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Kim Jong-un Elected Chairman of North Korea's Workers Party; Duterte Takes Early Lead in Unofficial Philippine Vote Count; Trump-Ryan Meeting Looms Amid Republican Chaos; Brexit Debate; Johnny Depp Mocks His Own Apology; Western Canada Wildfires; Fighting Continues in Syria Despite Truce; Paralympian to Use 3D Printed Leg. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired May 9, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST (voice-over): Ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK: North Korea kicks out a Western journalist it calls disrespectful.
Donald Trump's divisions with the Republican Party get a little deeper.
And Johnny Depp mocks his own apology video.
CURNOW: Hi, everyone. Welcome. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.
We begin with unprecedented access to North Korea's seat of power. CNN is among several news teams allowed inside the ruling party Congress in
Pyongyang where leader Kim Jong-un has just been granted even more power.
We've also seen how that sort of power is used against journalists. A BBC reporter has been kicked out of the country for what North Korea says was
Let's get the latest. Our Will Ripley joins us now live from Pyongyang.
Hi, there, Will. I know it's been a long day for you. I just want you to unpack what you saw in that congress room. I mean really, all of it, a
show of support and strength from Kim Jong-un.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was really remarkable, Robyn, unprecedented for the Western media to be allowed to the highest level
political gathering that North Korea can have, the first Workers Party Congress in 36 years.
This is a country that is certainly not transparent when it comes to international press and we've been here, pushing for access all this week.
And really the closest we've gotten are the almost nightly news bulletins on the state-controlled television channel.
So this afternoon, after we learned about the BBC correspondent who had been detained, they told us to dress up in suits, bring our passports and
get on a bus. We thought we were possibly going to a press conference with government officials to talk about the detained journalist.
And instead went through a 90-minute security check before we were driven with a police escort to the venue for the Workers Party Congress. We
walked into the room there with 5,000 Workers Party members. It was silent. They were looking at us. The state media television cameras were
And then, just a few moments later, that music that you hear, the marching band music that always plays when the North Korea supreme leader walks onto
the stage, it played very loudly; everybody cheered for at least a few minutes.
And there he came, the leader, Kim Jong-un, his highest level party officials. And he sat down; he seemed relaxed and he was in control of the
room. He has cemented his power with a new lineup of party officials and a brand-new title that we just learned about while we were covering the party
He's now the chairman of the Workers Party of Korea. They invented that title for him. It was a unanimous vote. Of course, Robyn, that's no
surprise that the vote is unanimous because anybody in the party who might have voted against it is no longer in the party after a series of purges in
the last few years to get rid of those deemed disloyal.
CURNOW: So let's talk about the BBC team that was expelled. Really also another illustration of the difficulties journalists face when reporting
from North Korea.
RIPLEY: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes is BBC's Tokyo correspondent. So I've known him for a couple years that I've been based there. I've seen him on
several stories and, in fact, we just talked yesterday and he mentioned to me that North Korean officials had given him and his crew a very harsh
talking to about some of the reports that he's done in the last week or so.
He was along with a team of Nobel laureates that were touring the country and visiting with officials. I have been severely reprimanded for reports
in the past. And issues regarding the man they call their supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, are the most sensitive issues that you can deal with inside
Any perceived disrespect, any perceived slight, really isn't tolerated. But I think Rupert thought that he and his crew would be able to get on
their flight this morning. They were planning on flying out this morning at the airport. Authorities pulled them into a holding area. The BBC says
they were detained for eight hours and they were made to sign letters of apology, both Rupert, the correspondent, and we also just got a brand-new
photo that shows the BBC Asia bureau chief, Jo Floto, was also signing a letter as well.
They say they had to do that in order to get Rupert out of the country safely. He got an evening flight to Beijing and is now either in Beijing
or on his way home. No comment yet from the BBC but they did tell us they will try to share their side of this story when they feel the time is
CURNOW: OK. Will Ripley there in Pyongyang, thanks so much for your perspective. Appreciate it.
