Return to Transcripts main page


Israeli Opposition Party Formed Their Coalition Government; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Chance is 50/50; Oil Spill from Sri Lankan Ship Poses Longer Term Damage; Volunteers Quit from Tokyo Olympics; E.U. Countries Issues COVID Certificates; Russia's Ransomware Attack Targets U.S. Meat Production Company; United States- Russia Summit on Ransomware Attacks; U.S. Prisoner in Russia, Resolve Hostage Diplomacy; U.K., NATO Urge Release of Belarus Dissident Journalist, Friend; Belarusian Activist Who Stabbed Himself Back in Prison; U.S. Plan to Distribute COVID Vaccines Worldwide; Brazil Fears Third Wave of Virus as Cases Spike; PAHO, Central America Reports Highest COVID Deaths to Date; Brazilians Send Loud and Clear Message to Jair Bolsonaro; Brazils' COVID Cases Surge as Tournament Nears; Socialite Charged in Death of Belize Officer. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired June 3, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN Newsroom, Israel is unlikely new coalition could become the country's next government. It includes Israeli hard- liners, centrists, and for the first time, an Arab Israeli political party.

Plus, the ship that burned off the coast of Sri Lanka is now sinking, creating an environmental emergency. And thousands of volunteers are now walking away from the Tokyo Olympics.

Good to have you with us.

Well, we are one step closer to the end of an era in Israeli politics. The country's longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appears to be on his way out. Centrist politician Yair Lapid has pulled together a diverse group of rivals for a new coalition government. Right wing religious nationalists Naftali Bennet would serve as prime minister for the next two years. Word of the agreement which still needs Knesset approval brought celebrations in Tel Aviv.


ERAN MARGALIT, MUSIC STUDENT: Tonight, we are celebrating. It is upon us to encourage the government of change. And now Lapid has announced he has a new government.

MARYANA SIMANOVIC, CELEBRANT: We have had several elections that were endless, and now we are vocal for a new state government.


CHURCH (on camera): So, let's go live now to Jerusalem, and journalist Elliott Gotkine. Good to see you, Elliott. What is the latest on this? And what happens next with this historic but fragile national unity government?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Very fragile kind of rainbow coalition and waiting, isn't it? It's mind-boggling, and its breath ranging from a far-left through the center through even to the right of Prime Minister Netanyahu. And as you say for the first time ever incorporating a party representing Arab citizens of Israel.

We saw people celebrating on the streets of Tel Aviv there. Clearly there are many others in Israel who will not be celebrating this morning. Indeed, we've heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu deriding this as a left-wing government.

A spokesman for Netanyahu's party, Likud, tweeted earlier today, this is Miki Zohar. Words to the effect of the effect of the left is celebrating, but this is a very sad day for the state of Israel, adding that Bennett, Saar, Naftali Bennet, Saar, this is the leader of the right-wing New Hope party, and Shaked, this is Naftali Bennett's number two should be ashamed.

But certainly, it is historic, whatever your political persuasions are. It's obviously all over the newspapers. Now it's traditional for the person with the mandate when they speak to the president of Israel to say it's in my hands. So that is something that the newspapers have been playing on in terms of headlines.

This is Maariv, one of the leading paid for newspapers in Israel. The headline there is it's in his hands with a picture of Lapid, Bennett and Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Raam Islamist Party signing that coalition agreement.

Similar headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, another leading paid for newspaper in Israel, it's in their hands with a picture of Lapid and Bennett who I should say do have a good personal relationship. That they were in governments together led of course by Prime Minister Netanyahu in the past. They do get on well at a personal level.

This is Israel today. This was owned by the late casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, you could actually see the news of this coalition almost relegated to a smaller story. The main focus here being the new president of Israel, Isaac Herzog. But the headline in this newspaper which is pro-Netanyahu saying Lapid succeed. Netanyahu hasn't given up.

Now this newspaper often referred to as a the Bibitan, which is the portmanteau of the nickname of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the word newspaper in Israel. So perhaps ominous words there, but also perhaps a warning that Netanyahu really hasn't given up, and of course he will do everything in his power to try to derail this coalition, either before it comes into being or after. But of course, the other main aspect of this, and of real historical

significance is that for the first time ever a party representing Israel's Arab citizens is going to be in a coalition government. The leader of the Raam Party, Mansour Abbas, speaking just moments after he signed that agreement.



MANSOUR ABBAS, LEADER, UNITED ARAB LIST RAAM PARTY (through translator): I just signed an agreement with Yair Lapid so that he can form a government after we've reached a critical massive agreement on issues that will serve the interests of Arab society, and provide solutions to urgent problems that Arab society faces in various fields.


