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Assad Extends Grip on War-torn Syria; Argentina Set to End 9- Day Lockdown; Second Mount Nyiragongo Eruption Looms in DRC; Remains of 215 Children Found Near Canadian Residential School; More than 80 Candidates Killed in Run-up to Mexican Midterms; Olympic Critics Concerned over Coronavirus Safety; Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds Marry; Hong Kongers Flee over Security Law; Chelsea Fans Celebrate Victory; Lawsuits Plague Sale of World's Most Expensive Painting. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 30, 2021 - 00:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here and CNN NEWSROOM, worries of a possibility of a new COVID 19 variant in Asia, as most of the U.S. and Europe get back to normal.

Smoke and ash from the Democratic Republic of Congo has already caused $1 billion of damage and uprooted hundreds of thousands of people.

And in Syria, Bashar al-Assad extending his grip on power as the country reels from the ravages of war.


HOLMES: It is now being 18 months since the coronavirus began a deadly journey no one quite imagined back in December, 2019 when the first case was reported in Wuhan that it would quickly become a global pandemic. 170 million people have been infected, 3.5 million have died.

And it's not over yet, not by a long shot. Countries in red are still struggling against a relentless stubborn foe. Variants popping up all the time including a suspected new one in Vietnam that has infected four people. Officials with the World Health Organization are investigating that one.

But after a solid year of lockdowns, face masks and social distancing, that seems the way. Out people in Paris finally able to enjoy a large crowded concert. Dining out in London again possible. Cases in the U.K. have been ticking up recently.

But the NHS says more than half of people in their 30s have received at least their first shot. Good news there.

And in the United States, half of the adult population has at least one COVID shot and restrictions are melting away with the warmer weather. Travelers itching to go somewhere this Memorial Day holiday weekend. American airports reporting nearly 2 million passengers on Friday, the most in a single day since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, protesters in Brazil are unhappy with the handling of the COVID pandemic in their country.


HOLMES (voice-over): Tens of thousands marching across Brazil on Saturday, demanding better access to those vaccines. And they want the president to be impeached.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's the duty to fight for democracy. This government is of no used to. Us it doesn't serve the people and his political project is chaos. We've taken to the streets because we have no alternative.


HOLMES: Now the country is facing a possible 3rd wave of COVID. More than 16 million people infected in Brazil. Less than 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Now Brazil's neighbor, Argentina, also dealing with a soaring number of COVID cases. On Saturday, it surpassed 77,000 deaths from the virus. This coming as the country is set to end its 9-day lockdown. CNN's Rafael Romo with more.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): It's a lockdown that doesn't feel like one.

"I see a lot of people," this man says, "too many for me."

It was the first working day since Argentina went on lockdown to stop a devastating second wave of COVID-19. At checkpoints on roads going into the city, frustrated drivers describe the long lines as chaos and a disaster.

"The truth is that I wasn't expecting so many cars on the roads," this driver said.

President Alberto Fernandez announced a lockdown on May 20th, saying Argentina is living the worst moments since the beginning of the pandemic. The president said people would only be allowed outside their homes for 12 hours a day, starting at 6 in the morning, except for essential workers.

Schools and nonessential businesses were to remain closed until may 30th. Argentina, along with Brazil and Colombia, are the 3 South American countries that remain in the top 10, with the highest numbers of daily confirmed new cases in the world.

ROMO: The strict lockdown aimed at reversing the worrying trend and the explosion of cases Argentina has had in the last few weeks.


ROMO: In the long term, this South American country is hoping to become a major source of COVID-19 vaccines.

ROMO (voice-over): Argentina is partnering with Oxford University and AstraZeneca to produce massive amounts of the COVID-19 vaccine, developed by both institutions. In a lab in Buenos Aires province, the process has already begun.

But a lab representative says it will be the end of the year before they expect to begin clinical trials, with the goal of launching production by early 2022.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 remains a deadly challenge for Argentina. An additional 551 people died of the virus Thursday, the same day the country broke its own daily record, with more than 41,000 new confirmed cases.

