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Politicians Face Midnight Deadlint To Forn New Govt; Peru More Than Double Its COVID-19 Death Toll; Growing Calls To Free U.S. Journalist Danny Fenster; U.S. Journalist Danny Fenster Detained Last Week; Belarusian Activist Stabs Own Throat During Court Hearing in Minsk; Hundreds of Thousands Leaving Hong Kong. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 2, 2021 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Live around the world, this is CNN NEWSROOM. Hello, I'm John Vause. Ahead this hour, the end could be nigh for Israel's longest serving prime minister, with a diverse coalition of political parties inching closer to forming a unity government, united only of their animosity with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The power of "No." By dropping out of the French Open, Naomi Osaka has forced a back down by Grand Slam organizers now promising to address mental health concerns. But is this too little too late? And what appears to be a desperate act of defiance, an opposition activist in a Belarus court stabs himself in the neck to avoid pleading guilty to organizing anti-government protests.

It has just gone 7:00 in the morning in Israel where the sun could be setting on Benjamin Netanyahu's time as the country's longest serving Prime Minister. A diverse group of political rivals have put aside their party differences and in the coming hours could announce an agreement to form a unity government, what is essentially an anti- Netanyahu coalition. The leader of the centrist opposition, Yair Lapid, has been working with Naftali Bennett, the head of a small religious Nationalist Party to form a bloc which controls at least 61 seats in the Knesset to oust Netanyahu. They have about 17 hours left before a midnight Wednesday deadline. And beyond that, any deal would still need parliamentary approval by the Knesset. Elliott Gotkine reports down from Jerusalem.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Intense negotiations with members of this putative anti-Netanyahu coalition here in Israel are continuing. They haven't really stopped since Sunday. I spoke with a source who is involved in the coalition negotiations. He tells me that there is a 60 percent, that's six in ten chance, that they will conclude their negotiations today and that Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition party, Yesh Atid, will thereby be able to go to President Reuven Rivlin and to the Speaker of the Knesset and tell them I've done it, I have got together a coalition that will be able to command the support of more than half the lawmakers in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Once that happens, the Speaker of the Knesset, who by the way, is an

ally of Prime Minister Netanyahu, he is from the same liquid party, he then has a maximum of one week in which to convene the Knesset to then hold a vote on whether this coalition can come into effect. Now, they say that a week is a long time in politics at the best of times, this next week could feel like an eternity to certainly the members of this putative coalition and Israelis wanting to see it come into an effect.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that in that time, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be doing everything possible to try to persuade potential waivers, certainly among the right-wing parties that would be part of this governing coalition to try to persuade them to see the error of their ways, to either reject joining this coalition or to resign or to do something that would undermine it.

You could see more protests outside the homes of these right-wing lawmakers that are potentially going to go into this coalition agreement as well. But certainly one thing is clear. After 12 consecutive years of Netanyahu being the Prime Minister of Israel, we are closer than we have ever been to seeing him leave office. Elliott Gotkine, CNN, Jerusalem.

VAUSE: Well, some analysts have warned that Netanyahu may launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as a way to remain in power, speculative at best. But on Tuesday, the Prime Minister made it clear once again, he believes Iran's attempts to develop nuclear weapons is the greatest existential threat to Israel, while at the same time making it clear the U.S. -- to the U.S. he's willing to risk harming the relationship with Washington when it comes to any nuclear threat from Tehran.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): If we need to choose, and I hope it will not happen between friction with our great friend, the U.S., and getting rid of an existential threat, getting rid of an existential threat will prevail.


VAUSE: Israel Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, will be in Washington later this week to meet with the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Along with Iran, Israel's recent military operations in Gaza, as well as resupplying the Iron-Dome aerial defense system will be on the agenda.

Peru's government has confirmed what most already suspected, the death toll, there is much higher than the official numbers reflect. In fact, the death toll has now officially been more than doubled. Peru is already one of the hardest hit countries in Latin America. And now this admission by officials is playing into pandemic politics. We have more now from CNN's Patrick Oppmann.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For a long time, as they bury their dead in staggeringly high numbers, Peruvians knew the fight against the Coronavirus was being lost in their country.


