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Ukrainian President Tours Trenches Amid Russian Troop Buildup; World's Largest Pilgrimage Goes on Amid India's COVID Surge; Vaccines Arrive Too Late for Canada to Avoid Third Wave; Royal Family Mourns During Public Family Rift; Tehran Blames Israel for Natanz Facility Blackout; English Pubs and Other Businesses Reopen; George Floyd's Brother Gives Emotional Testimony. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired April 13, 2021 - 01:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, everyone. I'm John Vause.

Ahead this hour, still talking. The U.S. and Iran was set to resume negotiations to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, despite a mysterious explosion at an Iranian nuclear facilities over the weekend.

The lockdown no more. Across England, retail shopping, restaurants and pubs back in business, as pandemic restrictions are eased. But around the world, COVID infections continue to rise for a seventh week.

And frontlines over flashpoints. CNN heads to Ukraine-Russian border, where a massive troop buildup by Moscow, raising fears of a possible invasion.


VAUSE: The long running shadow war between Iran and Israel appears to be heating up. Iran is blaming Israel and warning of revenge for a mysterious weekend explosion at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. New advanced centrifuges at the site appeared to have been damage in the blast. This comes as the U.S. and Iran are about to resume interact talks on Wednesday, on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran says Israel is trying to undermine those diplomatic efforts.


SAAED KHATIBZADEH, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): The unfortunate event that took place in Natanz, and the Zionist regime has said multiple times, both now and before, and it could be heard from multiple sources, that confirmed that the Zionist regime was behind this. If the goal has been to disrupt the path of sanction relief for the Iranian people, they will definitely not reach this goal and no one will fall into their deceitful trap.


VAUSE: We go to Jerusalem now and CNN's Hadas Gold.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel so far is not giving any sort of official confirmation or ideal to any Israel evolvement in that incident at the Iranian nuclear facility, but there have been some interesting hints in the last day or so, regarding possible Israeli involvement. First, open Israeli media are citing unnamed sources, pointing to the possible involvement of the Israeli Mossad agency.

And interestingly, shortly after that incident took place, the Israeli army chief, Aviv Kochavi, said Israel's operations throughout the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemies. That certainly raised some eyebrows.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke about the threat that Israel faces from Iran, during an event with the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was in Israel for a visit.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear, I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel. And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran's aggression and terrorism.

GOLD: Now Prime Minister Netanyahu did not specifically refer to the incident in Iran and neither did Defense Attorney Lloyd Austin and during that event.

However, earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Austin was asked by reporters about the incident at the Iranian nuclear facility. And although he did not speak specifically about it, he did refer to the ongoing negotiations occurring in Vienna, regarding trying to get an Iran nuclear deal revived. He said specifically, that in terms of their efforts to engage with Iran in diplomacy, on the Iran nuclear deal that those efforts will continue.

He was asked specifically if the incident at the Iranian nuclear facility would somehow be an impediment to those talks. All he says they will continue to focus on doing with the president is trying to achieve. Of course, President Biden is trying to achieve some sort of returned to an Iranian nuclear deal.

But Israel is vehemently opposed to any sort of return to a 2015 style Iranian nuclear deal, saying that doing so would simply give around the green light to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Hadas Gold, CNN, Jerusalem.


VAUSE: With us now Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Karim, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: Now in terms of how the attackers are she carried out and how effective it was, "New York Times" quotes two intelligence officials who say, the damage was caused by a large explosion that completely destroyed independent and heavily protected internal power system, that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium. The explosion had dealt a severe blow to Iran's ability to enrich uranium, could take at least 9 months to restore Natanz's production.

So what sort of attack was this? How do think was actually carried out? And I guess is here I guess? And if that timeline is correct, 9 months before where it was, how much of a blows that to Iran's nuclear ambitions overall?


SADJADPOUR: John, I think this is one of the incidents in which who know don't talk, and those who do know don't talk. We'll know in the coming months of what transpired. Initially reports was that it was a cyberattack, there is a quarter to physical attack. As you, mentioned, it's been reported that this has been part of news Iran's nuclear deal, 9 months. I think we frankly don't know.

What we do know is that Iran's nuclear program has once again been penetrated. Very likely by Israelis, and, you know, this comes just several months after Israel's assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist in November of 2020.

So it just shows how penetrated Iran's nuclear program is. And the fact that Israel is not going to simply sit back and watch the negotiations with Iran and refrain from taking sabotage itself.

VAUSE: With that in mind, those who know aren't talking, those who are talking don't know, I would like you to listen to the head of Iran's nuclear energy. Here is.


