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AstraZeneca Rollout Stalls In Europe; My Freedom Day: Take The Pledge To Put An End To Modern-Day Slavery; Brazil Appoints Fourth New Health Minister As COVID Crisis Leaves Hospitals Near Collapse; Italy Locks Down For The Third Time; Syrian Conflict; Multinational, Complex And Without Relief; Grieving Families In Myanmar Bury Their Dead; Increasingly Violent Crackdown Paired with Martial Law; Top U.S. Officials Visiting Tokyo and Seoul to Bolster Ties; Navalny Calls Penal Colony a "Concentration Camp"; London Sees More Protests in Wake of Everard Vigil; Peak Demand for Oil Already Reached. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired March 16, 2021 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello, everyone, I'm John Vause with the second hour of CNN NEWSROOM, live from studio seven, CNN's world headquarters in Atlanta.
Coming up. What's wrong with the AstraZeneca vaccine? Out of an abundance of caution but in the midst of the pandemic, more European countries suspend the vaccine rollout.
Students across the world take a stand against modern-day slavery. It's the fifth edition of CNN's My Freedom Day.
And an appalling level of violence. The U.N. slams Myanmar's coup leaders after the bloodiest 48 hours so far.
The questions and concerns began last month was the AstraZeneca safe for people over 65; the World Health Organization said it was. Then last week, a handful of European countries suspended distribution over concerns of blood clots.
Now those concerns have spread to major European capitals.
Public health experts and the drug maker all say there's no evidence of an increased risk of forming blood clots and overall the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any risk.
Despite that, the countries seen here shaded in red -- and that includes Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France -- have all suspended their roll outs of AstraZeneca. Notably, the U.K. and Poland have not.
But now with millions of doses of an effective vaccine remain idle, new COVID outbreaks are flaring across the region.
Here's last week's infections compared to a week earlier. As you can see there in orange, many countries up 10 to 50 percent. CNN's Cyril Vanier has our report from London.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A majority of European countries have now fully or partly suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations raising questions about the safety of the vaccine.
Germany, Italy and France followed in the footsteps of other E.U. nations on Monday after severe blood clot incidents post-inoculation, including several deaths.
Italy reported that a man with no known illnesses fell ill and died after receiving his first dose of the vaccine.
Norway announced that one of the three vaccine recipients admitted to hospital recently with an unusual combination of symptoms had died.
All the countries that have suspended AstraZeneca say this is a precaution because there no proof that these incidents are caused by the vaccine.
Still, they want a comprehensive assessment by the European Medicines Agency, which is expected Thursday, before they resume the rollout.
In the meantime, the EMA is maintaining its green light for the vaccine, as is the World Health Organization.
As for the vaccine maker itself, AstraZeneca says data from 17 million recipients in the U.K. and the E.U. shows that blood clots are no more frequent among vaccine recipients than they are in the general population.
VANIER (On Camera): Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.
VAUSE: Dr. Carlos Del Rio is a distinguished professor medicine, specializing in infectious diseases. He's also the executive associate dean of the Emory School of Medicine.
Thank you for being with us again, Dr. Del Rio.
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Thank you -- thanks for having me, John.
VAUSE: OK. Now, AstraZeneca, it's defended its vaccine by pointing out some of the obvious facts here.
37 reports of blood clots, more than 17 million people have been vaccinated in 28 countries -- that's the E.U. plus Britain. And there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of blood clots.
DEL RIO: Right.
VAUSE: The last point was actually raised by officials at the WHO on Monday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, CHIEF SCIENTIST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: People do get thrombo-embolic events, pulmonary embolisms, and people die on a regular -- every day.
So the question really is the linkage with the vaccine and that is why we need to look at all of the data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So what is the linkage here? Because the drug maker says that 37 blood clots -- that number is actually lower than would be expected among the general population?
DEL RIO: Well, this is what happens, John, when you're giving vaccines to millions of people, right. When you're vaccinating 17 million people, things are going to happen; blood clots, accidents, all sorts of things.
And the challenge is to piece out what's correlation, what's association versus what's causation. And for that, we need to look at the data.
In my mind, from a pathogenicist standpoint, I don't really quite understand why blood clots would be associated specifically with this vaccine. But again, I think it needs to be studied carefully, it needs to be studied at length.
Out of an abundance of caution, many countries have held -- halted vaccinations with this vaccine but that doesn't mean there's a problem, that simply means that they're doing the right thing.
Regulatory agents are saying let's put a hold until we figure out what's going on and then we'll -- it's a pause. And a pause, I think it's -- actually, we should all be relieved that actually regulatory agencies are having that kind of sensitivity to make sure that absolutely there's no risk.
VAUSE: There was a long delay during U.S. trials last year for the AstraZeneca vaccine because they took weeks to provide evidence that it wasn't responsible for neurological side effects in two volunteers, now there is the Europe-wide suspension, also in Thailand as well.
