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CNN NEWSROOM

Russian Mercenaries Accused of Mass Murder in Central African Republic; 13th Opposition Figure Arrested by Ortega Government; Garland Pledges Thorough investigation into Subpoenas; Organizers Set to Unveil Latest COVID Rules Ahead of Olympics; Biden Meets E.U. Leaders Ahead of Putin Summit; NATO Members Vow to Address Challenges from China; U.K. Prime Minister Johnson Delays Lockdown Lifting in England. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired June 15, 2021 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:34]

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, again. I'm John Vause. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Ahead this hour, Joe Biden prepares for a face to face with the man who he says has no soul.

The U.S. president leaves his first summit with NATO leaders with a win. For the first time ever, the alliance looks East and emerging threat from China.

The fall reopening denied and delayed for England because of the rapid spread of the Delta variant which appears to double the risk of hospitalization.

(MUSIC)

VAUSE: In the coming hours, Joe Biden will say goodbye to friends in Brussels and head to Geneva, for a face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. The smiles and fist bumps among NATO leaders on Monday said as much about the future of this military alliance, as it is about the turmoil and chaos of the past four years.

And the U.S. president leaves with what is seen as a big win -- agreement for a pivotal step to the East, focusing on what they say is an emerging threat from China.

And on the summit, on the sidelines of this summit, Biden met with a number of leaders, that includes the president of Turkey. Despite recent strained relations, both the positive about resolving ongoing issues.

But mostly Joe Biden reassured allies of America's commitment to the 72-year-old military alliance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Article 5 we take as the sacred obligation. And I constantly remind Americans, that when America attacked for the first time and ensures since it happened back in the end of World War II, NATO stepped up. NATO stepped up. They honored Article 5.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Article 5, an attack on one number seen as an attack on all members. NATO secretary general praised Biden and what was a stark contrast to the Trump years, he said the mood was friendly. The allies united, especially when it came to threats from not just Russia, but also China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We heard a strong message from President Biden, on America's commitment to NATO, and an equally strong commitment from other allies in return. All leaders agreed that in in age of global competition, Europe and North America must stand strong together in NATO, to defend our values and our interests, especially at the time when authoritarian regimes like Russia and China challenge the rules-based international order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And with the allies united, the next challenge now for Joe Biden will be a meeting with Vladimir Putin. The first presidential summit between two men who have known each other for decades.

CNN's Phil Mattingly reports now from Brussels.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIDEN: I have found that he is as they say, when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden now deep into preparation for his high stakes sit down with Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

BIDEN: I want to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate, and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity, some other activities, then we will respond.

MATTINGLY: Even as he seeks to reestablish and tighten U.S. bonds with traditional allies at the NATO summit in Brussels, the Russian leader never far from his mind.

BIDEN: I'm hoping that President Putin concludes that there is some interest in terms of his own interests, and changing the perception that the world has of him in terms of whether or not, he will engage in behavior that's more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for head of state.

MATTINGLY: And responding this way, when told that Putin laughed when Biden referred to the Russian leader as a killer. BIDEN: To answer the first question -- I'm laughing too. The answer

is, I believe he is in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was -- there were certain things that he would do or did do.

[01:05:02]

But look when I was asked that question on air, answered it honestly.

MATTINGLY: A lengthy list of Biden's on the agenda in Geneva, from firm warnings and cyberattacks, political prisoners and aggression in Ukraine, to areas of potential cooperation, like Afghanistan, arms control and the Iran nuclear deal.

BIDEN: We should decide where it's in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world to cooperate and see if we can do that. In the areas where we don't agree, make it a clear what the red lines are.

MATTINGLY: Biden meeting private with Baltic and the Eastern European leaders over the course of the day, soliciting their positions in advance of the meeting and reassuring allies, official say, their answers factored into weeks of preparation for the famously unpredictable Russian leader, one who thrives off hijacking substantive conversations, including continued denials of hacking efforts confirmed by U.S. intelligence.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Where is the evidence? Where is the proof? It's becoming farcical. We know it well.

MATTINGLY: Biden's preparation has included an emphasis on ways Putin may try to pull the meeting off track, officials tell CNN, as the Russian leader preview those potential lies in his most recent interview.

PUTIN: The U.S. is a high tech country. NATO has declared a cyberspace an area of combat. That means they are planning something, they are preparing something. So, obviously, this cannot but worry us.