ALI AKBAR SALEHI, HEAD OF IRANIAN ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION: The enemy is gravely mistaken. There are writing reports, claiming to have delayed nuclear operations in Natanz but nine months, with this action. You will see that in the coming few days, hopefully, a noticeable portion of the sabotage that the enemy had done will be compensated.


VAUSE: Doesn't matter really at the end of the day if it's days or months before Iran is back to, you know, business as usual with the nuclear production? Apart from getting back to business as usual, is there anything else Iran can do in terms of retaliation?

SADJADPOUR: Well, let me answer the second question first, which is what's Iran tends to do in terms of retaliation is to go after what I would call soft targets. They're not necessarily going to try to launch Hezbollah rockets, at Israel. But in the past, what Iran has done is to try and go after, for

example, Israeli embassies in countries like Thailand, and India where people aren't necessarily paying attention. So Iran is not -- Iran is not nearly as effective as retaliation as Israel is at sabotage.

In terms of Iran's nuclear program may be in the coming weeks, months, ultimately, my view is Iran is simply trying to advance the nuclear, program it's not too exactly advancing towards getting a nuclear bomb. It's to actually build leverage against the United States, in these negotiations in Vienna. So they're really trying to strengthen everything right now.

VAUSE: Okay, so with that in mind, here's Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on Monday. Listen this.


NETANYAHU: In the Middle East, there is no threat that is more serious, more dangerous, more pressing then that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran. Iran continues to support terrorist around the world, in five continents, threatening civilians everywhere. Iran is never given up its quest for nuclear weapons, and the missiles to deliver them. And Iran consistently, consistently and outrageously calls for Israel's annihilation, and works towards that goal.


VAUSE: The Israeli media has reported that Israel's security service, the Mossad, was actually behind the attack.

So, what is this all mean? How will this impact those talks in Vienna for viewers in Iran to get back into the 2015 nuclear agreement?

SADJADPOUR: Well, Iran -- one of tenets of Iran's revolution is opposition to Israel's existence. And Iran's leaders have sometimes denied the Holocaust. It is a very easy for Benjamin Netanyahu to kind of use the Iranian threat for his domestic political purposes.

Now my view about talks in Vienna is that this act of sabotage doesn't really change the fundamentals, that the United States is still committed to reviving the nuclear agreement. The Europeans, the Chinese and Russians are all committed to that. As angry as the Iranians are right now, as much as Iran may argue that the United States was somehow complacent in this Israeli act of sabotage. Iran really can't reverse its economic decline, absent removal of U.S. economic sanctions.

VAUSE: Karim, thank you for being with us, really appreciated.

SADJADPOUR: Thank you, John.

VAUSE: Japan's government says two years are now, waste water from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will be released gradually into the ocean. More than 1 million metric tons of contaminated ground and cooling water has been collected on site since the 2011 nuclear disaster. Now, officials say, they run out of storage space.

The plan is facing heated opposition from Japan's fishing industry, environmentalists in China, and South Korea have also expressed grave concerns.


But in Tokyo, officials say the water will be treated, and will meet international safety standards.

For more on this, let's bring CNN's Blake Essig in Tokyo.

You know, Blake, hearing all this opposition from the regime, but there is disapproval of sorts, which they're getting from Washington.

Does that actually make much of a difference in the region?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, when you talk about United States reaction, of course, the decision meets international standards, and so, you know, that's obviously very important.

South Korea, and China, they're less impressed. They're expressing grave concerns regarding the potential dumping of this water into the ocean. This has been a decision that people here have been waiting for, for several years. But as of today, John, it's official, Japan will dump the water it used to cool the damage reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the water in about two years time.

There's currently about 1.2 million tons of water in -- at the seaside plant, which is stored in about a thousand tanks. Three quarters of that water is still needs to be re-purified to meet those international standards before dumping it into the ocean,

Now, I have the chance to talk to the International Atomic Energy Agency director general about the potential impact of that dumping that water into the ocean. Here's what he had to say.


RAFAEL MARIANO GROSSI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: There is no impact of any kind to the water, to fish, or the sediments. And I should say this is not an easy, this is not a tryout. This is being done and has been done for many, many years in different nuclear power plant in every continent.


ESSIG: Despite the IAEA and the Japanese government saying that this water after it's been treated is safe, as you might expect, the local fisherman here in Japan had been pushing back to against this potential decision for several years. The idea that they have been trying to rebuild their reputation following the nuclear disaster 10 years ago, it is taken time.