In the Philippines, early election results show controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with a sizable lead. He's known as The Punisher for his tough
policies on crime and his campaign has been filled with some inflammatory comments. CNN's Kristi Lu Stout has more on him and his challenges.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tight security in the Philippines, as tens of millions of voters elect a new government following
a heated campaign.
STOUT (voice-over): In the presidential race, the mayor of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte, is expected to land a big victory. Known as The Punisher, Duterte
developed a fierce reputation for cracking down on crime, rising in popularity, despite international criticism for his comments, making light
of rape and proposing mass executions.
RODRIGO DUTERTE, MAYOR OF DAVAO (through translator): If I become president, this (INAUDIBLE).
STOUT (voice-over): Human rights groups are calling for investigations into his use of alleged death squads and his controversial comments have
divided the country into diehard supporters and outspoken critics.
The other candidates for the top job are Senator Grace Poe, Interior Minister Mar Roxas, the current vice president Jejomar Binay and veteran
lawmaker Miriam Defensor Santiago.
In the battle for vice president, another controversial character has dominated the campaign. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known as Bongbong, is the
son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, whose decades-long rule was tainted by widespread corruption and violence.
About half the country's 100 million-strong population are eligible to vote in today's poll. Alongside the leadership votes, half the senate, the
entire house of representatives and thousands of local government posts will be elected.
Polls have now closed and voters already have a clear idea of the winners. But the official result won't be revealed until early June -- Kristie Lu
CURNOW: Joining us now by Skype from Manila, Eufracia Taylor. She is an Asia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk management company.
Thanks for joining us. We heard Kristi Lu Stout there, saying the final results are only going to be in June but it's pretty clear who the winner
EUFRACIA TAYLOR, VERISK MAPLECROFT: Yes. Rodrigo Duterte, the man who has had a very clear-cut win ahead of him, the outcoming polls from the results
really do reflect the preelection surveys, which showed him having an almost double-digit lead over his closest contenders.
And while the results coming out -- are coming out at the moment don't seem to have such a big gap between him and his closest rivals, it definitely
seems a clean sweep win for Duterte.
CURNOW: So what does that mean?
And what does this tell us about the political environment, the public sentiment in one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant democracies here?
TAYLOR: I think from an international perspective, people can be confused as to why there's been a sudden drive, a change in the Philippines from an
international perspective we've seen very strong economic growth, the Philippines enjoy political stability under President Aquino, achieved its
first investment rating.
But I think the key problem here is that a lot of those benefits weren't really shared among the population. There's a growing sense of frustration
that the status quo wasn't really paying out for the man on the street.
And so the drive for Duterte is (INAUDIBLE) a drive for change but the biggest risk in that at the moment is it's very unclear what type of
change, what shape, what scope of change we're actually going to see and how Duterte might be able to substantiate many of the grandiose claims he's
CURNOW: Yes. The implications for one of the fastest growing economies in the region but also it's not just this former mayor but also some of the
other candidates, most of them, or at least the ones in the front, had the least experience in terms of leading with a national government.
I mean, he's coming in with not a lot of weighty experience behind him.
TAYLOR: Absolutely. I think that that actually was one of his strengths in the same way that, before Duterte came into the race, Grace Poe was the
one leading the polls. She is very much seen as a political novice.
But it's that element of potentially of being a rookie and being not so entrenched in the political elite that gave her a fresh-faced feel for the
public, which is essentially what they were looking at, what they were looking for in a candidate.
It was -- it has made potentially this election, we've seen enough of the same, we want something different. I'm not entirely sure really that the
public knows exactly what they're getting but what they've put their hearts and their own interests into is just a change of pace.
CURNOW: OK. Thank you so much for your perspective there in Manila, Eufracia Taylor, appreciate it.
CURNOW: Well, it's a high-stakes week ahead for Donald Trump. He's already knocked out 16 presidential rivals.
But can the presumptive nominee --
CURNOW: -- win over a skeptical Republican Party?
Phil Mattingly has more on Trump's looming meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a meeting Trump plans to dictate on his own terms.
DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to do what I have to do. I have millions of people that voted for me.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump, upping the ante in his battle with the GOP, escalating tensions with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
TRUMP: I will give you a very solid answer if that happens about one minute after that happens. OK?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Trump suggesting that if the nation's highest- ranking Republican doesn't endorse him, the presumptive nominee may try to remove Ryan as chairman of the Republican National Convention.
