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India's COVID-19 Crisis; Nepal Breaks Coronavirus Case Record; Myanmar Protesters Training to Fight the Military; Dozens Killed in Mexico City Metro Disaster; India Reports More Than 382,000 New COVID Infections; CNN Gains Rare Access to Ukrainian Coastal Patrol. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired May 5, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): India's out-of-control pandemic, now counts for more than half of all New Delhi infections worldwide. It's spreading beyond India's borders.

After facing off with Myanmar's heavily armed trigger happy military, peaceful protesters are now training to fight back. A CNN exclusive report.

And Putin's heavily armed warships are patrolling disputed waters off Ukraine's coast. CNN has more rare access to what could be the next flashpoint between Moscow and Kyiv.

Hello everyone I'm John Vause, this is CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: It seems two high court judges in Delhi are doing what India central governors unable or unwilling to do. Directly intervene and order officials to supply hospitals in Delhi with oxygen. And another court has described the death of any patient due to a lack of oxygen as a criminal act on a pile of genocide.

A shortage of oxygen and other medical supplies now part of daily life. The health care system crumbling in real time, unable to cope with record numbers of new infections, more than 300,000 every day now, for the past 13 days.

The government reports 3,500 COVID deaths on Tuesday but the actual number is certain to be many times higher. The peak of this outbreak could be two weeks away, according to the country's COVID-19 modeling committee.

Then there's the question of just where i all that international aid?

Apparently much of it has arrived including oxygen concentrators and PPE, from the United States. India's government though, denies there's been a 7-day delay in distribution. In the midst of this national misery, comes another blow. The hugely

popular Indian premier cricket league, which had been a welcome distraction to so many, has now been suspended indefinitely. The teams continue playing without fans in the stadiums but the season was put on hold when a number of teams reported positive tests for the coronavirus.

The criticism and the condemnation of Narendra Modi and his government's failed response continues to grow louder. And opposition leader tweeted that they the government, actively helped the virus reach the stage where there's no way to stop it. Adding a crime has been committed against India.

He may be right, in terms of helping spread the virus. Narendra Modi continues to hold a big political rallies, massive gathering have mostly massive crowds of masked supporters which are being proven to be superspreader events. CNN's Clarissa Ward begins our coverage


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a raging pandemic tore across the country, thousands flocked to the streets for political rallies with hardly a mask in sight. At one gathering, India's prime Minister, Narendra Modi, praised the turnout.

"I've never seen such a huge crowd at a rally." On that same day more than 260,000 cases of COVID were recorded in India. Shortly after, millions of worshippers were allowed to congregate for the end of the weeks long Hindu Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. After all, Modi had already declared victory against COVID.

NARENDRA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA (through translator): In a country where 18 percent of the world population lives, we averted a major tragedy by effectively controlling the coronavirus. We saved mankind from a big disaster by saving our citizens from the pandemic.

WARD: As a second wave of coronavirus ravages this country, those words have come back to haunt Modi. Critics accuse him of putting his political interests ahead of the health of the nation.

YAMINI AIYAR, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CENTRE FOR POLICY RESEARCH: We didn't even ask the question of what we needed to do, based on learning from this last year in the event that we have a second wave, a second wave was never off the table. You just have to look around the world. You don't have to be scientist to say that.


AIYAR: We did nothing. Instead, we celebrated a bit to prematurely Indian exceptionalism.

WARD: Now India's healthcare system is on the brink of collapse. Shortages of everything from doctors and drugs to beds and oxygen after years of neglect.

It was always going to be difficult to contain the spread of COVID here in India. This is a densely populated country of nearly 1. 4 billion people. The Indian government is blaming the rapid spread on this new double mutant variant and it says that it warned states to remain vigilant.

Still, many doctors agree that the devastating toll of this second wave could have been mitigated, with better preparations and a coordinated response. Assured of victory against the virus, India began exporting in the vaccines it was producing instead of inoculating its own population.

How much responsibility does Prime Minister Modi bare for this?

AIYAR: He is the prime minister of the country. He takes full responsibility for all that we do good and all that goes wrong.

WARD: Do you think this will have an impact on his popularity?

AIYAR: I think as of now what we have seen especially over the last three weeks, is complete policy abdication and certainly, I hope, that we hold our government accountable for what we are seeing today.


