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CNN Inside Myanmar Amid Deadly Crackdown; More Unrest in Belfast, Despite Unified Calls for Calm; E.U. Herd Immunity Projection; Brazil's COVID Crisis Intensifies; China Conducts Air and Sea Exercises around Taiwan; Russia-Ukraine Tensions; Iran Releases South Korean Tanker Seized in January; Renowned Medical Expert on the Stand; St. Vincent on "Red Alert" as Volcano Eruption "Imminent"; Masters Golf Tournament Returns with Spectators. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 9, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Avlon. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, an exclusive look inside Myanmar where pro-democracy activists are fighting for democracy no matter the cost.

Calls for calm. New violence erupts in Northern Ireland.

And it's so hard to get a coronavirus vaccine in some places, people are going to the dark web to get their shot, which is a very bad idea.


AVLON: Myanmar's military has killed at least 600 people in its crackdown on pro democracy protests. That's according to a monitoring group. That 600 civilians, including dozens of children gunned down since February coup.

The violence and repression in Myanmar as horrifying, but it isn't new. Civilians lived under military rule for some 50 years after the country gained independence. It's been in the past decade they've tasted democracy. And now, they're not willing to give it up.

In a CNN exclusive, our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward and her team were the first Western TV journalists allowed into the country since the coup. They were there with permission of the military, and being escorted throughout.

Here's what they saw we.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By day, the junta continues its brutal crackdown, killing pro-democracy protesters who refuse to submit to military rule.

At night, the raids begin as soldiers round up activists and drag away the dead, their bodies evidence of the military's shoot-to-kill tactics.

Two months after overthrowing Myanmar's democratically elected government in a coup, the junta has been unapologetic in its ruthlessness and silent in the face of international outrage.

Fearless local journalists and activists have risked everything to show the world what is happening while outside access to the country has been blocked.

But now, the military has granted CNN the first access to visit Myanmar. From the moment we arrive, our movements are tightly controlled.

It gives you a sense of the intense level of security with us. One, two, three -- another three over there, six trucks full of soldiers accompanying our every move.

At township offices across Yangon, alleged victims of the protest movement dutifully await us. They tell us they have been beaten, and threatened and humiliated by the violators, a pejorative term the military uses for the pro-democracy protesters.

In North Okkalapa township, the local administrator complains that the demonstrators were noisy and broke the law by gathering in groups of more than five.

Are you seriously comparing these infractions to more than 500 people being killed, among them children? Are you saying that these are equal?

Our minders are perturbed by the question, and it goes unanswered.

They take us to a shopping center, one of two attacked by arsonists overnight. Like many businesses in Myanmar, they are partially owned by the military. The strong implication from our minders is that the protesters are to blame.

It's a similar story at several burned out factories.

This is the third factory that the military wanted to show us. They say it's clear proof that the protesters are violent, that they have been setting fire to businesses like this. But the protesters say they had nothing to do with it at all. And the factory owners who we've spoken to say they simply don't know who is responsible.

Sandra's Chinese-owned garment factory was completely destroyed. She asked we not show her face.

Do you have any sense of what you will do now?

SANDRA: Waiting for the government to give me some helping.

WARD: Who is the government right now in Myanmar? Sorry, is that a hard question?

SANDRA: Yeah, I don't know. WARD: Every moment of our visit is carefully choreographed. When

protesters begin posting about our movements on social media, the military cuts off Wi-Fi across the country.


Still from the window of our convoy, we catch glimpses of reality.

Some people from the balcony just flashed three fingers at me. That's the "Hunger Game" salute, which has become emblematic of this uprising. I'm speaking very quietly because I don't want our minders to know what they just did because, honestly, it could be a very dangerous situation for them.

We pass a small protest rejecting Myanmar's return to half a century of oppressive military rule. Their banner calls for a spring revolution. Our minders won't let us stop.

Finally, after days of pushing, we are allowed to visit a public space, an open market. We avoid approaching anyone, mindful of the fact that we are surrounded by security forces. But within minutes, one brave man flashes the three-finger salute.

I saw that you made a sign.


WARD: Tell me what you mean by making that sign.

You just stand back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice, justice, we want justice.

WARD: You want justice?


WARD: Moments later, another man approaches.


WARD: Not scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not weapons. We don't have no weapons. Not scared. But every day fighting, every day, just like that, just like that.

WARD: As word of our presence spreads, we hear an unmistakable sound. Banging pots and pans is a tradition to get rid of evil spirits. But it has become the signature sound of resistance.