TRUMP: I would like to have his support but if he doesn't want to support me, that's fine. And we have to go about it.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Former vice presidential nominee and top Trump supporter, Sarah Palin, going further, pledging to help defeat Ryan in the
race for his Wisconsin seat.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I think Paul Ryan is soon to be "Cantored," as in Eric Cantor. His political career is over, but for a
miracle, because he has so disrespected the will of the people.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Trump hinting he won't just go rogue with Ryan but with the entire party.
TRUMP: Does the party have to be together?
Does it have to be unified?
I'm very different than everybody else perhaps that's ever run for office. I actually don't think so.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Trump's fiery words setting the stage for a face- to-face meeting with Ryan on Thursday, as the GOP rift widens between those who support him.
JAN BREWER, FORMER ARIZONA GOVERNOR: I would be willing to serve in any capacity that I could be of help with Donald on.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): And those who don't.
TRUMP: Jeb Bush is not an honorable person. Lindsey Graham is not an honorable person.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Some drawing a hard line, vowing to skip the convention or not vote.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: You have to listen to people that have chosen the nominee. I think it would be foolish to ignore them.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Senator John McCain, who once called Trump's statements "uninformed and, indeed, dangerous," says he'll now support him
-- with conditions.
MCCAIN: I think it's important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Others pressing feverishly for a third-party option. Including one group, Conservatives against Trump. Their concern:
that Trump isn't conservative enough to carry the party torch.
TRUMP: This is called the Republican Party. It's not called the Conservative Party.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): This as Trump continues to change his tune on tax hikes for wealthy Americans.
TRUMP: I came up with the biggest tax cut by far of any candidate, anybody. And I put it in. When it comes time to negotiate, I feel less
concerned with the rich than I do with the middle class.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): And on minimum wage.
TRUMP: I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more.
CURNOW: Lots to talk about with our Phil Mattingly, who joins us from New York.
I'm going to unpack that report in just a moment but I want to talk about what Mr. Trump has said on CNN in the past few hours, making more
controversial statements on debt and printing money.
What did he say?
MATTINGLY: Yes. That's exactly right, Robyn. This has been going on now for about four or five days, first going on CNBC and saying that if he had
the opportunity, part of his debt management process would be basically when interest rates would go up, he would attempt to buy bonds at a
discount, which, in the real estate world, makes sense, you would do that - - you would almost negotiate a haircut, if you will, in the system.
But in international finance, it's not something that actually occurs. And I've talked to a number of economists about what Donald Trump was trying to
say last week and nobody was really able to get their heads around it. So he was asked about it this morning on CNN and he doubled down on the
What it sounds like to a lot of economists, when you bring up what he's saying, is that he's essentially saying he would go to creditors and say
negotiate for a haircut, more or less, which would be default. It would essentially be default. And I think that's what's kind of horrified
economists on both sides of the aisle and people are trying to figure this out.
Now Donald Trump pushes back on that, saying absolutely not, he would not be negotiating with creditors. He would simply be buying back bonds at a
discount as interest rates go up.
Again, the question right now, Robyn, is nobody who is really super familiar with the international finance market knows exactly how that would
work. Sure, in a real estate transaction that is a possibility, that's how debt works in debt markets.
But international finance, not so much. So it's going to be interesting to see how this is assessed now going forward. But, again, a major concern, I
think, as market participants look at what might occur if Donald Trump becomes President of the United States.
CURNOW: And what's clear about this statement and others about minimum wage, as you ended your piece there, about debt, about a whole lot of real
core policy issues, is that he's at odds with the Republican Party on these fundamental, core issues, policies.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it. And it even goes further than that. You want to talk about reforming entitlements or, obviously, on
immigration policy as well, there are issues where Donald Trump, it's not just a small split or a small divide that perhaps could be bridged over a
MATTINGLY: -- or maybe moderated a bit on one side or the other and all of a sudden you reach common ground.
I think, Robyn, this is when you look at what's happening right now between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, this is at the core of the split more so than
the politics, more so than the tone.
