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U.S. Secretary of State on Tour to Shore Up Middle East Cease- Fire; South Africa Vaccine Rollout Called "Dismal Failure"; China Refutes Report on Hospitalization of Researchers; Black Fungus Spreading across India; CNN Finds Brutal Treatment of Activists in Belarus; Myanmar Detains U.S. Journalist. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Thanks for staying with us for another hour, hello, I'm John, Boston watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Coming up, America's most senior diplomat arriving in Israel to shore up a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

The E.U. warns sanctions are coming, after Belarus forces a flight to divert, land and arrest two passengers on board, one, an outspoken critic of the Belarusian president.

And that old familiar story, from successful response, to surging numbers. How South Africa went from hero, to zero. We have exclusive access to the country's vaccine distribution chain.

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VAUSE: U.S. secretary of state, now in the Middle East to support the cease-fire between Israel and the militant, group Hamas. Antony Blinken, scheduled to meet with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Also he will meet with Palestinian Authority leaders. He will work to get aid into Gaza but he made it clear, at this, point he will not push to restart the long term peace negotiations. CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem with details.

And just keeping the cease-fire alive will be a mission all unto itself restarting the peace talks.

I think we have Hadas, working with her IFP there, we will get to her at any moment now.

As we were saying, Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, has a full day ahead. He will be there on a 3 day tour.

(CROSSTALK) VAUSE: He will meet with the Israeli prime minister but he will not be speaking directly to Hamas. That is one of the problems. Of course in all of these negotiations shoring up the cease-fire. Let's get back to Jerusalem, Hadas there for us, we fixed our communications problem. Hadas Gold, live.

As I was saying, just trying to keep the cease-fire on track between Israel and the militants in Gaza, it's going to be a mission, in and of itself before anyone even thinks about restarting peace talks.

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Secretary of state, arriving in Jerusalem, an hour ago. He is meeting, first, with Israeli officials before meeting West Bank Palestinian officials, before he heads to Egypt and then to Jordan.

In briefings with reporters, U.S. officials, they emphasized, this was not some start to a 2 state solution or any sort of larger peace talks. Very much focused first, the rebuilding of Gaza and on maintaining the cease-fire.

One of the main issues, the forefront of their minds, of course, is to rebuild Gaza and the amount of aid and how it will be distributed within Gaza; specifically, how they will ensure the aid will not get into the hands of Hamas militants, who may use the aid, instead, for building tunnels and replenishing their rocket supply.

The Americans say they are in close consultation with the United Nations who, they say, will be leading the reconstruction efforts. They will also meet with the Palestinian Authority, who have limited influence in the Gaza Strip.

They say one of their main objectives is to ensure all the international aid will be going to the right places. There is concern among international donors about where the aid goes and to ensure it actually goes to the people who need it and the people who need to rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives.

Of course, they also will be focused on maintaining the cease-fire. When it was announced, it was an unconditional cease-fire. There are now questions about what conditions, if any, may be put into place, now or later, to maintain the cease-fire.

Will that be, potentially, a returning of Israelis or Israeli remains, that Israel believes, are still in Gaza?

Will there be any lifting of restrictions that Israel has placed among the Gaza borders?

These are some of the elements in place that may be part of the conversations. U.S. officials wouldn't detail whether they're speaking about with officials here but that may be a key point in trying to maintain the cease-fire.

It's also why Blinken is going to Egypt and Jordan, Egypt also, the key negotiator, the key mediator between Israel and Hamas, in terms of negotiating the cease-fire. I think it's notable that the U.S. officials have emphasized, over and

over, again this visit is about maintaining a cease-fire and rebuild and make sure things in this region stay calm. But it's not on this agenda, to ensure a larger peace talk or 2 state solution -- John.

[02:05:00]

VAUSE: Hadas, I'm glad we got you, I'm glad we fixed our problem with our communications, good to see you. Hadas Gold, live in Jerusalem.

E.U. officials, moving quickly to isolate Belarus, cutting off air links by banning Belarusian airlines from member countries, urging European carriers to avoid airspace over Belarus.

This comes after an unprecedented violation of international diplomacy and the diversion of a Ryanair flight and the arrest of a dissident journalist and critic of the Belarusian president.