This young teacher says she ran to talk to us when she heard the noise.

You want democracy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want democracy. We don't want military coup. WARD: You know we're surrounded by military, like this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't -- I'm not afraid at all. If we are afraid, we people around here will not hit the bang and the pan.

WARD: Like many young people, she sees her future being ripped away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to go back to the dark age. We lost our voice. And we had democracy only for ten years. We don't have weapons. We don't have guns. Just only we have voice.

WARD: But even words can be punished here.

Not wanting the situation to escalate, we decide to leave the market, as people honk their horns in support of the protest movement.

The junta has grossly underestimated the determination of its people and the growing hatred for the military.

In the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, we finally have the opportunity to confront Myanmar's senior military leadership.

MAJOR GENERAL ZAW MIN TUN, MILITARY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): I will tell you the reason why we have to crack down. The protests were peaceful from February 1st to the 8th. The reason for the crackdown was because they blocked civil servants.

The security forces are giving warnings. Firstly, shouting to break the crowds and then shooting in the air, and the crowds are throwing stones and using slingshots.

WARD: Are you seriously comparing stones and slingshots to assault rifles? The military is using weapons against its own people that really only belong on the battlefield.

TUN (through translator): The main thing is, they are not only using stones and slingshots, we have evidence they use gasoline and Molotov cocktails. You have to add those, too.

For the security forces, they use crackdown weapons for riots. There will be deaths when they are cracking down the riots but we are not shooting without discipline with the rifles we use for the front lines.

WARD: So, this is CCTV footage of a 17-year-old Kyaw Min Latt going past a police convoy. You can see the police shoot him on the spot. His autopsy later said that he suffered brain injury as a result of a cycling accident, which I think we can all see that's not a cycling accident.

How do you explain this?

TUN (through translator): If that kind of thing has occurred, we will have investigations for it. We will investigate it, if it's true or not. There may be some videos which look suspicious, but for our forces, we don't have any intention to shoot at innocent people. WARD: So 14-year-old Tun Tun Aung who was killed by your forces, what

do you say to his mother? You say that he was a violent protester? Or what would you say to the father of 13-year-old Htoo Myat Win also shot dead by your forces?


TUN (through translator): We have heard about the deaths of the children, too. There is no reason we will shoot children. This is only the terrorists that are trying to make us look bad.

WARD: But the lies are paper thin. According to the U.N., as of March 31st, at least 44 children have been killed.

Back to Yangon, our minders take us to another market in a military area, keen to show they have popular support. But the ploy backfires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want democracy.

WARD: I understand. A man just told me, we want democracy, as he walked past, but he was too scared to stop and talk.

Others are more bold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please save our country.

WARD: Save your country.

These people are not activists. They are ordinary citizens, and they live in fear of the military.

You have goose bumps, like shivering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not -- they are not human.

WARD: Yeah, they are not human?


WARD: They are desperate for the outside world to know their pain. One girl approaches us, shaking.

I feel like you're very nervous. Are you okay?


We are not safe anymore. Even in the night. There are shooters and the shooters shoot the children.

WARD: I don't want you to get in trouble. I don't want you to get arrested, OK?


WARD: All right?

She knows her bravery will certainly be punished, but this is a resistance built on small acts of great courage.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, Myanmar.


AVLON: That woman was arrested just as she was running away from the market. Ten others were also arrested for talking to CNN, but thankfully, they were all released after a couple of days.

Myanmar's military also cracking down on dissent from its citizens abroad. The country's ambassador to the U.K. has been locked out of the embassy in London for showing support to pro-democracy protesters. The U.K. foreign office says it's looking at options to allow him to stay in the country.

Cyril Vanier has the story.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Protesters have gathered here in central London at the Myanmar embassy against the military dictatorship and killing of civilians and in support of the ambassador who's been locked out of the building since Wednesday evening.

Sources tell us tensions have been suffering between the ambassador who had taken the public stand against the junta and other high- ranking members of the embassy, including the number two and the military attache who stood in support of the military crackdown in Myanmar, so much so the ambassador had locked put on the doors of the embassy in recent days to prevent a takeover. Yet, that is exactly what happened. When he came here on Wednesday

night, the door stayed closed. He had been locked out of the building. Members of Myanmar's military have for all intents and purposes taken over.

The Ambassador Kyaw Zar Minn was here a short while ago and he called on British authorities to remove those that have taken over the embassy. He addressed the pro-democracy protesters here, holding up three fingers in the air, a sign of civil disobedience and resistance to the military junta in Myanmar.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.