When these two men meet on Thursday, they will be talking about a series of very serious issues but none more so than the fact that where Paul Ryan is
on the ideological map and where Donald Trump is on the ideological map are on completely polar opposite sides of things.
And how you bridge that gap is a real open question right now, one that advisors really on both sides, Robyn, do not have an answer to.
CURNOW: No. And they talk about this one meeting and it's certainly going to take much more than one conversation to try and bridge these
Let's move on to Secretary Clinton. It seems interesting that her messaging against Mr. Trump seems to be taking shape. She's been even more
specific when she refers to him as a loose cannon.
Is this the way she's going?
MATTINGLY: Yes. I believe so. In talking to her advisors, they believe they will attack on the policy side of things and on issues like what we
have been talking about on debt management, that Donald Trump has been talking about.
They've put out a full 400-word statement related to that. That's a complicated issue that a lot of voters probably aren't sitting around
wondering how is Donald Trump going to manage the U.S. debt when he's in office. These are the issues that they want to hit him on because they
believe they can show that he doesn't have a -- just a general grasp of how this system works, how the economic system works, how the political system
works, how the global system works on the whole.
That's where they believe they can attack. Where they're going to leave the personal attacks, the attacks on Donald Trump's actions perhaps, his
tone perhaps, will be to the outside groups, Robyn. They're going to let surrogates, they're going to let super PACs take that on.
Hillary Clinton will try and rise above that and attack primarily on policy and on Donald Trump's inability in their eyes to grasp how to be the
President of the United States.
CURNOW: Phil, as always, thanks so much for your reporting. Appreciate it.
Coming up here at CNN, stay or go. We'll tell you what David Cameron had to say as Britain prepares to decide its future within the European Union.
And Mother Nature brings some relief for Western Canada's massive wildfires. While some evacuees say even if their homes were spared, they
may never return.
CURNOW: A shakeup at the top of European football. Michel Platini has announced he's resigning as UEFA president. The decision came after
football's court of arbitration cut two years off Platini's six-year ban from the sport. He was sanctioned over a $2 million payment he received
from FIFA and he calls today's ruling a profound injustice.
"WORLD SPORT's" Alex Thomas will have much more later this hour.
And if you have been listening to British politicians over the past few hours, a potential split between Britain --
CURNOW: -- and the E.U. could be a threat for peace throughout Europe.
Or could it be a stand for a liberal, open, cosmopolitan nation, as Boris Johnson said just a few hours ago?
Well, the country votes on that question next month and Prime Minister David Cameron has just made his case. CNN's Phil Black is outside 10
Downing Street. He joins us now.
Hi, there, Phil. This is a complex debate.
Briefly, what is the core of the prime minister's pitch?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So what the prime minister spoke today about, Robyn, was he believes that Britain is safer, more secure, better
able to project influence as a member of the European Union.
He believes that's definitely in this country's interest and he believes that it's able to do these things in such a way that it can help ensure
stability on the European continent as well.
He's saying that you can't rule out the possibility of further wars, further conflict in Europe and Britain is best placed to try and work
against that happening if it stays part of the European Union. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: The dangerous international situation facing Britain today means that the closest possible cooperation
with our European neighbors isn't an optional extra, it's essential.
We need to stand united. Now is a time for strength in numbers. Keeping our people safe from modern terrorist networks like daish and from serious
crime that increasingly crosses borders means that we simply have to develop much closer means of security cooperation between countries within
Europe. Britain needs to be fully engaged with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Now David Cameron called this his bold, patriotic case for staying in the E.U. He's trying to take background from the Brexit, if you like.
He was talking about the great tradition of military victory that the Britain has talked about, World War II, the Battle over Britain, the sound
of the Spitfire engine, all of this, he says, is about Britain being independent and patriotic while also using the European Union to further
What he's trying do there is take back some of the momentum that the other side had, when they talk a lot about sovereignty because that is
traditionally the patriotic issue in this debate -- Robyn.
CURNOW: When we talk about patriotic issues, Boris Johnson obviously deeply critical of that.
What's the nub of his argument?