MATTINGLY: But Biden looking to enter the meeting with more than just his agenda in hand, spending his first full day in Brussels, seeking to rally leaders in a show of unity heading into the Geneva sit down. The intended message to Putin, officials tell CNN, Western democracies are once again aligned against Russian malign activity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (on camera): And for, weeks White House officials have pushed back on criticisms that perhaps the meeting itself elevates President Putin and his role, his status in world, perhaps it is happening too early in the Biden administration. Perhaps the president didn't have enough clear outcomes to shoot for to even justify the meeting itself.

They've made clear, they believe the fact has had such a low point, the factor such significant differences is precisely why President Biden who often prisoners, almost always prefers face to face meetings on anything with us on Capitol Hill or the with world leaders, wanted to sit down with president Putin and the president dress this idea as well, at his press conference in Brussels.

There has been some uncertain from some allies about whether not this was happening too soon. The president made very clear, every leader he said that he spoken do in Brussels, at NATO, there's been more than a dozen. In the words of the president found it, quote, thoroughly acceptable.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, Brussels.

VAUSE: Live now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen standing by in Geneva.

So, Fred it's worth noting that final NATO communique actually mentioned China 10 times, but Russia 62 times. So, clearly, Russia remains NATO's main focus here.

And with Biden set to meet the Russian president on Wednesday, I want you to listen to NATO secretary general with more. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STOLTENBERG; Allies welcome today's consultations with President Biden, ahead of his meeting with President Putin in Geneva. Our relationship with Russia is at its lowest point since the Cold War and Moscow's aggressive actions are a threat to our security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: So, do we know what NATO members are actually saying with Putin, when they're looking for in this presidential summit?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think one of things that they were looking for, they actually got there at the NATO summit, which is that show of unity and United States essentially saying that it's back on the international stage, and that it wants to work in these alliances, really takes the allies very seriously. I think that is something that really shows a united front as President Biden heads even to this meeting in Geneva with Vladimir Putin.

And, of course, there are security officials at hand, I think there are certain areas where the NATO allies realized and I think the U.S. also relies going very difficult to come to any sort of conclusions with the Russian president. Ukraine is one of these areas where the U.S. and Russia are really diametrically apart, it's hard to see the Russians given any sort of ground on that issue.

But if you're in the perspective of the European allies, and you've seen for instance some of the weapons that the Russians have been developing over the past couple of years, then arms control certainly one of those areas where they hope that they could at least be a more predictable tone in all of this, that things could more forward, at least to a certain extent. Those are the one of things will be looking for but generally just more predictability in the relationship, more stability that's with the allies are going to be looking for, that the U.S. looking for as well, John. VAUSE: Fred, also, we have very different dynamic here. You know,

Biden would not be staring into Putin's eyes and seeing his soul, siding with Putin over U.S. intelligence like we've seen in the past. And, you know, if the public back and forth is any indication, they don't particular like one another. It's not Reagan and Gorbachev.

[01:10:01]

So, how do they actually negotiate? Will they hold -- you know, they won't hold a joint news conference at the end of this, so how is it expected to play out?

PLEITGEN: I think that this is really going to be a negotiation that's going to take place on the base of these countries representing the U.S., obviously, its interest and the interest of its allies as well in Russia, representing its interesting. I think what you're going to see is a very interest based negotiations that's going to take place and you could really both leaders really trying to take some of the emotion out of the rhetoric that had taken place ahead of this summit.

Obviously, you had those remarks about President Biden that we just heard there in Phil's report, where he's saying, yes, he made those remarks about Vladimir Putin being a killer, answering in the affirmative, but he doesn't think that's going to play a role here.

The Russian president essentially saying the same thing, saying he's been called many things at various occasions. Obviously, he's been in politics for very long time, obviously that is part of U.S. showboating.

So, both sides are going to go into the, meeting, the Russian side and the U.S. side, very clear-eyed. Are they going to say, look, these are areas where we think we can cooperate and these areas where there's not be a lot of headway made of all. Then there's some areas where they think there might be some form of cooperation, but we're really -- it's not based on trust but it will be more based on verification, the cyber realm, of course, they probably the most important of those. See if they can always make headway to try to come to some sort of cooperation in the realm -- John.

VAUSE: Fred, thank you. Fred Pleitgen there live with us for the very latest. Appreciate that.