GOTKINE (on camera): Now providing more resources for Israel's Arab citizens, perhaps trying to tackle a high crime rates and murder rates in their cities won't be too controversial for the coalition government, perhaps something that Mansour Abbas will get out of joining this coalition.

By and large, though, as I say, this kaleidoscope of a coalition will seek to avoid issues that divide them. So, don't expect any progress on Palestinians or on settlements, things like that. Instead, the focus will be on passing a state budget. We didn't have one passed in 2020 in Israel. They have to pass the budget for 2021 and 2022.

Our focus on the economic recovery, post-coronavirus pandemic, and as a side note, a lot of restrictions relating to coronavirus were lifted earlier this week. And they will also focus on trying to heal some of the divisions that have emerged in Israeli society, or perhaps been thrown even wider in Israeli society under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But just finally, to say of course, he is down. He is closer than he's ever been to leaving office in the past 12 years. But he's not out just yet. And until it's over, it's not over. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Exactly. We'll watch to see what his next move maybe. Elliott Gotkine bringing us the very latest live from Jerusalem. I appreciate it.

With me now is Reuven Hazan, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Thank you, sir, for joining us.


CHURCH: Good to see you. So, how likely is it that Benjamin Netanyahu will find a way to derail this historic new deal before it's even approved by the Knesset and what possible options remain for him? HAZAN: Well, I'm not trying to escape the answer, but it's 50/50.

This is the first time in a long time somebody else has been able to try and cobble together a government. But let's remember that this majority government is going to be 61 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament. That's a razor thin majority. It's made up of eight different parties.

In other words, for Benjamin Netanyahu to try and pick away at it and break it down even before it's sworn in and about 11 or 12 days, it's like low hanging fruit. It's quite easy for him to do it, especially since the party goes from extreme right to the extreme left, it's easy to find an issue that will rip them apart.

CHURCH: Let's talk more about that. Because it is a truly politically diverse coalition, which includes for the first time an Arab Israeli party along with the extreme right as you point out at the extreme left. And the only thing they truly agree upon right now is getting rid of Netanyahu. But then what? How fragile for this coalition of eight parties proved to be? And what would they be able to agree upon apart from a budget going forward?

HAZAN: Well, you hit the nail on the head. What brings all of them together, parties that are more to the right than Netanyahu, and parties that are more to the left of Netanyahu is their dislike for Netanyahu. Now once he is out of office, the glue will begin to fray, and the question is, how long will they survive?

Now if Netanyahu would resign, then they would probably collapse a lot sooner, but he has already stated that he is not going anywhere. He stayed as leader of the opposition, and he is going to challenge them day in and day out, which means that he will still provide a little bit of glue to keep them together.

Now, when we look at this wide, wide coalition government, anything that happens on the security front, such as another barrage of missiles from Gaza could rip them apart so easily because there are those who want to respond forcefully, and those, as you said, the first time ever, that an Arab party is sitting in government in Israel that will have a much more conciliatory approach.

So beyond hating Netanyahu and knitting a budget, which we haven't had in over two years, how can this coalition stay together? That's the million-dollar question.

CHURCH: Indeed. And for however long a new coalition does last, Netanyahu will, of course, be on the sidelines, as you point out, as leader of the opposition, watching for an opportunity to get back into power. But right now, how significant is it that after 12 years in office, he is isolated and apparently has very few allies?


HAZAN: Let's look at it historically. Netanyahu was first elected in '96. That was 25 years ago. He lost quickly, after two and a half years and was kicked out and then his party, the Likud Party came back but under Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu has shown us that even in opposition, and in those days his

party had only 12 seats, now they have 30, it can fight in the trenches and the parliament. He can challenge the sitting government. He can make their day-to-day trying to handle the governing of this country a nightmare.

In other words, just as Elliott said, it isn't over until it's over. And you can never count Netanyahu out. The one thing we need to also focus on is that he has a court case, and in that court case, whatever happens there will have a direct impact on politics. If we see that he is about to be guilty, then he is finished. But if we see the court case began to unravel and he might be innocent, he will come back full force.

CHURCH: That's going to take some time, though, isn't it? I mean, as we know it all moves very slowly and Israel when it comes to corruption trials like this. Or any trial. So, how soon do you think we would know how vulnerable he is?

HAZAN: This will take at least a year to two. And then again, we go back to the main question of can this new wide coalition multi party coalition survive until we have a final decision in the courts? As long as Netanyahu is around, they just might stick together. As soon as Netanyahu disappears, and it could be for political or for legal reasons, there is nothing to keep these people together.

