruptions and applause. The whole thing came

together very quickly in just the past few hours after Mr. Biden issued a challenge.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Donald Trump lost two debates to me in 2020. Since then, he hadn't shown up for debate. Now, he's acting like he wants

to debate me again. Well, make my day, pal. I'll even do it twice. So let's pick the dates, Donald. I hear you're free on Wednesdays.


GOLODRYGA: I hear you're free on Wednesdays.

ASHER: It's kind of funny, actually.

GOLODRYGA: Exactly, because Trump's not in court on Wednesdays. Well, only a short time later, Trump said, "Let's get ready to rumble." And soon, the

first debate was set. The candidates have also agreed to a second debate to be held on ABC on September 10th.

ASHER: All right, let's bring in CNN Senior White House Reporter Kevin Liptak, joining us live now with more. Let's be honest, Kevin, I'm sure our

international audience has noticed this multiple times, but American debates are much less about policy. At least that's how it feels. And much

more about entertainment, to be honest. And, of course, optics. Based on that, who between the two men has the most to lose here?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think it's probably President Biden. And for the reasons that you mentioned, his campaign has

laid out these very specific metrics for the debates that he would agree to, including not having an audience, being inside a television studio,

being able to cut the microphone of a candidate if they go past their elapsed time.

And so you see, the President's campaign really trying to organize debates that they believe will be more substantive and will be less of an

entertainment. And I think, you know, for so long, it was unclear whether President Biden would agree to any of these debates at all. And I think at

the end of the day, his campaign sort of came to the calculation that it would be a greater risk for the President to not debate, then to show up in

a T.V. studio and face off against President Trump.

But there are also risks, of course, for Trump as well, who has not been known in the past to prepare very extensively for these debates. You'll

remember his first debate against President Biden in 2020. He looked a little unwell. He later was determined to have COVID. He sort of spoke over

the President the entire time and his poll numbers did dip afterwards.

So, both of these men are entering this showdown with their own sort of foibles that they will have to overcome. I think for President Biden here,

the timing was the most important part. His campaign was very eager to get him in front of voters in this debate setting before early voting started.

And if, you know, viewers aren't aware, Americans in many states can vote, you know, starting in September.

The election day is in November but there are all of these programs for voting by mail and voting by early. And the President's campaign thought it

wasn't necessarily to their advantage to debate after Americans had already cast their ballots. There really would be no point in that. I think on an

overarching sense, they also want to get this contrast between Biden and Trump into Americans' living rooms as early as possible.

You know, there are a lot of Americans who just aren't paying attention. According to the Biden campaign's own research, many Americans just don't

yet view this as a contest between Biden and the former President Trump. And the earlier they can get that in front of Americans, the earlier they

can get that contrast clear to voters, they think the better.

So, these two debates are now set, one for June 27th on CNN, one on September 10th on ABC. There will also be a vice presidential debate

sandwiched in there, as well. We don't know who Trump's running mate is yet, so it's not exactly clear who Kamala Harris will be debating against.

But both of these sides do seem to think that this set-up that bypasses the traditional organizer of these debates will be to their advantage. You've

already heard the Trump campaign saying that they believe that there should be additional debates, one in August and one again in October. The Biden

campaign hasn't agreed to that. I think that they will stick to what they have proposed here.


But, you know, it's certainly quite a difference. And it has added, I think, a jolt of energy to the campaign, which, you know, many Americans

just aren't paying attention to yet.

ASHER: Yeah, that's absolutely right. I mean, it's always interesting to think about how much impact these debates actually have on the end result.

I mean, you think about the Republican primary. Everybody was talking about Vivek Ramaswamy, especially during the first debate, the earlier debates

when he did particularly well. And how did that translate when it actually came down to voting in the primaries? Not so well for him.

GOLODRYGA: Especially in such a polarized time that we live in now. One has to assume that a lot of people have already made up their minds.

But it is always interesting to see what happens on live television between these two candidates. And we will see the first meeting of the two of them

right here, as you mentioned.

ASHER: And I do agree with you that it is Biden that probably does have the most to lose here. There is a lot at stake for him, especially given the

fact that it is about optics.


LIPTAK: Trump has a lot to lose, too. I mean, Trump has not always presented himself in a way that the American people can get behind. And I

think a lot of Americans have actually forgotten what Trump's mode of operation is. You know, they have a little bit of amnesia about the Trump

year. So any reminder of that on a national stage is going to be a jolt.

ASHER: They'll be reminded real quick, Kevin. They'll be reminded real quick.