WARD (on camera): The government has announced a raft of measures to try to combat this crisis including drafting medical students to help doctors getting the navy involved, getting the air force involved.

But some are saying simply that it's too little too late. And while it's not clear what the political fallout might be for Prime Minister Modi, people are saying here that this problem is not going away. One state health minister warning that there could be a third wave on the horizon -- Clarissa Ward, CNN, New Delhi.


VAUSE: Jeffrey Gettleman as a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist in the South Asia bureau chief for "The New York Times," he's based in New Delhi.

Thanks for being with us, there have been a lot of similarities, it's striking really between India right now and the U.S. almost a year ago, where politics and the pandemic sort of converged. When Trump was out of office in January, America's COVID crisis began to age.

In India that, it's a little different. Their next general election is 3 years away. So does that mean that any real change will rely on a change of government response?

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Mr. Modi is very strong, it is a lot of anger, frustration in this country that is building about how the government handled the second wave of the coronavirus.

And there was a declaration of victory way too early, as you played earlier in the show. Modi came out in January and said it's over, we beat this. That was a horrendous miscalculation. But he's still very popular in his country. There is no opposition

leader that can touch him. His party is by far the strongest party. There isn't a parliamentary election for another 3 years. So nobody expects this to bring down the Modi government. It is like denting his aura of invincibility, there is no doubt about that.

The government is not looking good right now, at all. But here is no clear alternative, to Mr. Modi or his party. Few of us expect any cataclysmic change, in the political environment right now.

VAUSE: What about the response?

What are the chances he'll impose a national lockdown, start wearing a face mask all the time in public, stop political gatherings?

GETTLEMAN: Well, what's interesting is that Modi was not anti- science, he was different from Trump. Trump sent out these very ambiguous signals from the beginning of the virus crisis. And whether you need to wear a mask or not, belittling the scientists Modi never did that.

There is a huge contrast between how he handled it last year and how this second wave has been handled this year. Last year he establish a very strict lockdown very quickly. He told people to wear masks, he told people to be aware of the coronavirus, got a lot of credit for being clear, early and aggressive about containing the spread of the virus.

So I don't think it's like he should be compared to Trump or these other leaders. They were very dismissive. He wasn't. But this year the second wave comes out of these political rallies which he participated in.

But more than that the government here had this narrative that things were over, that India was back in business. That it was time to get back to normal.


GETTLEMAN: They really wanted that, they seemed to believe in that. India's economy took an enormous hit last year, because of these lockdowns. That imperiled many of the government's ambitions, both inside and India and abroad.

The last thing they wanted to do is to paralyze the economy and they sort of boosted this narrative that things are OK. So the government was caught off guard, hospitals run out of supplies, so many things that were happening.

VAUSE: A situation of how things are not OK right, how officials have been suspended the India Premier League cricket, a statement from border control says it does not want a rise in the safety of the players, support staff and others.

Organizing the FPL, this decision must be taking keeping the safety, health and well-being of all the stakeholders in mind. It's a difficult time, especially in India and while we have tried to bring some positivity and cheer, however it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended never goes back to their loved ones in these trying times. To say it is a cricket loving nation is an understatement in the extreme. There's some legitimacy to say they're a bright spot amid the crisis, this being long overdue.

GETTLEMAN: This is what we've seen, here have been here since the beginning of the pandemic. This second wave, has been the severity of it. The political rallies Modi was, holding were continuing as the numbers went up from 15,000 to 200,000. He kept campaigning.

His rallies drew thousands of people that were packed together no social distancing, the criticism was happening at the same time. People sitting at that moment, this is a couple weeks ago stop holding rallies and they kept doing it.

The same thing with the cricket issue, people were saying, guys this is crazy. We can't be holding these events, players are getting sick let's call it off. The government was resistant, they really want to try and keep India from sliding backwards. The way it happened last year, last year India's economy took a bigger hit of any major economy. Something like a negative 25 percent decrease in economic activity.

That put out 100 million people from their jobs, 100 million people lost their jobs. It was devastating, India had so much promise on its economic growth, becoming the superpower, becoming the bigger role in the world stage.

It's all premised on a strong economy. Last year the lockdown really killed the economy, there it. That's why we're seeing, they don't want to put a national lockdown. People can't work from home here.

