Return to Transcripts main page

Quest Means Business

China Eases COVID Restrictions After Widespread Protests; US Stocks Waver Amid China Reopening, Recession Risks; Democrat Raphael Warnock Holds Georgia Senate Seat; Peruvian Congress Impeaches President; Ukrainian POWs Freed In Prisoner Swap; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Named "Time`s" Person Of The Year; MSC Cruises Docks Ship In New York; U.S. FAA Warns Of 5G Interference. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 07, 2022 - 15:00   ET



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It`s a choppy day for US markets. The Dow, pretty much flat after bouncing between red and green all

session. You can see, it is slightly lower, about one-tenth of one percent.

Those are the markets and these are the main events: China scraps most of its COVID testing and quarantine rules as the economic toll mounts.

US Democrats score a huge victory in Georgia in the most expensive US Senate race of the year.

And MSC Cruises prepares to launch a brand new ship that is as Wall Street warns the industry is in uncharted territory. I will speak to the Executive


Live from New York, it is Wednesday, December 7th. I`m Rahel Solomon, in today for Richard Quest and this is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Good evening.

Tonight, China makes its most significant retreat yet from its Zero-COVID Policy. The central government easing several restrictions, and now

allowing people with mild COVID cases to quarantine at home. People will also no longer have to show proof of negative test results before entering

most public places and travel restrictions are being eased as well. All of this coming after unprecedented protests over the Zero-COVID Policy, which

has wreaked havoc on China`s economy.

Still though, experts warn COVID could damage China even after the policy is lifted.

CNN`s Ivan Watson has the details.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): China is the last country in the world still trying to completely eradicate COVID,

but after months of harsh restrictions, some of the COVID lockdown barriers in China are starting to come down.

This move by authorities comes just days after protests erupted across the country against Beijing`s Zero-COVID Policy. This breath of fresh air for

some exhausted citizens carries a harsh reality. Experts predict a tough COVID winter is likely coming.

PROFESSOR BEN COWLING, CHAIR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY: The winter is the worst time to have a large epidemic because hospitals may

already be under pressure for other reasons during the winter.

WATSON (voice over): The highly contagious omicron variant is already spreading through the Chinese population.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Unlike the rest of the world, very, very few people in China proportionally have had COVID and that is because

of the strict lockdowns that the Chinese government has implemented, and so there is very low baseline immunity.

The other issue is that China has been using its domestically produced vaccines, which are less effective than the mRNA vaccines.

WATSON (voice over): China has one of the world`s highest COVID vaccination rates, but vaccination for the elderly in China lags far behind. Twenty-

three percent of Chinese citizens over 80 are completely unvaccinated, that leaves roughly 8.4 million very vulnerable unvaccinated people.

COWLING: So if COVID was to spread through China now, I think we would see a lot of severe cases in that group of people with either no vaccination or

no recent vaccination.

WATSON (voice over): Epidemiologists say Hong Kong may offer a roadmap for what could happen in Mainland China.

After Hong Kong successfully maintained a Zero-COVID Bubble for nearly two years, omicron spread out of control here last winter.

WATSON (on camera): At the peak of the outbreak, Hong Kong suffered more than 7,000 deaths in six weeks, most of them elderly.

At the time, it was the highest COVID mortality rate in the world driven largely, experts say, by very low vaccination rates among people over 60.

Per capita, Mainland China has almost half the number of critical care beds in hospital compared to Hong Kong.

WEN: China got its investments backwards, so by putting their focus on testing and not on vaccines and treatments, China has actually not prepared

the country and the citizens for what happens when Zero COVID ends which inevitably would end at some point.

WATSON (voice over): China was the scene of the world`s first known COVID outbreak in December of 2019. If the experts are right, it could also be

the last country that faces a COVID crisis.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.



SOLOMON: And despite the reopening, Asian stocks actually fell on news of weak Chinese trade data. Hong Kong`s Hang Seng Index fell more than three

percent. Markets in Japan, South Korea, and Shanghai were all lower as well. Chinese exports contracting at the steepest pace in more than two

years in November, falling 8.7 percent from a year ago.

The Chinese government has indicated, it will focus more on economic growth in 2023.

Ann Lee is the author of "What the US Can Learn from China" and used to teach Economics at Peking University. She joins me now from San Francisco.