How much of a problem does AstraZeneca have now in terms of public confidence?
DEL RIO: Well, I think they have, clearly, a problem, right. I think they're going to have -- more of a public relations problem than anything else.
From a scientific standpoint, I want to look at their data, I want to see the U.S. trial data, I want to see it completed and presented to the FDA because as you know the FDA Advisory Committee, the VRBPAC and the FDA and scientists, they require a lot of information.
Those packages we've seen from Moderna, from Pfizer, from Johnson & Johnson, they're hundreds of pages long so very complete, they have a lot of information in there.
And they have been put (ph) available to the public, they're in the Internet, there's transparency in the discussions, the discussions have been available, you can (inaudible) them.
So that transparency and that data is what I'm waiting for before I make a decision about this vaccine.
VAUSE: Yes. It's a big call to suspend a roll out of a vaccine in the midst of a pandemic though, isn't it?
DEL RIO: Oh, it's very complicated, it is very complicated.
But again, we have other vaccines. My biggest concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine is this was a vaccine that we were very hopeful for, right. Because it's inexpensive, AstraZeneca and Oxford have granted the rights to produce billions of doses to the Serum Institute in India.
So it was really a vaccine we were talking about producing not in the millions but in the billions, to try to immunize the world.
We know the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines simply are too complicated to give on the global scale. So a lot of us have confidence in AstraZeneca, have a confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Janssen vaccine. So I think it's a matter of waiting and seeing.
But at this point in time, I think the right thing has been done. But from a communications standpoint, this is exceedingly difficult to communicate.
VAUSE: Very quickly, "The New York Times" is reporting the U.S. is sitting on 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine right now. It's still waiting for emergency authorization.
Around the world, though, countries where approval has been given have begging for access to the stockpile.
The "Times" says the fate of those doses is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials some arguing the Administration should let them go abroad where they are desperately needed; others are not ready to relinquish them yet, according to senior Administration officials.
Where do you stand on this? Given the problems that is pushing the AstraZeneca vaccine down the preferred list,, should they release these vaccines now to other countries, especially Brazil?
DEL RIO: Well, I think that might be the right thing to do. But again, I just want to be sure that it's not a bad vaccine because then we'll be releasing something that is not optimal, right. And I don't want a vaccine for Americans and a vaccine for the rest of the world. We want to make sure that vaccine equity also means that you wouldn't give to somebody in Brazil something you wouldn't give to somebody in the U.S.
VAUSE: Good point to finish on. Dr. Carlos del Rio, thank you for being with us, as always. Thank you, sir.
DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.
VAUSE: Well, a brutal third wave of the coronavirus has enforced Italy to impose new pandemic restrictions, a year after ordering Europe's first lockdown.
Once again, cities like Rome and Milan have fallen quiet. Non- essential businesses ordered to close, residents told to stay indoors.
CNN's Melissa Bell has details.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Italy aiming to slow the spread of COVID-19, once again.
In Rome as in Milan, Venice and half of Italy's regions, authorities began on Monday morning enforcing a new lockdown.
MARCO SAN GIOVANNI, DIRECTOR, ROME POLICE PATROL SQUAD (Through Translator): Essential travel or health reasons, these are the exceptions. Our job is therefore to verify whether citizens are actually obeying the law.
BELL: For Italians who'd hoped until the last variant driven uptick that a corner had been turned, the new lockdown which will last until April 6th is a massive blow.
ETTORE TOMASELLI, OWNER, DAL BOLOGNESE RESTAURANT: It's one year later and it feels like it never changed. And we close in March last year and now we are back again closed and working only with delivery and take away.
BELL: Difficult also for those on the front line, the health care workers who dealt with the first wave and who are now having to deal with a third.
DR. ALESSANDRA SPEDICATO, ANESTHESIOLOGIST: Exhausted. We are -- our feelings are very close to depression. We are not allowed to have holidays or other leaves during this year.
And we experience the death of our patients, the (inaudible) and our colleagues. So maybe I could say that we are facing PTSD.
BELL: The pressure is now on Italy's new prime minister. Mario Draghi has made improving the vaccination rollout his priority and wants 80 percent of Italians vaccinated by September.
Italian authorities are hoping that their new vaccination strategy will be a game-changer. They announced over the weekend, that their aim is to get 500,000 injections per day.
Here this vaccination center just outside of Rome airport, they have been delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine. But just as we arrived, officials here were given the word that they were no longer allowed to distribute it.
One lady who had been turned away told us I was already unsure about it because Germany had stopped it this morning.
UNKNOWN (Speaking in Foreign Language):
BELL: AstraZeneca she said, I won't do it.
UNKNOWN (Speaking in Foreign Language):
BELL: I have a pacemaker so I wasn't too sure about it and now even less.
A fresh blow to the vaccination campaign of a country that has so far only fully inoculated three percent of its population.
