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U.S. and Allies Target Belarus Regime with Sanctions; Constant Contact Hack; Calls to Cancel Olympics Grow. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired May 29, 2021 - 00:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow, thank you for joining me.

Our top story this hour, the deepening international outrage over last weekend's forced diversion of a Ryanair commercial flight over Belarus. The U.S. says it's working with allies on sanctions, specifically targeting the Lukashenko regime.

Belarus, on Friday, responded to Lithuania's expulsion of 2 Belarusian diplomats by ordering to Lithuania diplomats to leave Belarus. But president Alexander Lukashenko remaining defiant as he met Friday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. CNN's Fred Pleitgen picking up the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As international condemnation mounts against the regime in Minsk and specifically, against Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, Lukashenko paid a visit to Vladimir Putin in Sochi and obviously, the incident with the Ryanair plane and the Belarusian authorities forcing that plane land was certainly one of the things that was on the agenda.

It was quite interesting because, before that meeting even started, Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin could be seen together. Lukashenko had a briefcase next to the chair he was sitting in and said he had brought documents that he said would clarify the situation.

Now it wasn't clear whether he was specifically speaking about that incident, but it certainly did come up. Vladimir Putin, for his part, showing that he continues to support Alexander Lukashenko. That's important and seems to be very strong indeed.

Several Russian politicians have come out and said they believe the explanations Minsk has been offering up for forcing that jet to land are, as they put it, plausible. That as the international community continues punching holes in the narrative.

In fact, CNN obtained an email that was allegedly sent to the Belarusian authorities where they claim the reason why they told jet to land was because there was a bomb threat on board.

It turns out that email was apparently sent 30 minutes or less after the plane had already been told to divert and, in fact, European countries are continuing to say they believe that those explanations do not hold up and are vowing to take tougher action against Minsk -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CURNOW: Americans are being urged to not travel Belarus and U.S. carriers are warned to use extreme caution in flying over the country. Numerous international airlines are now avoiding Belarus altogether.

The E.U. called for a ban on flights by Belarusian air carriers. That left many people in Belarus feeling isolated. Lithuania's president telling CNN, he understands the frustration but said punitive action was necessary.


GITANAS NAUSEDA, LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT: All of these secondary efforts of each decision and I understand very well the concern of those people. But they had to do something in order to make our deals, our declarations just real (ph). And the banning of the Belarusian airlines from the European airspace, it is a very painful decision.


CURNOW: The president also said, any international sanctions should only be targeting the Belarusian regime and not the Belarusian people.

Washington says the cyberattack reported Thursday was much bigger than previously thought. More than 350 U.S. organizations were hit, including many of the U.S. government. Microsoft says that a Russian group linked to the Kremlin could be behind it all. Matthew Chance is in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is the timing of this alleged cyberattack that, I think, is the most striking. Just a few weeks before the U.S. and Russian presidents are set to meet in Switzerland for a face-to-face summit that is already fraught with a long list of disagreements and grievances.

Russia's (INAUDIBLE) the latest crisis involving Minsk (INAUDIBLE) airline apparently to arrest two passengers on board. The treatment of Alexei Navalny, Russia's jailed opposition leader, the Russian military threat to Ukraine. And add these fresh hacking allegations, to add to the historical ones that are already there.


CHANCE: To make matters worse, since President Biden imposed tough sanctions on Russia for precisely this kind of cyberattack, the SolarWinds hack, targeting U.S. government agencies and blamed by Washington on the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service.

Microsoft which is taking the latest hacking of U.S. aid agencies, think tanks and humanitarian groups, mainly in the U.S., said the same group of Russian hackers are responsible this time around. For its part, the Kremlin has denied any knowledge of the espionage, saying it has questions about why Russia is again being blamed -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


CURNOW: U.S. Defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, sat down with CNN's Barbara Starr, for an exclusive interview. He says that a number of offensive actions in the cyber domain, to use against nations that are hostile to the U.S. Take a listen.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Are you satisfied that you have a menu of effective, offensive cyber operations, even if you can't talk about them?

GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I have another number of offensive options and, yes, and we will always maintain credible, effective options. Again, I present those options to my boss. And when he chooses to take advantage of them, we can employ them.


CURNOW: You can watch that full interview Monday, airing on "NEW DAY," beginning at 6 am Washington. That's 11 am in London, right here, on CNN.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the African city of Goma, fearing a possible second volcanic eruption in a week. These people are seeking the safety of shelters, but many have moved out to other cities and even across the border to Rwanda.

UNICEF warns thousands more, including many children, could become homeless if the volcano erupts again. Here is Larry Madowo.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As it gets to a week since the volcano erupted, local authorities are reporting more danger, not less.