Ann Lee, wonderful to have you.


SOLOMON: So help me understand, how significant is this loosening of policy? Is it enough to say that the government is in fact abandoning Zero


LEE: Well, I think they are going to do it over several months at least. They are basically still going to have certain testing requirements in

place for places like hospitals and schools, but it is significant relaxing given that if someone tests positive, they just can go home and isolate

instead of shutting down entire neighborhoods.

So this is going to be, I think a game changer for its economy going forward.

SOLOMON: And I`m sure for the people there, of course, who have been living with this policy for so long.

And help me understand, as we said, the government said that it will be prioritizing economic growth in 2023. We know it`s not a light switch,

right? So when do you think that growth actually starts to materialize? How soon until we actually start to see it in the data do you think?

LEE: So, this is assuming that there are going to be no other major setbacks, right? Because we still have to keep in mind that there is a

trade war going on with the US, and in fact, there`s also a technology war as well.

So those issues can still hamper growth in China, but assuming that there are no big new surprises that come up in 2023, I would say that with this

loosening of policies, we should start to see, you know, momentum pick up in the spring.

Certainly, the winter can still be challenging given that there might be a lot of illnesses that will force reintroduction of lockdowns, we don`t

know. But we do know that the variants are a lot less lethal now, and therefore, I think that China will slowly approach normality.

And given that there`s so much suppressed demand, that, you know, people want to socialize, to travel, to do all of these things, that it might be

quite explosive come the spring. And so this could certainly lift China`s GDP, since China is largely focusing on increasing its internal

consumption. And so with all of that, you know, suppressed demand coming onto the market, that could really drive a lot of growth in China, which

can pull in imports from other neighboring countries, like in Southeast Asia and lift the economies in those places as well.

SOLOMON: It`s interesting, Ann, that you say explosive, because as I try to envision what this will look like, I think about the reopening in the US,

for example. I think about the reopening in certain European markets, and so you predict, you think, based on what we know now that perhaps in the

spring, we could start to see a similar reopen in China in terms of really explosive demand, as you say, coming back.

LEE: Yes, I think that a lot of people, you know, miss, sort of the normal activities, and when they see that they are allowed to do this, and that

the rest of the world is already engaging in a lot of these activities, I think that they will -- the uptick will be very quick.

I think that it was pretty explosive in the US as well. You know, once people were able to get on planes, you know, airlines cannot hire enough

pilots and staff to meet the really increased demand that suddenly came back online.

So --

SOLOMON: Absolutely.

LEE: I think the same thing is going to happen in China.

SOLOMON: And what`s interesting is, I think, we`re still hearing from airline executives, for example, who are saying that they are still seeing

the effects of that pent up demand.

And before I let you go, Morgan Stanley just cut its iPhone shipment estimate by another three million units because of slower production. You

think about Foxconn and sort of all of the unrest there.

I mean, how damaging do you think this long term will be for China this policy and reputation really, what it has done in terms of American

corporations, multinational corporations just wondering. Is this really the place that I want to be?


LEE: So a lot of that is influenced by geopolitics for sure. Given that, you know, their tariffs that the US has imposed for anything coming from

China, Europe has also joined the US in some of their tariffs and sanctions, and so it`s made doing business in China much more difficult.

But many companies, despite these challenges have decided not to leave China for good because they cannot find a replacement elsewhere in the


China has incredibly good infrastructure that they have built up over the decades, that is really unparalleled and given that they have a very large

population that is also well-educated. They can work on a lot of different areas of the supply chain that are difficult to match in other parts of the


So when countries tried to relocate it to places like Vietnam, like they just couldn`t find enough workers, they didn`t have the same supply chains

available, the infrastructure wasn`t there. So when they faced these issues, then despite the fact that they may not like some of China`s

policies, they don`t really have alternatives to turn to.

Now, this may start to change with the US trying to, you know, build more of a presence in the US by, you know, having TSMC build its semiconductor

plants in Arizona, and maybe slowly, the US will try to replicate what has happened in China, but this will take many years.

And so in the meantime, you know, companies are still relying on China.

SOLOMON: I mean, I take your point, it certainly will not be easily done, as you point out, but I certainly think it is a question that a lot of

executives are at least thinking about right now for the last few years.