Now with the idea there going to be dumping this water, perception being reality, then it's a dangerous place has a potential to set these fishermen back years and years, potentially sacrifice their ability to be able to make a living. As we mentioned earlier John, South Korea and Japan have come out expressing grave concerns. South Korea called the decision unacceptable. China said that the eye of the world will be watching Japan.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there live for us in Tokyo.

COVID infection rising globally for the 7th consecutive week, the World Health Organization is warning vaccines alone will not end the pandemic. Case numbers have jumped across Asia and the Middle East. As infections climb, so too the death toll, up globally for a fourth week.

The WHO director general stresses vaccinations and public health measures, wearing a mask, social distancing, and handwashing all working together could end this pandemic within months.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: With a concerted effort to apply public health measures, alongside equitable vaccination, we could bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months. Whether we do or not comes down to the decision and the actions that governments and individuals make every day. The choice is ours.


VAUSE: But Germany in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic, the Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with her cabinet in the coming hours. Merkel and other regional leaders have called for a brief shop lockdown, as German tries to speed up its vaccination rollout. Germany surpassed 3 million total cases on Monday.

English pubs for their first public pints in more than 3 months on Monday, some COVID restrictions were lifted on shops, gyms, and other businesses. But for many businesses, there are financial challenges ahead.

CNN's Anna Stewart has more now reporting from London.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): It was all hands on deck after 3 months of lockdown, pubs in England could finally reopen. For now, though, only outside.

Most of Laine's pubs have been able to reopen today, maximizing outdoor space and adopting COVID safety measures hasn't been cheap.

GAVIN GEORGE, CEO, LAINE PUB COMPANY: We spent at least a quarter million this time around, and the outside areas, and we've invested in ordering table, apps technology, and also, extra resource to manage the restrictions that we got this time.


STEWART: Hopefully, it's all worth it?

GEORGE: It's definitely worth it, yes. But we do need the government to stick to its recovery plan, and come through the 21st for us to be able to operate as normal without restrictions.

STEWART: This is just a first, but a very welcome one for the pub landlords.

JOLA MCROCZEK, LANDLORDS, THE BLACK LION: For day one, we've received booking within two. Two days. It was just -- it was just insane actually.

STEWART: And as the clocks struck midday, the first bookings arrived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy to be back here, really am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, face to face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is fantastic to be back, yeah, absolutely. We've been waiting for long. Like the Beatles say, it's been a long cold lonely winter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting lunch back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting my life back, yeah.

STEWART: Today in England, it was back to business for nonessential shops, indoor gyms and hair salons. Mixing indoors is not allowed, not all pubs, restaurants and cafes were able to.

KATE NICHOLS, CEO, UKHOSPITALITY: This is only outdoor hospitality. So, we know 2 and 5 are business as some outside space not all those will be reopening, unless they've got good football (ph), unless they've got a large customer base it is going to be worth their while.

For those that are opening, they're going to be losing money by doing so. They're only going to be generating 20 percent of the normal revenue levels.

STEWART: Without a full lifting of restrictions in June (ph), U.K. Hospitality says a third of businesses could be vulnerable, 12,000 have already closed permanently, a sobering fact.

On Monday though, in England's beer gardens, little could dampen spirits. As pints were raised for the first time in months.

Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Well, it's a rare admission coming from the director of China Center of Disease Control and Prevention, about the Sino COVID vaccine. Apparently, its efficacy isn't great, who would've thought. But state media now walking back those comments, saying that these were taken out of context, that kind of stuff.

Well, let's go to Kristie Lu stout, live for us in Hong Kong.

So, you know, if this is as true, despite the walk back, and the efficacy isn't particularly high, what does it mean for China and its vaccine diplomacy?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know what? This is a well known fact that China's vaccines have a relatively low efficacy rate. You know, data just came out out of Brazil saying that they have an efficacy rate for the Sinovac vaccine of just over 50.7 percent. That's much lower when you compare it to, you know, the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer, or, you know, developed by Moderna.

What does it mean for China's vaccine diplomacy? It will go on. Because again, this is well-established. People know for the efficacy rates have been lower for these Chinese vaccines, and they do have their advantages. One of these advantages would be that there in cold storage. Much unlike the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which is something that developing world needs. And also, the number of countries and developing world, they were not able to gain access to those Western vaccines, so China can fill in the blank here.

But, look, China is in a position today, where they are defending the efficacy of their vaccines, after that rare admission, by a top Chinese health official, over the weekend, saying that, yes, the protection rates of Chinese vaccines are not high, in his words.