Well, the Biden administration was hoping this first presidential trip to Europe would be a way of unifying the allies to confront what they say is a growing threat from China. And NATO's broadside at Beijing appears to be mission accomplished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STOLTENBERG: We also know that China does not share our values. We see how they crackdown on democratic protests in Hong Kong, and also persecute minorities in their own country and use modern technology, social media and facial recognition to monitor and surveillance their own population the way we've never seen before. All of this matters for security, and no country and no continent can manage to deal with this alone. So, therefore, we need to respond together as an alliance, as NATO.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: CNN's Ivan Watson in Hong Kong live with more on this. So, what precisely are they talking about when it comes this emerging threat from China? What are they looking at?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the NATO final communique specified some of these issues. It says that quote, China stated ambitions in any sort of behavior presents systemic challenges to the rules based international order. And then it goes on to say, China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, with more warheads and more sophisticated delivery systems, that it's cooperating militarily, conducting exercises with Russia in the Euro Atlantic area, and that it expresses about what it describes as China's lack of transparency and use of disinformation.

It goes on to say, hey, there are areas that NATO could cooperate with China, particularly on climate change, which seems to be this thing that's the one area where everybody can agree, there could be cooperation with the world's second largest economy.

But this is a big shift. This is the addition of China as basically recognition that it's a competitor. Or as the secretary general put forth, it's not NATO moving to China, it's the recognition that China is coming to NATO. It's more active in Africa, for example. It has conducted joint military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea with Russia. And that NATO needs to start dealing with this new reality. Or again, as the secretary general put, a shifting global balance of power -- John.

VAUSE: When we talk about the response from the Beijing, there's a harsh rhetoric and talk about, you know, slander, and go cold war thinking, beyond that, though, what are the measures which could expect I guess in the coming months and years that Beijing will take into push back against NATO.

WATSON: Right. Well, what we do know from the G7 summit, and also to some degree from the NATO summit is that some of the European countries were reluctant to take such a strong and tough line with China, notably, Germany for example, or Italy.

And there are reasons for that. Part of it is the economic interdependence of this. They think tank studies that have shown, the China has put tens of billions of dollars worth of investment into European economies, over the course of the last decade. So these are European countries that depend on China and don't necessarily want as Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, put it, they don't want to Cold War China.

And they may not entirely view the U.S. as a reliable partner, certainly after the four years of acrimony with the Trump administration. So, there is economic pressure that China can apply to this. [01:15:03]

It's interesting that in an editorial in the very hawkish "Global Times" newspaper out of China, that there was a statement calling on China to show Europe, to demonstrate that it is not a threat.

And China, Beijing, on the one hand, they can argue that this is a U.S.-led conspiracy against them, but there are signs around the world, not only in NATO, not only in the G7, but here in Asia, the countries are concerned about China's posture.

Look, for example, at the Quad. That's India, Australia, Japan, in the U.S., they've ramped up their joint military exercises, and some would argue that China's aggressive posture killing Indian soldiers in the Himalayas, economic sanctions against Australia, are pushing allies together to counter balance what they see as China's increasing assertiveness around the globe -- John.

VAUSE: Ivan, thank you. Ivan Watson, live in Hong Kong. Appreciate that.

Well, the U.K. is set to announce its first free trade agreements since Brexit in Australia. It will be with Australia. British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, made a deal over dinner on Monday, according to officials in Canberra. The agreement is expected to be formally written by early October, November, and will take effect next year.

The British government is delaying further reopening measures, over the spread of the Delta variant. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement on Monday. The remaining COVID restrictions, originally intended to be lifted June 21st, next week.

But the government says a four-week delay will help close the gap between the number of first and 2nd doses of covid-19 vaccines that are being administered. The prime minister explained why. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We've obviously faced a very difficult choice. We can simply keep going, we all stepped forward on June 21st, even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines, but with thousands more deaths would ensue that could otherwise, have been avoided. Or else, we can give the NHS a few more crucial weeks to get those remaining jabs into the arms of those who need them.

And since, today, I cannot say we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step 4 on June 21st, I think it is sensible to wait just a longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Dr. Eric Topol is cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. He joins us now from the La Jolla in California. Dr. Topol, it's been a while. Good to have you back with us.

DR.ERIC TOPOL, PROFESSOR OF MOLECULAR MEDICINE, SCRIPPS RESEARCH: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

VAUSE: I want you to listen a little more from the British prime minister on when and why the U.K. will be able to fully reopen. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNSON: By July 19th, we do think we will have built up a very considerable wall of immunity around the whole of the population. And at that stage, on the basis of the evidence that I can see now, I'm confident that we will be able to get the full step four, the full opening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: That timing appears to be quite specific, especially considering that the Delta variant and the unknowns. This variant was identified in India, and as one of the main reasons for the delay of the reopening, because new research is finding, it's associated with approximately double the risk of hospitalization, compared with the Alpha variant, which is the first one, that was first identified in the U.K.