And the government has yet to find out if the current lockdown imposed out of desperation is going to reverse the trend -- Rafael Romo, CNN.


HOLMES: New cases in the U.S. have dropped off significantly in recent months; 10 states now reporting 70 percent of their adult population are vaccinated. CNN's Paul Vercammen explains what reopening means for places like Santa Monica, California.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So I'm standing on the pier in Santa Monica, which was completely shut down at one point during the lockdown. This is a small tourism city, that relies so heavily on tourism.

The tax base was obliterated during the lockdown. But now the mayor here says they are coming back. They got through this all with the help of federal aid.

Now people are on the beach. She says this is actually important for the entire psyche and mental health of southern California, the tourists that visit. And people were genuinely thrilled to be walking again on the Santa Monica pier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's important not to forget what has happened but the fact that we are able to gather again and celebrate, not be in fear anymore. Hopefully most people, aren't still to enjoy this beautiful water and the pier that is here, that's what it's for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, I feel that it's a relief because everybody's been so tied up at home and being able to see people again like this is just -- I feel like it's kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel. Like we're finally like getting there like this has been such attack (ph) on like everybody like worldwide. And it just like I feel like we're finally like getting to the tail end of this thing. I was like it was never going to happen.

VERCAMMEN (voice-over): These are the largest crowds we have seen in Santa Monica for quite some time. It seems like there should be more people in the water. Well, think about this. The temperature right now is only 61 degrees.

And right over here you see a rollercoaster, ready to get going on the Santa Monica pier. All of these rides pump more financial lifeblood into this tourism city. And don't forget in little more than 2 weeks, California will get rid of almost all of the COVID-19 restrictions -- reporting from Santa Monica, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you.


HOLMES: Thanks to Paul Vercammen.

The threat of another volcanic eruption looming over the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Continuous smoke has been billowing from the volcano and officials say the crater inside the summit remains active.

If it happens, it would be the second eruption in a week. That is why thousands have fled their homes, with many pouring into shelters. What's left behind in Goma, damaged roads, no water, hundreds of homes washed away in a river of lava.

Officials say the cost of repairing the damage to the infrastructure will be huge and another eruption could be catastrophic. CNN's Larry Madowo is there.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crews stride over hardened ground at the foot of the Mount Nyiragongo. Workers from Burundi National Park race to repair electrical lines destroyed by the volcano and the aftershocks that followed.

Seismologists reporting 61 earthquakes in a 24-hour period. Officials and experts say getting the power back here is critical to the nearby city of Goma's survival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is a huge problem, not only because it deprives the population of electricity but also because it's the main source of energy for the water pumping stations in the city. If we can't get clean water to too many people, the problems of waterborne diseases surface.

MADOWO (voice-over): The United Nations says it will cost more than $1 billion to fix the damage so far caused by the volcanic eruption. Around 400,000 people have been evacuated. Many homes, shops and the power grid and water supplies that sustain them were left to the lava and that could take time to rebuild.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about infrastructure, mainly roads, which are being covered by lava.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately, it did not advance to the airport. The needs are huge but I think, if the situation stays as it is, maybe something can be done rapidly.

MADOWO (voice-over): Some have fled Goma into neighboring Rwanda and have tried to return, some thinking the danger is over, even though the DRC government says it is still not safe to return.

MADOWO: This apocalyptic scene is what the eruption of the volcano of Mount Nyiragongo left behind. The lava that went through this wooded area is now cooled igneous rock. But it's still smoking and it smells like charcoal.

MADOWO (voice-over): One man who stayed behind in Goma said he decided not to leave because he thought being on the road would be just as dangerous as staying home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Even if others left, (INAUDIBLE) would kill people. That's why I said no. If the volcano erupts and the gas comes, I will stay.

MADOWO (voice-over): The International Committee of the Red Cross says food shortages are likely. With the cultivated lands near Goma scorched, main supply roads cut off and thousands of people searching for shelter and potable water.