But he also said something else that was really interesting. He laid out a series of options, in order to boost the efficacy of these more traditional vaccines made by Sinovac, and Sinopharm. He said that you can make them more effective for by increasing the number of doses. You can make them more effective by defending the interval the time of doses, and also, by mixing vaccines.

He put forward the notion of mixing a traditionally more traditional and activate virus vaccine that's made with China with a messenger RNA vaccine made by Pfizer, or Moderna. And there's been a lot of discussion generated around that.

Look, clinical trials are underway, only just beginning, including here in Hong Kong, where the University of Hong Kong, they are recruiting 100 subjects to see if they would be willing to take part and getting injected first, with the Pfizer vaccine, and 4 weeks later, get injected with the Sinovac vaccine, to see whether or not it will be more effective, but also, more safe.

Take a listen to this but Dr. Ivan Hung.


DR. IVAN HUNG, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: This could be ruled out, of course, as one of the strategies, especially to tackle the variants problem and also to address the issue that is some of the individuals who have received -- perhaps receiving the BioNTech, or Sinovac vaccine and have allergy to that vaccine and would like to switch platform for the second dose.



STOUT: Dr. Ivan of the University of Hong Kong there. He adds that trial results on the efficacy, and safety of mixing vaccines could be able as early as August this year -- John.

VAUSE: Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout live for us there in Hong Kong.

We'll take a short break here on CNN NEWSROOM.

When we come back, an emotional testimony from the brother of George Floyd in the trial of former officer charged in his murder.

Not far from the trial of Derek Chauvin, another police killing of a black man had sparked renewed protests.


VAUSE: In the U.S. for a second night, police in Minnesota have clashed with protesters. Monday saw a crowd outside the Brooklyn Center police quarters. Police fired tear gas and made a number of arrests, and say some protesters who were launching bottles, fireworks, bricks, and other projectiles.

Demonstrators are demanding justice after an officer fatally shot a young black man shot during a traffic stop on Sunday. Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright was unarmed, the officer grabbed her gun instead of a Taser, what authorities say was an accidental shooting. She is now being placed on leave.

And while, tensions mount in Brooklyn Center, the defense of Derek Chauvin, the man accused of killing George Floyd, expected to begin presenting its case later today, in Minneapolis.

Monday, Floyd's brother shared personal, and emotional stories during his testimony.

CNN Sara Sidner has our report.



SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd took the stand to tell the jurors who his brother was before his death sparked worldwide protests.

FLOYD: He just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He just knew how to make people feel better. SIDNER: In May 2020, Floyd uttered the word mama several times before

he died.

FLOYD: He loved her so dearly.

SIDNER: His brother says Floyd was crushed when his mother died in May 2018.

FLOYD: George just sat there, at the casket, over and over again. He would just say, mama, mama, over and over. I didn't know what to tell him because I was in pain too. We all were hurting. He was just kissing, and just kissing, and he didn't want to leave the casket.

SIDNER: Floyd's family testimony is one of the last the jurors heard in the prosecution case.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: The state will call Dr. Jonathan Rich.

SIDNER: The prosecution started the day calling another medical expert, Dr. Jonathan Rich, an expert in cardiology, determined Floyd died because of the officer's actions.

BLACKWELL: Do you have an opinion if George Floyd would have lived if not for Derek Chauvin's subdual and restraint of him for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on the ground?

DR. JONATHAN RICH, CARDIOLOGIST: Yes, I believe he would have lived.

SIDNER: Again, Chauvin's attorney tried to get the doctor to admit there were other possibilities for Floyd's death such as drugs or heart disease and one more thing, Floyd's own actions.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: If Mr. Floyd had simply gotten in the back seat of the squad car, do you think that he would have survived?

RICH: Had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day.

SIDNER: The prosecution is expected to rest soon and then it will be the defense's turn to try to unravel the prosecution's case with their own witnesses.

FLOYD: I can't breathe, officer!

SIDNER: The prosecution again played the video of Floyd being detained for the jury as the question of the use of force expert.

SETH STOUGHTON, PROSECTION USE OF FORCE EXPERT: Looking at the threat analysis here, it's clear from the number of officers in Mr. Floyd's position, the fact that he's been handcuffed, and been searched, he doesn't present a threat of harm. SIDNER: Before the jurors arrive to court, Chauvin's attorney, Eric

Nelson, presented an argument to the court that the jurors should be sequestered because of a recent officer involved shooting, just outside of Minneapolis.