Ann Lee, we will have to leave it here. Thank you. Wonderful to have you.

LEE: Thanks again.

SOLOMON: Well, US markets meantime had been choppy pretty much all day as investors consider the impact of China`s looser COVID policies.

The Dow as I said, it is fractionally lower, less than about two-tenths of a percent or 50 points right now. Various factors though are weighing on

market sentiment.

So on the one hand, China`s reopening, well that should ease supply chain pressures and that could help bring down inflation, which has already

fallen for four straight months in the US.

However, several major bank CEOs have also warned this week about the impact of a recession and continued uncertainty about the Fed, well, that

has also hurt investor confidence.

Marc Stewart is with me now.

Marc, great to have you.

So help me understand. I mean, what are investors reacting to right now, because the markets today have been sort of moving sideways. But what do

you think is moving the markets? What`s on the mind of investors right now?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rahel. I think it`s a laundry list of issues, but whether you`re an analyst or a trader, a lot of this

wobbliness, if you will, is centering on the upcoming Fed meeting next week with the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, when he will give his

not only an indication as to where interest rates will go, will they raise three-quarters of a percent or 50 basis points. But I think there`s also a

lot of trepidation, if you will, within the markets about what he will see the future as.

In the past, in some very public forums, the Fed Chair has said that he thinks inflation will stick around for a while. I think, there is a lot of

questions since his previous speaking engagements, will those same reservations be there? Will they perhaps be even stronger? And what type of

data will he point to?

So that`s a big thing on investors` minds.

We also have this issue of data that is going to be released. We`re going to have some inflation data this week, as well as next week, most notably

the Consumer Price Index, that will give us an indication about inflation, where things stand.

We have seen some subtle signs that maybe we have seen a peak, but as we know, that data, we just need to look at it to have a better idea of where

things are going are the essentials like food and fuel. Are they still elevated? Or is there perhaps some visible relief?

So those are the big drivers right now, Rahel, and you know, you mentioned real briefly about China. I think that there were high hopes, but as you

know, investors like certainty, they like concrete plans and maybe that`s why markets haven`t moved in such a favorable direction, at least overseas

in Asia.

SOLOMON: Marc, it is an interesting point about how investors was like certainty for sure. We know that Powell and the Fed have sort of

telegraphed what we are expecting next week.


I wonder, do you think if we get a CPI report or print that comes in much hotter than expected. We know the Jobs Report came in much hotter than

expected, and just as soon as the report crossed, markets took a nosedive. Do you think if the CPI report comes in hotter than expected, we could see

a bit of a surprise when the Fed meets next week?

STEWART: Well, let me put it this way. The Fed Chair has made it very clear that his decisions aren`t going to be based on anecdotes or perhaps

feelings on the street, it is going to be based off of data.

So for that reason, I think that there is a lot of weight to be placed on the Consumer Price Index. Of course, there are other variables that are at

play, but that`s tangible. That`s something that`s measurable. And that`s something that Fed Chair keeps going back to, speech after speech, meeting

after meeting.

SOLOMON: Yes, we will be data dependent, Marc, as you and I have heard Powell say many times this year.

Marc Stewart, great to have you. Thank you.

STEWART: My pleasure.

SOLOMON: More QUEST MEANS BUSINESS when we come back.


SOLOMON: Welcome back.

US Democrats rounded off the Midterm Election season with a win. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock has held onto his seat defeating the Republican,

Herschel Walker in a runoff election. It`s a win that solidifies Democrats` control of the Senate, giving them greater leverage next year.

An emotional Senator Warnock thanked his supporters Tuesday night.




WARNOCK: Let`s celebrate for a little while on this mountain. Let`s dance because we deserve it.


WARNOCK: But tomorrow we go back down into the valley to do the work.


SOLOMON: And it was one of the most expensive Senate races in history. Open Secret says that more than $380 million have been spent by the end of

November with $81 million being spent on advertising in the four weeks leading up to the runoff. That`s according to AdImpact.

Georgia has gained a reputation as a Battleground State over recent years, prompting a chunk of the financing there behind its major elections to come

from across State lines.

CNN`s Amara Walker is in Atlanta and joins us now.

Amara, great to have you. So help us understand. As I said, the Dems now have the majority they need, but help us understand what this win means in

terms of Committee assignments.