Aid agencies also say hundreds of children have been separated from their families in the rush to leave Goma. It's a humanitarian nightmare that scientists say could get even worse if another volcanic or ground eruption happens, especially if that activity spews more debris and toxic gases -- Larry Madowo, CNN, Goma.



HOLMES: A gruesome discovery in Canada decades in the making. The chief of an indigenous community in the southern part of British Colombia says the remains of 215 children have been found. They were students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School that started operations in the 1800s.

Some children buried near the school were as young as 3. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau says the news is heartbreaking and a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of Canada's history.

Back in 2015, a report detailed the devastating history of the country's dismantled residential school system, which was designed to assimilate the children.


HOLMES: Many indigenous children sent to those kinds of schools, though, never came back home and their parents never found out what happened to them.

The aftermath of Syria's presidential vote could set a dangerous precedent. One activist fears the message it could send to dictators.

Also a seismic shift in Israeli politics could be imminent. The latest on a possible coalition deal and what it would mean for president Benjamin Netanyahu.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We will be right back.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

HOLMES (voice-over): Chaotic scenes, playing out Friday, during anti government protests in Cali, Colombia. More than 1,000 soldiers, being deployed to the southern city to assist the police. The city's mayor says 13 people were killed on Friday, although it is unclear if all of those deaths are related to the unrest.

Protests began over one month ago, over a tax -- now scrapped tax reform bill. They have since expanded to other demands. Colombia's defense ministry says 47 people are being killed in the unrest.


HOLMES: Now Israeli media, reporting Benjamin Netanyahu's time as prime minister could, soon, be coming to an end. We have heard that before, haven't we?

This all hinges on a possible coalition deal to form a new government. Right wing party leader Naftali Bennett, expected to announce whether or not he has agreed to join with the centrist Yair Lapid.

Such a coalition would end Mr. Netanyahu's 12 year premiership. Israel's main TV channel says that the announcement could come as soon as the next few hours.

There may be a major political shuffle in Israel but nothing is changing in Syria. Bashar al-Assad declared the winner of Wednesday's election, with more than 95 percent of the vote, if you can believe it. Many do not.

The event was marked with fireworks in Damascus and Assad allies, like Iran and Russia, have all sent their congratulations. But the vote, seen as a sham by the U.S. and much of Europe.

With his country gutted by civil war, Mr. Assad made a show of voting in Duma. His forces were accused of attacking that city with chemical weapons in 2018. Now Syria's civil war began with protesters demanding the downfall of the regime but fast forward a decade and the Assad family is, instead, tightening its grip on power as the country collapses. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reporting on the millions of Syrians still struggling.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a decade of a war like no other the world has seen in generations, most of this broken country, with help from allies, Russia and Iran, is back under Assad's control.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): But Syria today is a shadow of the country he inherited from his father more than 20 years ago. Syrians are facing a hunger crisis. The majority, living in poverty; more than half can't afford a basic meal, according to the U.N. But through it, all Assad continues to cling on.

JOMANA QADDOUR, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: The Assad regime , they just want to continue to confirm that they won't budge an inch. Despite everything the country has been through in 10 years, despite the fact that they struggle to keep the country alive, economically. They are still adamant about not changing a single thing.

From al-Assad's crisis, it's an existential crisis, he will fight this to the death and you said this many years ago. His supporters also said this. They said Assad will burn down the country.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): And, the country burned; 12 million displaced, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, more than 120,000 vanishing into the black hole of the regime's prison system. His daughter, counting the days since she last saw her father, more than 2,800. That is nearly 8 years.

She has been fighting for his freedom and for that of others forcibly disappeared by the machine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think of my dad, obviously, and I feel him every day. But now more than ever, it is just heartbreaking. My dad is probably being tortured; luckily, if he is still alive. Why Assad has been elected for another term, it makes me feel angry, very sad, very disappointed. I feel helpless.