On Monday, Roman Protasevich appeared on a pro government social media channel, admitting he was responsible for organizing mass protests, in opposition to last year's presidential election. His supporters say, he appears to be under duress.

He was arrested, on Sunday, when his Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was diverted to Minsk by Belarusian air traffic control. The forced landing was over a supposed security alert that never existed. One passenger, describing what happened next. For

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What happened is unprecedented. I even asked the flight crew. This is the first time they have seen something like that. The pilot didn't even know what was going on. He just received an instruction about a bomb threat.

We didn't know about that at first. We just had been told that the plane had to land, urgently, at the nearest airport, which was Minsk. We haven't been mistreated nor tortured, nor questioned in dark rooms. The person that got arrested is probably, is probably living very difficult times.

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VAUSE: The U.S. President, Joe Biden, said the actions of Belarus were a direct affront to international norms and the European Union, moving forward with more sanctions on individuals involved. CNN's Fred Pleitgen has the very latest about this.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Scenes from Minsk airport, after the Ryanair plane was forced to make an emergency landing in the Belarusian capital.

The airline, now saying, a bomb threat, called in by Belarusian authorities, appears to have been a ploy in order to arrest journalist and activist, Roman Protasevich, who was on the flight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He said nothing, he just turned to people and said he was facing the death penalty.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, a Belarusian pro-government social media, airing the first video of Roman in detention. While he says, on tape, that he is allegedly doing fine and confessing to organizing riots, it's quite possible he was forced to go on camera, under duress, members of the opposition say.

An adviser, telling CNN earlier, he fears that the journalist will be tortured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's probably in KGB, right now, in interrogation and it usually takes several days. You know, in Belarus, when they interrogate, they might use torture and other means.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The social media platform which Protasevich cofounded, uncovered widespread brutality on the part of the Belarusian police and help sparked the massive anti-government protests in the summers of last year, threatening to unseat longtime dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, after the opposition and many countries around the world accused him of rigging the presidential election.

European leaders saying they aren't buying Minsk explanation for making the jet land. the Ryanair flight originating in the Greek capital, Athens, supposed to fly straight to Vilnius in Lithuania.

But it changed course shortly before it would've left Belarusian airspace, making a sharp turn towards the Belarusian capital. Ryanair CEO, Michael O'Leary, was blunt.

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MICHAEL O'LEARY, RYANAIR CEO: This was a state hijacking or state sponsored piracy.

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PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Biden administration condemning the incident.

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JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are outraged, as the international community has expressed and we have expressed as well. We think that this was a brazen affront to international peace and security by the regime.

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PLEITGEN (voice-over): Lithuania's president, meanwhile, is calling for tough action by the E.U., against the Lukashenko regime.

GITANAS NAUSEDA, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We demand the release of Roman Protasevich. If that is not done, we shall talk about the very serious sanctions that the E.U. has its disposal.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): After several hours in Minsk, the plane, finally continuing its journey to Lithuania. Without Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, who was also taken into custody, leaving European leaders fuming and vowing to take action -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

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VAUSE: According to the World Health Organization, more people have been infected with COVID-19 in just under six months this year than all of last year. This year's death toll, expecting to pass last year's in 3 weeks.

The WHO chief, calling out what he calls, a scandalous inequity where 75 percent of all vaccines being administered in just 10 countries. South Africa, continuing to struggle to vaccinate its population. CNN's David McKenzie, live for us this hour, in Johannesburg, with more on that.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in Alexandra, in Johannesburg.

[02:10:00]

MCKENZIE: People, patiently, waiting for a vaccine. One woman, Grace, told me that she is dying for the vaccine, because she knows many people who are now starting to get sick in this part of the world, in this part of South Africa.

Now South Africa, entering a third wave. But many scientists do believe, they were too slow to get vaccines, to do those bilateral agreements, to keep the population safe here. They said the current wave won't be stopped by the vaccines that are being rolled out here since last week.

There is vaccine nationalism and it has caused a global inequity but in countries like South Africa, which have a sophisticated economy and a health system, many say they just didn't do the work to get the vaccines in.

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MCKENZIE (voice-over): It's been a year since Peggy Kgogong started to dread her phone ringing, afraid the calls would bring terrible news again.

PEGGY KGOGONG, VACCINE RECIPIENT: We are already afraid they will tell you that someone so is no longer there. It's so painful because we know each other.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Painful, because many other friends and neighbors didn't make it to this lifesaving moment. She is one of the very first South Africans in line for a COVID-19 shot in a much delayed vaccine rollout.