Rickshaw drivers, streets sweepers and vendors across India. So many people informally employed, if you put down a strict lockdown those people are out of work, out of money, increasingly desperate. So the government is very reluctant to that yet with the same time, they want to control the spread of this disease. So there in this corner, of what to do next.

VAUSE: Yes, there's not a lot of choices at this point, Jeffrey thank you.

India's unprecedented outbreak in the double mutation variant is now spreading to neighboring countries. Nepal, which a long border with India has seen a surge in numbers, so, too, Sri Lanka scene here in yellow. Nepal, in red there reported its highest daily death toll of the pandemic.

Its government says more than half the country's districts are either full or partially locked down, that includes the capital. Kristie Lu Stout tracking all of this situation in Nepal for us live, from Hong Kong this hour.

So clearly, the concern is that what is happening in India will soon be happening in a week or two in countries like Nepal, like Sri Lanka. They're just not ready for it.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And it's actually already happening, John. The surge of COVID-19 that's taking place in Nepal is stunning, a 1,200 percent rise in cases since mid April. On Tuesday it reported 55 deaths from the coronavirus, its highest daily death toll yet.

On average, Nepal is recording about close to 200 new coronavirus cases every day per 1 million people. That puts Nepal on par with India. India was reporting a similar rate of infection in the end of April.

Now Nepal is, to a certain degree, taking action. We know that it has announced partial or full lockdowns, at 46 districts last Thursday. They announced a 2-week lockdown in its capital, Kathmandu.


STOUT: International flights from India, as well as Brazil and South Africa, starting midnight tonight, all international flights, they will be banned, starting from Thursday midnight. But the long porous border between India and Nepal remains not fully sealed. Yes, it's been sealed to foreigners, but from India into Nepal, using over a dozen different checkpoints.

Earlier this week, we heard from the prime minister of Nepal. He made an urgent appeal, speaking English, for aid, take a listen.


K.P. SHARMA OLI, PRIME MINISTER OF NEPAL: Pandemics like this, there's no one and no one is safe. I would like to request our neighbors, friendly countries and international organizers to help us with vaccines, diagnostic equipment and oxygen therapy, critical care medicines and critical care furniture, to support our ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic.


STOUT: We just learned this morning that the military started building a makeshift hospital but as you heard from the leader of the country, making that urgent appeal for international help, it needs vaccines, medical supplies, oxygen to prevent a collapse of its already vulnerable health care system.

VAUSE: Kristie, thank you, following the latest developments in the region.

So far, civil disobedience in Myanmar has not worked. Protesters are heading to the jungle to train. We have a CNN exclusive in a moment.

Prosecutors are trying to figure out what caused the deadly collapse in Mexico City.




VAUSE: Myanmar's military leaders have banned television, the latest move to isolate the country from the rest of the world. The military tries to suppress anti coup protesters. But the demonstrations continue and the violence is escalating.

Myanmar media reported an ousted lawmaker and 3 police officers were killed by a package bomb on Tuesday. They are not just marching in the streets. Paula Hancocks is live from Seoul with an exclusive report. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the anti coup protesters are coming onto the streets, despite the fact that they know the dangers. They know they can get hurt. Some of those protesters are going one step further to make the situation slightly less one-sided.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Learning the skill of stealth in the jungles of Myanmar. The sound of (INAUDIBLE) masks the approach of the attackers, but these are not soldiers. Many of them are just students.

MAJ. GEN. NERDAH BO MYA, CHIEF OF STAFF, KNDO: They are quite young, mostly 24, 25. And some are nurses and most some doctors.

HANCOCKS: Young men and women who have left their cities, left their colleges and jobs to train to fight. Ethnic armed groups are teaching them how to defend themselves against a brutal, merciless military that's killed well-over 760 protesters according to one advocacy group, since they seized power three months ago.


BO MYA: How to handle weapons, different kind of weapons and how to be able to defend themselves and the people.

HANCOCKS: Have any of them even held a gun before?

BO MYA: No. Never.

HANCOCKS: More than 200 anti-coup protesters have graduated from this one training camp alone and are heading back to the cities to defend themselves against the military. This is happening on the border lines. The general leading the training says the protesters need weapons, but would not indicate whether he had provided any nor if bomb making was part of the course.