I mean, just how significant is this for the Democrats moving forward?


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It`s very significant. I do want to pick up on what you were talking about, the money because it is fascinating to

see just how much money is spent in American elections, right.

This Georgia Senate race was the most expensive race of the 2022 Midterm season, and that is because as you saw, there was so much at stake here.

So back to your question, Rahel. What does this mean for Senate Democrats and Democrats in general? It`s a significant victory because it will impact

President Biden`s agenda. We`re talking about a 51 to 49 majority. It doesn`t sound like very much.

But look, as it stands now, the Senate is evenly split, 50/50. That means that there is an evenly split -- that`s kind of a tongue twister for me --

evenly split power sharing agreement between the Democrats and the Republicans in the Committees.

Now that the Democrats have the majority, that means the Committees will also have a Democratic majority, which means that the Democrats will be

able to process legislation. They will be able to process judicial nominees as well much faster without having these procedural hurdles of the

confirmation processes being slowed down by let`s say, a Republican vote. So, it`s quite significant.

And now, a lot of people looking at Georgia as a Purple State on the heels of President Biden`s win in 2020, the first time that a Democratic

presidential candidate won Georgia in almost 30 years. And now you have again cementing to Senate two Democrats in the US Senate representing

Georgia -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yes, it`s a great point, Amara. A lot of history being made and the circle back to the money. I`m curious, what can you tell us about

turnouts? Did all of that money that poured into Georgia translate into more people at the polls?

WALKER: I don`t know the exact answer to that, but it looks like it did, at least in terms of early voting, right?

So when you look at the numbers and the breakdown, when it comes to TV ads, the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock outspent his Republican

challenger, Herschel Walker by three to one, but a lot of analysts on both sides are really crediting the Democrats and the Warnock campaign`s ground


They were really pushing for their supporters to get out and vote early in this shortened voting period. And it looks like it worked. There was a

surge in early voting and what Warnock was hoping for was a big enough cushion in early voting to pull him through on Election Night, and that`s

exactly what happened -- Rahel.

SOLOMON: Yes, seems he got it. Amara Walker, great to have you, thank you.

And turning to Germany now, Germany has arrested 25 suspected far-right extremists for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government and install

as a leader, a descendant of the abolished German monarchy.

More than 3,000 Police and Security Forces conducted raids across Germany, and arrests were also made in Italy and Austria.

Prosecutors say the group was inspired by Deep State conspiracy theories of Germany`s Reichsburger and QAnon.

Nic Robertson is following the story and joins me from London.

So Nic, help me understand. I mean, who are these people? And tell me a bit more about this group, the Reichsburger and how serious was this threat?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, the Reichsburger believe that the German State is illegitimate and kind of like QAnon, they

have this conspiracy, that there is a Deep State that is running the country. They believe that after World War Two, when the Allies defeated

Nazi Germany that the Allies then made this construct of Germany it is today and are behind the scenes pulling all the strings in the same way

that QAnon has their outlandish ideology that doesn`t bear any resemblance to reality.

But this group got really advanced in their planning. That`s what the police suspect that this was going to be an armed attack, an armed coup

d`etat at the seat of government, the Bundestag, take it down.

They had their own leadership ready to go, a former member of the German Royalty, a former MP in the Bundestag, a member of the AFD, or a former

member at the AFD, which is a large right-wing party in Germany, but obviously clearly moved to this fringe group, much smaller, much more


But the police are saying, they are still after 27 other people, 150 different locations searched today, but they say to go through all of that

information, all the searches that they put in place, it is going to generate a lot of information. It is going to take some time before they

can figure out the full scale of the plot here.

SOLOMON: That was a quite an undertaking. Nic, do we know how long this group had reportedly been devising this plan?

ROBERTSON: Yes, this group is believed to have come into play late last year. So, it`s a relatively new group. That MP was an MP until 2020.


So it`s only a couple of years that he has left a right-wing party to join a small right-wing fringe or so it would appear. So it`s a relatively short

period. But their planning was quite advanced. They had members of the former German military involved in it. This is what the authorities had to

say about it.


NANCY FAESER, GERMAN INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): Based on current findings, the suspected terrorist group uncovered today was founded

based on coup d`etat fantasies and conspiracy ideologies. Only a further investigation will give us a clearer picture how far advanced these coup

plans were.