That's according to preliminary findings of a Scottish study published Monday in the Lancet.

So, what would you give the odds that by July 19th, U.K. would be back on track for reopening?

TOPOL: Well, first, John, I think the delta variant is the most formidable version of the virus. We can see it at the beginning of the pandemic. It has a least 60 percent more contagiousness or and transmissibility. So, I think this is a very smart strategy, because, in the U.K., there is still eager receptivity to get vaccinated, so, this extra four weeks will get a lot more people fully vaccinated, which is what is needed.

Unlike other variants, like the Alpha, the original monument shunned, and in the U.K., this one has more immune invasiveness that requires two doses of vaccines to really protect, that is that wall of protection that Prime Minister Johnson mentioned. So, I think this is going to be a good tactic, because a whole lot more people will get the second dose, and within a few weeks after that, they will be protected, and that's what we need.

[01:20:00]

And so, I think -- in fact, I wish we had more of that here in the U.S.

VAUSE: Just on the issue of how the vaccines are affected when it comes to the Delta variant, most of them say that they will prevent hospitalization, it's a graph from the U.K. government. The yellow dots on the left, representing the number of hospitalizations from the Delta variant after one dose of vaccine. The blood dots re people who were unvaccinated, at the top there.

So, well on the right, you can see, it shows up to 98 percent reduction of hospital admissions, among those who had both shots of the vaccine. But, here is another graph, the blue gray line, at the top there, the number of people who've received just one of the two vaccine doses. The yellow represents those who have received both shots.

So, you say that the next 4 weeks, to give it a chance to catch up on that number, but how much of it is a concern right now? Because on those numbers, say about, 15 million people have yet to receive both doses of the vaccine.

TOPOL: Right. But, you see, the key here is that with two doses, we are seeing the different vaccines, 95 percent, approximately, a reduction in the need for hospitalization, severe illness or fatalities. So, we're fortunate to have such potent effects on severe illness, from the vaccines. But it doesn't, as you showed, you know, one dose isn't going to cut it.

On the one hand, we've got a very fit, difficult virus to contend with, and on the other, we've got vaccines that were quite well, but we have to get much more people.

The sooner we get to that level, and 60 percent of a population fully vaccinated, along with the people who have had prior COVID, and have some inborn protection, even though they get more with another dose, with a dose of vaccine, the closer we get to protecting everyone.

So, you know, containment is the goal, before the U.K. variant came into the U.K., the U.K. variant was close to containment, less than one per hundred thousand cases. But now, it's gone up to over 10.

So, you know, I think this is a smart idea, get those vaccinations up as much as possible, especially second doses, and they'll be a much better outcome in four weeks.

VAUSE: You know, there is another vaccine out there which provides protection from the coronavirus. It's the Novavax, and they issued a statement saying it demonstrated 100 percent protection against moderate and severe disease, 90.4 percent efficacy overall.

Out of, Novavax remains on track to reach manufacturing capacity of 100 million doses, per month, by the end of the 3rd quarter, 150 million doses per month by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. These are incredible numbers, for a couple of weeks, it's never actually brought a vaccine to market before.

TOPOL: Right.

VAUSE: But Novavax may not be there as the first wave of vaccinations. But -- so where do you see it filling a need beyond that? TOPOL: Well, you know, John, it has a very similar profile, this

protein-based vaccine as the mRNA. It's high potency, and its efficacy. We don't know of its effect fact against the Delta variant, and, of course, as we go forward, that's going to become the dominant version of the virus throughout the world, unless another one comes along with even higher ability to spread.

But, otherwise, you know, to have another vaccine that's got solid data, very potent, it is a welcome story for everyone. And as you say, large numbers of the production of vaccines can be distributed throughout the world, because we're all in this together, and every vaccine that works, and is safe is a real, important step forward.

VAUSE: Dr. Topol, thank you so much. It was good to see you.

TOPOL: Great to see you, John.

VAUSE: Thank you.

Well, the U.S. is moving closer to passing 600,000 deaths from the coronavirus. That is according to Johns Hopkins University. It's a grim milestone, which officials are hoping can never be breached amid the rollout of the vaccines.

The U.S. has seen more deaths and more cases than any other country, a fact isn't loss on members of Congress. They gathered on the steps of the Capitol Monday to observe a moment of silence in honor of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Coming up, next on CNN NEWSROOM, new developments in that report of a possible Chinese nuclear plant leak. We go live to Beijing, for the very latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:26:29]

VAUSE: Well, it could be days before this massive chemical fire in Illinois is actually put out. The main concern? Chemical runoff into a river. Nearby residents are being forced to leave their homes. The cause of that blaze and that explosion remains unknown right now.