Less than 24 hours before court began, police killed a young black man, name Daunte Wright, sparking fresh protest and riot in Brooklyn Center.

NELSON: This incident, while is -- I understand it is not this case, I understand it is not involved, and does not involve the same parties, the problem is, the emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a jury to say, I'm not going to vote not guilty, because I am concerned about the outcome.

SIDNER: The judge denied the request to sequester the jury, and the case continued, unabated.


SIDNER (on camera): Monday, the judge made clear, at the end of the day, he is expecting the defense to begin its case on Tuesday, though, the prosecution has not officially ended their case, just yet.

I should mention, where I'm standing. You can see the large fist just behind me, the metal fist, who was originally brought out to George Floyd Square, just feet from where George Floyd took his last breath. Now, it is here, in another city, next to Minneapolis called Brooklyn Center. It is here for another black man, Daunte Wright, where he took his last breath.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Brooklyn Center.


VAUSE: Tens of thousands of Russian troops, amassing on the border with Ukraine, raising fears about the Kremlin's next move. When we come back, CNN travels to the front lines with the Ukraine's president for exclusive report.



VAUSE: Thanks for staying with us. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM with me John Vause.

Now to a potential new flash point in a seven-year standoff. In the past few weeks Russian troops and military hardware had a massing along Ukraine's border. The Ukrainian military believes as many as 50,000 Russian troops have joined the tens of thousands of Russian- backed separatists already in their own held areas which you can see in the dark red. More than 30,000 Russian soldiers have already been deployed to Crimea.

CNN's Matthew Chance traveled with Ukraine's president on a dangerous journey to the eastern front for this exclusive report.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): To the front lines in eastern Ukraine. The simmering conflict with Russian-backed rebels once again the focus of U.S. concern.

As tensions with Russia ratchet higher, CNN has gained this unprecedented access to the Ukrainian president, a carefully-planned troop visit, flying with him, fast and low, to avoid ground fire.

(on camera): It's been a long time now. It's been seven years this war?


CHANCE: How are the soldiers? Are they holding up or are they tired of this war?

ZELENSKY: They are tired of war. Like they've been, you know, here in seven years it's longer than the Second World War, yes. We see that and it's terrible.

CHANCE (voice over): Longer then the Second. With its complex network of dank, muddy trenches, this so-called line of contact in some places just a few dozen yards from the enemy, looks more like the First World War.

(on camera): I mean we've entered this warren of trenches, that have been dug along the front line. I can tell you, I mean it's like being thrown back to the early 20th century in the Great War. I've not seen anything like this in modern warfare.

(voice over): But this is modern. The reality of confrontation with Moscow and its proxies. Is there a chance that the Russians could be planning an invasion?

ZELENSKY: Of course. Of course. We know it. And beginning for 2014 we know that it can be -- it can be anywhere each day. It can be.

So they are ready and -- but we are also ready because we are on our land, in our territory.

CHANCE: This is why Ukraine, the U.S. and the western allies are so alarmed. Amid growing tensions, the dramatic buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea.

Cellphone footage has emerged of armored columns like this one and of military hardware being transported by rail towards the border. Ukrainian military officials tell CNN they estimate more than 50,000 Russian troops are now amassing. Moscow says it's just an exercise, not a threat.

But back at the line of contact, there is already been a deadly upsurge in sniper fire. More than 20 soldiers killed, say Ukrainian officials, so far this year. And out here, even the president runs the gauntlet.

(on camera): You could run for it, right?

ZELENSKY: Yes, run. Run.

CHANCE: Ok. All right. Come one, let's go. So we are very close now, aren't we, to the separatists?

ZELENSKY: Yes. That is open territory.

CHANCE: That was amazing. So we've come so close now, to the frontline between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed separatists.

President Zelensky and I just had to run through the open ground to get to this cover because the situation is so volatile, so potentially dangerous here.


CHANCE (voice over): Elected two years ago on a promise of ending this conflict, something he's failed to achieve. President Zelensky says he risks these hotspots as he calls them, to show his front line soldiers they have political support.

What Ukraine really needs, he says, is more assistance from Washington. More weapons, more money, and crucially more backing to join NATO, the western military alliance. Supportive words from President Biden, he says, are simply no longer enough.


ZELENSKY: Ukraine needs more than words. That is the second. The one (ph) --

CHANCE (on camera): Can I just ask a follow-up on that?


CHANCE: You understand, don't you, that if Ukraine were to be given NATO membership, that might make the conflict in this country even worse. It would infuriate Russia.

ZELENSKY: I can tell you. I can answer you.