BLACK: Very much at the core of his argument, he believes that Britain has lost too much of its independence, that the whole system, the European
Union as a project, has become too big, unwieldy, inefficient and increasingly undemocratic. He believes that's bad for Britain.
He also disagrees with Prime Minister Cameron, when it comes to Britain's ability to project influence on the continent. He says you don't need to
be a member of the European Union to do that. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON: If we leave on June the 23rd, if we vote to leave, we can still of course provide leadership in Europe in so many of
the ways that Britain always has.
We can help lead on discussions on security, counterterrorism, foreign defense policy, all of which, of course, always used to be done under the
old three-pillar framework of an intergovernmental -- in an intergovernmental way and between nation states without the need for legal
instruments enforced by the European Court of Justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: And Boris Johnson disagrees with the prime minister on whether or not it's likely there could be further war and conflict on the continent.
He doesn't think that's going to happen just because Britain votes to exit the E.U. And he said it's not the E.U.'s job to police security; that's a
job for NATO -- Robyn.
CURNOW: And Phil, we were both reporting on Barack Obama weighing in on this issue when he was in London recently. He threw his support behind the
prime minister. Some said this was the U.S. president meddling in domestic U.K. policies.
Since then, has there been any impact with Obama's message?
Has that helped or hindered the prime minister's cause?
BLACK: The opinion polls don't seem to show any post-Obama bump after his intervention here. The opinion polls show that it is still very tight as a
race. The latest one today says about 42 percent favor remaining in the E.U.; 40 percent are keen to go, 13 percent undecided.
That's still very close. And there are six weeks left to go before the voting day itself -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. Outside 10 Downing Street, thank you so much.
Actor Johnny Depp is promoting a big budget movie but he's finding that a quick no-budget video is the one gaining traction. As you may remember,
Depp got into legal drama when he and his wife brought their dogs to Australia without proper papers. Their apology included a masterful
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly.
AMBER HEARD, ACTOR: I'm truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared.
HEARD: Protecting Australia is important.
DEPP: Declare everything when you enter Australia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Now Depp is in London, promoting a new movie and he gave an encore of sorts. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEPP: I would like to -- I'm going to do this everywhere I go.
I would really like to apologize for not smuggling my dogs into England because it would have been a bad thing to do because the Australians,
though a little chipper, and, you know.
Yes. They're chipper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's funny.
I feel like Johnny's dogs were here, weren't they?
Weren't they with you on -- ?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Now if Depp does this everywhere he goes, be sure the Oscars will get a new category at least for the Australians they might feel that this
and was the least heartfelt apology.
There's a rare event in the skies today. Mercury is passing across the face of the sun in what astronomers call a transit. It's the first such
transit in almost a decade. Mercury appears as a black spot. You can see it there. During the 7.5-hour transit, scientists are using the
opportunity to study the planet's outer atmosphere. Everyone else can watch it online.
Still ahead, embracing the calm: some Syrians enjoy the truce while others still fight and die. We're live in Damascus. Join us for that.
CURNOW: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. Here's a check of the headlines.
CURNOW: Better weather is giving fire crews in Western Canada a glimmer amount of hope. Cooler temperatures and small amounts of rain have helped
them slow the fire's progress in residential areas.
But the main fire is moving to the northwest into heavily forested areas, where it could burn for months. CNN's Paul Vercammen is following the
latest developments from Alberta's capital of Edmonton and joins us now live.
So there is a glimmer of hope that the weather is turning but still the lives of many, many thousands of people have been impacted here.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, you're right. Those impacted people, Robyn, many of them are sheltering behind me in this
glimmering Expo Center on cots and then what a contrast that is to the ashes of what was Fort McMurray, Canada, at the center of the oil sands
That's where the focus of the firefight is and trying to get that city back on its feet and when you talk to some of the evacuees here, they're worried
because, later on today, a sense they'll unveil what happened at Fort McMurray, when some officials and some media are allowed in.