BELL (Voice Over): Melissa Bell, CNN, Rome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Health officials in Hong Kong found no new cases of the coronavirus after ordering another round of snap lockdowns. At risk neighborhoods have been targeted for mandate testing over the past few nights, residents ordered to stay indoors until those results come back.
Officials are working to stop a new wave of infections after more than 100 cases were linked to a fitness center over the weekend.
One of the biggest hospitals in Brazil has now stopped admitting new COVID patients because its intensive care units have maxed out.
And with hospitals in 15 of 27 state capitals now at or above 90 percent critical capacity, they too may soon follow.
This past week, the daily average death toll rose to just under 2,000. Experts expect the crisis to worsen as new more contagious variants continue to spread.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUIZ HENRIQUE MANDETTA, FORMER BRAZILIAN HEALTH MINISTER: The whole country is on the same time on parallel, they are all in a very high risk of new variants.
But as it is Brazil today, if the world doesn't pay attention tomorrow it's going to be Africa or any place in Asia. This is something that the World Health Organization doesn't have the
tools to come in and to help. The Pan-American Health Association is here in Brazil.
I'm going to have a meeting with them tomorrow to try to find ways to try to find some measure to bring vaccines on this international co- vaccine facility (ph), to try to make things better.
But this is something that is happening here now and it's going to happen. Because those variants, they just go, they just move from one country to another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Sao Paulo state has imposed new restrictions aimed at limiting the movement of millions of people.
And as CNN's Matt Rivers reports, Brazil will soon have yet another minister of health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the fourth time since this pandemic began, Brazil has a new health minister.
President Jair Bolsonaro made the announcement on Monday night saying now former minister and the much criticized former general, Eduardo Pazuello, has been replaced with cardiologist, Marcelo Queiroga.
Queiroga, obviously a medical doctor, has medical experience, Pazuello was appointed to the post having no public health experience.
And Queiroga will set to try and turn around the perceptions that surround this administration which has been criticized right from the very beginning of this pandemic for its response to this ongoing crisis but more severely recently because of just how bad things are right now.
We are unquestionably in the worst days of this pandemic for Brazil since this all began.
If you look around the country, at this point nearly two dozen Brazilian states are reporting ICU occupancy rates that are at least 80 percent or higher. Many of those states, their hospital systems are at risk of collapse.
So when Queiroga takes -- starts his job today, he will have a lot of work cut out for him.
One of the last statements that we heard from now former minister Pazuello was about vaccines though.
And with that announcement, there was good news and bad news on Monday when he said that the Brazilian government has now closed on contracts for 138 million doses to be delivered by the end of the year. The vaccines coming from Pfizer and from Johnson & Johnson. That's the good news.
The bad news, it's about the timeline. The majority, the bulk of those doses are not expected to arrive here in Brazil until well into the second half of the year. That is months from now.
Those vaccines are needed right now because of how bad things are. Pazuello, the former minister, also admitted that there exists the possibility for delays in those shipments, which could push that delivery schedule back even further.
But still, that is a little bit of good news here in Brazil for Brazilians who really need some good news about vaccines that are so desperately needed during these, the worst days of these pandemic for Brazil, so far.
RIVERS (On Camera): Matt Rivers, CNN, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
VAUSE: Well, it seems Myanmar's military is wrapping up the level of violence to try and end pro-democracy demonstrations.
One rights group counts almost 100 protesters dead after clashes with security forces in just the last two days.
Marital law has been declared in parts of the biggest city Yangon and reportedly in Mandalay as well. And still, the protests have not stopped.
Meantime, grieving families are now burying their dead, protesters killed over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYI KYI KHIN, MOTHER OF SLAIN PROTESTOR (Through Translator): How brutal what they did to my son. I want to ask them face-to-face if they have a heart. Don't they have children like I have? My heart is breaking, my heart is breaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN's Paula Hancocks following this story from Seoul, she joins us now live.
And, Paula, it seems the violence and the tactics are just getting brutal, more deadly by the day.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, John. It really does seem to be that way. And it's shown by the numbers.
That advocacy group you mentioned, AAPP, coming out with 183 people killed since the February 1st military coup happened.
But, as you say, just in the past few days there has been 100 of them. So it just shows the level of violence that is upticking and the level of violence that security forces are willing to use against these protesters.
And we've also seen what has become, unfortunately, all too familiar in Myanmar. The scene of funerals every single day as people are burying the protesters that are killed when they go out.
But people are still going out and still on the streets calling for democracy.
Now we did hear from the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres who said that he is quote, "appalled" by escalating violence in Myanmar.
He has also been calling on the military to stop this violence but calling on the military to allow his special envoy to Myanmar to go into the country and to be able to start the talks and start negotiating, he says to go back to democracy.