Maybe you are right, but what now it is going wrong? What do we do here? What our people do here, they fight. So what can be in the future? I don't know. But we have an independent country and we decide where to be or where not to be. To be or not to be, your membership.

CHANCE (voice over): That is, as they say, the question. Or rather, how much U.S. support can the Ukrainian president now expect in the running drama being played out in this theater of war.

Matthew Chance, CNN -- on the front lines of eastern Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) Jill Dougherty is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was also CNN's longtime Moscow bureau chief as well as White House correspondent and a lot of other senior titles as well.

And she is with us this hour from Washington D.C. Jill, good to see you.


VAUSE: Well, you know, this troop buildup, it hasn't actually happened in secret nor has it happened sort of overnight.

You had Russian trains carrying out in vehicles to the border for everyone to see. It's been a slow build for I think what, about two weeks.

Does that at least suggest that the whole operation is a bit of a show as opposed to preparations for a real invasion?

You know, that is the question. I can honestly say that the people who are really watching this, other than maybe the people in the, you know, intelligence agencies may know more obviously. But from the outside, you are right.

The biggest factor of this is that it's happening, you know, without being hidden. It's not a secret. As you said, there's video all over the place. It also we know, is really beyond normal.

This is not the normal situation. Even if you were to have what Russia says is military, you know, exercises and snap exercises, et cetera. That doesn't appear to be exactly what this is. So then, of course, the question is what is going on?

And you also have, I think, this chessboard that has a lot of moving pieces. You also have a lot of signaling between the United States, Ukraine, Russia. It is very fast and very intense. But to what purpose really is the question.

VAUSE: And even if it is some kind of saber-rattling, that doesn't mean that the law of unintended consequences does not apply. A conflict could suddenly escalate out of this.

DOUGHERTY: Oh, absolutely. And as you know, if you look at it and kind of analyze it, take a legal pad to say, you know, what could happen? What is likely, et cetera. You really could say, ok, it could be to intimidate Ukraine, intimidate President Zelensky, who always has, at this point, domestic political problems.

It could be to signal the Biden administration, a new administration, that's been talking tough on Russia, taking, you know, action that's been having economic sanctions for a variety of reasons.

It could be saying hey, here we are, Russia. You know watch yourself too. But it could be that there is something beyond that. That Russia may be trying to gin up some type of provocation to start something and to entice Ukraine to do something.

So it is not clear, and in fact, I just looked at an interview with (INAUDIBLE) newspaper, a very interesting article, interview with the head of the Russian security council. And he said, no plans to interfere but we are watching this very closely. And depending upon what happens, we will take concrete action.

So again, no final understanding of what is happening, but it is quite extraordinary.

VAUSE: And should this escalate, the U.S. has warned Russia of consequence. We also heard from the G7 and the E.U. They issued a statement. Not quite going quite that far.

Here's part of it. "These large scale troop movements without prior notification represent threatening and destabilizing activities. We call on Russia to cease its provocations and to immediately de- escalate tensions in line with its international obligations."

So is the U.S. and its allies, especially in Europe, are they back on the same page when it comes to Russia? Is there an agreement to sort of collectively forget the four years of the Trump presidency and move on?

DOUGHERTY: I don't think so, totally. In some ways yes, but you know, when you look at this Ukraine situation, there are many things that could happen.


DOUGHERTY: Like the United States doesn't want the Nordstream (ph) 2 pipeline to be built by Russia. It could try, it's been trying to induce the Germans not to do that, not to go along with it.

Maybe, you know, the administration would want to put more pressure on Angela Merkel, at the same time, they need her for other things.

And so there's a little bit of, I would say, light between the positions of the United States, and Europe. And when that happens, it's music to Russia's ears because that is what Russia always tries to do, to create divisions between NATO, Europe and the United States.

VAUSE: The head of Russia's Paris embassy was quoted by the Tass Russian news agency saying that Ukraine is feeling its total impunity and keeps violating the Minsk Agreement. That's the 2014 agreement meant to end this conflict.

It goes on to say, the Ukrainian forces are there, where they must not be in accordance with the Minsk agreements. Is there evidence to support that claim? And would that justify this troop build up by Russia?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I have not seen any indication that that really is the case. And if it were, it's certainly not on the level of what we are seeing from Russia. So that would not appear to be, you know, tit-for-tat or equal response to what they allege is going on. VAUSE: Jill, thank you. Good to see you as always. Appreciate you

being with us.

Still to come: in India, the world's largest religious pilgrimage collides with one of the world's biggest spikes in new COVID infections.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone.