It's even worse if Netanyahu was to leave his own party, the Likud, could turn around and form an alternative government tomorrow. The parties that are not sitting with Netanyahu are doing this on a personal issue. Not on a political issue. So those more to the right and the right-wing did win the elections in Israel. Those more to the right would be happy to form a government with the Likud and jettison all the extreme left elements, but not under Netanyahu. If he goes, his party could be back in power tomorrow.

CHURCH: Reuven Hazan in Jerusalem, many thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.

Well, authorities had hoped a crippled cargo ship off Sri Lanka that caught fire could be towed out to sea. Instead, the vessel partially sank and is now stuck on the ocean floor. Coming, up we'll speak with a marine biologist about the environmental threat it now poses to the Sri Lankan coast.

Plus, despite COVID concerns and thousands of volunteers quitting ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, a top official says postponing the games again is impossible. We are live in Tokyo.



CHURCH (on camera): The cargo ship that's been burning off Sri Lanka is now sinking. Attempts to tow the vessel into deeper water failed on Wednesday when the stern sank to the bottom of the sea, and the ecological disaster there is only expected to get worse. CNN's Anna Coren joins us now from Hong Kong. So, Anna, what is the

latest on the ship, and of course the environmental threat it poses?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, we've just heard from Sri Lanka's Marine Research Agency and they say they've been conducting tests on the P.H. levels in the water. They say that the levels, interestingly enough, have not changed in the ocean or the nearby lagoon, which really is a livelihood for some 5,000 fishermen in that area. They are still waiting for results on the P.H. levels, the seabed. And also, among the marine life that has actually washed up on to the shore.

But, you know, environmentalists are describing this as the country's worst marine disaster. There are 350 tons of oil on this ship that sank yesterday. As you say, salvage crews tried to move it further out to sea into deeper water. They had to suspend those operations, abandon them after just several hours when the rear of the ship broke away and fell to the sea bottom. It's about 21 meters deep. But they are keeping a close eye on that potential oil spill.

The moment we can see oil slicks from the aerial photographs that are being provided, that not an oil spill. And if there is an oil spill, this will take this environmental disaster to a whole new scale. Their, you know, pristine marine environment is a coral reef, you know, an abundance of marine species. And as I said, this is the livelihood of so many local fishermen who just say that their livelihoods have been decimated, Rosemary. Take a listen.


SUDHATH FERNANDO, SRI LANKAN FISHERMAN (through translator): I've been a fisherman for 35 years. I've never experienced anything like this. A ship carrying chemicals from nowhere has destroyed our livelihood. The government should take responsibility for this.


COREN (on camera): Now, billions of tiny plastic pellets have been washing up on the shore now for days. These were in some of the containers, 1,400 plus containers on board this ship. I mean, this has been found ingested by fish and birds and turtles that have also washed up dead on the shore. Obviously, they've got teams of people trying to clean up this disaster, but you know, with every single way that comes incomes more of this plastic debris.

There are 25 tons of nitric acid on board the ship among other chemicals as well, Rosemary. And the Sri Lanka navy believes that the explosion that took place aboard this ship, you know, more than two weeks ago which then started off this fire, which led to the sinking of the ship that that was caused by a leak of nitric acid.

There's so much anger within Sri Lanka right now at the government as to why they allowed the ship into Sri Lankan waters when a port in India, as well as Qatar turned it away upon news that there was a leak of nitric acid on board, Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. Understandable, too. Anna Coren joining us live from Hong Kong, many thanks.

Asha de Vos is a Ph.D. in marine biology and founder of the marine conservation group, Oceanswell. And she joins us now from Colombo. Thank you so much for talking with us.

ASHA DE VOS, MARINE BIOLOGIST: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: So, this cargo ship is threatening to cause an environmental catastrophe. How bad do you think this could be? And what damage are you already seeing?

DE VOS: Yes, I mean, absolutely. This is definitely the biggest marine disaster we've ever witnessed in Sri Lanka. You know, the chemicals definitely, you know there were chemicals on board. But as you know, it's a much more localized effect. The chemicals can dissolve in the water, and some of it burned off.

But right now, what we are seeing are these pellets, these plastic nurdles washing up in the millions on the beaches. There's just -- it's like plastic snow, just covering the beach particularly opposite where the incident happened. But we are also finding these levels now moving southwards in the current. And we can expect them to really move across that entire coastline in time to come.