Now, for an update on the CNN exclusive, earlier reporting on the U.S. government, assessing reports of a possible leak at a Chinese nuclear plant after French company which is part owner, and operator, warned of an imminent radiological threat.

The center of the concern is the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant located in Guangdong province, home to more than 126 million people.

CNN has reached out to authorities in China, in Guangdong, and Beijing, and at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. So far, no response.

Steven Jiang reports now on the latest from Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: We have heard much from the French side in the past 24 hours, because remember, this power plant is a Chinese-French joined venture.

Now, the Chinese state-owned energy conglomerate, CGN, that owns a 70 percent stake in this power plant, did issue an earlier statement saying that they are continuous monitoring of environmental data, both side and the surrounding area, indicates everything is normal, and that the company has been operating this power plant in strict accordance with nuclear safety regulations, and technical procedures.

Now, we have since heard a bit more details and clarification from EDF. That's the French utility company that owns a 30 percent stake in this power plant. EDF says it is aware of an increased concentration of noble gases in the primary circuit, and one of the two reactors. They say that the escaped noble gases, xenon, and krypton, indicate a degradation in the housing of the fuel rods.

But they also emphasized that there's no increasing pressure within the system. And, the gases were dissolved within the water in the system, and then collected, and extracted. So, they said this housings affected are just the first of three containment barriers between the rods, and the atmosphere.

Now, EDF did acknowledge that this issue of a potential leakage was discussed as early as last October, following a planned refueling outage. But the company says without a full analysis, it's still too early for them to see whether or not a complete shutdown of the reactor is needed.

But the company did say, to current readings, the levels of radiation on site are still below the Chinese government threshold.

But all of this information, an explanation, still is an answer some of the most pressing questions raised by EDF subsidiaries, a few weeks ago, in their letters to the U.S. Department of Energy, but it is in memos dated June 3rd, and 8th, that the company indicated that there was an imminent radiological threat, and also, the Chinese safety authority has been raising the acceptable limits of radiation for the surrounding area of the plant, so to avoid having to shut it down.

And they revised level actually was more than double the initial threshold, and also succeeding the French standard, which is why the ATF subsidiary expressed concern over the potential risks.

So, all of these questions remaining unanswered by neither the Chinese, or the French authorities, and these are the questions we hope to pose directly to Chinese officials in the coming hours.

Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic are facing multiple allegations of war crimes, including murder, and torture.

[01:30:00]

A CNN exclusive is coming up.

Also, a 13th critic of Nicaragua's president has been arrested. The latest on the country's political crackdown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm John Vause.

Well, a CNN investigation has uncovered disturbing evidence of human rights atrocities by Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic.

Chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward and her team were denied entry to the country because of CNN's previous reporting on the activities of the mercenaries. But working with local journalists and the independent investigative group The Sentry, CNN has assembled evidence of a pattern of abuse which one U.N. expert says may amount to war crimes.

The names of the victims have been changed to protect their identities and some viewers may find the images in this report disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The aftermath of a massacre at a mosque in the city of Bambari in the Central African Republic. At least 12 bodies are visible on the ground, a woman and a child are among the dead.

Dozens of civilians had taken shelter in the Al Taqwa mosque that day after witnesses say Russian mercenaries and government troops came hunting for rebel fighters.

Abdoulaye (ph) was inside the mosque but instead of finding sanctuary, he told CNN they became targets.

ABDOULAYE, VICTIM OF BAMBARI MOSQUE INCIDENT (through translator): (INAUDIBLE) and the Russians asked us to take the women and children out of the mosque. Six of us walked out with our hands raised, they searched us and found nothing.

We haven't even gone five meters then they started shooting at us. Four people died, one jumped a wall and I was shot in the right foot.

WARD: That same day, Djibrilia (ph) told CNN her 15-year-old son was killed by Russians firing from a helicopter. When her husband went out to find him he was shot down too.

DJIBRILIA, VICTIM OF BAMBARI INCIDENT: My husband was buried together with my 15-year-old son. When the barrel (ph) was over we couldn't even say a word. I was crying, my children also came next to me wailing. It was the Russians who killed my husband, leaving me with children and pain.

[01:34:50]

WARD: A confidential U.N. report found that abuses were carried out on both sides in Bambari, but that the Russians may have committed war crimes and it does not appear to be an isolated incident.