This is the point where I ask myself, is everything I'm trying to do pointless, just pointless?

KARADSHEH (voice-over): What they describe as the election is a silly play but that doesn't make it any less painful or dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is also a message to all dictatorships, to all war criminals around the globe that, yes, you can commit war crimes. You can use chemical weapons against your own people and you can bomb your country and detain millions and displace them and kill them. And you can still get away with it. You can still be elected for a

third term and you can still be called a president.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): This election, a clear message to the world: Assad has not only survived, he is here to stay -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HOLMES: Syrian officials repeatedly denying allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, insisting they target terrorists.


HOLMES: Jomana Qaddour is a non resident senior fellow and head of Syria portfolio at The Atlantic Council, joining me now from Washington.

Good to see you. With Bashar al-Assad claiming 95 percent of the vote, just two handpicked opponents, only 33 percent of the electorate turning out to vote, do you think it's fair to say that the international diplomatic effort to reform Syria is dead?

QADDOUR: Well, I think what is fair to say is that Assad and his allies have managed to shape the outcome of the Syrian conflict, so far, in their favor. I think that the United States, along with its allies, the Europeans and many others in the region, have not been able to match the kind of support that the Assad regime has received from its allies, frankly.

Really, this is what it comes down to. And I think it all comes down to the fact that the Assad regime and its allies have always viewed this as a military conflict. We, on the other, have seen this is a diplomatic one and they have managed to win.

HOLMES: The Syrians have a hunger crisis, poverty and the U.N. says half can't afford a basic meal.

What is keeping Assad in power other than non free and fair elections?

Who keeps him in power?

How is it that people are so voiceless?

QADDOUR: Assad has had the good fortune of having the Iranians and the Russians, stand by him the entire way. Both parties have been involved and not only financially but they have extended billions of dollars worth of aid to Assad, to meet all kinds of bills, whether it is feeding the country -- although I would have to argue that much less goes to that and more of their funding goes to actually fueling the military conflict that the Assad regime has waged in order to remain in power.

The Russian military has a significant force. At least a few thousand Russian military personnel are in the country with the Iranians. And there's estimates of up to 50,000 to 60,000 personnel, responding to the Iranians --


QADDOUR: -- received from across the world, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon. But they are there.


QADDOUR: And they are there to help keep up and prop up Assad and his now very collapsed army, that is the shadow of what it once was.

But with the help of the Iranians and the Russians, Assad has been kept there. The most recent elections, I think, is just the sham cover, in order to provide, what he believes, is legitimacy. But I think what the rest of us see is just another attempt to mask what Syria is.

HOLMES: Again, for the Russians, they get a geopolitical footprint there; the Iranians get their treasured land bridge to Lebanon. No American administration has had effective policy when it comes to Syria.

To that end, what should the international community be doing to help Syrians, ultimately?

QADDOUR: Listen, 10 years into the war, it is a much more complicated picture than it was in the beginning. Had the international community taken affirmative steps to end the conflict and to make it clear that people like Assad could not make it away with what they've been getting away with.

That being said, I think, first of all, the humanitarian crisis is comparable to what we see in Yemen; hunger, as you say, is everywhere; basic food, basic medical aid, et cetera. And that is something, absolutely, where the international community can play a role.

Outside of that, there are some marginal things that I won't go into detail here. But I think what is most important, that the international community can do, is to not normalize the Assad regime.

I think, removing Assad at this point is -- and how to do that is quite a complicated question. I won't deny that.

But signaling to Assad and its allies that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the international community, I think, is important. Most democratic countries -- the United States, the Europeans, even countries in the region -- don't have embassies there. I think that's important way to signal to the Assad regime he's not welcome.

Maintaining sanctions on war criminals, I think, is another thing. Then, most importantly, what we've seen throughout Europe, are accountability trials. They have held to account members of the Assad regime who fled to Europe, thinking they'd get away with what they did.

Then, they've been caught in places like Germany and France and are now held to account under the rule of law.