BO MYA: This is responsibility to protect lives. If we don't train them, who's going to help them?

HANCOCKS: The military has not responded to our requests for comment, but it has been carrying out air strikes in these areas since late March. Chanting for the people, the protesters spend three to four weeks in the jungles before returning home.

BO MYA: Well, they are very determined. They are very hardworking people and they want to achieve something. They will never give up, because they say there is nothing to lose anymore.

HANCOCKS: One 18-year-old who was manning a roadblock in the city of (inaudible) last month when dozens of protesters were killed, said many of his comrades had traveled to the ethnic areas for training. We are hiding his identity for his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have two groups, one to protect the neighborhood and the other one went to get training. When they come back, they will teach us what they have learned.

HANCOCKS: Doctors, nurses, students being trained into an unofficial defense force shows how just quickly the situation has deteriorated in Myanmar and how much more violent the days ahead could become.



HANCOCK: Clearly, it's still one-sided, 3 to 4 weeks of training is not going to allow these anti-coup protesters to fight in the streets against the military. They are outtrained and outgunned.

But the major general told me that this will hopefully teach them to be more wise out on the streets and to act with their heads and not hearts so they can continue to protest and defend themselves better -- John.

VAUSE: Paula Hancocks, thank you with the exclusive report.

Israel's longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is inching closer to a political demise after failing to form a coalition government. The president is expected to tap the leader of a centrist opposition party to build a coalition. We will know more in the coming days.

We are expecting an update any minute on new cases and deaths in India's COVID crisis. When we come back, what the government and good Samaritans are doing.

And Brazil's parliament opens an investigation into Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic. What's his health minister revealed in 5 hours of candid testimony.





VAUSE: Mexico's president has promised full transparency and a quick investigation into a deadly metro accident in the capital. Part of a train overpass collapsed onto traffic late Monday night, killing at least 24 people and injuring almost 80 others.

Engineers are inspecting the train line. Preliminary findings are expected Friday. Matt Rivers has details on how the tragedy unfolded.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It took only a matter of seconds for a horrific disaster to unfold as this rail overpass in Mexico City collapsed, plunging rail cars and passengers on board into a heap of concrete, dust and rubble, killing at least 24 and injuring dozens more.

First responders initially worked furiously to try and save anyone trapped in the rubble but rescue efforts were temporarily suspended due to concerns about the stability of the subway cars.

As the sun rose, they attempted to stabilize the scene and safely lower two of the cars that dangled precariously over what was left of the overpass.

The chaos and aftermath giving way to anger, as officials struggled to provide answers for how such a catastrophic structural failure could have happened. Reporters openly questioned the government about long- standing safety concerns and the president vowed a swift, thorough and transparent investigation.

"The people of Mexico will all know the truth. Nothing will be hidden but there is no impunity for anyone."

Construction of line 12 of the so-called Golden Line was a widely touted construction project from 2006 to 2012, during the Mexico City mayoral tournament. The project was later called corrupt with shoddy workmanship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The metro was badly done. The whole construction was already poorly done.

RIVERS (voice-over): In 2014, 2 years after concerns had concluded, 11 of the 20 stations had to be briefly suspended to fix what the then director of the metro system Joel Ortega (ph) called engineering failures.

Mexico's supreme audit institute found that the government "failed to comply with legal and administrative provisions to verify the work on the Golden Line had been carried out correctly."

But the federal district attorney ruled there were not enough elements to hold him personally responsible at the time. On Tuesday, the current metro director pushed back on any allegations of engineering weakness.

"At the end of 2019, a study of structural and geotechnical behavior of line 12 was conducted by a national company. The results didn't reveal any risks in the operation."

For his part on Tuesday, he offered his condolences to victims and vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

He said, "This is the most terrible accident we have ever had in the public transportation system. After determining what caused the accident with proof and evidence, we have to establish who is responsible and the authorities will have to act as a result, no matter who that is."

Engineering teams are on site, looking at any needed immediate fixes to the remaining elevated sections of line 12, as well as conducting tests into the source of the structural failure.

They are expected to release their preliminary findings of what caused the collapse on Friday. Families with loved ones lost are likely not going to find comfort but instead perhaps raise more questions about what could have been done to avoid this tragedy in the first place -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.