ALVON: More violence broke out in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Thursday despite unified calls for calm. Officials say the unrest is reaching levels that haven't been seen in years. Pro-Irish nationalists and pro-British loyalists are blaming each other.

Tensions have been rising in Northern Ireland over post-Brexit trade barriers, and a nationalist funeral that broke COVID restrictions but didn't result in any arrests. Northern Ireland experienced deadly secretary in violence for decades until landmark peace deal of 1998.

Europe's sluggish coronavirus vaccine rollout has been picking up speed. And now, the region could reach herd immunity sooner than expected.

Also, Brazil keeps smashing its own records when it comes to coronavirus casualties. Why the situation there is only getting worse.



AVLON: The E.U.'s vaccine chief says the region could achieve herd immunity for the coronavirus by mid-July. That means more than 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated by then.

Right now, most of Europe is in that 4 to 16 percent range and far from being fully vaccinated. This big push to speed things up comes after the world health organization said the E.U.'s vaccine rollout had been unacceptably slow.


THIERRY BRETON, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR THE INTERNAL MARKET: We have now 53 factories working 7 days a week, 24-24, and yes, I can tell you today that we will deliver the number of doses which will be a necessity to achieve 70 percent of the added population being vaccinated by mid July.

In other words, it'll be in the hands of member states to make sure that in every single country of the E.U., the vaccination campaign will accelerate.


AVLON: The E.U. vaccine chief went on to express confidence in the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. That's after British and European regulators acknowledged a possible link between the vaccine and extremely rare blood clots. Now, U.K. health authorities are urging the greater public against avoiding that particular vaccine, saying all three of Britain's approved vaccines are safe.

Salma Abdelaziz explains.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: British health officials are now rushing to reassure the public after it was confirmed that there is a potential link between very rare cases of blood clotting and the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine. The U.K. health secretary saying this shows the regulatory bodies, the checks and balances behind the vaccine, are working because they're able to detect very rare incidences for out of 1 million, that is the likelihood of these very rare cases of blood clots occurring.

However, it is, of course, causing confusion, concern, and global repercussions for several countries taking steps to limit the use of this vaccine in certain age groups. Let's start with Australia who say they are now going back to recalibrate their vaccine rollout to give this vaccine to only those over 50 years old. Italy as well now saying they're going to provide preferential treatment for the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine to over 60s. Spain saying it's going to pivot its plan, giving this vaccine to only those older than 60 years old. And in Belgium, it's now paused for anyone 55 years old and under.

That's a few of the country is taking steps, recalibrating, recalculating their risk benefit analysis when it comes to certain age groups. The likelihood this very rare occurrence very rare blood clots could happen versus how likely it is for someone to get COVID, to get hospitalized.


But the fear is that as -- there is mixed messaging, there's mixed concern, this could increase vaccine hesitancy, lower vaccine uptake, and potentially prolong the pandemic.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


AVLON: The African Union is dropping plans to buy extra doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India. Instead, it's seeking additional supply from Johnson & Johnson.

Bu the African Union says this is not due to safety concerns, but rather to allow India to donate to COVAX, the vaccine shared program for the world's poorest countries without duplicating efforts.

A new poll from Kings College London and the University of Bristol gauges people in the U.K.'s beliefs and misperceptions about vaccinations. Among their findings, nearly 40 percent think those who are not vaccinated will face discrimination. A third aren't sure, less than others say that's false.

The survey also shows that 25 percent suspect so-called vaccination passports, that would presumably be allowed back to lead people to travel, will reduce civil liberties. A quarter aren't sure, and half say that's false.

India topped 13 million total coronavirus cases after hitting a new daily case record for the third straight day. This surge comes as several hard-hit states report vaccine shortages.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins me now from New Delhi -- Vedika.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Good to be with you, John.

The numbers indeed for the 3rd consecutive day, India has again reported over 100,000 new cases of COVID-19. Because of these high numbers, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a meeting with state ministers and unitary trade representatives to understand what is really leading to the surge. He's also once again reiterated the need for testing, tracking and treating, and that's something he's been holding on to very long, he reiterated this for very long along with the fact that state authorities seem to have gotten a bit lax in their attitude towards this entire situation.

He's asked them to speed up, and but also have to say to the chief ministers who are reaching out to them on Thursday.


NARENDRA MODI, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I believe this is a matter of concern for all of us. This time, people have become more complacent compared to last year, and most states, the administration has also relaxed.