I think these kinds of measures are absolutely worth investing in. While, at the same time, keeping that pressure, on not normalizing, not extending reconstruction aid, to the very same parties that destroyed the Syria that we see today.

HOLMES: Accountability is key. Jomana Qaddour, wish we had more time, we do not but thank you very much for your insights.

QADDOUR: Thank you so much for having, me Michael.

HOLMES: Mexico, suffering a wave of political killings in the run-up to midterm elections next week. More than 80 candidates killed in recent months, hundreds of others targeted. CNN's Matt Rivers, now, with more on this surge in political violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is Abel Murrieta (ph), a candidate for local office in the Mexican municipality of Cajeme. Crime was his number one issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): But just one day after filming this ad, he was dead, shot and killed May 13th in broad daylight on a busy street while handing out campaign flyers.

State authorities say he was deliberately targeted but don't know by whom. Suspects or not, though, it's just further proof that, in Mexico, politics can be deadly. From September of last year through May 25th, at least 88 politicians or candidates have been killed, according to a Mexican consulting firm.

They're a part of the more than 565 politicians or candidates overall that have been targeted by some sort of crime, ranging from murder to assault to threats, the firm says. The government says it believes both numbers are actually far lower, though they don't say how they tallied their numbers. But still, it admits there's a problem.

"It's a difficult time for these campaigns," says Mexico's president. "We're going to keep protecting them."

Though Mexico has consistently failed to protect its candidates, political assassinations have been a problem for decades. But this year is particularly bad.

ANA MARIA SALAZAR, PUBLIC SECURITY EXPERT: I do think that this is going to be considered one of the most violent elections in Mexican history.

RIVERS (voice-over): Security experts like Ana Maria Salazar say politicians are killed for a number of reasons but it most often involves organized crime. In many cases, criminal groups want their preferred candidate in office.


RIVERS (voice-over): So they might target others they don't like, especially candidates who make crime a centerpiece of their campaign.

SALAZAR: Candidates that talk the way Abel Murrieta speak clearly are going to run bigger risks.

RIVERS (voice-over): Murrieta was known for challenging criminal groups and drug cartels. As a private lawyer, he was also representing an outspoken family with duel U.S.-Mexico citizenship that lost nine of its members when they were murdered by suspected cartel members in Mexico in late 2019.

Adrian LeBaron tweeted shortly after Murrieta was killed, saying, in part, quote, "They have killed my defender.

"What do we call this?

"The rule of law?"

RIVERS: Do you believe he was killed because of his opposition to the cartels?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He was always exposing them. To me, he died a martyr.

RIVERS (voice-over): Authorities have not identified any suspects or motive in Murrieta's murder but the victims seem to know he was at risk, saying this a few days before he died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVERS (voice-over): He went on to say, the streets belong to the people, not to criminals. And some of those people turned up here to his funeral. They gave him a standing ovation as his coffin was led out -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


HOLMES: If not getting COVID isn't enough to make you want to get vaccinated, how about a flat in Hong Kong or $1 million?

Just ahead, what governments around the world are doing to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We will be right back.




HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. The World Health Organization investigating a possible new coronavirus

variant in Vietnam. The WHO is working with the country's health ministry to find out more about it after four people were confirmed infected.

Any hints of a suspected new variant in Asia could, of course, put more pressure on the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are now just 54 days away. Critics speaking out, insisting there is no way Japan can host the games safely.

The Olympic torch is, nevertheless, making its way to Tokyo and officials say the games must go on. Here's the latest.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across Japan, COVID-19 cases remain high.


ESSIG: The country continues to see a record number of patients in critical condition. The medical system is strained and still only 2 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. As a result, Japan's prime minister has extended the current emergency order across the country. It'll last until June the 20th.

That's just about a month before the Olympics are set to start. Olympic organizers have made it clear that the games would go ahead, even if Tokyo is under a state of emergency at the time.