Militant Reichsburger are united by the hatred for democracy, for our State, and for people who support our community.


ROBERTSON: So sometime before they really understand the sort of full scope, full scale of what they were potentially facing here, but this

really, one of the biggest operations like this for the German authorities taking down a right-wing terror group.

SOLOMON: I mean, as you say, Nic, lots of questions for authorities to still answer, but stunning developments nonetheless.

Nic Robertson in London, thank you.

And when we return, an update on the stunning political drama unfolding in Peru. That`s where Security Forces are said to have detained the country`s

President. We have the details coming up next.


SOLOMON: Welcome back. I`m Rahel Solomon.

There is more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in a moment when I will speak to the MSC Cruises Chair from the company`s new cruise ship, The Seascape.

And putting your phone on airplane mode during the flight may become a thing of the past.

Before that, here are the headlines this hour.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Saudi Arabia on a State Visit to deepen ties between the two nations. China is the Kingdom`s biggest oil customer

and top trading partner.

Xi will attend Summits with Arab leaders where a slew of billion dollar economic trade and military deals are expected to be signed.


News across Iran marked Students` Day Wednesday by marching and protesting. Dozens demonstrated at Tehran University even as Iran`s president was

giving a talk inside. Video also emerged of a young woman without a hijab confronting Tehran`s mayor about the government`s support of repressive


Argentina`s vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges. The charges stem

from her earlier terms as president. She`s also disqualified from holding public office again. The current V.P. does have temporary imagery from

imprisonment and she can appeal the verdict.

Ukraine`s foreign minister says that suspicious passages sent to Ukrainian embassies bore the address of a Tesla dealership in Germany. The packages

contained letter bombs and animal parts.

Writing on Facebook, he says, 31 of his country`s embassies receive such packages.

And a train collision in Spain`s Catalonia region left 155 passengers needing medical attention and three requiring hospital treatment. Local

officials say that none of the injuries were serious. Catalonia has witnessed several train accidents in recent years, which officials have

blamed on a lack of government funding.


SOLOMON: We have some news just in to CNN, reports that Peru`s president has been detained by security forces. That`s according to a source with

knowledge of the case.

This follows a vote in congress to impeach Pedro Castillo shortly after he announced its unconstitutional dissolution. The CEO installed an emergency

government also declared a national curfew ahead of the vote. Peru`s current vice president will be sworn in as the new president. Journalist

Stefano Pozzebon joins me now.

Stefano, lots of moving parts.

How did we get here?

What is happening right now?

STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lots of moving parts, indeed. This is a story that broke less than three hours ago, frankly.

Every hour, there was a new development.

What we are seeing is that, at the beginning of today, Pedro Castillo was scheduled to face an impeachment vote in Congress. It`s the first time

since he took office in July of last year that he faces such a vote.

Late in the morning, he took the decision to go on national television and call for the dismantle of congress, called for a curfew and called for

early congressional elections. It seemed like a strike to preemptively empty hands of congress ahead of these crucial votes only for having a

cascade of reactions from all the powers of the state.

Coming out very strong and firmly, saying the president does not have the faculty to dismantle congress at will. So proceeding to remove, oust

Castillo from office. That happened about two hours ago and now congress is moving swiftly to vote Castillo`s vice president, Dina Boluarte, as a

caretaker president.

You can see that in the images. She is wearing a yellow dress. She would be, by the way, the first female president in the history of Peru. We

didn`t know for a few hours about the current whereabouts of Castillo. A source confirming to our team in lima that he has been detained. He will

very likely face a charges.

But it seems like the country is ready to move on after a very tumultuous presidency. We had several cabinets, several resignations in these -- in

Castillo`s tenure.

Now the big question, Rahel, for you, I and for the investors who look at Peru, is how will these yet another constitutional crisis impact the

economy because for years we have talked about the Peruvian economic miracles, where we had a lot of political earthquakes, unconstitutional


Castillo is just the latest in a long list of presidents who have been removed from office. But the economy still grew. Now this situation has

changed after the pandemic, the lockdowns, the current inflationary climates that is hitting hard on many emerging markets, particularly row

material economisages (ph) such as Peru.


So the question is, will the country be able to find some stability, not just in the political sphere but also in the economic and finance sphere?