VAUSE: Breaking news from India, just reaching the latest COVID numbers. More than 400,000 infections, nearly 3,800 deaths, on Wednesday.

To combat this and the shortage of supplies, the government has now assigned oxygen trains to carry hundreds of tons of cryogenic oxygen to resupply hospitals nationwide.

In Bhopal, help from one man who sold his wife's jewelry, fitted a vehicle with oxygen tank and other much-needed medical supplies. India's financial capital started the country's first drive-in vaccinations but only 2 percent of the population so far have been inoculated.

Anna Coren is following developments from Hong Kong.

That's basically what they are doing in India but what about international aid?

There is question about when it will arrive and be distributed.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that 36 countries have pledged international support to -- to help India cope with this second wave. We've been seeing the images of the shipments coming in.

According to the government, there have been 25 fights arrive in the last five days, carrying 300 tons of emergency supplies. We're talking about oxygen concentrators, generators which can supply oxygen to 250 hospital beds each. Concentrators, ventilators, medical supplies, drugs, PPE, testing, you name it. It is being shipped in.

However, it is not necessarily getting to where it needs to go. Obviously, some of the aid is alleving (ph) the burden in those public hospitals which we know, obviously, that the priority for the government, we've been seeing those SOSes from those government hospitals and private hospitals, saying that they have been running out of oxygen.

And just on the weekend, another hospital in Delhi ran out of oxygen, and at least eight people there died. So these supplies are trickling in. We know that the Indian Red Cross receives it. It hands it over to a government agency through the ministry of health. And then it is being distributed

Interestingly, John, the government came out amongst all this criticism as to where is the aid? Why isn't it getting to where it needs to go and was quite offensive, saying there is no shortage of oxygen. We are getting it to where it needs to go. Almost saying that there's this unneeded hysteria.

The government, as we have been reporting, very defensive about what is unfolding in the country. Not just medical supplies but also the criticism that's gone after, you know, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, trying to silence its critics.

Interestingly, John, the high court in Allahabad, which is in Uttar Pradesh, the most popular state in India. Two hundred million people were scathing of the state's handling of the oxygen crisis.

And I want to read you an order that that high court made yesterday: "We are at pain in observing that death of COVID patients, just for non-supplying oxygen to the hospitals is a criminal act and not less than a genocide by those who have been entrusted the task to ensure continuous procurement and supply chain of the liquid medical oxygen."

The high court saying the government needs to rectify the problem immediately. We are yet to hear from the state government of Uttar Pradesh in relation to that. But it's really seen as a rap on the knuckles if you like, the strong language that is -- that is being used in the courts. But there are no repercussions, John, for the government.

The other question, where is Prime Minister Narendra Modi? The people of India have not seen him for over two weeks. His last public address to the people was on the 20th of April. He then gave his radio address on the 25th of April. But where's the prime minister? You know, his people are dying. They are trying to cope here in the height of this pandemic, and they want to hear from their prime minister.

VAUSE: Good point to finish on there. Anna, thank you. Anna Coren, live for us in Hong Kong.

Well, as this crisis in India continues, there are ways that you can help. Please go to, and there you can find out how.

The coronavirus is now responsible for one-third of all deaths total in Brazil so far this year, with the country now third in the world for the number of COVID-19 infections and second in the number of deaths.

And critics say most of the blame rests with the COVID denier in chief, President Jair Bolsonaro. Now lawmakers are investigating his government's failed response. Stefano Pozzebon has the blunt testimony from day one of the

parliamentary investigation.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: On Tuesday, Brazil's Congress formally launched an investigation into the handling of the pandemic by President Jair Bolsonaro, who's facing calls for impeachment. Tuesday's proceedings began with seven hours of testimony.

A former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who served under Bolsonaro until being fired in April. Mandetta testified that at the early days of the pandemic, Bolsonaro could not believe an estimate of up to 180,000 Brazilians could die, had the virus been left unconstrained.

Bolsonaro has long downplayed the risk of COVID-19 and prioritized the country's economic health over a lockdown or social restraining orders.

Now more than 111,000 Brazilians have died of the virus, and Brazil has reported the second highest death toll in the world. The current health minister, another top health official, also due to testify in the investigation, which could last several months.