In order to ensure a safe and secure games, it seems vaccinations will be key but Japan's doctors' union says, vaccine or not, the games should be canceled. Their biggest concern is virus variants.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): One hundred thousands people from 200 countries with various variants with no symptoms will come to Tokyo in a short time. I think there's a possibility that those variants will mix to create a variant, which could be a huge threat to humans.

COVID is not infectious to children very much. But just in case a variant that is infectious to children comes out, that is the worst case scenario.


ESSIG: The IOC says 80 percent of the people inside the Olympic Village will be vaccinated. That doesn't include the roughly 78,000 foreign delegates traveling to Japan for the games.

In March, Pfizer said it would donate COVID-19 doses to Olympics participants but so far only about 20 of the countries and territories are expected to participate. These are the places where the necessary regulatory and legal conditions already exists. For others, Pfizer says they are working to establish a central

location where delegates can go to get vaccinated. But time is running out, there's only about 55 days to go before the games began. It takes about 5 weeks for the first does of the Pfizer vaccine before you are consider fully vaccinated.

Of course developed nations like Japan, Australia and the United States are using their own supply to vaccinate participants. But many other nations don't have that luxury -- Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: It's an offer you can't refuse, at least that's what countries over the world are hoping. They are pulling out all stops to get more people vaccinated. Condos, cows and cash are all up for grabs to lure those who are hesitant into getting the jab.



HOLMES (voice-over): A catchy rap song about one of the best ways to not catch the coronavirus. Local officials in southwest China's Sichuan province releasing this video to encourage people to get the COVID 19 vaccines, as the country aims to inoculate 40 percent of its population by July.

It's this carrot over stick approach that is catching on in countries around the world, at least the ones that have enough vaccine supply to try and encourage people who might be hesitant to roll up their sleeves.

And some of the incentives are pretty hard to beat. In Hong Kong, property developers are organizing a lottery, with the grand prize of a $1 million flat. But only residents who have received both doses of the vaccine can enter the drawing. Less than 20 percent of Hong Kong's population has gotten their first shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I've been vaccinated. Only one jab though. I'm going to get the next one a few days later. So yes, I'm definitely going to sign up for this.

Why not, right?

Lucky draw anyway (ph). Let's see. I'll test my luck (ph).

HOLMES (voice-over): Others are less flashy but maybe a little more practical. The mayor of a rural town in the Philippines raffling off a cow a month. No shot, no chance of winning.

Israel has one of the most successful vaccination drives in the world, it offered free pizzas to lure people to its vaccination centers.

A free 7-day pass to ride the subway in New York comes with the jab at select stations across the city. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in no hurry, because I had coronavirus in

April of last year. Once I heard about this extra incentive, I got even more motivated.

HOLMES (voice-over): To scale up the motivation, some businesses are offering freebies to anyone flashing their vaccine card, Krispy Kreme giving away a free glazed donut. United Airlines has a drawing to win free flights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first winner, Abigail Bugenske from --

HOLMES (voice-over): Ohio just enhanced the first winners of its Vax- A-Million lottery. One woman $1 million richer for getting vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did come up to Cleveland from Cincinnati to look at a used car and I think buying a used car is still in my future. So that's about as far as I've gotten.

HOLMES (voice-over): A new set of wheels and the freedom to move about, both compliments of a vaccine scientists wish more people would take.


HOLMES: Well, love finds a way, even in a pandemic. And Number 10 Downing Street no exception, apparently.


HOLMES: British prime minister Boris Johnson marrying his long term girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, in a low key ceremony, as required by government rules. Those rules were relaxed recently to allow up to 30 guests. . According to the British press it was a, quote, a secret wedding at Westminster Cathedral, with close friends and family and attendance.

A growing number of Hong Kong residents are looking to leave the territory. How the city's strict security law has many seeking a new home. That's coming up after the break.





HOLMES (voice-over): Protesters outside of Belarus, trying to keep up pressure on its government, following the controversial arrest of a political activist. They denounce president Alexander Lukashenko as a terrorist, during a rally and Lithuania on Saturday.