So, this is something. You know, these nurdles have buoyant, they move freely, they're going to all the nooks and crannies, into the mangroves, probably into our rivers. Species can ingest them. And that's really a problem for smaller species, particularly that can choke because these are quite small pellets. If people consume these small species whole, then that could be problematic.


But of course, otherwise, some of the species will ingest them and pass right through which is obviously a good thing. But also, these nurdles, they concentrate toxins, toxic chemicals from the environment. And as they then move around, they take the toxic chemicals with them.

So these are more longer term impacts that we can expect to see but then also, you know, the beaches as they are right now they are covered with these plastics, and that can change the temperature of the beach which is problematic for nesting species like turtles that the gender other hatchlings is dependent on temperature.

And so, we are expecting these issues. And as you can imagine, everything is unfolding right now. It's a very tricky situation because we are also in the middle of a pandemic. We aren't able to get the amount of land power out there to clean the spaces because we are in a lockdown situation due to COVID. And so that doesn't help the issue.

CHURCH: Right.

DE VOS: So, it's a difficult -- CHURCH: And of course, the other big concern because obviously plastic is the immediate concern, but the possible threat here of an oil spill, I mean, the oil slicks right now. What could happen if that oil does lead? I mean, what will that mean for that whole area?

DE VOS: Yes, that's a longer-term problem. At least the pellets we can sort of pick them up. They can be like, the bulk of it can be cleaned up. But with the oils, we need a lot more capacity. We need, you know, to use dispersants. And as you dispersed oil, obviously it starts to move further. It can cause species, sea bird, for example, get very badly impacted by these things. Any species in the water it can get stuck in the fish gills. So that could be really problematic. And really, that's the last thing we need right now. I mean, I think as it is, we are still, we are grappling to deal with what's going on, on the ground. An oil spill would be absolutely disastrous.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course as we've heard from Anna reporting on this, she was saying that there so much anger in Sri Lanka that the Sri Lankan authorities allowed this ship into Sri Lankan waters when other areas turned the ship away. What do you think should be the consequences of situations like this not only the ship? I mean, it's not the first time and certainly won't be the last but what's should the ramifications be?

DE VOS: To be fair, I mean, I'm not in a position to answer that question specifically. All I can say is, for me, someone who is very dedicated to, you know, protecting the coastline of this country, it really bothers me that this happened. Obviously, I'm very concerned. I'm very concerned not just for the marine wildlife but in conservation we also think about the livelihoods.

The fishermen who are struggling right now, it's a double whammy. They've been struggling because of the pandemic and this doesn't help the situation. They are daily wage workers. They get paid only when they go out to fish and they catch fish. And also, you know, our tourism industry will get impacted by this. Our beaches are very attractive to tourists, but right now, they are littered with these pellets. So, a lot to think about.

CHURCH: Are you getting any indications when or if this oil leaks?

DE VOS: No, we don't know right now. I know they are doing their best out there to contain the situation. It's actually pouring outside right now, so that's probably going to hinder their efforts as well. So, yes, it's a -- it's really difficult, it's a complicated situation to be in definitely. I'd say people are trying their best.

CHURCH: Yes. Absolutely. Let's hope that somehow that can be contained. Asha de Vos, we thank you, and of course for all your hard work, cleaning up what has happened so far, and hopefully this damage can be contained in some way. I appreciate it.

DE VOS: Thank you.

CHURCH: The president of Tokyo's Olympic organizing committee says it's impossible to postpone the games again. He says the monumental task of moving the games isn't something that can be easily repeated. And this comes as thousands of volunteers have already quit. But officials say their exit won't affect the Olympics.

So, let's go live to Tokyo where CNN's Blake Essig is standing by. And it all seems to be falling apart, doesn't it? But there is this determination on the part of the Olympic authorities to move forward despite so many people in Japan not wanting to have the games there. So, what is the latest on all of this?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, you're absolutely right. I mean, the IOC, Tokyo, metropolitan government and the central government are dead set on holding these games no matter what. And they are pushing forward. And you can see in the city some of those venues starting to be built up as we speak as they prepare for these games in 50 days.


Now, as far as those volunteers are concerned, losing 10,000 volunteers is significant, but officials do say that they still have roughly 70,000 volunteers signed up, and don't believe the withdrawals will impact the games in part because overseas spectators have been banned. And there is a scaled back number of foreign delegates expected to attend these games. So, they believe that they are more than covered as far as volunteers are concerned.

Now Olympic officials didn't give a specific reason for these volunteers quitting, but they did say that the number of volunteers started to drop in February around the same time former Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori resigned after making sexist comments about women.