But only now is the true scope of their government's failure to respond to the pandemic coming into clearer view. On Monday, Peruvian health officials acknowledged that they had vastly undercounted the victims of Coronavirus. And that a reexamination of the death toll showed that instead of nearly 70,000 COVID fatalities, there were more than 180,000. At more than 500 deaths per 100,000 people, Peru's pandemic mortality rate now stands is the highest in the world.

Peruvians waiting outside hospitals for beds and oxygen for their loved ones said they had lost faith in their leaders. "I don't know if the government lies to us or tells us the truth," she says, "We have that problem. There are dead being taken out of the hospital every day. They go into hospital every day and we don't know." Peruvian health officials said they arrived at the new figures by combining different systems tracking deaths and looking at the overall increase in fatalities compared to recent years.

Government officials said they did not try to cover up how many people actually died. "We consider that it is our duty to make this updated information public," she says. "Not only as part of our commitment to transparency, but also to fulfill our obligations as a state. The revised death toll is unlikely to generate renewed confidence in their government among Peruvians and could influence who will lead the country as Peru goes to vote on Saturday in a tight run off presidential election.

The vast discrepancy in the death toll may be just one symptom of an overwhelmed health care system that did not have enough oxygen cylinders, testing kits, or doctors. "We believe that this occurs because our healthcare system does not have the necessary conditions to care for patients," he says. "There has not been government support with oxygen, with ICU beds. We do not have enough vaccines at the moment." The pandemic is still raging in Peru, and across much of the rest of Latin America, whereas of the middle of May, only three percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, whatever the full figures are, the true toll of the pandemic on this region will likely never be known. Patrick Oppmann, CNN.


VAUSE: The U.K. is reporting no COVID deaths for the first time since the pandemic began. The daily death toll from COVID-19 has been falling drastically since the beginning of the year. But new infections continue to rise mostly because of a number of new variants, leading to warnings of a possible new pandemic wave.


NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: This variant is spreading faster than previous variants of the virus and we now believe that it accounts for well over half of our new daily cases. Indeed, many public health experts are warning that the U.K. could, and I stress could, you know, be at the start of a third wave of the virus. And obviously, it would be wrong to completely ignore that warning.


VAUSE: Scotland's First Minister also announced a pause in lifting restrictions in some areas. She says a variant first detected in India now accounts more than half of Scotland's new daily cases, leaving the country she says at a fragile point. More countries could soon have access to China's Sinovac Coronavirus vaccine. The World Health Organization has approved it for emergency use, saying the two-dose vaccine, also known as CoronaVac, is safe and effective and will be a crucial addition to the WHOs vaccine sharing program known as COVAX.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The easy storage requirements of CoronaVac make it very suitable for low resource settings. It's now the AIDS vaccine to receive EUL by WHO. It's now crucial to get these life-saving tools to the people that need them quickly.


VAUSE: An independent panel of experts recommend Sinovac for anyone over 18. It's now the second vaccine produced by China to receive emergency use authorization from the WHO. Well, this is a huge boost for the Olympics as athletes from around the world have been facing enormous challenges to -- just to get to the Tokyo games. Now we have a team from Australia, the softball team, arriving and now trying to overcome the physical and mental obstacles of playing during a global pandemic. Here's Blake Essig.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Touching down in Tokyo, the Aussie Spirit, Australia's softball team, is the first international Olympic team to enter Japan to prepare for the already once postponed Olympic Games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be very different games. There's no doubt about that.


ESSIG: One day earlier, this team that hasn't played an international opponent since early 2020 took some time to get reacquainted before taking off for Tokyo.



JADE WALL, AUSTRALIAN SOFTBALL OLYMPIAN: The last few years definitely had its challenges, you know. Overnight our training completely got shut down. So we had to go through a lot of mental battles.

ESSIG: Those mental battles will continue here in Japan where catcher Taylah Tsitsikronis is hoping to make her Olympic debut knowing what's at stake. She captured these moments along the team's journey, offering the perspective of an athlete prepared to play through a pandemic.