SUD: According to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at least five states have already crossed the highest peak they had reached during the first wave which took place last year, John. These are staggering numbers, like I mentioned. What's also worrying at this point of time is India's recorded 780 deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest number of deaths that India has reported in a 24-hour span since October last year.

Remember, this is also the time the Indian Premier League is commencing, which is the richest elite tournament to take place across the world, but this time, unlike last time, there will be no spectators, it'll be a closed door cricket tournament that will take place. There are those cricketers who've come down from all over the world, from different countries to represent these clubs, and there's a strict bubble in place as well for them -- John.

AVLON: And, Vedika, I understand that some states have been complaining of a shortage of vaccine supplies. Is that right?

SUD: Absolutely, good point. There are states that have spoken with the prime minister or expressed concerns over this. They said that there is a shortage of vaccines in their states. Some hospitals have even put up banners mentioning no vaccinations will take place in the coming few days because of the shortage of supplies.

The health minister has also spoken out, he said some states don't have the ability to handle the vaccine supply in the right manner because of which there seems to be a shortage of supply. This is something mostly the non-BJP states are seeing, whichever states in opposition to the ruling party. So, yes, there is some politics playing out at this point in time, but this is a worrying situation as well, John.

AVLON: Vedika Sud, live from New Delhi, thank you very much as always.

Despite having one of Latin America's most advanced vaccine rollouts, Chile is suffering serious setback in its fight against the coronavirus. More than 8,000 new infections were confirmed on Thursday. That's the highest number since the start of the pandemic, more than 4.3 million Chileans have been fully vaccinated though.

The center, new epicenter of the epidemic however is Brazil, which once again broke its record for daily COVID deaths. More than 4,200 were recorded on Thursday alone.

Top U.S. expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is urging Brazilian authorities to seriously consider imposing additional restrictions.


But as Rafael Romo reports, the Brazilian president is not on board.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brazil has well over 13 million confirmed cases and the number of COVID-19 deaths is now more than 340,000. March was the deadliest month for the South American country since the pandemic began and things thing seem to be getting worse instead of better.

Also, Brazilian variant known as P1 has been found in 18 out of 26 states throughout the country, and as we have reported, has also been detected in neighboring countries like Uruguay.

So, what is President Jair Bolsonaro terrible scenario saying about this health crisis? Once again, he downplayed the alarming situation Wednesday, saying there is no point crying over spilled milk. That was a very same day that Brazil posted 3,829 new deaths, raising the total nationwide death toll to 340,776, according to government data.

You may remember that Bolsonaro raised eyebrows a few months ago when he said COVID-19 was just a little cold and dismissed warnings about the disease. He would later test positive to the coronavirus. Brazil remains the country with the 2nd highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world after the United States. It also accounted for approximately one third, about 28 percent of the total global deaths since March 21 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


AVLON: Still to come, tensions over Taiwan, China's military maneuver, and the message they could be sending to the U.S.


AVLON: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Avlon, in New York.

China's armed forces, conducting air and sea exercises around Taiwan next week. It says the maneuvers are part of its annual training exercises, but analysts are calling it a warning to the self-ruled island and its supporter, the United States.

CNN's David Culver reports from Shanghai.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China is pushing back against claims, made by the U.S., that it is intimidating Taiwan. They say, the U.S. is stirring up trouble.

Now, all of this, having to do with self rule democracy. The island, about 500 miles off the coast for more we are here in Shanghai. Of course, China considers it to be part of its sovereignty.


Meantime, the U.S., reaffirming under the Biden administration just this week through the State Department and its spokesperson that their relationship with Taiwan is rock-solid.

And proof of that maybe in military exercise that have been going on over the past week or so. It started with Chinese naval vessels in the region. They were just east of the island. And they were conducting, what appeared to be exercises that could show the ability to cut off any support that Taiwan may received from its eastern borders.

Now for it's part the U.S. has even brought in a carrier strike group through the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait. Now, that angers China even further. And just today, we heard from China's foreign ministry. They consider this to be the U.S. crossing the line when it comes to Taiwan. They warned them not to do that. They go on to say, the U.S. should not play with fire.

That is how serious, of course, they are looking at this. China has always considered this to be the red line. And President Xi Jinping has vowed that Taiwan under his rule will not become independent.

And it's not just the U.S. and China that are focused on what's happening with Taiwan. Arguably, one of the strongest allies for the U.S. in the region, Japan, closely watching this as well, because they believe that should China make a move on Taiwan militarily, that could threaten the stability of this region.