GOLODRYGA: He's also emboldened by a live audience.


GOLODRYGA: And we'll see. I mean, taming him by cutting off his mic could make a big difference, as well.


GOLODRYGA: Kevin Liptak, thank you.

ASHER: Thank you, Kevin.

GOLODRYGA: Well, still to come for us, reactions from world leaders of the assassination attempt of Prime Minister Robert Fico. We'll have much more

on our breaking news out of Slovakia and his condition after the break.



GOLODRYGA: Welcome back to "One World". I'm Bianna Golodryga.

ASHER: And I'm Zain Asher. An opposition member of Slovakia's parliament says an attack on the prime minister is an attack on the internal security

of the country. Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot several times in an assassination attempt. That's according to his official Facebook page. His

social media account states that he is in life-threatening condition.

GOLODRYGA: And this video shows the Slovakian prime minister being bundled into a car just moments after he was shot. There you see him surrounded by

his security. He was taken to a hospital nearby. The shooting happened at a government meeting in Handlova, which is about two hours away from the

capital of Bratislava. An eyewitness says she heard three shots, one after another.

ASHER: A suspect was detained at the scene by law enforcement officials, that's according to Slovakia's state news agency. I want to bring in Elena

Kucko, vice president for policy and programming at Glozsek, a think tank in Slovakia. She joins us live now from the capital.

Elena, thank you so much for being with us. I imagine this has been an unbelievably shocking day for people in your country at this point in time.

And the fact is, just to talk about Fico more broadly to our international audience, he is a very divisive figure, of course. He's somebody who is a

Putin ally. He's somebody who is an ally of Viktor Orban. He has a very clear anti-immigrant policy. He is a populist. He's been a clear and

present figure in Slovakian politics for a very, very long time.

It is clear that there are deep political divisions in your country. When all this is said and done and obviously, we hope that Fico pulls through --

but when all this is said and done, how does the country heal from this moment?

ALENA KUDZKO, VICE PRESIDENT FOR POLICY AND PROGRAMMING, GLOBSEC: Slovakia definitely has a very difficult political year. We've had a series of

elections. We've had parliamentary elections. We've had presidential elections. We're now having European elections. And all these disagreements

have been very much pronounced. And the country has become even more divided.

And as you described very rightly, Prime Minister Fico has been a rather controversial figure. It will be very difficult to heal the country going

forward. All the opposition leaders, the president of the countries, they all issued very strong statements saying that political violence is not

something that we should be tolerating in our democratic societies.

Regardless of the disagreements, we should not be shooting one another. They're very much committed to finding ways how to make sure that people

have democratic ways to vent their grievances and find a way forward. And of course, much will depend also on what the current government does. There

is a lot of shock in the country.

And there are some concerns that the situation can be misused by people who would want to only further vent the divisions in the country, who would

want to further polarize the country, and who would be attacking either the protesters or the opposition leaders and the media are blaming them for the

situation. None of this should be happening. And what the country needs is to come together and have more platforms for conversation and engagements

for citizens.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, and statements condemning the shooting have come in from leaders across the world. Everyone from Vladimir Putin to now President

Biden said, I'm alarmed to hear reports of an attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. We condemn this horrific act of violence. Our embassy

is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist.

You note that now you have everyone from the president to government politicians there and elected officials saying now is the time for unity.

But there have been threats made against politicians there in Slovakia as the polarization in the country has only intensified.

I want to read a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister who just shortly after the reports of the assassination attempt said that the entire hateful

opposition has bloody fingers. So, how do statements like that help lower the temperature and help unite a country that's now, you know,

understandably in shock?

KUDZKO: They do not help to unite the country. Quite the opposite. They only exacerbate the divisions and grievances in the country. This is not

really helpful. And that only fuels the people who are pushing for extreme solutions. Indeed, there is a lot of opposition to Prime Minister Fico that

has been very vocal in the past months. There were a lot of protests in the streets. People had legitimate grievances about, let's say, judicial reform

in the country or the way how the media is reformed and curtailed.


But people used peaceful means to express these grievances. None of the protesters called for political violence. So, that would be absolutely

erroneous to attribute any guilt to the opposition or the protests. Quite the opposite. The country collectively and all political leaders, both the

ones in that position, but also the ones in the current government, should take the responsibility and stone down the rhetoric and look for the way


ASHER: Elena, thank you so much. I mean, all eyes right now, I think, are on, yes, of course, Robert Fico. As I mentioned, we're all hoping that he

makes a speedy recovery. But all eyes also on Slovakia's main opposition parties, because this is an important leadership moment for them, a moment

for them to really demonstrate unity and step up.