TAYLAH TSITSIKRONIS, AUSTRALIAN SOFTBALL OLYMPIAN: Safely get it, that's it. That's why it's even more, like, drilled into us that we need to make sure we stay safe and, like, be very hygienic with what we're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, girls. Get them, girls, get them.


ESSIG: For the next six weeks in the build up to the games, the team will be staying in training in Ota City just outside of Tokyo as part of the host town program. Despite being fully vaccinated and subject to daily COVID tests, the team will only be able to interact with the community virtually. Will only be allowed to move in between their hotel and training facility.


TSITSIKRONIS: Adaptable athletes and adaptable teams are the ones that will succeed at the Olympics.


ESSIG: While Ota City has welcomed the Aussie Spirit ahead of the games. dozens of other Japanese towns have revoked their invitations to host foreign athletes. And some Olympic teams themselves, including USA track and field, have decided it's too dangerous to hold a pre- Olympics training camp in country. Across Japan, calls for the games to once again be postponed or canceled altogether seem to get louder by the day.


NAOTO UEYAMA, CHAIRMAN, JAPAN DOCTORS UNION (through translator): In the Olympics, about 100,000 people gather in one city from 200 countries. Such a thing has never took place since the pandemic started. It's dangerous for athletes, it's dangerous to the people of Tokyo.


ESSIG: Despite those concerns, the IOC and Japanese Government push ahead with this team's arrival offering clear sign yet that in less than two months, the Olympic flame will be lit and the games will go on. Blake Essig CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: An outpouring of support for Japanese tennis star, Naomi Osaka

Damian. At least six of her sponsors are standing by her. That's after she refused to speak to the media at the French Open and she was fined and then bowed out of the tournament saying she needs to protect her mental health. Pro athletes from inside and outside the world of tennis also expressing their support and there has also been a breakdown of sorts with the recent statement coming out for the organizers of the Grand Slam, saying that they understand the need to address mental health issues. It is a significant turnaround from what we heard just a day earlier.

VAUSE: Well, for more, we're joined this hour by Dr. Andrea Bonior, Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, a clinical psychologist and author of "Detox Your Thoughts, Quit Negative Self Talk For Good and Discover the Life You've Always Wanted." Dr. Andrea Bonior, thank you for being with us.


VAUSE: OK. Well, the French Tennis Association issued a brief statement, it was on Monday, saying how sorry and sad they are for Naomi igniting this. "We remain very committed to all athletes' well- being and to continually improving every aspect of players' experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we've always strived to do that." There was a brief mentioned there also of wishing Osaka a quick recovery. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of recognition here about mental health issues, which she's dealing with. And in some respects, it came across almost dismissive. How'd you see it?

BONIOR: I agree. And I think it's also not taking responsibility for the role that they had in this whole situation. There's no acknowledgement of the fact that this really was an opportunity that seems missed. She spoke out, she was vulnerable, she was courageous. She spoke out about her struggles, she tried to do the right thing, she was going to pay the fine to not participate with the media. And they still came back and doubled down and said that wasn't OK.

And so I think it really doesn't seem to reflect their actual actions. They can they can speak here about supporting her BUT I think this was genuinely a situation where they had the opportunity to do something great and to truly be supportive of mental health issues. And instead, all they did was talk and not actually show action.

VAUSE: Yes, there's been a significant amount of support for both players who are current and retired as well within tennis, including Patrick McEnroe. Listen to this.


PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER TENNIS PLAYER: Hey, you make all this money. Hey, if you can go out there and play tennis at a high level, how could you have mental health problems? Well, guess what? You absolutely can. We've seen other former great athletes deal with these type of issues and still be able to perform at a high level. It's not about performing necessarily on the tennis court, or on the pitch, or on the basketball court. And it's not about how much money you make. And that's I think what a lot of people get -- don't quite see.


VAUSE: So how do you explain that just because someone has the talent and the grit to play world class tennis, that doesn't mean they can deal with being grilled by a bunch of reporters at a news conference day after day after day?