But according to a volunteer I spoke with, health and safety concerns are the primary reason for volunteers dropping out, and that's because of current COVID-19 counter measures put in place to protect these volunteers which include two masks, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and the request to socially distance. Now that request to socially distance is made difficult because Olympic organizers are asking these volunteers who take public transportation to and from the venues.

Now those health and safety concerns are the biggest reason that these games remain so unpopular here in Japan, and it's important to remember that just in the past few weeks we've heard from multiple doctor groups, the Olympic -- and Olympic sponsor Asahi Shimbun newspaper industry leaders, and the general population, all calling for these games to either be canceled or postponed.

And just yesterday, Japan's top coronavirus adviser told the lower House of parliament that holding the Olympic Games under the current situation is not normal. And of course, that current situation, a global pandemic.

Now for now, Tokyo and nine other prefectures are currently under a state of emergency order until June 20th. That's about a month before these games are set to take off. And while the daily case count has been going down here in Japan for about two weeks, the number of patients in critical condition remains high and still only about 3 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated.

Now despite that, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told Nikkan Sports newspaper just yesterday that it's important to postpone the games again, and that data provided to them by Tokyo University shows that there will be an increase in the number of infections if the games are held without spectators -- excuse me -- there will not be an impact an increase in the number of spectators held for the games if they're held without spectators compared to whether or not these games are held at all.

So, still a lot of questions to be answered with just 50 days to go before these games are set to be held. But as you said, Rosemary, it seems to be the case that these games are going to move forward.

CHURCH: It looks that way, doesn't it? Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks.

To the E.U. now where seven countries are issuing COVID-19 certificates for travel within the block. The European Commission says Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland are handing out these digital certificates for free of charge. But the rest of Europe will have to wait a little longer.

Melissa Bell is in Paris with more on this.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A system of digital COVID certificates now up and running in seven European countries. A system that should go live in the whole of Europe by the 1st of July. It basically means that with this digital certificate, people can show as they come in and out of countries and across the European Union whether they've been vaccinated, whether they've been found to be immune because they recently had COVID, or if they've had a negative test in previous 72 hours.

The idea, once again to get Europeans flowing across borders that have for too long been closed also third-party nationals, for instance, as citizens of the United States for the seven countries so far. But for the rest of Europe by July 1st if they've been vaccinated once again to be able to travel in and out of the European Union for the first time in more than a year.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.

CHURCH: Ransomware attackers are demanding more and getting paid more than ever. And they have hit another key part of America's infrastructure. Coming up, the fallout and the White House response.

And an American sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison is urging President Biden to end hostage diplomacy. An exclusive report just ahead.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Welcome back. Well, the latest high-profile victim of a ransomware attacks says all of its U.S. facilities will be operational again today. It's unclear if the meat processing company JBS paid a ransom, but it's believed a criminal organization based in Russia is behind the scheme.

Alex Marquardt picks up the story.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Russian hackers at it again. This time striking another part of America's critical infrastructure. Food production. JBS Foods is one of the biggest meat producers in the world, all of its meatpacking facilities were impacted by the attack.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Labor Union, all nine of the JBS beef processing plants across the U.S. were shut down. The Biden administration says cybercriminals likely based in Russia are behind the ransomware attack on JBS. And has told Moscow it's on them to help stop this.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: President Biden certainly thinks that President Putin and the Russian government has a role to play.

MARQUARDT: JBS says the majority of its plants are operational again. The Biden administration has called on meat producers to work to make sure there is no impact on prices or supply, unlike when a different Russian hacking group attacked the colonial pipeline last month. Which led to gas shortages, a spike in prices, and long lines at gas stations.

CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FORMER DIRECTOR U.S. CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: Make no mistake, ransomware is a business right now. It is a business that is very profitable and we will continue to see hackers overseas, criminals overseas continue to flood into the market.

MARQUARDT: Ransomware attackers take control of a network and hold it hostage until they're paid. Colonial pipeline paid its attackers $4.4 million. JBS has not said whether they paid anything. Those two attacks follow to other recent major operations by Russian government hackers.

The unprecedented solar winds breach and last week's attacks targeting hundreds of government agencies and organizations. But it's the hacking of critical infrastructure like pipelines and food plants as well as hospitals, and schools that affect ordinary people the most. Attacks that are easy, pay well, and are only getting worse.

ALLAN LISKA, SENIOR THREAT INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, RECORDED FUTIRE: We are seeing a massive growth in ransomware. We saw it in 2020, it continues in 2021. They're not necessarily going after specific organizations. Instead, they're going after anybody they can get in any way they can get in.