As India overtakes Brazil for the second highest number of COVID cases globally and with the virus spreading there at record speed, millions of religious pilgrims are gathering by the Ganges River with little regard for social distancing or any other pandemic restrictions.

CNN's Vedika Sud joins us now live from New Delhi. And this comes as what record cases for COVID for the past six consecutive days.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Yes, there has been a dip today, John, good to be with you.

Let me just first give you national figures. India has reported almost 162,000 cases today but this is less than what we reported yesterday which is almost 169,000 cases.

So an approximate dip of 7,000 cases compared to yesterday but that's certainly no relief because these numbers are still really staggering, John.

Coming back to your question on the Kumbh Mela festival which is the largest religious festival across the world, while we did speak to the officials who are managing the place, they had to say they had about 2.2 million to 2.4 million people just yesterday at that venue. There was, you know, these people are taking dips in the holy Ganges River because they believe it washes off their sins.


SUD: But you know, they do say that pictures speak louder than words, so I'm going to let our viewers decide for themselves in a way. Those visuals (ph) are just going to play out. We'll tell you what they're really talking about when India has the second highest total confirmed cases of COVID-19 after the United States.


SUD: Shoulder to shoulder, packed crowds of Hindu pilgrims, splash into the holy Ganges River in India, to wash away their sins. It is one of the largest religious pilgrimages in the world, and a scene shockingly out of step with the deluge of coronavirus cases across the country.

India just overtook Brazil with the second highest number of infections in the world after the United States. On Monday, they reported nearly 170,000 new cases, the highest single day rise since the start of the pandemic.

Deaths too have surged in past weeks overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums in parts of the country. But that has not stopped a steady stream of visitors to the northern city of Haridwar for the ongoing Kumbh Mela festival.

Initially delayed because of the pandemic, some five million people were expected on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no issue, I think there's more issues traveling from (INAUDIBLE). They have to take proper care of themselves by wearing masks and by maintaining some social distancing protocols.

SUD: Authorities say they have taken measures to control the crowds. 15,000 (ph) security personnel are on hand and cameras have been installed to scan the river banks for people not wearing masks or social distancing.

Pilgrims coming from states hard hit by the virus have to provide a negative COVID-19 test. But health officials caution, that may not be enough to stop the virus from spreading.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must recognize the packing together of large number of people, even in an outdoor situation, is likely to be an invitation for the virus to spread more easily.

SUD: Just 7.5 percent of India's population of 1.4 billion have been vaccinated, according to the health ministry. And there has been an increase of cases in the city of Haridwar since the festival began, making that holy day at the Ganges a high price to pay for a spiritual cleanse when the physical risks are so great.


SUD: And that is the worry, isn't it because this festival continues until the end of the month, John, until the end of April. And these numbers are already growing in India not only nationally, but in the state of Uttarakhand as well. That is where Hardwar is located. So that's where the cases are also piling up.

There are tests being conducted, which are random checks as well. Those numbers for the district (ph) were talking about, the visuals from where we just showed our viewers is where those numbers have increased ever since this festival began.

So clear worry in the days to come and a lot of experts, now questioning, why can't we just suspend the Kumbh festival, John.

VAUSE: Good question. Vedika, thank you. Vedika Sud, in New Delhi.

SUD: Thank you.

VAUSE: In Montreal, protests have erupted after officials announced an 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew. Many Canadian cities have seen a recent surge in new cases and the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the next few weeks will be crucial to give vaccines a chance to work.

But as Paula Newton reports, the vaccines likely arrived too late for Canada to avoid a third wave.


JASLEEM NIMJEE (ph), EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL: And that's hard to stomach. It's really hard to stomach.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Doctors frustrated, exhausted as a growing third wave of COVID cases spreads across Canada even more serious than the first two. And vaccines are arriving far too late to stem the surge.

One horrifying look inside Canadian ICUs filled to capacity and beyond, and it is clear doctors say Canada's vaccine shortage is now their problem.

NIMJEE: We went through a period where we were rapidly trying to immunize our health care workers, both first and second doses to all of a sudden, we're not getting the supply that we thought we would. We have nothing, and it went down to, I remember weeks where there was no vaccine. Vaccines changed the game of this pandemic.

NEWTON: And Canada is still on the losing end. For a country that had, categorically, claimed to have secured more doses per capita than any other in the world, doses have not arrived in time and doctors say the early vaccine drought will cost lives.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines. And unlike the U.S. and the U.K. was not able to ramp up domestic manufacturing. So Canadians are at the mercy of imports not even from their American neighbor, but from Europe.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We continue our discussions with the American administration on getting more doses into Canada.