Just before you let me, go, Rahel, the very latest one, the U.S. Department of State calling very strongly against Castillo`s actions with a statement

from Ned Price a few minutes ago, urging Peru and Peruvians to stand by democracy and the rule of law.

And many other countries are also following suit. And being ready to welcome Dina Boluarte as the caretaker, president of the country and the

first female president in the history of Peru.

SOLOMON: Stefano, wonderful to have you. Lots of moving parts, as you said. You did a great job breaking it all down for us. Wonderful to have

you, thank you.

POZZEBON: Thank you.

"Time" magazine has revealed its 2022 Person of the Year. It is a face we have come to know very well. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian leader`s

resistance of Russia`s invasion recognized by the award as well. We will have the details coming up next.




SOLOMON: Launched onto the world stage by Russia`s invasion of his country, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his leadership during

the war are being recognized as "Time" magazine`s Person of the Year.

That goes to the person or event that had the most influence on global events. Last year, that was Elon Musk. But returning to Ukraine, more than

nine months since Russia`s invasion began, there is some good news.

Dozens of soldiers on both sides are going home. Will Ripley has all the details and joins me from Kyiv.

Will, great to have you.

What can you tell us, what can you tell us about this group?

I understand it is men and women.

Where are they from?

How are they doing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That`s the interesting part of the story. They are from a place that`s probably very

familiar to you, as you have been following this war, Mariupol, where they fended off valiantly under nearly hellish conditions of constant

bombardment for more than two months.

They literally fought until they didn`t have anything left. The Russians overtook them. And then they were taken into captivity. They were fed lies.

They said they were brainwashed.

The whole time, they were worrying that people here in Ukraine, if there was even a Ukraine left, because the Russians told them differently, they

thought people would blame them for the city falling.


This was their mindset when they stepped across the border back into their home soil. We talked to them just minutes after.


RIPLEY (voice-over): At an undisclosed location near the Russian border, two buses arrive with 60 Ukrainian soldiers, prisoners of war just released

in a POW swap with Russia, two women, 58 men, their first minutes of freedom.

This Marine tells me about his 4-year old daughter.

"It`s so emotional," he says. "I can`t wait to tell her I love her and that I`ve missed her so much."

Some are parents; others, grandparents; most, defenders of Mariupol, the southern Ukrainian port city that fell to the Russians in May.

"All of us from Mariupol worry so much," he says. "We watched the city. We couldn`t fight them off. We don`t know how people will react to us."

They will get a hero`s welcome, of course.

As we go inside, they each get a cell phone. The first time they`ve called their families in months.

"How`s Mom?

"How is Dad?" he asks.

"Are they alive?"

Their bodies bear the scars of months of captivity.

"We didn`t have any medical treatment," he says.

It`s been eight days since he`s had a shower.

RIPLEY: A lot of these guys have physical injuries, scars. But the emotional scars, the mental scars from this kind of hellish ordeal are

going to take even longer to heal.

One of the two rescued women, a radio intelligence operator, describes months of psychological torture, lies, that half of Ukraine was now part of

Russia; brainwashing, forced to read Russian poetry, sing Russian songs, pledge loyalty to mother Russia.

"I wondered, when will this be over?" she says. And now you`re here.

"Sorry for my tears."

For this former POW, there are no tears left. Her 6-year-old daughter is still in occupied Mariupol. She had no way to contact her or her husband, a

sailor. They surrendered on the same day.

How does it feel to be out and know that your husband is still there, still in Russia?

"I worry so much about him," she says. "They torture men much more than women."

She is not ready to talk about how she was physically treated. She, like everyone here, just wants to see family, wants to go home. For most, from

devastated and occupied Mariupol, going home is not an option.


RIPLEY: The moment that stuck with me was the guy that was on the phone and he was asking, how`s Mom and Dad, are they are alive?

He did not know. They have had no news. They didn`t know where the front lines were. They wanted to know if Odessa had fallen. Had Kyiv fallen?

This was all the lies that were told to them. Of course, they were arriving back on Armed Forces Day here in Ukraine.

While President Zelenskyy was not there for their handover, he was meeting with troops on the front lines in the eastern region, has been trying to

show his support and even putting himself close to the shelling that has been nearly constant, a constant bombardment and a constant threat.