But it really seems at this point as though the military leadership has very little interest in that. They have said that they will hold elections in a year, that they'll be free and fair elections but they also have arrested many of the members and the politicians of the opposing party, the National League for Democracy, including the ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
So for many inside and outside the country, it's difficult to see how that free and fair election could happen. If it even happens. John.
VAUSE: Yes. I guess that's one of the things which we'll be waiting for, if it ever does happen.
Paula, thank, you. Paula Hancocks in Seoul.
Much more on the coup in Myanmar about 20 minutes from now. Andrew Kirkwood, U.N. official in Myanmar, will join us live from Yangon.
We'll take a short break.
When we come back, life in a Russian prison camp as described by Vladimir Putin's most fierce critic.
And today's CNN's My Freedom Day. For the fifth straight year, we're partnering with students worldwide for a day of action against modern- day slavery. Much more on that when we come back as well.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Slavery is all around us. Right now, millions are entrapped as they farm the food we eat and make the clothes we wear but we can end this.
I'm signing this pledge to help end slavery through the choices I make.
Join me by going to CNN.com/myfreedom and sign the pledge too.
JACK FORSTER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HODINKEE: The Paul Newman Rolex Daytona is a specific variant on Rolex's very well known Daytona wristwatch chronograph.
It has a unique dial, it's immediately recognizable. There was a particular group that came to be called Paul Newman Daytonas because he was one of the owners.
It was not particularly popular in the first years that it was out, in fact, it was very unpopular.
And it was really a long slow burn over a period of several decades that saw it rise increasingly in popularity, prices started to go up; they started to double and then triple and then quadruple and quintuple.
And, of course, you can't have a more Paul Newman Daytona than the Daytona that was actually owned by Paul Newman. So that watch came up for auction last year and was auctioned for a little over $17 million, which is an absolutely absurd price to pay for a wristwatch that was pretty unpopular when it first hit the market.
But through a series of unusual and unlikely events, they have become the most collectable wristwatches of all time.
VAUSE: Despite waging a long and brutal civil war, there are still parts of Syria which remain beyond the control of the dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Syrians rallied Monday in the country's last rebel stronghold of Idlib marking 10 years since the anti-government uprising began.
Many still hope to topple the Assad regime, despite the staggering toll the war has already taken.
In a joint statement, the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy pledged not to abandon the Syrian people. And said Bashar al-Assad and his backers bear responsibility for the years of war and human suffering that followed.
But for all the condemnations and promises of help from around the world, Syria remains devastated and many there have just simply lost hope.
Here's CNN's Ben Wedeman.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SNR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "al-Assad or we burn the country," regime loyalists like to chant. And over the last ten years as Syria has plummeted deeper into the
(Noise of bombing)
WEDEMAN: -- the country has burned. And President Bashar al-Assad has clung to power.
An uprising that started peacefully has left as many as half a million dead, by some estimates. The United Nations gave up counting five years ago.
More than half the population has been driven from their homes or has fled the country.
WEDEMAN: Unwilling to concede that his dynastic regime and his decades of oppression were to blame, Assad called it a foreign conspiracy.
And indeed, the uprising has become a multinational bloodbath.
The U.S. and its Gulf allies initially provided the divided opposition with just enough money and weapons to keep fighting but never enough to win. And the failure of that opposition opened the door to ISIS and its brutal brand of madness. Which brought American and European boots to Syrian soil.
Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah came to Assad's aid followed by the full might of Russia. Turkey also joined the fray, along with Israel.
Syria today is a kaleidoscope of conflicts, pitting superpowers, regional powers, local powers against one another. Now in a stalemate.
A quagmire where it has become costly to stay, perhaps even more costly to leave.
Dreams of freedom faded long ago.
Syrian American author and journalist, Alia Melek, witnessed the early years of the conflict.
ALIA MELEK, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Order and stability, I think have emerged as things that are more important to the international community than the messiness of a true, open or democratic society.
The fear of ISIS-type Islamists, militants, psychologically terrorizes people more than the idea of like a butcher in a Armani suit.
WEDEMAN: The official Syrian media portrays Assad's survival as a victory that has left him ruling over just part of his devastated country, a traumatized population and an economy in free fall due to corruption and sanctions.
If this is victory, what is defeat?
WEDEMAN (Voice Over): Ben Wedeman, CNN, Beirut.
VAUSE: Well, today a very special day for us at CNN as we celebrate the fifth annual My Freedom Day.
All part of our decade-long freedom project aimed at ending modern day slavery.
And this hour, we head to Hong Kong and CNN's Kristie Lu Stout. So what's happening there in Hong Kong and, I guess, across Asia?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it is a very special day.
This is the fifth anniversary of My Freedom Day, the 10th anniversary of the Freedom Project.
For a decade now, CNN has been shining a spotlight on this horrific practice of modern-day slavery, human trafficking, forced labor.