Protesters, also holding pictures of that activist, Roman Protasevich. In Canada, a Belarusian alliance leader said that she is now concerned about the safety of opposition sources within the Belarus government. That is because, she thinks, Protasevich knows who those sources are.

He and his Russian girlfriend were arrested after Belarus forced an international flight to land last week and took them off the plane.

Fears over personal freedoms have many in Hong Kong on edge, a growing number of people to choose rather to leave, then live under the Beijing imposed national security law. And, as Kristie Lu Stout explains for us, the United Kingdom is often the destination of choice.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Goodbye for good. Last October, Gavin Mok and his family said farewell to their home city of Hong Kong from a new address outside Exeter. The stock trader turned YouTuber streams advice for his fellow Hong Kongers in self imposed exile, like how to buy groceries in a British supermarket, practical advice for life in a new land.

GAVIN MOK, YOUTUBER: My channel is sharing my life in the U.K. Where you drive, where you live.

STOUT (voice-over): Hearing the impact of a sweeping new national security law, Mok moved to the U.K. with his wife and two daughters. He says he hasn't found a new job and has been living off his savings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very warmest of welcomes.

STOUT (voice-over): Last month, the U.K. launched a $59 million fund to support Hong Kongers immigrating to the country, under a new scheme for holders of British national overseas or BNO passports. The fund would help new arrivals find jobs, houses and schools.

STOUT: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers are expected to move to the U.K. under the program, providing a path to citizenship for 3 million people eligible for the status, an estimated 2.3 million dependents.

STOUT (voice-over): China has slammed the program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This action severely invaded China's sovereignty.

STOUT (voice-over): Paul (ph), not his real name, and his wife, are considering the offer. Changes in the city's education under the new law have prompted plans to leave with their young daughter. They asked to not be identified, due to concerns of speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One word can sum up all our concerns, it's the brainwashing, especially the National Security Education.

STOUT (voice-over): Outspoken political commentators Kim-wah Chung has a BNO passport. He plans to stay put but has been advised by friends and family to leave. KIM-WAH CHUNG, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have never been so uncertain

about the future in my whole life because of the rapidly deteriorating political situation and some kind of uncertainty and threats.

So I have been warned by many people, you have to consider this.

STOUT (voice-over): The path to a new life can be painful. Gavin Mok leaving his parents behind, he misses the comforts of Hong Kong but relishes his freedom.

STOUT: Why did you leave Hong Kong?

MOK: You can't say anything in Hong Kong now. Everyone should have their right to live freely, to criticize their government. You should be able to do this. It's a human right.

STOUT (voice-over): In every YouTube video he hosts, he shows a figurine. It's a black clad, pro-democracy protester, with a yellow helmet and umbrella, a token of free speech and another exile in the U.K. -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: A destroyed container ship off of the coast of Sri Lanka is spilling plastic debris into the ocean, as if the ocean needed that. Conservation groups are saying it could cause an ecological disaster.

Hundreds of troops are now cleaning up plastic pellets that were washed up on the beaches on the capital city. The container ship caught fire last weekend and burned for around eight days, sparking fears also of an oil spill. Sri Lanka's environmental protection agency said, so far, there are no signs of oil leakage.

Chelsea comes out on top in the European college final. Next, to London, where the Blues fans celebrated long into the night.

Also, inside the murky world of art dealing and the most expensive painting ever sold. A CNN exclusive, still to come.





HOLMES (voice-over): Check out the scenes outside of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in London, just minutes after the team clinched the Champions League title. The Blues beating Manchester City 1-0 in an all English final in Portugal.

Chelsea won their second Champions League trophy. after a 9 year drought. For Man City the defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. The team was heavily favored to take home the Champions League silverware, for the first time in their history. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Those celebrations of Stamford Bridge, going deep into the night and Darren Lewis has more.