And for a couple sisters here who I spoke with, they are just absolutely concerned about what their future is going to be in the city they reside
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have gotten pictures and our whole street is knocked down. I think there's like a couple houses left.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm thinking that one of ours is one of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I mean, what are you going to go back to?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, like your whole street is burned down. There's no houses. It would be really depressing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERCAMMEN: And now back here live and talking to fire officials, the blaze is now burning to the east toward Saskatchewan. That's good news because
it is indeed forest. And when they talk about this fire burning for months, let's put this into context.
It's not as if it's going to burn for months with these huge and massive active walls of flame that we saw, these large pine trees. It's more that
it's going to be so widespread that they're literally going to have to get on their hands and knees at times and work on burning stumps and douse hot
spots, that type of thing.
It's just so widespread and you can tell, as you alluded to also, Robyn, that the wind has been a little bit problem. It's chilly here right now.
It's kicking up again, certainly something for these firefighters to keep an eye on. There's 1,500 firefighters, by the way, spread out, battling
blazes across Alberta. Back to you -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes. And Paul, you speak to 90,000 people being evacuated, this massive convoy over the weekend, this fire, the size of New York.
It's massive, isn't it?
And I think many people looking at how the Canadians have managed this, there have been no fatalities.
What are people saying?
VERCAMMEN: Well, they are praising the hard work of these firefighters, many of them just seemingly working nonstop. They concede they've got to
get a lot of them off the line, the 1,500 on these multiple fires and they're starting to get some help. Some firefighters arrived from Ontario.
Now later this week they're going to come in from Quebec and New Brunswick and of course they've been hitting it with everything they can, helicopters
dropping water, tankers dropping that purple haze that they call Phos-Chek. That's a retardant.
So they are hoping to get all the resources possible and they're hoping to give these poor, beleaguered firefighters a break because they have been at
it, seemingly around the clock -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes. It's been a huge effort. Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen there. Appreciate it.
Well, now to Syria, where fighting continues in many areas, despite a temporary cease-fire. But in some places a new calm prevails. Our Fred
Pleitgen has more, live from Damascus.
I want to talk about Damascus in just a moment but I also want you to update us on these reports about more violence in Aleppo and the
countryside around Aleppo and also that several Iranian soldiers were killed near Aleppo over the weekend.
What more do you know?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems to be, Robyn, the single highest death toll that the Iranians have ever
actually acknowledged happened on a single day in Syria.
All this happened in the southwest of Aleppo, I'd say about 10 kilometers outside of the city center in a place called Han Toman (ph). It was a
place that was heavily contested between pro-government forces, which of course also contains a lot of Iranians.
And, of the Iranians, the Revolutionary Guard and the mostly Islamist rebels on the other side.
And there was a major battle that was going on there outside of Aleppo and that battle was filmed with a drone by these Islamist forces and it
included a massive suicide attack on a checkpoint that then led to that town being overrun by forces mostly from Jabhat al-Nusra. The Iranians at
this point are acknowledging that 13 of their troops --
PLEITGEN: -- were killed as that place was overrun and that at least six of them were, as they put it, "kidnapped," or some would say taken prisoner
by these rebel forces there in that area. So certainly this is a big development.
There have been some airstrikes on that town since then by Syrian government warplanes or Russian warplanes; unclear at this point in time.
Also unclear, how the Iranians are going to react to this.
Are they going to double down or are they going to try and launch a counter offensive?
Or could this also lead to them possibly losing support at home for their conduct here in Syria -- Robyn.
CURNOW: And, Fred, we're having a few difficulties there with your sound but you are on location. This is live television. This sort of stuff
happens and, of course, you are in Damascus. So we're going to push on.
I do want you to tell us, though, you've been in Damascus before.
Is there anything different?
What's it like compared to your last visit?
PLEITGEN: It's totally different at this point the time. There's a cease- fire, a local cease-fire here at this point in time and I have never, in the four years that I have been coming here, seen so many people out on the
streets, in cafes.
Also, quite remarkably, you really do notice this: bringing their children out as well. It really seems as though people are enjoying this moment
that they're not really sure is going to last. Let's have a look.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): After a recent spike in fighting in Syria's brutal civil war, at least in some parts of the country, some respite. Residents
crowd cafes and restaurants in the government-held part of Damascus, one of several cities where limited cease-fires have been agreed and put in effect
in recent days.