More missiles, perhaps even more troops with a new potential border forming to the north of this country in Belarus. They are calling it military

exercises. So Ukraine is preparing for potentially more ground battles as well.

SOLOMON: It was an incredible piece. I want to circle back to Zelenskyy, as you pointed, out getting "Time" Person of the Year. We think of

Zelenskyy, now, of course, as the president of Ukraine. We think of his nightly addresses, supporting his people through the last nine months of

this invasion.

Remind us of his background. I mean, this is a person who some might say had an untraditional background before entering politics. He was a

comedian. He was a producer. Explain to us how he got here.

RIPLEY: He is one of the privileged here in Ukraine. He is not an oligarch. In fact he has been pushing laws so that oligarchs don`t own all

the TV channels here. One thing they were showing is a comparison of what he looked like before when he was clean shaven, wearing a suit, looked at

least five years younger than he does with the beard.

He`s always in a T-shirt or a military kind of getup. He`s really assumed this role, a difficult role, a tireless role, of leading this country`s

military response. He was criticized at the beginning for investing a lot of money in roads and not investing money in the military.


Also criticized for potentially not warning Ukrainians quickly enough that the invasion was. Coming the U.S. was saying they had intelligence. He said

right up until the invasion happened that they didn`t think it would. It might have been a military strategy. It has never been revealed publicly.

Yet he has truly brought this nation together to the point that he has so much confidence they are going to go ahead with their elections next year.

It is almost certain that it will be a landslide victory for him for another term.

He`s defiantly not just fighting off the Russians and trying to take back Ukrainian territory but also allowing the democratic process to continue

here, which is truly extraordinary, considering that this is a nation under siege in wartime.

Still, they`re doing everything they can to continue on with life as normal could possibly be under these circumstances.

SOLOMON: Will Ripley, in Kyiv, wonderful to have, you thank you.

Coming up next, the executive director of MSC Cruises joins us from their newest ship docked just outside of CNN`s New York office.




SOLOMON: Today marks the naming ceremony of MSC Cruises` newest ship, the Seascape. The ship arrived in New York yesterday where MSC will debut a new

home port in April.

It features 32,000 square feet of space and six swimming pools. It comes at a time of uncertainty for the cruise industry, which is trying to regain

stability. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, both publicly traded, have had their stocks downgraded in recent weeks.

And you can see Royal Carnival and Norwegian all lower by about 1.6 percent to 4 percent there.

Pierfrancesco Vago is the executive chairman MSC Cruises and he joins me from the MSC Seascape.

Wonderful to have you. Walk me through some more of these attributes. I think I saw something about a roller coaster mentioned. I`m not sure if I

have the stomach for it but walk me through some of the other features.

PIERFRANCESCO VAGO, CEO, MSC CRUISES: Well, the Seascape, first of all, god day to everybody. We are down at Pier 88 in Manhattan and we are happy

to showcase this beautiful piece of hardware, just out of the box, built in Italy.

This ship has been built for warmer weather. So we have a lot of generators, Sterno (ph) spaces close to the water for passengers and

customers to enjoy. Obviously we have all of the typical features.


Many restaurants, many bars and the (INAUDIBLE) that you were mentioning, that it is this new crazy machine, 180 foot higher above sea level that

makes you spin and hopefully you didn`t have lunch before, because obviously, it is tricky. But it is fun. It is very exciting.

SOLOMON: Crazy but fun.

How is business?

How is the cruise industry right now?

VAGO: We are coming back. We have been through tough times. Obviously, cash burning mode for everybody through the pandemic. But we were strong.

We got together, we put this protocol together.

We were the first ones, as the cruise industry, to come back to this protocol to actually test everybody to ensure the bubble approach on our

ships so that everybody can actually join enough in a safe mode. Passengers appreciative it very. Much and especially in this economic,

particular, peculiar moment where there is a lot of inflation, speculation, prices are increasing.

Cruising, this platform holidays is still giving the best value for money there is. So there is a democratization over luxury where you have a five-

star experience. But with the buying power capability that this cruise line has, we were very competitive to the consumer to actually have a five star


SOLOMON: So would you say that that is what`s driving demand, the value proposition or is all the pent-up demand that we have pretty much every

airline CEO talk about?