Over several months CNN and the independent investigative group The Sentry, have obtained testimony and documents, implicating Russian contractors deployed to train the Central African Army in a wide range of atrocities during fighting between government and rebel forces, including mass shootings, torture and the burning of villages.

Sorcha McLeod is on the U.N. working group on mercenaries. In March, it sent details of alleged abuses to the Russian and Central African Republic governments.

(on camera): Grave human rights abuses including rape, summary executions, targeted killings, torture, forced disappearances, murders and other abuses. And you were talking about war crimes here, potentially, are we not?

SORCHA MCLEOD, U.N. WORKING GROUP ON MERCENARIES: Yes, we are. We are seeing some of the most serious human rights violations and humanitarian law violations.

And we're seeing them on a widespread scale. People on the ground are absolutely terrified.

WARD (voice over): It is a stark contrast from the story Russia tells. In this recent movie "Tourist", funded by a company associated with the Russian mercenaries, they are lauded as heroic defenders who have liberated Central Africa. In reality, Russia's presence in this war- torn mineral-rich nation has always been controversial.

Even as it has ballooned from 170 contracted trainers in 2017 to around 2,300 now, according to a U.N. document obtained by The Sentry with more than 30 bases spread out across the country.

39-year-old teacher Nemeri (ph) shows our camera the scars from wounds he says were inflicted by Russian mercenaries at an outpost outside of Bambari.

"They took us to the Russian base, tied us up with rope and started to torture us. They even used the bayonet to injure my left foot deeply," he says. "Their actions were evil and barbaric.

MCLEOD: We are seeing a pattern of behavior by these Russian private contractors, this is happened in other countries. We've seen it for example in relation to Libya, where Russian private contractors were involved in a variety of human rights violations, in a variety of international humanitarian law violations.

WARD: But for the victims of these alleged crimes, there is little hope for justice. Private military contractors are technically illegal in Russia, and so don't officially exist.

And many locals live in fear of repercussions from a shadowy and unaccountable force.

Clarissa Ward, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: A jailed Belarusian journalist has made a sudden and unexpected appearance at a news conference which had been called by government officials.

State-run media distributed a recording of Roman Protasevich who said he felt fine and he said he had not been physically beaten. But the opposition said it was another public appearance made under duress.

Protasevich was arrested after his flight was diverted to Belarus last month and a confession which his supporters said was coerced. Protasevich said he was part of a plot to topple President Alexander Lukashenko.

Another imprisoned journalist has been released and is set to fly out of Myanmar in the coming hours. Nathan Wang (ph) was accused of spreading fake news. His lawyers say the charges have now been dropped.

Wang was the cofounder of the online news site was arrested in March. Sources say the two men were tortured before they were transferred to prison. The co-founder of the news site remains behind bars.

In Nicaragua, a crackdown on the opposition has swept up another adversary of President Daniel Ortega. Former deputy foreign minister, Victor Hugo Tinoco was arrested on Sunday. He's among at least 13 high-profile opposition figures arrested over the past two weeks.

CNN's Rafael Romo has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The Nicaraguan national police detained six more opposition activists over the weekend during the span of a 24-hour period bringing the total to at least 13 in the last two weeks.

Victor Hugo Tinoco a former deputy minister of foreign affairs and current member of an opposition party was detained Sunday night.

Five other opposition activists were taken into custody between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

(voice over): An additional seven political dissidents including four presidential candidates have been detained since June 2nd.

[01:39:59]

ROMO: The show of force against the opposition comes only five months before Nicaragua is to hold presidential elections and President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in power.

The 75-year-old former revolutionary leader has governed the Central American country since 2007 and previously ruled the nation between 1979 and 1990, the last 5 years as an elected president.

(on camera): The charges against all of those detained are vague national security violations. In four different statements, Nicaragua national police say four those detained over the weekend are being investigated for violating a law that forbids among other things, acts that undermine Nicaragua's independence, sovereignty and self determination, as well as conspiring with foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization.

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights condemned the detentions calling them arbitrary and saying that police violently enter their homes to detain them.

Rafael Romo, CNN -- Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, Israel has a new working government. Coming up Naftali Bennett takes over as prime minister and his predecessor is making another promise to undermine him.

And the fallout from a U.S. Justice Department scandal during Donald Trump's presidency appears to be growing and how the attorney general is trying to clean up the mess.

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VAUSE: In the coming hours far right Israeli groups are expected to march around Jerusalem's old city. The march is approved by the new government there despite the risks of reigniting tensions. Palestinians have called for a day of rage in response.