BONIOR: Yes, you know, no one is immune to anxiety or depression for that matter which Naomi Osaka has mentioned that she'd suffered from. 3


And I think it's hard to fathom because we hold athletes up on a pedestal in terms of when they accomplish these incredible physical feats, we think that they must have it all together mentally. But a lot of times, the extreme pressures they're under actually make them more likely to suffer from anxiety. Social anxiety and performance anxiety when speaking to groups of people are very common across the world. And it's no surprise that they would be common in the athlete population as well, especially given the criticism and the way that they have to be exposed to such you know, high expectations, and the negative talk and the judgment about them. It's almost a wonder that any of them actually feel OK.

VAUSE: Yes. It's a pressure cooker. And there's a lot of pressure on these very young athletes at the very early stages of their career. But -- and we kind of heard back in December, during an interview with her, Osaka was quoted as saying, "Off the court, if I was ever thrown into a situation where I had to speak in front of 100 people, I feel like I would start shaking." And then a few years ago, back in 2019, there was a very telling moment, during a news conference at Wimbledon, here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naomi, has it been difficult to get used to the new level of fame that you have? You've pretty much become a global superstar over the last 12 months by winning in Australia and New York.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to leave? So if you are going to (INAUDIBLE) OK. I'm sorry. We have to leave right now.


VAUSE: So clearly, she was struggling, she got, like, she walked a year earlier. She talked about her issues of struggling with depression and how she was, you know, essentially didn't know what was happening. She just didn't have the energy that she needed to play. So it seems if someone was watching, and that includes the people who run professional tennis, there are plenty of signs that this moment was coming. BONIOR: Plenty of signs, and to not accept her willingness to talk

about it and to do some good, you know, I see that as a mental health professional as such a missed opportunity. She was trying to speak out and to help empower people to speak out, to help de-stigmatize the fact that mental health issues are out there. And we all are deserving of some compassion about them. And just the lack of support is really surprising to me, because it really was an opportunity for us to start a conversation about just how common these mental health issues are.

And I think it was really brave of her. There could have been so many people from her words that felt like, OK, maybe I can get some help. Maybe I'm a, you know, not a lost cause. If someone as much of a superstar as her has these struggles, maybe I'm not so bad either. And so I really would have loved to see some more compassionate and progressive stances from the French Open.

VAUSE: Well, it's never too late for tennis officials to have a change of heart if they decide to change course here. But thanks so much for being with us. Dr. Andrea Bonior. Appreciate it.

BONIOR: Thanks again.

VAUSE: Let's bring in World Sports Patrick Snell for more on this. So we are hearing this sort of movement in the statements that you're hearing from the Grand Slam organizers talking about, you know, this is a complex problem, and we support her, and we know that she's going through so many things, but there still hasn't been a lot of action. There's been no sort of, you know, effort to try and support her I guess, which is what some people like we just heard are calling for, but what we are seeing which is quite significant is support coming from her sponsors.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, that's absolutely right, John, and it will be absolutely -- it's just pivotal. But we do get change from this. It's a courageous stance from Naomi Osaka, no question about that. People are looking to her to see what she does next, of course, but what good will come from this? You're right, John. There's been an overwhelming show of support, by and large from across the sporting spectrum from the world of golf, from basketball. And, of course, from tennis. We have the men's top ranked player in the world, Novak Djokovic, calling Naomi -- calling her very brave and adding that he hopes she can come back strong. Her sponsors as well showing their support for the world number two.

Nike saying "Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience." MasterCard with this "Naomi Osaka's decision reminding us how important it is to prioritize personal health and well-being." Well, you just touched on it there, John. The sport's Four Grand Slam's now saying this is what they're now saying that they'll continue to improve the player experience as they put it at tournaments, including as it relates to media while offering Naomi Osaka their support and assistance in any way possible, calling her also an exceptional athlete.

Meantime, we got earlier in the week, we had Serena Williams speaking out on this now her oldest sibling, Venus, speaking after her first round defeat in the French capital weighing in on all the fallout how she herself has dealt with media attention and duties through the years. Take a listen. This is strong.


VENUS WILLIAMS, SEVEN-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: For me personally, how I cope, how I deal with it was that I know every single person asked me a question can't play as well as I can and never will so no matter what you say or what you write, you'll never light a candle in me.


So that's how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently.