And to mark this moment we hosted a special virtual conference with students from all across the region as well as two modern-day abolitionists to discuss modern-day slavery and crucially how to end it.
Say hello to Asia's next generation of freedom fighters. We are excited to have with us scores of students joining us via video chat from schools across Asia.
We've got Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, (inaudible) in India.
Joining us, we have two modern-day abolitionists who are based here in Asia.
MATT FRIEDMAN, ACTIVIST, THE MEKONG CLUB: We, as human beings, buy things. And a certain percentage of what we buy is tainted by modern slavery. We don't know which items are tainted.
But the relevance of this is that, kind of global warming, it's kind of like the carbon footprint. It demonstrates that we are a part of the issue. And as a result of that, we also have to be part of the solution.
VICTORIA AHN, EDUCATOR, FAIR EMPLOYMENT FOUNDATION: What's even more surprising is that businesses and brands themselves also have a hard time knowing this information.
We need to learn more about the journey and stories of migrant workers themselves and hear about their experiences because that's also what's going to change peoples' minds and hearts and attention to this issue.
STOUT: Let's open it up to Q&A, to all of you out there. This is your chance, your chance to raise a question.
EMILY, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: Do victims of human trafficking self- identify as a victim of a crime?
FRIEDMAN: Many people that I've met who are victims of human trafficking don't even realize that they are victims of anything.
They just realize they are in this bad circumstance, they're being threatened, they made choices, the choices resulted in them being there. And they're often surprised if you go and say you want to go and say you want to help them.
KATIA, HONG KONG: What role does education play in the alleviating this issue?
AHN: When people are aware what it takes to get the products we have, we're going to want our brands to hold themselves accountable to better standards.
ARSHIYA, INDIA: What are some of the ways that we as students can highlight the issues that are pertaining to human trafficking so that the government is compelled to take action and not ignore them?
FRIEDMAN: There's a point at which we, as human beings, just have to say enough is enough. We have to step up, we have to take a stand. And it's often students that lead this. This is what is going to bring the change about. And that's why this day is so important.
PREM, BANGKOK, THAILAND: What are some ways we can make people and motivate them to be more conscious about their spending habits?
AHN: You choose something because of the stories behind that product. And if you think about the fish you ate was caught by someone on a slave boat, I think would become much less appetizing. If you could buy something that was ethically made, wouldn't you love that more?
STOUT: Victoria, thank you. OK, everyone.
Now is the time to decide on a solution. What is the best way to convince the largest number of people to commit to stopping forced labor? There's no right or wrong answer here.
The poll result is in. Become more aware of how goods are made and take into consideration a company's business practices before making a purchase.
That's going to be part of the action plan from Asia. It's going to contribute to the 2021 Freedom Pledge that's going to be available online for students and educators around the world to sign.
So let's continue to work together to deliver the freedom for people across the world and across here in the Asia Pacific region.
And you can find that action plan at CNN.com/my freedom.
And John, look, we know young people they're often the victims of modern-day slavery but they have emerged as some of the most passionate activists against this horrific practice.
And this weekend, you can tune in and watch the full half hour with students from Asia, all around the world, co-hosted by Donie Sullivan, Becky Anderson and yours truly. It will debut Saturday 1:00 p.m. Hong Kong time.
Please spread the world. John.
VAUSE: And one thing about this My Freedom Project and this My Freedom Day, it's actually doing some good. It's making a difference. So everyone, tune in and make a difference. Thank you.
Kristie Lu Stout there for us in Hong Kong.
You can share your pledge on social media using the hashtag, #myfreedomday. And as Kristie mentioned there, tune in this weekend for a special My Freedom Day global forum hosted by Becky Anderson and a cast of thousands including Kristie Lu Stout.
Students will be there from across five continents talking about their efforts to spread awareness and eradicate modern day slavery.
In the meantime, we'll take a short break.
When we come back, an increasing bloody crackdown in Myanmar. Now martial law has been declared in parts of the country.
We'll talk to a U.N. official in Yangon for what the immediate consequences will be.
Also ahead North Korea has a dark warning for the Biden administration as two top U.S. officials visit Tokyo for talks.
VAUSE: We're turning now to Myanmar and an increasingly violent and brutal crackdown by the military.
One rights group says nearly 100 protesters have been killed over the past two days. Still, these demonstrations against the coup have not stopped. The
U.N. is calling on the international community to help end this repression.
Andrew Kirkwood is the acting interim U.N. resident coordinator for Myanmar. He is with us from Yangon. Mr. Kirkwood, thank you for taking the time.
ANDREW KIRKWOOD, ACTING INTERIM U.N. RESIDENT COORDINATOR FOR MYANMAR: Thank you for having me, John.
VAUSE: So after declaring martial law in parts of Yangon, it seems that order has been extended to Mandalay, the second biggest city to the north. Beyond giving security forces a free hand which they seem to have had for a while now, what are the immediate consequences of their declaration of martial law? What are you expecting to see?