NEWTON: The Biden administration sent 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada in recent weeks. But there is no announced plans so far, to send more.


NEWTON: And from Europe, Canada has received more than 8 million total doses, all of it, not enough for a country of nearly 38 million people forcing most Canadians including frontline workers to get only one dose with the second shot, postponed, as long as four months.

That's prompted the head of the world-renowned University of Ottawa Heart Institute to plead with the Ontario government to quickly get a second dose to medical staff.

DR. THIERRY MESANA, PRESIDENT/CEO, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA HEART INSTITUTE: It's not a small problem, Paula. It's not a small problem.

People are exhausted. We see staff not coming to work because they may have COVID. They're not so sick. They aren't hospitalized, but they have -- they have symptoms, they stay home even with the protection of one dose.

NEWTON: And the weeks ahead will more gut-wrenching still, many provinces are now locking down and triaging and transferring patients. Activating surge capacity and its health care system that is now under threat of COVID-19 like never before.

Paula Newton, CNN -- Ottawa.


VAUSE: Still to come, what might just be a turning point for the British monarchy, a chance to put recent differences behind them as a family comes together for a funeral.


VAUSE: Tributes from grandsons to a grandfather. Prince William called Prince Philip an extraordinary man who showed great kindness to his wife Katherine. And from Prince Harry, he said he will be remembered as the longest running consort to a monarch, a decorated serviceman, a prince, a duke. But to me, like many of you who lost a loved one or a grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa. Master of the barbecue, legend of banter, cheeky right until the end.

After a moment of silence on Monday, parliament paid tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I beg to move, that in humble address be presented to Her Majesty, expressing the deepest sympathies of this House, on the death of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. And the heartfelt thanks of this House and this nation for his unfailing dedication to this country and the commonwealth.


VAUSE: The death of Prince Philip comes at a fraught time for the royal family following the explosive interview Prince Harry and his wife Meghan gave to Oprah Winfrey.

CNN's Nick Glass reports on what could be a turning point for the monarchy.


NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Queen Victoria's statue outside of Windsor Castle, a widow at 42, should wear black for the rest of her life. For the media encamped outside Victoria's great, great granddaughter remains grieving privately behind the castle's granite walls. The queen will be 95 later this month. The first birthday without her husband since she was 22.

ROBERT LACEY, ROYAL HISTORIAN/BIOGRAPHER: The passing of Prince Philip must inevitably bring to mind the end of the Elizabethan era. But I think it's going to be an Elizabethan era right to the end.

GLASS: In other words right to the end of the Queen's life. The castle is currently closed to the public. But we already know there are plans afoot for the Queens platinum jubilee next year when she celebrate 70 years on the throne. Life goes on, royal and ordinary, just as Prince Philip would have wished.


GLASS: More challengingly, there's a serious fracture in the family in need of healing. The Oprah Winfrey interview was just a month ago.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: And also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.


LACEY: I don't think anybody anticipated how issues of diversity --

GLASS: Of racism.

LACEY: -- would be raised in a way that most people's lines over here quite unjustly, gave a character to the royal family that isn't the case. It could be that the funeral gathering for Prince Philip which will be essentially a family occasion will be the beginning of a fences being mended.

GLASS: These photos were taken in the grounds of Windsor Castle last month, just a week after Prince Philip came home from hospital. The Queen and her eldest son and heir a symbolic reassurance about continuity.

We now know the funeral at St. George's Chapel at Windsor will be small because of COVID, just 30 people plus clergy. To be televised and probably, in the case of the queen filmed with some discretion.

We can assume that the body language of William and Harry will be closely observed as they sit in the choir stalls (ph). Of course, Prince Philip knew the chapel well from the Annual Garter (ph) Ceremony, as well as weddings and funerals.

Here the Queen flanked by Prince Charles and Prince William. On Saturday, the men Prince Charles and his two sons, will walk behind Philip's coffin on this very same road.

Prince Philip's face is still everywhere at Piccadilly Circus and on the post office tower in London. The tributes have been warm and fulsome with multiple newspaper supplement.

And at the end of the long walk, they're still lay flowers. The Firm, as Prince Philip liked to call it will gather to lay him to rest. The royals usually try to hide their emotions. Saturday promises the sternest of tests.

Nick Glass, CNN -- in Windsor.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. The news continues with Robyn Curnow after a very short break.



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to all of our viewers around the world. Thanks.