SNELL: And those are the key words, John, each person does indeed deal with it all differently. We're going to stay across it all, you can be sure of it. And we've got, well, sport as well coming your way in around 25 minutes from right now. Back to you.

VAUSE: Not done with you just yet, Patrick, because we'll stay in this for a little bit longer, just very quickly, because on Sunday, what we heard from the Grand Slam organizers was pretty harsh, basically warning that Osaka would just continue to face fines, possible censure, possibly even be banned if she refused to, you know, hold these news conferences with the media. On Monday, it wasn't much better. It was almost as the dismissive statement saying we wish her well and we'll keep doing what we're doing. And now we've got this show of support, which is obviously progress in the right direction. But is it too little at this point? I mean, what can tennis the tennis professionals do to try and change the, you know, the damages they've done to their image? If nothing else?

SNELL: Right. And I think the starting block is good in that we've had this statement from -- the joint statement that I just referenced there for -- from the Four Grand Slams, that is at least a starting block but many would argue, of course, too little too late. I've been touched as well, personally, John, by the show of support we've had, as I said, from the whole spectrum across the sporting world. But look, when you reflect back on what we've witnessed over the last few days, Naomi Osaka, a global superstar, a four-time Grand Slam champion, the number two player in the world, feeling that she has had to take this stance and pull out of one of the big four tournaments in world tennis after her first round victory, that in itself speaks volumes.

As you referenced earlier, this is a person who's overcome all kinds of natural shyness. She struggled with that, she's talked about that earlier in the week in her statement. We've seen her last year in particular, John, using her global platform to really powerful effect in the fight against social injustice. Remember when she wore seven different face masks honoring the lives of those who'd lost their lives? That was en route to victory at the U.S. Open in New York City. She's used her powerful platform once before, and I feel now she's started a movement and we're going to see it again in a very different but still very powerful way, John.

VAUSE: Absolutely, Patrick. Thank you. Patrick Snell, as we say, World Sport is less than half an hour away. Thanks. Well, still to come. Caught in a military crackdown, coming up with the latest on the U.S. journalist who is being detained in a notorious prison in Myanmar. Also a prominent critic of Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, takes a dramatic and dangerous action in a courtroom. Protesting alleged threats to his family. We'll show you what happened.


VAUSE: We have this just entered CNN. Officials in Sri Lanka say a cargo ship which has burned for nearly two weeks of the coast of Colombo is sinking in its current position.


The government says emergency measures are in place to try and protect the delicate lagoon and surrounding wildlife from a potential oil leak. So far, the biggest problem has been debris washing ashore. The ship's operators have not confirmed if the vessel is in fact sinking, but says there are now concerns over the amount of water in the hole and how that might affect the ship's stability.

Danny Fenster, an American journalist, is starting his second week in a notorious political prison in Myanmar. He's among an estimated 80 plus journalists who've been detained, including another American reporters since the coup back in February. Fenster was arrested at Yangon Airport trying to board a flight to Malaysia. Anna Coren is in Hong Kong with more details in this and the growing concerns about Danny and another American journalist who's also with him. Ana.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, that's right, John. U.S. -- the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar still has not been given access to Danny Fenster despite repeated requests. They are wanting assurances that he, as well as Nathan Maung, the other American journalist, who was arrested, are being treated properly and that both are released immediately to their families.


COREN (voice over): A curious mind with an empathetic heart driven by wonder lust. Danny Fenster knew that journalism was his calling.


DANIEL FENSTER, U.S. JOURNALIST: I thought it might be interesting to show the kids how I commute around Yangon.


COREN: So when the opportunity arose to move to Myanmar and cover this complicated country in Southeast Asia, the Detroit native jumped at it, eventually landing a position at the independent online news outlet, Frontier Myanmar as, the managing editor. But when the military staged a coup on February 1st, sparking wide-scale protests, followed by a bloody crackdown, Danny and his colleagues soon realized their profession made them a target.


BEN DUNANT, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, FRONTIER MYANMAR: There is no safe way of doing journalism. It is a job that you do inside the country at extreme risk. But it's an extremely important one. And I think for a long time in Myanmar, being a foreign national, it was seen as a protection.


COREN: Not anymore.