Incoming prime minister, Naftali Bennett met with his predecessor on Monday for a handover briefing which lasted 30 minutes. And when it was over, Benjamin Netanyahu promised to, quote, "overthrow the government at the first opportunity".

Well, the most diverse coalition government in Israeli history is united with just one goal, ousting Netanyahu. Now that has happened, whether he succeeds in governing will depend on its two leaders. Politicians who've been friends despite their very different views.

CNN's Oren Liebermann explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They called it a brotherhood -- a pact that looked like the odd couple. The religious high-tech millionaire, and the secular television host.

Naftali Bennett came into politics on the right, advocating for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. "There are no two narratives, there are no two truths, there is one

truth, and that truth is very simple. Greater Israel belongs to the Jewish people."

His rollercoaster political journey through a series of different parties since 2008. A constant, right wing thorn in Benjamin Netanyahu's side.

[01:44:52]

NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: It should be clear, we will not allow the Israeli government to recognize a Palestinian state under no circumstances. We will not allow Israel to hand over -- not even one centimeter of land to the Arabs.

This is what we are here for. To guard the land of Israel, as we have always done.

LIEBERMANN: Now he leads the Yamina Party with a mere 6 seats, 5 percent of Israel's parliament. But enough to become Israel's prime minister.

Former TV host, Yair Lapid entered politics in 2013. The surprise story of the election, netting many seats with his Yesh Atid party. The two rookie politicians formed an alliance then, based on a genuine friendship and a commitment not to lie to each other, according to those familiar with relationship.

They used their new found powder for leverage against Netanyahu, a taste of what was to come. Through the years, they found themselves on opposite sides, but the friendship held, and the alliance reemerged after the last election, a return of the bromance.

The two are selling a different future for politics. Not the divisive, polarizing politics of Benjamin Netanyahu, but a politics based on agreements and unity where your opponent is a patriot with a different view on how best help the country.

Their success depends on the most diverse, disparate coalition in Israel's 73 history. A grand experiment in politics, based on a brotherhood that has lasted so far.

(on camera): Their alliances is made possible by the nature of their parties. Naftali Bennett hopes to pull votes from the right where Yair Lapid hopes to pull votes from the center and the left.

So their success isn't mutually exclusive. Because of that, they saw an opportunity with Benjamin Netanyahu's continued failure to form a government to try something new, something different, where one and one made more than two.

Oren Liebermann, CNN -- Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, the U.S. Justice Department is facing a growing scandal over the secret use of subpoenas to discredit Donald Trump's political foes -- a so-called hit list.

CNN's Jessica Schneider has the latest now from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Attorney General Merrick Garland, pledging a thorough and independent investigation into the subpoenas and gag orders that included obtaining records from some of former President Trump's biggest congressional foes.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Everything we thought a president never would do, Donald Trump did. And now it's a question of what are we willing to do to preserve the republic?

SCHNEIDER: Congressman Swalwell and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff learned in May that the Justice Department subpoenaed their records beginning in February 2018. Trump frequently targeted both men when he railed against the Russia investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, FOR MER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a leak from the intelligence committee, a house version, and I think that they leaked it. I think probably Schiff leaked it.

SCHNEIDER: But this weekend, yet another revelation. The DOJ requested records for accounts of former White House counsel Don McGahn and his wife, during the same time period in early 2018.

The increasing number of secretive seizures, raising more questions about why Justice officials took these steps. Why were the records collected? Who was being targeted in any leak investigation and why? Was the investigation politically motivated? Or about a legitimate national security threat?

We know that Trump had become disillusioned with his top legal counsel, when McGahn refused to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, leading to questions of possible presidential obstruction.

But a source tells CNN, Mueller's team did not issue the subpoena for McGahn's records. Former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, along with former deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein all say they had no knowledge of the subpoenas. Now, Democrats are demanding Sessions and Barr testify.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: How could it be that there could be an investigation of other members in the other branch of government and they're pressing arrests, too.

And the attorneys general did not know? So, who are these people? Are they still in the Justice Department?

SCHNEIDER: The Justice Department's inspector general, announced a probe on Friday. And now Attorney General Garland says deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, will also working on surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high-level review and aim to evaluate and strengthen the department's existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the legislative branch. The attorney general is meeting the executives from CNN, "The Washington Post", and "The New York Times". All of whom want answers about why the Justice Department under Trump, demanded logs from journalist communications.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-CA), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This is not just some kind of Washington insider thing. It's about people's phone records being subpoenaed without them even knowing about it.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): We've learned the Trump appointee, who led the national security division at DOJ, John Demers, he will leave at the end of the month. Something that was previously planned, according to a source.