David Culver, CNN -- Shanghai.


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Evan Osnos is a CNN contributor and a staff writer for "The New Yorker". He's also the author of "Joe Biden: the life, the run, and what matters now".

Evan, welcome to CNN. Thank you for joining us. I want to start with getting your take on the escalation of Chinese military activity around Taiwan. It represents not only a threat to Taiwan, obviously, but also a crucial test for the new Biden administration.

Looking at these actions and reactions, how do you think the Biden administration is meeting that test today?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's a very hard problem, John. You know, this is really at the core of the question of how to maintain security in Asia. Going back decades, after all, the United States has had a very awkward balancing act. We have formal diplomatic relations with Beijing but then we've also pledged support to Taiwan. We have - they are a democracy in Asia. We had indicated we've sold them military hardware over the years, but it's never been entirely clear what the United States would do in the event of a fight between Mainland China and Taiwan.

And as you've seen, there's greater tensions in the region and it's forcing the Biden administration to become a little bit more explicit about signaling both to Beijing and also to Taipei. What we want, what the United States hops for, and what we don't want. And what we don't, of course, is war.

AVLON: That is certainly true although the Biden administration dispatched the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the South China Sea, seen as sort of a typical flanking move in this sort of dance of dueling military.

Obviously, during the campaign, one of the Trump campaign's constant refrains was to try to associate Biden with being cozy with Beijing. Certainly, Biden has got a long history in the U.S. Senate and in foreign policy.

But you're his biographer, so what are the facts behind Joe Biden's instincts and relationships with China.

OSNOS: Well, in some ways, Joe Biden's approach to China has been, more or less, where the Washington consensus has been going back since he joined the Senate in 1973, which is to say that for eight presidencies beginning with Richard Nixon, all the way through the end of the Obama administration, the basic view was what was known as engagement.

The idea that the United States was probably going to be living in a safer, more prosperous world, if we try to find ways of cooperating with China. Trying to bring it out of seclusion into the world.

That policy has really been -- sort of it's now defunct. There's a general recognition in the United States. Certainly in Washington, that it hasn't created a more trusting, more sustainable relationship with China.

And so, what you've seen is that Joe Biden, much like the rest of Washington, on both sides of the aisle, has gotten tougher on China, and has sort of begun to stake out a position that says, as he puts it today, we are not in a position of cooperation. We are on track for what he calls extreme competition.

And that's really -- that's really the mode that he is in. And I think it sets us up for a rocky next few years, but it's not one that he can avoid.

Final question I want to address with you is Afghanistan. This, obviously, America's longest war. Something that Trump wanted to end, was not able to do so. Biden opposed, backed the Obama administration -- the escalation that occurred, now it's his problem.

There is this looming deadlock, but there's a real question about what the Biden administration will be. Understanding his instincts, what direction you think he'll take?

OSNOS: Well, you know, there is a real sense of deja vu in the White House right now, because a lot of the people working on the problem they worked on it 12 years ago, when they came in, with the Obama administration.


OSNOS: I've spoken to President Biden over the years about Afghanistan, and I also spoke at one point to former President Obama about it. And they both described something that I think is important to recognize, which is that when they were in the White House together, President Obama actually asked Biden to take a specific position in debates.

He said I want you to play the role of the person who is emphatically against the U.S. escalating its presence there. That was Bidens instinct anyway. But he sort of overplayed it. And what he did was -- and that was, you know, Obama was very happy about it. As he described to me what it did was create debate. It forced a discussion into the White House.

And today, you know, fast forward to 2021 and Biden is facing very much that same question. Look, his instincts and I've come to believe this quite clearly over the years are to be cautious about the application of American blood and treasure.

You know, he is after all -- his late son Beau was in the army. He thinks a lot about the commitments and the sacrifices that American families make. He is trying right now to figure out a way to ultimately to bring this American engagement to a close. But to do it with honor and to do it in a way that does not abandon the Afghans.

It's not an easy problem and there are no good solutions.

One thing we know, John, is they're not going to make in all likelihood -- the May 1st deadline for getting out of Afghanistan. You're looking at a few months after that before they can really make up an orderly decision as they say.

AVLON: Evan Osnos, invaluable insights from Joe Biden's biographer, of the "The New Yorker", and CNN. Thank you very much for joining us, Evan.

OSNOS: My pleasure.

A U.S. Defense official tells CNN, the U.S. is considering sending warships into the Black Sea in the next few weeks. It would be a strong show of support for the Ukraine in the face of Russia's increased military presence on Ukraine's eastern border.