MCKENZIE: Are you worried about a third wave in South Africa?

KGOGONG: Yes, I'm very worried. That's why I came. I'm very worried.

SHABIR MADHI, WITS UNIVERSITY: If you were to choose to provide some sort of scoring as to how well South Africa performed when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, probably, you'd be looking at about two out of 10. It's been a dismal failure.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): For a country once praised for its initial COVID-19 response, its swift lockdowns and innovative treatment techniques, that is a bitter pill. Many scientists believe it is too late for vaccines to lessen a third wave.

MADHI: It caused people to die. That is the reality.

BARRY SCHOUB, VACCINE MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We are left behind by the vaccine rush of the 2020s when the high income countries rushed to get a supply of vaccine.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The South African president, blaming what he calls vaccine apartheid for the short fall. Rich countries were hoarding vaccines and undercut the global vaccine alliance, COVAX. As a result, many low and middle income countries started direct, early negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. But not South Africa.

MCKENZIE: Why the many months delay in this?

SCHOUB: I think if you look at many of those, if not most of those, middle income countries, they settled for vaccines which don't have international approval.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): But a CNN review of vaccine tracking data, compiled by Duke University, shows that more than 20 low and middle income countries placed orders for vaccines, now WHO approved, before South Africa.

When South Africa's first batch of AstraZeneca finally arrived in February, scientists discovered it wasn't effective against the COVID- 19 strain dominating here. So authorities quickly switched to Johnson & Johnson, vaccinating health workers first, as part of a large-scale trial and ordering Pfizer vaccines, now arriving in the hundreds of thousands of doses, each week.

MCKENZIE: Millions of people needing to be vaccinated.

Is it a daunting prospect, logistically?

ANTHONY DIACK, DSV HEALTHCARE: It is. While we have the capabilities, we have the infrastructure, we have the nature of what we're trying to do here in South Africa and does make it hard.

MCKENZIE: So 30 seconds is all they have, there is a kitchen timer because their fridge will drop in temperature and that minus 70 is critical.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The vaccines, so precious, every member of the team is vetted by the police; the temperature, constantly checked. More than 500 vaccine vials in this shipment given an armed escort. It's South Africa's best chance of ending its COVID-19 crisis.

MCKENZIE: It looks like you got dressed up today.

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KGOGONG: I'm excited because I want this pandemic to be under control. We don't know whether we're going or what were planning but as long as it can be under control or get finished, because we are really tired.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Tired, like all of us, waiting for the nightmare to end, waiting for the past failures to turn into hope.

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MCKENZIE: That hope isn't necessarily here yet. People believe they are very worried that their friends, their family, don't have access to this vaccine, they may get sick, they may get into the hospital and may even die. That shows the stakes here and shows the stakes around the world.

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MCKENZIE: But there is a sense that opportunity was lost to get vaccines early enough. Now not all of this was the fault of the South African government, of course because of the strain that was the variant that was discovered here and some vaccines didn't work.

And, ironically, it may in the long run better off because it is gone for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and both seem to be quite effective against the variant here. So people just want it in their arms. Many people here, waiting to get the official recognition or registration. And those aren't coming, they say.

They're kind of here to take their chances, to protect themselves and their families as this wave, you can feel the anxiety rising in this country, may crash again into South Africa -- John.

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VAUSE: David, thank you. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I guess. David McKenzie, live for us, in Johannesburg.

Still to come, an old accusation which keeps coming back. New details from U.S. intelligence shows a new debate that there was a possible cover-up on the origins of the coronavirus in China.

Also, crushed by COVID, a black fungus. India, facing another severe storm. The latest in just a moment.

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VAUSE: The COVID origin theory that will not go away. This time an adviser to the World Health Organization is the latest to suggest the virus could've been accidentally leaked from a lab and then covered up by the Chinese government.

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JAMIE METZL, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: What I think is most likely, is that they were collecting these very dangerous viruses and were poking, prodding and studying them with the very well intentioned desire to develop vaccines and treatments, because we know there are more and more of these kinds of outbreaks.

So they were trying to get ahead of the curve. Many scientists around the world supported them in that effort. Then, I believe, what most likely happened is there was an accidental leak, followed by a criminal cover-up.