FENSTER: Miss you so much. I can't wait to get home and see you.


COREN: When 37-year-old Danny tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, then onto the United States just over a week ago, authorities arrested him.


BUDDY FENSTER, DANIEL FENSTER'S FATHER: Their efforts to squelch journalism, it kills life and it kills freedom. It kills truth. And I think that they're -- they just need to let him go immediately. He has not committed any crime there.


COREN: He's the fourth foreign national among the more than 80 journalists who have been arrested since the coup began. Another us journalists, Nathan Maung, was also detained back in March when his offices were raided. A family friend of Nathan's told CNN that the Editor-in-Chief of Kamayut Media was tortured for two weeks after his arrest. The 44-year-old and his local producer was severely beaten around their heads, burnt on their stomach, buttocks and thighs with cigarettes and made to kneel on ice while their hands were handcuffed behind them during interrogations.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has described the abuse as unconscionable. Both Danny and Nathan are being held in the notorious insane prison, a monument to brutality housing more than 10,000 prisoners, of which hundreds are political prisoners. The squalid conditions and acts of torture behind these gates are well documented from those who survived to tell their stories.


VOICE OF OWEN, DANIEL FENSTER'S FRIEND: There are many, many people in that prison who are going through hell right now and they've done nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: Owen, we're not using his real name due to safety concerns, was

one of Danny's closest friends in Myanmar. He left the country back in April as the crackdown against journalists escalated.


OWEN: The longer he stayed on, the more risk you were taking of them one day coming into your own house and taking you away as well.


COREN: According to the human rights group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 830 civilians have been killed in Myanmar, also known as Burma in the last four months. And more than 4,300 have been arrested. Danny's wife remains in Myanmar, while his family back in Michigan worked tirelessly to keep his detention in the headlines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to miss you so much.


COREN: Hoping and praying that the U.S. government can negotiate their son's release.


ROSE FENSTER, DANIEL FENSTER'S MOTHER: It's a total nightmare. It's a total feeling of no control. It's heart-wrenching, and I just want my son home no matter what it takes.

COREN: Now Danny's family has set up a petition #BringDannyHome lobbying the U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to secure Danny's release.



Now, in regards to Nathan Mung and those claims of torture. We put that to the U.S. State Department, but they refused to comment. Nathan has since been charged under the military's recently imposed fake news law, which carries a sentence of three years behind bars, John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Anna, thank you. Anna Coren for us, live in Hong Kong.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, U.S. and NATO bombers in the skies over Europe, just weeks ahead of a highly-anticipated summit between Russia and the United States will get an exclusive look at that operation.


VAUSE: Welcome back everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Vause.

An opposition activist on trial in Belarus has stabbed himself in the throat in what appears to be a desperate effort to avoid pleading guilty to charges of organizing anti-government protests.

The images are disturbing, although a local human rights watchdog group says the wounds are not life-threatening. And adds Steffan Latypov stabbed himself after authorities threatened his family if he did not enter a guilty plea.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen has details, and a warning again: his report contains disturbing image.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, some very troubling scenes in that courtroom in Minsk as the activist Steffan Latypov, stabbed himself in the neck while he was on trial.

And all of this happened after Latypov's father gave witness testimony and that it was then that Latypov himself started speaking, and he said that he had been pressured by the authorities, that they had threatened to go after him but to also go after his neighbors and his family, as well.

It was then that he stabbed himself in the neck. And one of the things about those trials in Belarus is that very often, the defendant is in some sort of cage. And in this case, he then collapsed inside that cage, and workers in the courtroom went inside and got him out.

He was then carried on a gurney outside, and a human rights group said that he was actually in surgery on Tuesday, but that luckily, his wounds were not life-threatening.

Now all of this, of course, causing big uproar amongst the Belarusian opposition. The opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, she called out the state terror.

And the opposition has been calling for tougher action against the Belarusian regime, against Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.

Of course, all of this also coming after the government of Belarus forced that Ryanair jet to land to then get the journalist and activists Roman Protasevich off the plane and arrest him and his Russian companion, as well.