The Biden administration and global allies are expressing concerns about rising tensions between Kiev and Moscow. The White House says a review of the Russian government's actions will be concluding in weeks. I spoke about it all, last hour, with Garry Kasparov. chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and (INAUDIBLE) the democracy initiative. I asked him, what actions the Biden ministration and European allies should take to deter Russia's Vladimir Putin from taking action at the border?


GARRY KASPAROV, HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: Putin's aggression against Ukraine in 2014, annexation of Crimea, and war in eastern Ukraine, it was a deadly cycle. And I'm a chess player, but allow me a poker analogy that is better. Putin bluffs all the time. And the free world falls. And Putin raises the stakes again.

So he learned that he can always risk more than the West is willing to risk. and if he doesn't change soon, you know, there will be a catastrophe. So it could be even bigger than all of Ukraine or all Syria. And I think it is very important to make it very, very sure that, you know, the action will fall immediately, if Putin crosses the Ukrainian border again.

AVLON: All right. Let's get to Alexei Navalny in prison. First of all, do you think his life is at risk right now?

KASPAROV: Absolutely. His life is at great risk, because after failing to assassinate Navalny by poisoning last year, now Putin is trying to finish this job in prison.

And if Navalny dies in prison, it was an order just the same. And remember that Navalny committed no crime. He is a political prisoner, being tortured and on track of being murdered in plain sight by Putin's dictatorship.

And by the way, if Navalny dies in prison, for Putin, it's a demonstration of his -- of his strengths for both domestically and outside of Russia, if there is no price to pay.

AVLON: Well, and that gets to the issue of price to pay, but there is also a domestic cost. I mean the protests in favor of Navalny, public protests especially, as the weather gets warmer. Does that affect Putin's calculus, in addition to international perspective?

KASPAROV: Yes but probably, you know, just not the way you think and I think because Navalny isn't just an activist or opposition leader. He has become a symbol of resistance to Putin's entire Mafia rule. Navalny exposed their vast corruption in a country that is falling apart. And the pro democracy movement in Russia barely exists after two decades of Putin's war on it.

And Navalny succeeded in mobilizing people who are fed up and tired of being voiceless. And dictators can never tolerate the smallest amount of opposition, because they know it could turn to something bigger.


AVLON: That's Garry Kasparov speaking to us earlier tonight from Croatia.

Iran has released the South Korean tanker it seized back in January and South Korea's foreign ministry says the captain and crew are healthy.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live for us in Bangkok with more on the story, Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, this has been going for several months now. As you say back on January 4th, this is a South Korean tanker, which was seized by Iranian authorities in the Persian Gulf.

Now, at the time, the Iranian authorities said that it was an environmental concern, saying that it was creating environmental and chemical pollution.


HANCOCKS: Now the company said that that simply wasn't the case and any investigation showed that it wasn't which showed that, in fact, it was potentially and believed to be, politically linked.

Now, the reason that most analysts believe that there was politics behind this is because there is about $7 billion in frozen funds, Iranian funds, that are currently in South Korean banks.

Now the reason the to South Koreans couldn't pay that back to the Iranians is because of the U.S. unilateral sanctions that were brought into place and from September 2019, South Korea couldn't even import oil from Iran. It had been a great importer of Iranian oil.

So, South Korea found itself in a fairly tricky situation given the fact that the U.S. is its main ally and had put these sanctions in place. But the two -- Iran says, are not connected. But there's -- every expert you speak to says clearly, it appears as though they are. And what would show that that could be the case as well is what we are hearing from the foreign ministry is that progress is being made. In order to try and release those funds, they say they're looking at trying to release those funds to pay off dues from the U.N. that Iran needs to pay.

So it's really making sure that those funds which would be in U.S. dollars, if they are transferred back to the U.S., are not taken by the U.S. and not falling foul of any sanctions.

A very tricky situation from the South Korean point of view, but they would be happy that now the crew and the captain are being released with the vessel.

Much of the crew was allowed to leave back in February, though many of them stayed with the captain on board, John.

AVLON: Paula, so what pressure does this put on their relationship?

HANCOCKS: Well, Iran was a fairly hefty commercial partner of South Korea, as I say, in the past there have been a significant amount of oil that South Korea had imported from Iran. And it's the same really with many countries around the world that this became extremely difficult when the U.S. enforced and brought in those unilateral sanctions to try and squeeze economically Iranian authorities and Iranian regime.