MARQUARDT (on camera): The FBI has now named the ransomware attackers behind this attack on JBS Foods. They go by the names are evil and Sudanil Kivi (ph) believed to be located in Russia. The Biden administration says that fighting this type of ransomware is a big priority for them. They recently issued an executive order designed to get companies to tighten and modernize their cybersecurity defenses.

Among other things, the White House is saying they want to hold countries like Russia to account for harboring attackers like this.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH (on camera): The U.S. president is expected to bring up ransomware attacks when he meets with the Russian president later this month. But it's unclear how far the Biden administration is willing to go.


UNKNOWN: Mister President, will retaliate against Russia for this latest ransomware attack?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're looking closely at that issue.

UNKNOWN: Do you think Putin is testing you?




CHURCH (on camera): An American prisoner in Russia is calling on President Biden to aggressively resolve what he calls hostage diplomacy. Paul Whelan is serving a 16 year sentence for an espionage charge he strongly denies.

He spoke exclusively with CNN from a Russian labor camp. Matthew Chance has our report.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For more than two years Paul Whelan has languished in Russian jails, insisting he's an innocent pole in a political game.

PAUL WHELAN, DETAINEE: I want to tell the world that I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom. There's obviously no credibility to this situation.

CHANCE: Now, the former U.S. Marine, has spoken to CNN from his remote Russian penal colony. Ahead of a much anticipated summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents.

UNKNOWN: And if you could get a message to President Biden ahead of this meeting, what would it be?

WHELAN: Decisive actions is needed immediately. The abduction of an American citizen cannot stand anywhere in the world. This is not an issue of Russia against the United States and the United States needs to answer this hostage diplomacy situation and resolve it as quickly as possible. So I would ask President Biden to aggressively discuss and resolve this issue with his Russian counterparts.

CHANCE: It was at this upscale hotel in Moscow in December, 2018, where Whelan was detained by the Russian security services, the old KGB, and accused of receiving a flash drive containing classified information. In a closed trial, he was sentenced to 16 years after being convicted of espionage. Trumped up charge, he says, intended to make him a valuable bargaining chip for the Kremlin. Something Russian officials deny.

WHELAN: It's pretty simple, there was no crime. There was no evidence. The secret trial was a sham. As I said you know, the judge when I was sentenced said I was being sent home. This was done purely for political motive. And it's really up to the governments to sort out either an exchange or some sort of resolution. My hope is that it will be quick. It's been, you know, more than two years.

I have not had a shower in two weeks. I can't use a barber, I have to cut my own hair.

CHANCE: Ever since his arrest, there have been serious welfare concerns. The state of Russian prisons is poor. Now, Whelan tells CNN he spends his days sewing clothes in a prison factory but that health issues, especially during the COVID pandemic are a worry.

UNKNOWN: So, tell me, how are you doing? How are you feeling?

WHELAN: I'm doing OK. I mean, I've got some sort of illness right now. I call it a kennel cough. It kind of comes and goes in the barracks. People have it get better and then have it again. Getting medical care here is very difficult.

UNKNOWN: Are there concerns about COVID, still where you are, I imagine the vaccine hasn't reached you.

WHELAN: We have serious concerns about that. I just had one shot and I should have a second shot I think two weeks.

UNKNOWN: I know, OK.

WHELAN: So that's a step in the right direction.

CHANCE: A step in the right direction, perhaps. But for Paul Whelan, it may still be a long road home. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, Britain's Prime Minister and NATO secretary general are calling on the Belarusian regime to release the two people who were arrested after their flight was diverted to Minsk last week. After a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson and Jen Stoltenberg called dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega political prisoners. Outrage over the force diversion of the flight for a purported security alert has not diminished.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think if you look at what's happened recently with the outrageous incident of the hijacking over Belarus, I think NATO members will be wanting to stand together and protest against what happened, and to call for the release of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend from captivity in Belarus.

JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL OF NATO: It's absolutely unacceptable what they did. The force landing over a civilian aircraft on its way from (inaudible), Athens to another native capital (inaudible). And we called on the (inaudible) and also for her independence and partial investigation. And I welcome sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom and all the NATO allies and the E.U. as a clear message and (inaudible) on the house consequences when the regime in Minsk behaved the way they did.



CHURCH (on camera): Meantime another Belarusian activist who stabbed himself during a court hearing Tuesday is back in prison. He had claimed his family and neighbors would be threatened if he didn't plead guilty to organizing protests.

Fred Pleitgen reports and we must warn you, some of the images are disturbing.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Only a day after being rushed to hospital after stabbing himself in the neck, the activist Stefano is back behind bars. Now his family tells CNN that the tipoff is now situated in a detention center one in Minsk.