So it could've been very well-intentioned activities, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that could have sparked this pandemic.

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VAUSE: Live in Beijing, CNN's Steven Jiang, standing by.

Steven, what is happening here is it seems that, the more the China denies, without any solid evidence, without opening up, without being transparent, the more the suspicion grows. It's getting to a point where there's accusations of biological warfare involved here on China's behalf.

So is there any plan, any way the China will, in the near future, open up and show the world?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: You're right, John. What you just heard Jamie Metzl say was, obviously, one theory, one possibility. There, are of course, scientists who disagree with him and only partially agree with him.

But a growing number of experts and scientists, are saying that, based on what they've seen so far, the evidence so far, it doesn't really allow them to rule out this option of a possible lab leak.

[02:20:00]

JIANG: That is, why they say, transparency is the key here. This Wuhan Institute of Virology was conducting research on coronaviruses collected from bats. And there has been questions about some of their genetic sequencing findings and also, questions about some inconsistent or confusing language in research papers, published by scientists, there before and after the pandemic.

These experts say what is needed is unfettered access to raw Chinese data in this lab, as well as others in the city, actually. They're also saying, not ruling out other options, including this option, this scenario, of this virus jumping from bats to humans, through an intermediary.

That, of course, considered highly likely by a World Health Organization team, who went to the lab in January. But that, team of course, their conclusion has not been convincing to many people. What they did there was simply talk to the staff there. They didn't seem to have any access to raw original data, which is important here to convince outside experts around the world.

That is the idea, increasingly, strongly resisted by the Chinese government. Beijing, basically saying, they've done everything they could to help the WHO in its origin story and now trying to investigate other countries, especially pointing a finger at the United States, without providing concrete evidence.

Obviously, this issue is very sensitive here. This country doesn't want to be seen as the source of a global pandemic but also, both internationally and domestically, this is countering this narrative that Beijing has been pushing out very hard, trying to turn China into a success story in containing the virus and helping other countries by providing vaccines; in the process, of course, touting their political system.

That is why, even though a growing number of experts call for further studies and investigations in China, this is just highly unlikely at this juncture. That, of course, in itself, would only fuel more debate on this issue -- John.

VAUSE: It is easier said than done for China to open the books but it won't happen. Steven, thank, you in Beijing, appreciate it.

For more on the story, visit our website, cnn.com. All of the details, right there.

The U.S. State Department, advising Americans to avoid travel to Japan, because of a growing number of confirmed COVID infections. Despite the warning, the Japanese government, convinced that the U.S. athletes will continue to compete in the Tokyo games, 2 weeks away.

Olympic organizers, once again, say canceling the games is not an option.

Right now, India facing a triple threat, for the second time in 2 weeks a powerful storm will slam into the coast. The probable cyclone, going straight into the Bay of Bengal and will make landfall in the coming day.

All this as India struggles with what is still the world's worst COVID outbreak, despite a drop in the dramatic numbers in recent weeks. Add to that, this emerging threat of black fungus, which has been detected in nearly two thirds of Indian states and territories. CNN's Vedika Sud, live, in New Delhi.

Where do you want to start with this?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's just unfortunate that I have to keep reporting on the grim situation here in India. But let me start on a happier note.

These are official figures from today, where, for the first time in a month and over, India has reported less than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Fatalities are down as well; it is below the 4,000 mark and it was about 4,450; today, it's at about 3,500. So about 900 cases less than yesterday, which is a relief.

Yet again, let me underline by saying, these are official figures, from the Indian government.

Let's just talk about the COVID variant that was first found in India. Now we do know from the health ministry, this is the most dominant mutant variant found in India. Not only India, if you remember, this is also a variant that is being found in the United Kingdom and is, of course, a cause for concern there.

Talk about black fungus now and it remains a new challenge, like the Indian prime minister has said last week. This could be life- threatening. Yes, it is a rare infection but already, more than 9,000 infections across many states and territories in India, where this has been reported.

Let's listen to what medical experts have to say about the fatality and how life-threatening that this could be.