Elena Kudzko, live for us there, thank you so much. All right, we'll be back with much more news after this short break. Don't go away.


ASHER: All right, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is preparing to welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, making this the second time Mr. Putin

has visited China in less than a year. This is certainly a sign of a growing bond between both countries.


GOLODRYGA: Two leaders have met now more than 40 times. This will be their 43rd meeting over the course of their leadership and often touted their

close personal friendship. Well, time now for The Exchange.

And joining us now is Alexander Gabuev, is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he leads a team of renowned

analysts. Gabuev's own research is focused on Russian foreign policy, with particular focus on the impact of the war in Ukraine, also a China expert

and close China watcher, as well.

Alex, thank you so much for joining us. So, let's just talk about the nature of this relationship, because politically it's the most significant

relationship that has come out of this tragic war in Ukraine, is the bond now we're seeing between Russia and China. And it's interesting that you

note that Western leaders should stop attempting to drive a wedge between these two countries, which has clearly been the policy for many decades in

the past. Why is that in your view?

ALEXANDER GABUEV, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE RUSSIA EURASIA CENTER: We have a magical thinking that Russia is still a European country and that the

current tilt towards China is an aberration because Mr. Putin is obsessed with Ukraine.


And once this guy is somehow out of the picture a couple of years down the line, Russia will normalize and will all the time be tired of dependency on

China, because this relationship is deeply asymmetrical. Russia is clearly a junior partner. China is a stronger, bigger economy, more diversified

with more options.

But the problem is that the two years of Ukrainian tragedy following Russia's aggression against independent Ukraine have delivered very

significant changes to Russia itself. And whether these changes will be reversible is unclear, even if Mr. Putin is outside of the picture.

For example, trade with China is now two times bigger than trade with the European Union, Russia's largest trading partner right before the war. So,

some of the changes might be really durable. And while Mr. Putin is in charge, China is really the most important partner that keeps his system,

his economy, and his war machine going. There is no way that he can drop this relationship.

ASHER: I think it's important that you talked about just how asymmetrical this relationship is, because, of course, we all know why Russia needs

China, why Vladimir Putin needs Xi Jinping. But can you just talk about what China at this point really needs from Russia and how that side of the

relationship works as well?

GABUEV: I think that if you look at China, China understands or assesses the external situation as pretty negative for itself, because it's a

deepening confrontation between itself and the United States and all of the Western partners for various reasons. But they look at this competition as

something strategic, durable, and it doesn't matter whether President Biden wins next term or it's Donald Trump. The relationship between China and the

United States, in their assessment, is going to get worse.

The U.S. relies on a huge network of allies and partners in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world, where China is very short of friends. So when

they look at the map, Russia is something that comes as close as a partner for them, because it's a giant nation next door, nuclear-armed, like-

minded, authoritarian country that also shares obsessions about the U.S. dominance, and that drives the two closer together.

Now, Russia is sanctioned by the West, has burned all of the bridges by this ugly war, and that drives Russia closer to China on China's terms. It

can bring cheap natural resources. It can bring some of the military technologies that China needs. It can bring its vote as a permanent member

of the U.N. Security Council. And it also brings a lot of distraction to the U.S. by just the magnitude of challenges it creates in European theater

that still diverts away resources and precious time of Biden's national security team.

GOLODRYGA: Alex, as we're looking at the new chapter in this war right now, we've seen a changing of the guard and leadership at the Russian military

and switching their defense minister, with replacing him with an economist now.

You look at who's going to be accompanying President Putin, and it's the head, the governor of the central bank in Russia. What do you make of this

now new focus that President Putin is putting on the economic impact of this war and what he can get out of China with this new strategy?

GABUEV: China is now 30 percent of Russia's exports, so that's the cash flow that keeps the economy and the war machine going, and it's 40 percent

of Russian imports. And inside those imports there are quite innocent things, like, for example, Western car brands all walked away out of

Russia. So now nearly 60 percent of cars sold in the Russian market are Chinese.

But there are also some very sensitive items like dual-use components, chips, optic elements, systems for navigation that help Russia to assemble

its weapons that the Russians used to found Ukrainian cities and forces on the front line. And that also keeps Putin's war going. Without that, he

would have it much harder to sustain his assault on Ukraine.