We're seeing more smoke billowing out of there. That is consistent with what the local military governor has said. And greater images show that the crater is expanding. So there is a possibility of a new eruption.

Another one, the magma under the city of Goma, will be able to explode at any time, with little to no warning. So that is some of the reasons why they ordered 10 neighborhoods to evacuate, and they say 400,000 people have left.

They're in temporary shelters and in churches, hospitals and mosques. There doesn't seem to be much of a plan for them.

Here is the aftermath of the anger of Mother Nature. This is allowing itself through a wooded area, this will be a settlement that doesn't exist anymore. That, over there, used to be a highway. It's not had any traffic at all and they're trying to rebuild it right now, because, when you see here, it feels like charcoal but it's much more complicated. It breaks like that as well.

But this is what happens when you're in the path of an active volcano, one of the most dangerous in the world. And people here are unclear when they will be allowed to go home; 280,000 children could be displaced.

And if there is a second eruption, another 300,000 people could be displaced, according to UNICEF. So a real crisis here on the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, one week after the first eruption, displacing so many people and still has left 40 people missing -- Larry Madowo, CNN, Mount Nyiragongo.



CURNOW: Let's get you up to date with the latest coronavirus headlines. The U.S. gears up to mark America's unofficial start of the summer. The CDC has relaxed its COVID guidelines for camps. Now says children and staffers, who are fully vaccinated, do not need to wear masks or socially distance at summer camps.

While the U.S. is further easing its restrictions, Malaysia is tightening theirs. The country will enter a two-week total lockdown in June, as new daily infections top 8,000.

And Japan, extending its COVID state of emergency as it battles a fourth wave of the virus. The restrictions, spanning nine prefectures, including Tokyo. It is set to last through June 20th, which is about one month before the Olympic Games are set to begin.

And, as you see here, we're just 55 days away from the opening ceremony but as the clock ticks down, opposition to the games is growing louder and louder. Selina Wang is in Tokyo and tells us why.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Over the next two months, some 90,000 Olympic participants from more than 200 countries will be flying into Tokyo. Suddenly, opening the floodgates for country that's had its borders closed for most of the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases are surging in Japan. Tokyo and large part of the country are under a state of emergency.


KENJI SHIBUYA, PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: The Olympics will add another burden of the health system which is already overstretched. As opposed to the symbol of unity and the peace and hope at the Olympics, it become the nightmare with a super-spreading event in Tokyo.

WANG (voice-over): Just around 2 percent of Japan's 126 million people have been fully vaccinated. The roll out slowed down by bureaucracy and a lack of medical staff to administer them.

At the current rate, the rest of the adult population won't even be eligible for the vaccine by the time the Olympics begin.

WANG (on camera): Organizers claim the games will be held in a safe bubble. At this Olympic Village, athletes will be tested daily and monitor with the contact tracing app.

Vaccines are not required, but officials say more than 80 percent of the Olympic Village will be. They're asked to practice social distancing, wear masks, except for when training and competing and only use public transport when necessary.

Now, experts say though that it's impossible to keep the massive games completely safe. Plus, they say there are plenty of ways for this bubble to be punctured as the Olympic participants come into contact with tens of thousands of unvaccinated volunteers who lived outside the bubble.

Olympic venues are all over Tokyo with a marathon and some soccer matches held 500 miles north in Sapporo.

So, whose responsibility is it to keep all these Olympic participants safe?

The Olympic playbook puts the ultimate responsibility on the athletes, rather than organizers or the Japanese government.

Japan is spending more than $15 billion on these games, the most expensive Summer Olympics on record, including $900 million in COVID countermeasures.

But poll after poll shows that the majority in Japan do not want these games held.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I definitely don't think Japan should go ahead with the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Everyone thinks we shouldn't hold the Olympics, but the government isn't in a position to say that.

WANG: Ultimately, it's largely not up to Japan. Olympic contracts are written to favor the IOC. So, public opposition and medical system headed for collapse cost overruns are all burdens Tokyo will have to bear.

The IOC has the legal power to cancel the Olympics, but they plan to plow ahead -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


CURNOW: Portugal is coping with an English invasion of football fans. Thousands of Chelsea and Manchester City fans are there for the Champions League final. As you can see here, English fans packed bars on Friday night, after Portugal's government eased COVID restrictions; 16,500 fans allowed into the stadium for Saturday's match.

European football officials, moving the final from Istanbul because of COVID restrictions in Turkey.

I'm Robyn Curnow, I will see you a bit later here on CNN, in the meantime, I hand you over to "MARKETPLACE AFRICA."