It was of course on Tuesday that during the hearing against him, the tipoff told the court that he was severely being pressured by Belarusian authorities, that they had told him that they would go after him but also his neighbors and his family if he did not admit to crimes that he says he did not commit.

He then took out a pen, stabbed himself in the neck, and of course as fairly customary in trials like that in Belarus was inside the cage and it took a while forecourt helpers to get to him. He was then rushed to the hospital.

Now, of course, all of this causing a massive uproar because it comes only about 10 days after the Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair plane to land, they are dragging the journalist Roman Protasevich and his companion off that plane and detaining them. All this causing the opposition -- the Belarusian opposition to call for tougher action against the Belarusian regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

Also the European aviation safety agency is now calling on European nations to not allow any flights to go through Belarusian territory.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


CHURCH (on camera): Straight ahead, a major boost could soon be coming to global vaccination efforts. The U.S. is planning to unveil how it will distribute millions of COVID vaccines around the world.

Plus -- Brazilians send a message loud and clear to their president just as he was addressing the nation. We will explain what they are angry about.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, help could soon be on the way for country struggling to secure COVID vaccines. After months of deliberation, the U.S. is set to announce how 80 million doses of vaccines will be distributed worldwide.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has details from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, President Biden has now finalized his plans to send millions of coronavirus vaccine doses worldwide, and that plan could be announced as soon as Thursday, possibly Friday in the United States. And that comes on the heels of the Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Costa Rica earlier saying that plan had been finalized.


They were preparing to distribute about 80 million doses of the vaccine worldwide. When those doses are going to be ready and where they are going still remains to be seen. What we do know is that there's been these intensive months-long efforts behind the scenes we're officials have deliberated over how they should handle this. And of course, those deliberations have gone on as you've seen numerous U.S. allies push the U.S. on when they are going to distribute these vaccines. Given you've seen so many countries struggled to ramp up their vaccinations.

What we are told what has happened behind the scenes are two things. One, a discussion on whether the U.S. should unilaterally decide who is getting these vaccines, or if they should work in conjunction with COVAX, of course that international vaccine effort to make those decisions. It's not clear where they've landed, if they do one, or the other, or a combination of both, but that remains to be seen when this announcement does actually happen.

And the other thing that the White House has been deliberating is the massive operational undertaking that this is going to be. Because of course the logistics here are enormous when it comes to coordinating this with other countries having these safety reviews before these doses actually go out and making sure the country has the public health infrastructure to actually conduct this.

And so all of that has factored into this announcement that we are expecting to get in the coming days about what this is going to look like. And it's also going to be a long, complicated process where we don't -- imagine though the start with this right away with just these doses. They do plan to do more with other doses in the future. What those doses are remains to be seen though.

Because we know there's AstraZeneca doses, there's 60 million that President Biden has pledged to get out by July 4th have not finished that safety review checked yet. Those are not expected to be distributed in the near future.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH (on camera): The Pan American Health Organization says Central America is reporting more COVID deaths than ever before. And cases are accelerating in some parts of the region.

Stefano Pozzebon has the details from Bogota in Columbia.


STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST (voice over): The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over in the western hemisphere with particularly concerning situations in Brazil, which on Wednesday reported more than 95,000 new coronavirus cases in less than 24 hours. And that's the second highest single day increase in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

And in Central America which is now reporting more coronavirus deaths than any point during the pandemic, according to the Pan American Health Organization with particularly concerning outbreaks in El Salvador, Panama, and Haiti.

And Dr. (inaudible), who is the director of the Pan American Health Organization said that while for the last few weeks, cases have been platooning and even decreasing in some countries, cases have now risen across the hemisphere in the last week with the only exception of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, where there is still reporting decreases in new cases and deaths.

In Columbia, for example, the number of new cases has almost tripled in some of the region, according to the PAHO. And he said what's particularly worrying is the number of people that he's moving around the continent and that the lockdown restrictions are being lifted prematurely, which is creating a perfect environment for the virus, and worrying new variants to spread without restriction.

Here in Bogota for example, intensive care units are yet again bordering capacity. But the local mayor have announced a total reopening of the city starting next week in order to try and boost an economy that has been deeply affected by the COVID lockdown.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


CHURCH (on camera): In Brazil, people angry about the country's COVID response pulled no punches as President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the nation.

That was the reaction in Rio de Janeiro as Mr. Bolsonaro spoke Wednesday night across the country. They chanted down with Bolsonaro and Bolsonaro genocide. And during last weekend, opponents held large rallies calling on the president to quit. In his speech, the president praised the distribution of 100 million vaccine doses to cities and states.