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DR. HEMANT THACKER, CARDIOMETABOLIC SPECIALIST: Remember, we are in summertime. It's hot, it's humid. Everybody knows, fungus festers in these kinds of climates. So this is a pretty serious infection which, if not controlled, not treated, could have a mortality of anything from 20 percent to 50 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[02:25:00]

SUD: So you have the COVID-19 numbers, which are still relatively high; you have the Indian variant, which is one of the strongest variants seen not only in India but in other countries as well. You also have the black fungus that India deals with and just about 2 weeks ago, you had a severe cyclone and storm, hitting the western coast, getting at least 100 people dead.

And, tomorrow morning, there will be one that is hitting the eastern coast of India -- John.

VAUSE: Vedika, thank you, Vedika Sud with the triple threat, now facing the people of India.

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VAUSE: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, we're tracking international fallout after a brazen move by Belarus and the arrest of a dissident journalist.

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VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause.

European Union leaders set to meet this hour in Brussels, with climate change and COVID-19 on the agenda. But many across the bloc now focusing on what's called outrageous behavior by Belarus. This, after the diversion and forced landing of a commercial plane and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board, Roman Protasevich.

The E.U. agreeing to push forward with additional sanctions. There's already plans to close its airspace to planes from Belarus, urging E.U. airlines to avoid Belarus airspace. Protasevich, a key opposition figure, whose activism fueled anti-government protests in Belarus.

In March, as part of a three-month CNN investigation, Nick Paton Walsh obtained exclusive footage and testimony, revealing authorities' brutal treatment of activists and protesters, including rape, beatings and the denial of medical treatment.

The supporters for Roman Protasevich say that the same abuse awaits him. The government declined to comment for this report, which contains some graphic content.

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NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Somewhere through the icy sludge here is the path to freedom. Across the border, an out of what's being called Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus.

Some walk if they can. One man -- we'll call him Sergei -- had no choice but to swim it nearly three miles. Here he stands on sheet ice, free but in anguish of having to flee of just crossing out of Belarus into the safety of Ukraine. He films himself in flippers and a wetsuit to leave evidence of what he tried in case he doesn't make it.

I'll try to crawl there, he says and hope I won't freeze. I'm navigating by the stars. The feeling is indescribable. I've been going 90 minutes and have a mile left.

Being detained before for protesting and on the wanted list, he had to flee imminent arrest. I can't turn back now.

WALSH (on camera): But as a testament to how bad things have gotten in Belarus that people feel compelled to make this dark, perilous journey -- a run to freedom the likes of which Europe hasn't really seen since the Soviet Union.

WALSH (voice-over): Belarus, caught between Russia and the European Union, has been ruled for decades by autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko. He declared victory in August elections the U.S. said were fraudulent. Huge protests followed and he moved swiftly to crush them.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin are two peas in a pod when it comes to shutting down dissent, so Putin swiftly helped his skiing partner with $1.5 billion -- another unspecified aid.

Months of systematic repression and torture followed, documented by human rights groups. CNN has detained from defected police officers videos exposing abuse leaked from the police's own archives.

Here, the white SUV is full of activists fleeing a protest crackdown. Riot police pounce, one fires a gun. The ferocity is starting. Some kicked where they lie, another has had his face rubbed into the ground. Most lie incredibly still.

They are then detained. In custody, CNN was told mistreatment ranges from extreme cold and cramped cells to being beaten severely and sexual assault.

Andrey endured on another day perhaps the worst abuse in the back of a police van. He refused to unlock his phone so they cut open his pants and raped him with a baton.

ANDREY, VICTIM OF BELARUSIAN POLICE VIOLENCE (through translator): It was hard to move at all because I'd been heavily beaten. He cut my underwear using this knife. He asked me to give the password again, I refused and then he did what he did.

It's not just anger.

[02:35:00]

ANDREY (through translator): Police are trained to do this. We are just seeing it now on a huge scale for the first time. It's touched nearly every family in Belarus.

WALSH (voice-over): Custody is often brutal. Detainees from an October protest were filmed by police and forced to face the wall inside a central police station. Some bleeding, one with seven teeth smashed in, some ravaged by tear gas. Many here told us they were later beaten in custody and some have fled Belarus.

But you can also see a teenage boy motionless on the floor. Witnesses told CNN he had likely had an epileptic fit but the police ignored him, occasionally kicking him and saying are you a boy or a girl. A minor, he was released later.