Now, that's definitely a focus of the U.S. administration. Secretary Blinken, Secretary Yellen had just been to China. They've announced that if

China continues with policy of shipping these dual-use goods and helps Russia to rebuild its military machine, there will be sanctions.

So, Putin's job is to find a way to sanction-proof those channels, and that's why he has his very competent governor of the central bank, his very

competent minister of finance with him to talk to the Chinese how they can find the schemes that will continue flow of this very sensitive goods to

the Russian war machine.


GOLODRYGA: Yeah, notable that this meeting is happening the same week that Secretary of State Blinken had a surprise visit to Ukraine, as well.

Alexander Gabuev, thank you so much.

ASHER: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We appreciate your time.

ASHER: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: We'll be right back.


GOLODRYGA: Okay, yeah, you don't need to do a double take. You are seeing right now -- that's the U.S. Secretary of State covering Neil Young's

Soviet-era anthem, "Rockin' in the Free World". Blinken jammed with a local Ukrainian band Tuesday during his visit to an underground bar in Kyiv.

ASHER: It's nice to see that side of him.

GOLODRYGA: Very cool. Popular with veterans and soldiers. He pledged steadfast support from the U.S. as Russia ramps up its attacks. He's quite


ASHER: Very.

GOLODRYGA: Diplomat and rocker.

ASHER: And he needed to relax after gallivanting the entire world, trying to stop two wars.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. Well, from talent to maybe not so talent in terms of one person's job, graduates at a nursing school in Philadelphia could barely

recognize their names.

ASHER: That was an interesting pivot, actually.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I was like, how am I going to figure this story?

ASHER: I was like, where is she going with this?

GOLODRYGA: Okay, you've got to listen to this because graduates could barely recognize their names when the announcer reading them at their

commencement --

ASHER: Funny one.

GOLODRYGA: -- mangled pretty much every single one of them. These are difficult names, folks.

ASHER: It's like, how do you mangle, Tom? Anyway, here's our Jeanne Moos with that story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Never have so many names been so butchered, even easy ones like Victoria Elizabeth Bruce.

UNKNOWN: Victoria Lee Zubath Bross (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): Butchered beyond recognition, be it Megan.

UNKNOWN: Michilu Iyabri (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): Or Alison.

UNKNOWN: Alessuna Cole Bishop (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): And how can you mangle Molly?

UNKNOWN: Malina Zubeth-Kamp (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): The announcer at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia was reading off phonetically spelled names on cards. But how

hard is it to pronounce Thomas?

MOOS: For the record, Thomas, can you state your full name for us?


MOOS (voice-over): Thomas was the first College of Nursing grad to actually correct the mispronunciation.

UNKNOWN: Tah Moo May (ph).

UNKNOWN: Thomas.



Thomas Jefferson University.

MOOS (voice-over): Thomas says at first, it felt like a slap in the face.

UNKNOWN: Tah Moo May (ph).

MOOS: Then she never even said my last name at all.

MOOS (voice-over): But now that the video has gone viral.

CANEVARI, JR.: I just cannot stop thinking of laughing about it. I'll never forget that day for as long as I live.

MOOS (voice-over): Neither will Sarah Virginia Brennan.

UNKNOWN: Sair Uvun Jeanju Brinan (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): On her Instagram, Sarah posted a new degree and name. "Thanks, I guess." The announcer apologized. So did Thomas Jefferson

University saying, "Each graduate deserves to have their name honored correctly." But for now, Thomas is AKA "Tamume".

CANEVARI, JR.: That's my new nickname all my friends have -- gave me. MOOS (voice-over): And when Thomas congratulated his new friend --

UNKNOWN: Sair (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): -- he addressed her and signed off with their new names.

UNKNOWN: Tah Moo May (ph).

MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

UNKNOWN: Thomas.


GOLODRYGA: It's Thomas. Could you imagine what she would do to our names?

ASHER: Bye-Ah-Na (ph). Yours is actually quite phonetic.

GOLODRYGA: I don't know.

ASHER: Go-lo-dry-ga (ph). I'm actually reading it in the prompter because we're about to say goodbye.

GOLODRYGA: Zo-oo-nay. You'll never know.

ASHER: Yours is way more phonetic. It's long and it's got a lot of letters. But it's actually way more phonetic.

GOLODRYGA: So, Golodryga is easy to say for her, I guess. Never heard that one.

ASHER: Thank you for being with us. I'm Zain Asher. I'm Za-in A-se-her (ph).

GOLODRYGA: And I'm her colleague. Thank you for watching. Amanpour is next.