The Belarusian opposition is saying that they demand tougher action in Minsk, especially of the Biden administration, and certainly, that's also something that a lot of opposition activists are going to be looking at when President Biden meets with Vladimir Putin.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: And two weeks before President Biden and Putin hold their first summit, a NATO show of unity in the skies over Europe. And a clear message for the Russian president. U.S. aircraft joined NATO allies in a joint operation over all 30 NATO countries.

CNN's Nic Robertson is there for an exclusive report.



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Twenty-seven thousand feet over Scotland, flying at 275 knots with British fighter jets for company.


ROBERTSON: A U.S. Air Force B-52 long-range Stratofortress bomber refueling on a flight from Spain before returning to a NATO mission, Operation Allied Sky, taking aircraft within sight of Russia.

(on camera) It's part of a large-scale NATO mission involving more than 20 NATO members flying over NATO states. And in part, it's a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

(voice-over): Two weeks ahead of President Biden's summit with Vladimir Putin, it's a timely statement of the steel backing Biden's diplomacy. It puts NATO wings in the skies close to where a Belarus fighter jet forced the civilian passenger plane to land, arresting a Belarusian dissident and his Russian girlfriend, raising tensions.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be meeting with President Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva. I'm making it clear that we will not -- we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights.

ROBERTSON: The U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker took off from southern England, half an hour ahead of the refuel. Both tanker and bomber Cold War era aircraft, older than their air crew, but with east-west tensions climbing, just as relevant as when they were built.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's interesting. I mean, all the generations of pilots that have been able to fly it. And it's updating every once in a while, but she's reliable and, you know, it's working. So -- so no real need to change all that.

ROBERTSON: The mission, according to NATO commanders, intended to demonstrate what they call credibility of common defense, and enhanced readiness. For Captain Todd Berglund, a six-year tanker veteran, and his crew, this day like all others in the Stratotanker, nothing left to chance.

CAPTAIN TODD BERGLUND, U.S. AIR FORCE: We have to be at a certain place on time with the right amount of gas all the time. So a little bit of more pressure, but you know, we do it so often. It just kind of becomes a habit pattern. And this is our profession, so it's what we do. How much big NATO missions like this phase Putin is hard to measure.

In a few weeks in Geneva, when they meet, Biden will be able to judge.

Nic Robertson, CNN, somewhere over the U.K.


VAUSE: To stay or to go? Coming up, the monumental life-changing decisions now facing many Hong Kong residents as they consider a new start in the U.K.



VAUSE: As Beijing tightens its grip over Hong Kong, it seems many residents are feeling the squeeze. Hundreds of thousands are on the move and heading for a new life in the U.K. What could be the start of a mass exodus.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout has more now from Hong Kong.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Goodbye for good. Last October, Gavin Mock 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 MOCK, LEFT HONG KONG: My channel is sharing my life in the U.K., where you drive, where you live.

STOUT: Hearing the impact of a sweeping new national security law, Mock 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 all comes.

STOUT: Last month, the U.K. launched a $59 million fund to support Hong Kongers emigrating 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.

(on camera): Hundreds of thousands of voters are expected to move to the U.K. under the program, which provides a path to citizenship. For three million people eligible for BNO status and an estimated 2.3 million departments.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This action severely invaded China's sovereignty.

STOUT: Paul -- 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 their young daughter. They asked not to be identified due to concerns about speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One word can sum up all our concern is the brainwashing, especially the National Security Education.

STOUT: Outspoken political commentator Kim Ma-Chung (ph) has a BNO passport. He plans to stay put but has been advised by friends and family to leave.

KIM MA-CHUNG (ph), POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have never been so uncertain about a future 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: The path to a new life can be painful. Gavin Mock left his parents behind. He misses the comforts of Hong Kong but relishes his freedom.

(on camera): Why did you leave Hong Kong?

MOCK: Because you can't say anything in Hong Kong now, everyone should have the right to speak freely, to criticize your government. You should be able to do this. This is a human right.

STOUT: In every YouTube video he hosts, Mock shows a figurine. It's a black-clad pro-democracy protester with a yellow helmet and umbrella, a token of free speech. And another exiled in the U.K.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


VAUSE: Well, thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with this. Patrick Snell and WORLD SPORT starts after the break.