In these rooms, police are still tracking down protesters. One, we'll call Anya -- you can see her here running from riot police. A stun grenade hit her leg badly. In the hospital, doctors gave her little help, she said but tested her blood for alcohol and rang the police to say she was a likely protester. She fled home.

ANYA, VICTIM OF BELARUSIAN POLICE VIOLENCE (through translator): I got a phone call from the police asking where I had been. I began making up stories. They said they would come and get me -- a unit of them. And if they take me, I thought, then I can say goodbye to my limbs because no one will look after me.

WALSH (voice-over): Police veracity in Belarus -- a riot squad descending on a car here -- has slowly and quietly swamped a generation desperate for a new life and calling for new nationwide protests on March the 25th.

The U.S. has imposed commonplace sanctions on the Kremlin, its usual writ of fear. It's an early test for President Biden which method will win out -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: That report filed in March. Since then, the planned protests have drawn far fewer people than expected.

Mali's interim president and prime minister are in military custody. Their arrests reported by several international groups and a committee monitoring Mali's return to civilian oversight, put in place after a military coup last year.

Both leaders sworn in last September, after the military agreed to hand over power to a civilian transitional government. The number of countries, including United States, the U.K., the European Union, all calling the arrest a power grab, demanding both leads be released immediately.

Myanmar obtained an American journalist, as he was trying to leave the country and now, it is believed he's been transferred to a notorious political prison. We hear from the family of Danny Fenster next.

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VAUSE: The family of an American journalist detained in Myanmar says it's been a nightmare. Danny Fenster's brother saying that he was supposed to fly home to surprise his parents, whom he had not seen in 2 years. But stopped at the airport in Yangon, where he works and lives.

Now his employer, the news organization, Frontier Myanmar, says that Fenster is being held in a notorious political prison.

[02:40:00]

VAUSE: And there has been no explanation. The U.S. State Department says they are aware of Danny's case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Danny's brother, Bryan Fenster, with us now from Detroit, Michigan. Bryan, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I imagine it

isn't easy right now. Especially with your parents.

How is everyone holding up?

How are they coping?

BRYAN FENSTER, DANNY'S BROTHER: We are hanging in there. A lot of dark humor is getting us through today. As expected, it is hard for parents, for my parents. But we are getting through, very encouraged with all of the support at home here and across the globe. It's been pretty unbelievable to see all the support coming in.

VAUSE: Danny is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an independent news outlet. The chief editor believes that Danny may have been transferred to, what they, call Insein prison. Three years ago, 2018, Frontier, his outlet reported this.

Insein has quite an infamous reputation, mainly because of the effect on inmates of a lack of hygiene and the regular use of torture, especially when the country was under military rule.

Well, Myanmar is back under military rule, so clearly, if this is the case, it is a concern.

What have you confirmed about his location?

FENSTER: Nothing much, unfortunately. Pretty much, we have the statement from Frontier Myanmar, which we've worked off of and that's what we're using. We are working with elected officials here in Michigan, Senator Gary Peters and his team and some other delegates from the area.

So unfortunately we don't have much information, we're trying not to speculate on what could be but just hopeful with the support we'll get him out as soon as possible.

VAUSE: Was he a hands-on editor or was he mostly back in the office in an oversight role?

The reason why I ask, I just want to look and see if there's a particular story, his byline, which may have angered the military leaders there or maybe it was just the collective output from Frontier, which they didn't like.

Do you have any idea?

FENSTER: Not really. As far as I know, him and, I we talk a few days a week, so, he was at the desk, editing. He wasn't boots on the ground at any of the protests. But I can only assume, being a journalist in a country run by the military who wants to control a narrative, he was flagged, when he was at the airport.

So can't begin to imagine why it happened.

VAUSE: You said you spoke a couple times a week and, at any point, as the situation in Myanmar progressed or got more violent or dangerous, has he expressed concern to you about his safety?

FENSTER: Not about his own safety but he's very good about giving us a heads-up. Hey, this will be in the headlines, everything will be OK, I'll touch base as soon as I can. So it was alarming to get messages from his spouse this morning and coworkers with all of this craziness.

VAUSE: He was heading out of Myanmar to meet up with your mom and dad, it was a surprise, right?

FENSTER: Yes, he was going to quarantine for a few days in Chicago with a friend and then make his way home here to surprise mom and dad and his niece and nephew.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm John Vause, "WORLD SPORT" starts after a short break.