And so from September 2019, South Korea simply, wasn't able to import that oil anymore. And this is really where the financial difficulties started from the South Korean point of view. They said that they did want to release those funds, they knew they were Iranian funds. But of course, it is difficult to do that, to make sure that it is not going against any sanctions that the U.S. had put in.

So local media was saying that it does appear as though a significant amount of progress has been made and, of course, that probably is not unrelated to the fact that now this vessel has been released, John?

AVLON: Well, it's certainly good news about the tanker. Paula Hancocks, thank you very much.

Prosecutors of the Derek Chauvin trial had shifted into a new phase in their case. They are now focusing on the medical analysis of George Floyd's cause of death.

Renowned medical expert, Dr. Martin Tobin was called in to the stand and offered key testimony on Floyd's final breaths.

Dr. Tobin forcefully refuted the defense's argument that drugs or health problems led to Floyd's death. He told the jury that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen while Chauvin had his knee on the neck.


DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGIST, EXPERT WITNESS: From the right image, you see his knuckle against the tire. And to most people, this doesn't look terribly significant.

But to a physiologist this is extraordinarily significant because this tells you that he has used up his resources and he is now literally, trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles. You can see that Mr. Floyd has his face rammed into the street because he is using his face here to try and crank up his chest.

He is actually using his forehead and his nose and his chin as a way of trying to have them get air into the right side of his chest.


AVLON: Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, crooks capitalizing on a crisis. Why the Internet is no place to purchase a COVID vaccine.



AVLON: We know that the wait for a vaccine can feel agonizingly long. But no matter how desperate you are to get your shot, don't try buying one online.

As Anna Stewart explains, criminals are active during times of crisis.


ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Available now, satisfaction, 100 percent guarantee. Adverts claiming to sell authentic COVID-19 vaccines found on the dark web.

DEREK MIDDEMMIS, EMEA HEAD OF SECURITY SOLUTIONS ENGINEERING, CHECKPOINT: We can see that we have more three times more vaccines that are on offer in three months. So, it's constantly going up.

STEWART: Cybersecurity firm Checkpoint has been investigating COVID- related ads on the dark web for months.

MIDDLEMISS: So initially it was the medicines, how to treat it. Then we found the vaccines and then more and more. This has been snowballed on and what we then found later on was as they became more interested and society starting to unlock and move forward, we then found more interested in being able to buy negative tests. And also now with the vaccines rolling out, we're finding vaccine passports as well.

STEWART (on camera): So this is the marketplace that you initially found where we're Moderna, Pfizer --

MIDDLEMISS: The latest one we have here, is the single dose from Johnson & Johnson. We can see there, that's just an example of an advert.

STEWART (voice over): Checkpoint tried to buy a Sinovac vaccine on the dark web back in January for $750 worth of bitcoin. Nothing ever arrives.

MIDDLEMISS: We don't have any evidence that anyone has bought successfully and got a vaccine and had it delivered.

STEWART: These products aren't just appearing online. Interpol issued a global alert last year, warning that organized crime networks would take advantage of the pandemic.

JURGEN STOCK, SECRETARY-GENERAL, INTERPOL: Criminals are using any opportunity with these fake certificates concerning COVID-19 vaccination or tests. We have even been seen in some parts of the world that the criminals are getting physically close to the borders, and they offer these kinds of services providing people who desperately like to cross the border, for instance, to see their relatives, providing them at the border with a fake certificate concerning a negative test result or even a vaccination.

STEWART: Last month, a fake vaccine distribution ring, operating across two continents, was dismantled.

STOCK: That led to more than 80 arrests in both countries, and all these thousands of doses of fake vaccines could be taken away from the market before they can put harm to people. STEWART: Both Interpol and Checkpoint stress you cannot legitimately

buy a COVID-19 vaccine online. You may never receive a vial, and if you do, you don't know what is in it.

MIDDLEMISS: If something looks to good to be true then it probably is. This is what's preyed on. This feeling, this desperation is the reason why this exists. But my advice for 100 percent would be, you know, just -- it's not going to happen.

STEWART: Anna Stewart, CNN -- London.


AVLON: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, a volcano in the Caribbean gives signs that it's going to erupt soon. Putting thousands of people at risk. That is next.



AVLON: The island of St. Vincent is on red alert as emergency officials warn this volcano could erupt at any moment. Authorities are ordering some 7,000 people to evacuate. Multiple cruise ships are on the way to help St. Vincent -- help get people off the island.

Patrick Oppmann has details from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Resident of the island of the St. Vincent's were forced to evacuate their homes after being warned of, quote, "an imminent volcano explosion".