Well, some Brazilians also are making noise, figuratively speaking, about the upcoming Copa America tournament.


The South American men's football championship gets underway in 10 days, even though Brazil is facing a possible third wave of COVID. The nation soar more than 95,000 new cases Wednesday. The second highest number during the pandemic.

But as Anthony Wells of CNN Brazil reports, organizers are still moving ahead with their tournament plans.


ANTHONY WELLS, REPORTER, CNN BRAZIL (on camera): The Brazilian government has announced that the tournament will be held in four cities. The Kuyaba (ph), capital of the state (inaudible), Golania, the capital of the state of Goyas (ph), as well as Brasilia, the capital of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro where the Copa America final will most likely be played at the iconic (inaudible) stadium on July 10th.

What made it difficult for the (inaudible) or the South American football confederation to determine where these matches would be played was the fact you had Governors all over the nation refusing to have COPA America match is being held within their state lines.

Brazil does have experience hosting massive international soccer tournaments like the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the most recent addition of the COPA America back in 2019, but a lot of questions come forward whether the nation can host a tournament of this scale in the middle of a pandemic with over 460,000 deaths.

The competition is set to kick off on June 13th, and the final will most likely be played, as I said, at the famous Monaco stadium in Rio on July 10th. This is the sixth time Brazil will be hosting the COPA America which is 105-year-old tournament. The first edition was played way back in 1916.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHURCH (on camera): A socialite with ties to a British billionaire is

behind bars, charged with killing a police officer in Belize. The puzzling details just ahead.


CHURCH (on camera): Legendary race horse trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from Churchill downs for two years after test confirmed he's Kentucky derby winner Medina Spirit had more than double the allowed levels of an anti-inflammatory medication. Ahead of Churchill downs said quote Mr. Baffert's records of testing failures threatens public confidence and thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky derby. The Kentucky horse racing commission has not made any decision on whether Medina Spirit will forfeit his win.

A Canadian socialite has now been charged in the death of a police officer in Belize. But the circumstances of his death are murky. The socialite is the longtime partner of Andrew Ashcroft, a well-known real estate developer in Belize and the son of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft.

CNN's Paula Newton explains what we know so far.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The police superintendent Henry Jemmott was a father of five, and a law enforcement veteran. His friends and family say they are stunned by his sudden death and equally shocked that a police officer could die this way. Jemmott's sister Marie Tzul hold on tight to family members during an interview with CNN from Belize. She tells me none of the circumstances make any sense to her.


MARIE TZUL, SISTER OF SLAIN OFFICER: My family right now is really hurt right now. We are missing our brother, his children is missing him. We are devastated, really devastated by this.

NEWTON: Police in the Central American country confirmed Jemmott did not die in the line of duty but instead in what they described as an incident. The details disclosed, that Jemmott and a woman were drinking alone on the pier and both were fully clothed. Details beyond that our (inaudible). Police in Belize say that they have charged Canadian socialite Jasmine Hartin, seen here being transported while in custody. Hartin's lawyer says his client is cooperating.

UNKNOWN: The charges is manslaughter, negligence. A bill has been denied, the appeal for the Supreme Court as normal.

NEWTON: What is not normal says Jemmott's family are the details as outlined by police.

UNKNOWN: Police found the female on a pier. She had what appeared to be drugs on her arms and on her clothing. And inside the waters right near the pier, police uncovered the lifeless body of Mr. Jemmott, with one apparent gunshot wound behind the right ear.

NEWTON: Police say Hartin covered in blood was in an emotional state when they first arrived but will not disclosed what she told them, if anything. Jemmott's family says they want to know more from Hartin, the longtime partner of Andrew Ashcroft, the son of British billionaire lord Michael Ashcroft. Hartin and the Ashcroft's have been fixtures in Belize for years. Jemmott's family says their brother knew Hartin and the Ashcroft. The details of how he died, though, they say do not point to an accidental death.

TZUL: What we don't know, why they did not charge her for murder? They should have taken that to court. Murder. Let that play out in the court. And the court will decide.

NEWTON: Police say they continue to investigate, underscoring he was also their beloved friend and colleague. And Jemmott's family says they want answers on the devastating loss of a father, brother, and devoted police veteran. Who police indicate may have been killed by a bullet from his own service weapon.

Paula Newton, CNN.


CHURCH (on camera): And I'm Rosemary Church. CNN Newsroom continues now with Kim Brunhuber next here on CNN.