Well, I think I mean the situation is obviously complex, and fluid. I think it is important to emphasize that the imposition of martial law comes after the bloodiest weekend since the coup on the 1st of February.
Over the weekend, we believe at least 66 people have been killed, including women and children, who have been shot with live ammunition. That brings the total to about 138 people -- to at least, sorry, 138 people, who have been killed since the 1st of February. And this includes it least nine children. Some of whom, as young as 14.
VAUSE: Do you know some of those children --
KIRKWOOD: Go ahead.
VAUSE: -- sorry to interrupt you there but the wounds sustained by some of these children, and some of the people who were killed, there are reports that they were shot in the head, that they were aimed at or shot by snipers, or long rifles, or whatever you want to call it. And they died from wounds to the head -- bullet wounds to the head. Do you know about that?
KIRKWOOD: Yes, that is our understanding as well.
VAUSE: What does that say?
KIRKWOOD: I think that it speaks to clear orders to the security forces to use lethal force against peaceful protesters.
KIRKWOOD: And I think it is important to emphasize that, you know, everybody in the United Nations from the Secretary General to the special envoy, to us in country have basically been speaking, saying the same thing.
The violence really must stop and the dialog must begin. We are very -- we're clearly concerned about the imposition of martial law, as you have emphasized. But we're worried about a number of other things as well.
I mean Increasingly, there is a pending health and humanitarian crisis. The public health system has practically collapsed. And a banking crisis is causing major disruptions to food and value chains, to supply chains. And we are already seeing an increase in food prices in the country.
So basically, we're worried that this, you know, could get much worse, and spin completely out of control.
VAUSE: So when we look at the protests which clearly have the focus of much of the world right now and the violence which is being inflicted on them by the military, there is this other twin crises, if you, like around the country when it comes to the with the health care system, the banking system, as well as, you know, the crackdown on journalists.
When do you see Myanmar reaching some kind of tipping point here? How much longer can it go on before things just completely collapse?
KIRKWOOD: YES. That's an extremely difficult question to answer, John. I mean I don't even like to think about what could happen. I think we expect, as I said, I think we expect, with the imposition of martial law, things to get more violent in those areas. and we probably haven't seen the full extent of the imposition of martial law yet.
I think it is really important to emphasize, also, that as the United Nations, we have a very big footprint here. We have been delivering lifesaving humanitarian assistance here for quite a long time.
And we will continue to do that to the absolute best of our ability, even as the, you know, the health system collapses and, you know, the banking system complicates that.
We're frankly worried about an increase in the numbers of people who will require humanitarian assistance. We were already providing humanitarian assistance to a million people before the coup. And that number is almost certainly going to go up.
VAUSE: Just get granular for a moment in terms of details, like how is the military coup and the crackdown and everything else that has happened -- how is it impacting your operations on a day-to-day basis?
What are the difficulties which you are now facing that you've never -- that you didn't face before?
KIRKWOOD: Well, as I alluded, you know, there is a banking crisis. Most private banks are closed. It is extremely difficult to get hold of money, to pay suppliers, to move vehicles around and so our operations are affected.
We have been finding solutions so far, but we are worried of our ability to continue to find solutions to get assistance to people, as they need it.
VAUSE: Have you seen -- and from your observations -- have you seen a noticeable change in how security forces have responded to the protests? We know the violence has been ramping up gradually (INAUDIBLE), for, you know, the last couple of weeks, but just in the last couple of days because the observation has been made by some that in attitude and demeanor it appears that the security forces have gone to war with their own people there.
How would you describe it?
KIRKWOOD: I can't. You know, I don't have insight into what the military is thinking, but I think that the assessment that the engagement of the security forces with peaceful protesters has definitely got more violent in the past weeks, steadily. And of course, you know, the question we are all worried about is, how much more violent can we expect it to get? I don't think we have seen the worst of it unfortunately. And we are, you know -- we're just extremely worried about what the next few weeks might bring.
VAUSE: Andrew Kirkwood, sadly we are out of time, but thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate you being there. And also good luck and please stay safe. Thank you, sir.
KIRKWOOD: Thank you. Thank you, John.
VAUSE: Take care.
Well, next hour, top U.S. and Japanese officials will be sitting down for what is called the two-plus-two talks. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are visiting Japan and South Korea on what is kind of a fence mending trip. But North Korea not staying quiet amid all of this, with an ominous warning for the United States.
CNN correspondent Blake Essig joins me now live from Tokyo.
And it seems that, you know, this warning coming from North Korea, not coming from Kim Jong-un, but his sister. Mainly when it comes to warning, she's not really ready for primetime just yet.
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe not but look, the timing of this warning is likely no coincidence at all. Again, the goal of this first overseas cabinet level meeting by the Biden administration is to promote peace, security and reinforce to the world that the U.S. is back.