The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines declared a disaster alert after eruptive activity was observed at La Soufriere Volcano. Clouds of steam were seen coming from the volcano following several strong tremors that were felt on the island on Thursday.

Scientists said that kind of seismic activity that was recorded usually is associated with the movement of magma near the surface. Evacuation orders were in place in about a dozen districts on the island and cruise ships were reportedly being used to ferry people out of harm's way.

Officials said there could be very little warning before a possible eruption, and that people would need to finalize their evacuation plans immediately.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN -- Havana.


AVLON: All right. For more, let's bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Derek, what is going on? DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, John, it is those

seismic activity, the longer duration earthquakes that Patrick just talked about a moment ago that has raised the alarm bells for volcanologists and authorities in and around the St. Vincent Island.

There has already been what is known as an effusive eruption. So that is just steady lava that's coming out of the crater. And just to put this into perspective for you, this is the Caribbean Sea. These are known as the Windward Islands and St. Vincent is located right about there.

And you can see that the actual volcano is on the north side of the island, it is the one solitary volcano across that entire island.

But the problem is that this effusive eruption that has been ongoing here for the past 24 hours, authorities are concerned with all the seismic activity that there could be what is called an explosive eruption. The last time that happened was back in 1979.

That allows for a crater to blow off the top of the volcano, shooting volcanic ash high into the atmosphere, and of course, that can be extremely dangerous for anyone around the area.

So here is a look at some of the venting that occurred just before sunset. And also this is a very interesting map, this is from marine I want you to notice some of these incoming ships, these are some of the cruise liners that are coming to aid in the evacuation that is occurring.

can imagine the logistical problems taking people away from harm's way near a volcano on an island surrounded by ocean water, right. So that is a difficulty so they are taking whatever precautions they can, and that includes utilizing the passenger vessels that are in and around the vicinity.

Authorities have said that the safest place to be on the island if you can't evacuate on one of these vessels would actually be on the windward side. That is the east facing shoreline closer to the Kingston region on the southern tip of St. Vincent.


VAN DAM: So that is an area that they've identified as technically safe from a potential explosive volcanic eruption if this does indeed occur.

But we're going to be monitoring this very closely. Here is a look at what the volcano appeared like this morning before the effusive eruption began, John.

AVLON: Derek Van Dam, thank you very much.

An American sportscaster famously called the Masters a tradition unlike any other. And now one of golf signature events has returned to its traditional time of year and in traditional style with spectators.

Here is Coy Wire with the first day of the action at Augusta.


COY WIRE, CNN WORLD SPORT CORRESPONDENT (on camera): After last year's edition was pushed back to November due to the pandemic with no fans, the Masters is back where it belongs, in April, azaleas in bloom, patrons are back to a limited capacity for the first men's major of the year.

Challenging conditions like gusts of wind and fast greens were giving many of the favorites fits (ph) but England's Justin Rose found a way. The two-time runner-up here hadn't played competitively in more than a month due to back issues. But he's at 7 under par and in the lead which is a familiar place for him here.

It's his fourth time holding at least a share of the first round lead at the Masters, tying in with the great Jack Niklaus for the most of all time.

JUSTIN ROSE, GOLF PLAYER: I just got a great run, and I was just trying to stay out of my own way and just kind of get it to the club house, and just keep doing what I was doing. And yes, I didn't feel like today was the day for a 65.

It's been -- it's a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there, just to stick with it on the golf course.

WIRE: And although Roy McIlroy finished 4 over on the day, he brings perhaps the most memorable moment, not with a birdie or a bogey, but with a daddy. Hitting his own dad with an errant shot on 7th. I asked him all about it after the round.

RORY MCILROY, GOLF PLAYER: I knew it was my dad when I was aiming at him. So probably 30 seconds before it hit him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told a reporter nearby that he's going to demand an autographed glove. How might you have some fun with that as a follow-up?

MCILROY: He has seen me sign plenty of stuff over the years so I think that's the least of his worries. (INAUDIBLE) he's going to put some ice on. Maybe autograph a bag of frozen peas for him.

WIRE: What are the chances, of all people hitting his dad? Hope it didn't leave too big of a mark.

We'll see with the second round here at the Masters has in store. Weather could play a factor with some rain expected in the forecast.

Coy Wire, CNN -- Augusta, Georgia.


AVLON: I'm John Avlon in New York. Thanks so much for watching this hour.

CNN NEWSROOM continues with Michael Holmes in just a little bit.