"We were so concerned for our daughters," this man says, "we wouldn't even let them leave the house. But look now, we're taking them with us."
And this man adds, "Things are so much better than before. I think local reconciliation, like in some neighborhoods, could be a solution."
Russia and the U.S. brokered cease-fires between government forces and many rebel factions in Damascus and the Latakia region, due to last between 48
and 72 hours. The truce has been extended to Aleppo as well, where heavy fighting killed hundreds of civilians in the past two weeks, including one
of the last pediatricians in the rebel-held part of the city in a strike on a children's hospital.
Now many Syrians hope this new period of relative calm could last more than just a few days.
PLEITGEN: Of course, people here are discussing the prospects of political reconciliation or longer-term cease-fire. But the majority of folks that
we spoke to here in the government-held part of Damascus say, right now, they're just enjoying this moment, where they don't have to worry about
machine gunfire or mortars raining down on their heads.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): But in many places, the civil war rages on. Dozens of pro-government and rebel fighters were killed in heavy fighting outside
of Aleppo on Friday, an Islamist group even filming the battle with a drone. After five years of fighting, many here say they're simply fed up
with the violence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart is real broken when I hear and see what's happening there. Because Syria is -- everywhere is my country and
everywhere is my family.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Despite the current calm, no side of Syria's civil war seems willing to back down, leaving many worried that the quiet, like
here in Damascus, could be all too brief.
PLEITGEN: And that is, indeed, the big problem. At this point in time it's unclear whether or not the calm that you have here could lead to any
sort of way forward in the political process.
And then, of course, we have that big linchpin in Aleppo up there, where, today again, we have reports of shelling from rebel-held areas toward
government areas. So the cease-fire in that place very, very shaky indeed. And again, the people here that we're speaking to say they're enjoying it
right now; they really don't have any faith in the fact that it could really last -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Great to have your reporting, thanks so much, Fred Pleitgen there in Damascus.
Russia is celebrating the Soviet Union's World War II victory over Nazi Germany by showing off some of the military hardware it's using now in
Syria. Moscow has been backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad with troops and airstrikes. The most recent addition to its arsenal there
is a sophisticated S-400 air defense missile system.
Still to come at the INTERNATIONAL DESK: a German cyclist hopes to win gold at the Paralympic Games with the help of a 3D printer. We'll explain
-- that's ahead.
CURNOW: It's 41 minutes past the hour. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. Thanks for joining me.
The Summer Olympics are coming up and while much of the focus is on Rio, also we know that truly life-changing technology will be on show at the
Paralympics. Patrick Snell introduces us to a German cyclist planning to compete using a 3D-printed leg. Take a look.
PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Denise Schindler didn't let the loss of her lower right leg as a young girl prevent her from becoming a
world-champion athlete. The German cyclist won a silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympics. Now she's getting ready for Rio later on this year.
And for this event, Schindler plans to compete using a new leg prosthesis made with a 3D printer.
DENISE SCHINDLER, GERMAN PARALYMPIC CYCLIST (through translator): We are currently testing the 3D-printed prosthesis and whether its quality reaches
that of the traditional Hemming (ph) prosthesis.
SNELL (voice-over): Experts say the new prosthesis is quicker and cheaper to produce than traditional plastic casting. Schindler is working with the
U.S. company on the innovative product, which they recently showed to U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a technology
SCHINDLER (through translator): I was, of course, very proud to present this project because it means a lot to me. Mr. Obama and Chancellor Merkel
were very interested and I was surprised to see how informed the president was about the issue. He was very positive about it.
SNELL (voice-over): Schindler says she worked with engineers going through 52 versions before settling on a final model that's comfortable but doesn't
compromise on performance.
SCHINDLER (through translator): It feels different when I cycle, due to its quality. But we're on the right path to reach the right stiffness and
aerodynamics. The new prosthesis is also lighter and that's an advantage when competing.
SNELL (voice-over): And Schindler hopes ultimately 3D printing will make sports prostheses less expensive and more accessible to athletes all over
the world -- Patrick Snell, CNN.
CURNOW: That does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. Don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex
Thomas is up next.