And the fact that it's being held here in Tokyo really speaks to the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance. You know, again, one of the most important in the world for these two countries.
Now in just about 20 or 30 minutes, that two plus two meeting that you alluded to between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and their Japanese counterparts. Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi will meet. They will discuss a number of topics including a free and open Indo-Pacific, an increasingly aggressive China in the East and South China Seas and of course, a nuclear-capable North Korea.
And as I mentioned earlier, the timing of this warning definitely not a coincidence.
At the same time of this meeting, you have the U.S. and South Korea conducting scaled-back computer simulated military drills in South Korea. Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea's sister Kim Yo-jong issued a warning to the Biden ministration.
She said, quote, "We take the opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard not to give off powder smell in our land." She said, "If it wants to sleep in peace for the upcoming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step."
Now, as I said, the timing of the statement definitely not coincidence after the meeting here in Japan for the secretary of state and secretary of defense. They're going to be heading to North Korea where this comment -- statement issued by Kim Yo-jong essentially ensured that North Korea will be at the top of the agenda during their meetings with the counterparts there in South Korea.
And over the past week, we have learned from the White House that the U.S. has reached out, on multiple channels, over the past month since mid February, to try to reengage with North Korea. Those efforts have been met with silence, John.
VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there, live for us in Tokyo. Appreciate it.
We head to Russia now where Alexei Navalny has met with his lawyers for the first time at one of the country's most notorious penal colonies.
The outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin says the prison camp is more like a concentration camp. Cameras are everywhere, the slightest violation is reported.
CNN's Matthew Chance has our report.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Ok. So we're coming up now on the penal colony were Alexei Navalny is going to spend the next two and a half years. That journey a few hours from Moscow, so it's going to be much easier for his friends, his family, and his colleagues to come and visit him here.
But that does not mean that Russians opposition leader is getting an easy ride because this particular penal colony, in the Vladimir region, is one of Russia's most notorious.
(voice over): Hidden behind a corrugated fence, and rusty razor wire, Colony Number 2 looks like a grim, unwelcoming place.
You can't see much from outside, but Putin critic Navalny, his head shaven, has already aired his impressions on Instagram.
"I had no idea it was possible to arrange a real concentration camp so close to Moscow," he posted.
And the team behind Navalny, who is already survived a nerve agent poisoning before being put behind bars, has also broadcast these drone images from above showing the bleak barracks where penal colony prisoners eat, work and sleep. 50 to 60 people, crammed into a single dorm, say former inmates, not ideal during a pandemic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the church.
CHANCE (on camera): This is where you were, this is where you stayed? (voice over): Konstantin Kosof (ph) says he will never forget his
ordeal on the inside. He'd been imprisoned here twice, he told me, after being arrested at anti-Kremlin protests, enduring nearly a year of what he describes as psychological torture. It won't be easy, he says, for Alexei Navalny either.
They forbid you to talk with other convicts, he tells me. You're on your feet all day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and never allowed to sit down. You can't even read or write letters, he says, for weeks on end.
And if you break any tiny rule, you will be disciplined, humiliated, and isolated further, he says.
Russian prison authorities insist Navalny will be treated like any other prisoner and won't be singled out, but scrutiny here isn't welcomed.
CHANCE (on camera): This is the front gate of the prison colony where Alexei Navalny has been interned. And you see these guards are waiting for us, one of the guys shaking his hands there with a lovely dog.
Is it possible to register to be in this area?
(voice over): It's because it's the territory of the prison, they say, we can't even register to be here. Russians are notoriously secretive about their prisons because they know the conditions inside are poor, not just in this one but in prisons around the country.
This disturbing video posted by a Russian newspaper, shows prisoners being cruelly beaten by guards in a penal colony in Yaroslav, the region next door to where Navalny is being held.
The Russian court has convicted several people of involvement in what has become a national prison scandal. It is common knowledge among inmates these kinds of beatings are widespread.
Most often they would unscrew a chair leg, then hit people on their heels, the former inmate tells me.
But after the scandal of poisoning, they'll probably want to keep Navalny healthy, he says. Their purpose is to restrict his communications, and deprive him of his voice.
(on camera): It's forbidden, ok.
(voice over): And to keep Russia's most high-profile Kremlin critic firmly hidden from view.
(on camera): All right. Thank you.
(voice over): Matthew Chance, CNN -- Vladimir, Russia.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: The pressure continues on British lawmakers to do more to prevent violence against women.
Just ahead, hear from one member of parliament who says keeping statues safe from vandalism is more important to the government than the safety of women.
VAUSE: It seems the royal drama is not over yet. CNN has learned, Buckingham Palace has hired an outside legal firm to investigate claims that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, bullied royal staff.