Is it the pent-up demand to traveling or the value proposition for the cruise line operators?

VAGO: It is a mixture. Obviously, psychological, consumers have been through a tough time. So we need all of our sanity to come back. We all

need to go out there and enjoy our holidays and luxuries. So there is the feeling that we all feel safer to actually travel.

There is the offering of this incredible itinerary and cruise lines and cruise ships offer where there is the cabins, traveling around the world,

back in Europe. And obviously there`s also the value proposition.

Now we stand in the fact that this hardware is incredible. So not only environmental but especially for the offering that this platform offers to

the final consumer. So the mix of everything obviously is driving tourism.

And, you know, the favorite way to travel is to see from your own balcony the Caribbean at sunset on the sea. And that is what is exciting.

SOLOMON: The will to travel as you point out is certainly there. At this point, unemployment seems to be very low.

How is MSC planning for the potential of an economic downturn?

What happens then?

Because it clearly does seem to be a big risk out there that industries are preparing for.

VAGO: We are very positive. We are positive in our nature. These assets move. Geographically we can actually chase, not only the school holidays

but the geopolitical issues. We move our assets.

So we see that there is a pent-up demand. Even Europe`s coming back strongly. North America, we see demands getting more in advance. So the

booking curves are coming much earlier in time.

And now, we hear that somehow Asia will come back again. And that is also looking very positive, meaning that we are going to a global operation yet

again for this industry.

SOLOMON: You follow the business, you know where the business. Goes makes sense. Pierfrancesco Vago, great to have you. Thank you. We`ll have to

leave it there.

VAGO: Thank you so much for having. Me

SOLOMON: Airplane mode may soon be a relic of the past. In Europe, officials are going to allow airlines to offer 5G service to passengers

during the flight, allowing in-flight phone calls with the use of high speed data.

In the, U.S. more strict, limiting it near airports. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has expressed concern that 5G technology could

interfere with aircraft equipment; in particular, radio altimeters. Brian Fung is in Washington.

Brian, great to have you on the show today. Help me understand.

How soon might we actually see this and, help me understand, is this just Europe at this point?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think the answer is very soon. And Europe has always been kind of a leader on these types of communications

issues. It has allowed inflight cell phone use since 2008. So well over a number of years at this point.

And the question as to whether or not the United States could see something similar, it is a lot more complicated because we have had many debates in

this country about whether to allow inflight cell phone use that have nothing to do with 5G.


In fact, in 2013, the Federal Communications Commission proposed relaxing the rules against inflight cell phone use because it found no compelling

evidence that there was harmful interference to inflight operations.

That, of course, kicked off a big debate about whether it was wise to allow people to talk and have phone conversations on airplanes that might be

disruptive to other passengers.

And that even inspired a White House petition on the matter, urging the administration at the time to not roll back these rules and allow cell

phone use on planes.

Even in 2017, the FCC pulled back its proposal to allowing inflight cell phone use over those same sorts of nuisance concerns saying, we don`t want

to expose people to calls and other annoying conversations on planes if we don`t have to.

So in the United States that has been a much bigger societal debate about, you know, politeness and the conduct that passengers have on airplanes,

much more so than concerns about interference or technology per se; whereas, you have seen, in Europe, regulators charging ahead with allowing

the use of this technology more broadly, according to the regulations.

SOLOMON: Brian, I think they`re a lot of debates that can be had here. Certainly whether it is disruptive to have people using their phone during

the flight. The QUEST MEANS BUSINESS team had a spirited debate about whether that would be a good idea. Nonetheless, great to be on the show

today, Brian Fung, in Washington. Thank you.

Let`s go back to Peru. Moments ago, vice president Dina Boluarte e was sworn in as president. That`s after her predecessor Pedro Castillo was

reportedly arrested. Castillo attempted to dissolve congress before it voted to impeach him.

And they`re just moments left to trade on Wall Street, we will have the final numbers in the closing bell right after this.




SOLOMON: Welcome back.

Moments left to trade on Wall Street. The Dow has been pretty choppy, now just about flat. Traders are looking to put a stop to this week`s losses.

There`s a lot to consider as China rolls back COVID restrictions and bankers warn of an economic slowdown.

That is your dash to the bell, I`m Rahel Solomon. The closing bell is ringing on Wall Street. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.