HOLMES: The most expensive painting ever sold is at the center of a legal fight, shaking the art world. Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Jesus was presumed lost for hundreds of years, only to be rediscovered this century.

Now the expert who put the multimillion dollar price tag on the "Salvator Mundi" speaks exclusively to CNN. Nina dos Santos has more on the case, shining a light on the murky world of art dealing.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR (voice-over): Billion-dollar lawsuits, claims of subterfuge surrounding the most expensive painting. The Bouvier affair, as it's dubbed, is the fiercest feud witnessed in the art world, an industry that's developed a rocky reputation for its way of doing business.

BEN LEWIS, AUTHOR: Opacity, lack of transparency, greed, tax evasion, money laundering, dishonesty, dissembling, disingenuousness, corruption, where does it end?

DOS SANTOS: This Russian oligarch, Dmitry Rybolovlev, made his money in fertilizer in the so-called era of gangster capitalism. He claims he's been swindled on a $2 billion collection, including the "Salvator Mundi."

Others believe it's not entirely original. On the other side, his former Swiss dealer, Yves Bouvier, who admits to making money on hefty markups but says it was all above board and claims his life has been ruined.

YVES BOUVIER, ART DEALER (through translator): I was blacklisted by auction houses, banks wouldn't transact with me, I couldn't sell my art works. My business was destroyed. In the future when it is all over, I don't know what I'll do but I'll certainly see the world differently.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): A Rybolovlev representative declined to be interviewed. A spokesman told CNN these matters are being fought in the courts where we expect to prove what happened and that Bouvier's fanciful story is false.

For now what is notable is what Bouvier does not dispute. As an art adviser, he pretended to help his clients assemble an art collection at a cost of $2 billion, while secretly reaping half of that price for himself. Yet Bouvier does dispute that he was ever an art adviser, a matter of

the dispute at the heart of the litigation and allegations of breach of trust.

"I am an art dealer," he told CNN. "All my invoices explicitly described me as the seller."

The six-year drama has prompted lawsuits from Monaco to Manhattan and Switzerland to Singapore. In a letter submitted to prosecutors, Bouvier claims he has been followed and spied upon by private investigators.


DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Rybolovlev declined to comment on those allegations.

All of this lifts the veil, experts say, on the ugly side of a market for the most beautiful items in ways seldom seen.

LEWIS: Art's a very good way to hide your true wealth. It's difficult to evaluate it. It's easy to move it around.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The affair also highlights the vast sums stashed away in priceless works. Take the "Salvator Mundi," Rybolovlev bought it for more than $127 million from Bouvier. But the dealer paid much less than that himself.

BOUVIER (through translator): My company made $40 million. I turned it around and sold it in two days. That's a very good deal for my company. I'm not going to complain.

ANTOINE VITKINE, FILMMAKER (through translator): So at this level, art is very opaque, secret and anonymous, because people don't want others to know how big their fortune is. Just look at the case of the "Salvator Mundi;" when it was sold at Christie's in 2017, all buyers on the phone were bidding anonymously.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): Countries around the world are cracking down on the sale of art in general, with the U.K. and the E.U. requiring more transparency. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate report in 2020 said art could be used to evade sanctions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the "Salvator Mundi" at $400 million.

DOS SANTOS (voice-over): The "Salvator Mundi" hasn't been seen since it was last sold in 2017, reportedly to Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for a record $450 million.

However, the legal wrangling between its former owners continues -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.


HOLMES: One couple, in the U.K., saying that they were speechless when a diver managed to find their engagement ring from the bottom of the largest lake in England. The ring, slipping off as the couple were taking pictures this week. That is when a local, 21-year-old free diver, Angus Hosking (ph), came to the rescue.

After about 20 minutes in the frigid water, with a metal detector, he returned to the surface with the diamond ring. The engaged couple, Rebecca Japtria (ph) and Vicky Patel (ph), say that they'd love to thank him by inviting him to their wedding. In August, if restrictions allow.

Good for them. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes and "LIVING GOLF" starts after this short break.