An investigation is led by a specific parliamentary committee and is not a trial of Bolsonaro himself. But it could allow enough evidence for the Senate to proceed towards impeaching the president before next year's presidential elections.

Bolsonaro has so far dismissed the investigation, calling it an off- season carnival. But with Brazil reporting more than 77,000 new COVID cases on Tuesday alone, he's likely to face further and further scrutiny over his actions.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


VAUSE: Well, the already troubled, acrimonious relationship between Russia and Ukraine appeared to be heading for troubled waters. Coming up, with a Russian naval build-up off its coast, CNN goes aboard a Ukrainian patrol boat as it challenges a Russian warship.


VAUSE: Foreign ministers from the G-7, will hold their third and final day of meetings in the coming hours. Vaccination efforts, climate issues, are among the topics which will be discussed.

British foreign secretary declared diplomacy is back as they gathered Tuesday for the first in-person meeting in two years.

On the agenda, relations with both China and Russia. Foreign policy issues were discussed when the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, met with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson. What a surprise.

Blinken heads next to Kyiv, where he'll meet with his Ukrainian counterpart.

And Blinken's trip is meant to bolster support for Ukraine, which is what Kyiv needs right now. As CNN's Matthew Chance reports, Ukrainians are facing another Russian military challenge, this time on the Sea of Azov.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a first glimpse of Putin's latest armada, bristling with weapons in disputed waters between Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin says these are just naval exercises. The missiles are real. For the Ukraine, so is the threat. Ukrainian vessels on the strategic Sea of Azov have been warned to steer clear.

(on camera): Want to get on board? I'll do it. I'll do it.

(voice-over): But we gained rare access to a Ukrainian coastal patrol setting out in high seas to challenge what they say is Russia's illegal naval coordination (ph), something Moscow rejects.

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian navy says its boats have been harassed by Russia, with Moscow shifting its military focus.

(on camera): So we've come out here to the very rough Sea of Azov, as you can see. As Russian forces pull back their troops from the border of Ukraine, they're really deploying naval forces here into the Sea of Azov. Raising concerns in Ukraine and around the world that the military pressure they're applying on Ukraine from the land has now moved to the sea.


(voice-over): The commander of the plane patrol boat tells me how Russian forces are increasingly behaving aggressively. Blocking access he says, to what should be shared, even stopping what are routine coastal patrols.

On cue, the Russians make radio contact. "This is boat 4-4-4," says the message, reminding him to keep a safe distance. "Confirming you're receiving," the Russian voice demands.

"Received," the Crimean sailor responds. "We're proceeding according to plan."

(on camera): All right. So we've come to a stop now. You heard the captain there say there's a Russian ship on the horizon. You can just see it over there. It's a Russian coast guard ship. We're about two nautical miles away, which is just over two regular miles. And we can't go any closer, because if we do, there could be some

interception by the Russians to us. And I think the Ukrainian coast guard want to avoid that.

(voice-over): It wouldn't be the first naval clash in the region.

This is the extraordinary moment the Russian coast guard rammed a Ukrainian tugboat in the area back in 2018. Russian ships also fired on Ukrainian naval vessels, seizing three and escalating tensions in the seas off Crimea, annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

American ships have been challenged, too. This low pass by a Russian warplane witnessed from the deck of a U.S. destroyer earlier this year.

Now tensions on the seas are ratcheting up once more.

This heightened alert on dry land, too. At the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, we saw these marines on force protection drills. Naval officials say new Russian deployments at sea are forcing them to step up security and plan for a Russian attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last two weeks --

CHANCE (on camera): Yes. it became more dangerous.

CHANCE: More dangerous?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Because the Russian federation sent to the Black Sea several landing ships from the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.

CHANCE: So the Russians have sent landing ships --


CHANCE: Into the Sea of Azov. Into the Black Sea. They're saying that that's for exercises, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officially, it's exercises. But the ships are still here, this area, and in our region, that it can be dangerous for this area.

CHANCE (voice-over): Back on the coastal patrol boat, we changed course safely away from the Russian fleet.

(on camera): What happens if we don't turn?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not -- I don't have. It may be not good at all.

CHANCE (voice-over): Not good at all when Ukraine feel so threatened in this turbulent sea of trouble.

Matthew Chance, CNN, on the Sea of Azov.


VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us.

After the break. WORLD SPORT. You're watching CNN.