A spokesperson for the duchess calls the allegations a calculated smear campaign. And the palace has announced no such investigation into claims of racism by Meghan and Prince Harry in that explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the government is taking steps immediately to keep women safe on the streets at night. But many remain outraged by the aggressive police response to a weekend vigil in London for murder victim, Sarah Everard.
CNN's Nina Dos Santos has more now, reporting from London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They came to stand up for their right to protest.
But after gathering under the only statue of a woman in Parliament Square, they ended up walking around London for hours to be able to do so.
By keeping moving, the people said they wanted to make the police's task of reminding them that they were in breach of COVID rules more difficult, which in turn, makes for very different scenes to Saturday's vigil in honor of the Londoner Sarah Everard.
(on camera): It took police an hour to break up a peaceful protest in the south London suburb, yet these demonstrators have been on the streets near Parliament for around about an hour and a half. And so far, they haven't intervened despite the fact that they've already blocked one of the main arteries across the River Thames. And they're now heading towards Scotland Yard.
(voice over): Metropolitan police said they hadn't wanted to break up the event on Saturday, but felt the need to protect people from the pandemic.
As women showed their anger at London's police force, the government went ahead with a bill it had been working on for some time, proposing new sweeping changes to the justice system that, critics say, protected statues better than women. (on camera): What message does it send out that if you violate a
woman, you're likely to get no time at all, or a very, very minimal sentence. But if you violate a statue which is made of stone or metal and usually is a statue of a man that you're going to get up to 10 years.
(voice over): Parliament will vote on the new bill this week, but the opposition says it is not expected to pass. Then again, neither is the heartfelt anger of women's right to safety in the U.K.
Nina Dos Santos, CNN -- London.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Still to come here, while new research shows demand for oil is only heading one way and that is down, they won't do a whole lot to slow global warming. And a huge investment in renewable energy may be the only solution. We are talking trillions and trillions of dollars. More on that, when we come back.
VAUSE: Well, it's not really a surprise, but a new report says an enormous investment in renewable energy is needed to cap global warming over the next few decades. The big surprise is the cost. The International Renewable Energy Agency says, "Get ready, $131 trillion, or $4.4 trillion, every year, is needed between now, and 2050 to chief the goal of the Paris Climate Accord.
The head of the agency says the window of opportunity is closing fast. And that is despite the fact we have already hit peak demand for oil.
CNN's John Defterios following all of this live from Abu Dhabi. And when you look at this report, this actually lays out, you know, what needs to be done to meet this Paris climate agreement? And is it feasible? Is it realistic?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, I tell you, John we often talk about capping global warming at 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2050.
Look at this as the roadmap of how to get there. The unvarnished version for governments to go forward. And I think it's worth bringing up these numbers yet again, John, because they are eye-popping. And I'm glad you underlined that there in the lead in.
$131 trillion between now and 2050, with an annual budget of $4.4 trillion. During the pandemic, by the way, the amount spent on renewable investment was dwarfed by the hydrocarbons yet again.
DEFTERIOS: And that's why I really thought that was alarming. Also in this timeframe, we know we hit that peak oil demand, according to Irena in 2019, about 100 million barrels per day, To make the transition that has to drop by 75, 80, 85 percent by 2050. That is alarming. And there is a limited amount of budget in terms of carbon in the atmosphere. That is why you need to reduce that exposure to hydrocarbons. And again, IRENA thought that because emissions shot up in December in the start of this recovery from the pandemic -- it is alarming what needs to be done and this is the roadmap, as they say, going forward. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCESCO LA CAMERA, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY AGENCY: We are going in the wrong direction. The pathway to 1.5 is narrowing. SO This is the first message that we are trying to put very clearly. And then we put the question to the governments, you want to really want to go for the 1.5. These are the options that you have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEFTERIOS: And this is a very important year, John, because it's COP 26 that the Glasgow Conference in November when governments reset their targets from now to 2050 and that agenda to Capitol Hill warming of 1.5 degrees.
By the way, the financial money is there, it now needs the political mandates from governments.
VAUSE: So with that in mind, we have a new administration in Washington, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. So how does the U.S. Now factor into all of this with Joe Biden as president?
DEFTERIOS: Well, Director General Mr. La Camera said that that sort of weight of the United States in the process is extremely important. It is the second biggest emitter behind China, number three is India then you have Russia and Japan in the top 5. And the Biden administration already said they're going to have net zero emissions on the power grid by 2035.
That is ambitious. But the key here is kind of joining up the financial markets, and the renewable stocks went up 138 percent of the group last year with the will of the governments going forward. That is the biggest challenge that lies ahead right now.
And you can see the scale of the investment. The financial markets are moving there if the governments support the policies and not just the United States, but the weight of Europe -- influencing China, influencing India and Russia along the way, John.
VAUSE: It is just incredible. That price tag is gob-smacking to say the least.
John, thank you. John Defterios there in Abu Dhabi.
And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.
Please stay with us. The news continues at the top of the hour with Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN. [01:57:34]