But, it's notable because the national security division plays a large role in leak investigations, and would be directly involved in obtaining these records from journalists and lawmakers.

Jessica Schneider, CNN -- Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[01:49:58]

VAUSE: An Olympics like no other, just weeks away. The latest playbook on how to handle the Olympic games pandemic, that's set to be released. We'll have details on that in a moment.

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VAUSE: The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics is set to release pandemic playbook 3.0 for athletes and officials. At the same time, the International Olympic Committee vice president John Coats arrived in Tokyo just a few hours ago. And he arrives amid widespread calls to cancel all of this, with Japan reeling from a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

CNN's Blake Essig, joins us now live from Tokyo.

Ok. So the last playbook they put out didn't go down so well. Experts were not very impressed with it, to say the least. Do we know what they have changed? And when can we expect with the latest advice will be?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know John, we're going to find out a whole lot more in five hours, when this third iteration of the playbook is released.

But as you mentioned, a lot of criticism from the first two playbooks that were released. And Olympic organizers say that they've taken that criticism, and will have all of those concerns reflected in this latest version.

And the final version, before the games are set to take place in just 38 days. Now, again, you mentioned John Coates' arrival, really signaled the start of the operational phase of the Olympics and really the clearest signal yet that these games are going ahead, despite concerns from the public and medical professionals.

Of course, just last month, Coates said that the games would be held, even if there was a state of emergency order in effect. Now while the current state of emergency order is set to be listed next week, local media is reporting that a quasi state of emergency could be put in to effect and last throughout the Olympic Games.

We will find out more from Prime Minister Suga later this week. And, of course, as you mentioned John, later today, Olympic organizers will releasing the third and final version of the playbook outlining COVID- 19 countermeasures that will be put in place to ensure a safe and secure games.

To this point, Olympic officials have already banned overseas spectators, have the number of foreign delegates allowed to enter Japan. But there is no vaccine -- excuse me, mandatory vaccines for athletes or anybody coming over.

They do say that 80 percent of the athletes that will be arriving into the country for the games will be vaccinated. But we don't yet know what the percentage will be for the foreign delegates.

About 78,000 of them that are expected to come in for these Olympic games and where they will be staying. And really, what precautions and measures will be taken to make sure that they are safe and kept away from the Japanese public which, at this point John, is still only 5 percent of the entire population that has received two doses of the vaccine.

So again, a lot of concern for the health and safety of the Japanese people, and really that is still why these games remain so deeply unpopular here in Japan.

VAUSE: Blake, thank you. Blake Essig there with the very latest on the Tokyo Olympics.

Well, (INAUDIBLE) Christian Eriksen remains in stable condition after collapsing from a cardiac arrest which happened just before halftime in Denmark's Euro 2020 opening match on Sunday.

[01:54:55]

VAUSE: Emotions are still running high. One teammate called the incident a violent experience. Another criticized UEFA for forcing Denmark to eventually resume play. They wound up losing to Finland, one-nil.

Finland's captain was on the pitch when Eriksen collapsed. And he spoke to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM SPARV, FINLAND CAPTAIN: It was a very, very emotional day for everyone. I think initially, it was a shock, disbelief. You know, when you saw Christian lying on the ground, motionless, I mean, that picture that I still have it in my head. That's so, you know, disturbing. And you really feared the worst. You thought that he was going to die.

So yes, it was very, very emotional. And we're just so happy and glad that he's doing fine. And that he is, you know, that he's alive and well. And you know hopefully he can make a quick recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Denmark, third in group B, and they'll face first place Belgium on Thursday.

Hours from now, the first clash in the so-called group of death, depending World Cup champion France face off against another powerhouse, Germany who many consider than the underdogs this time.

But, the Germans will at least have a home field advantage, with the match being played in Munich.

The first COPA America match between Argentina and Chile ended in a one-all draw on Monday. Before the game, Argentina superstar, Lionel Messi and his teammates all talked about their concerns over the risk of contracting COVID-19 during this competition.

Those fears have been validated. Brazil's health minister says at least 41 new cases have been reported among players, delegates, service providers at the COPA America.

Stefano Pozzebon has more now reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: This is Copacabana. It's one of the most famous beaches in the world, and the beating heart of Rio de Janeiro. On any day before the pandemic, you would come here, and see hundreds of people playing beach football on the sands.

But if you came here tonight, you wouldn't know a major football tournament is being played, just a stone throw from here.

The Brazilian government is betting big on COPA America to try and lift the spirit of the country, so battered by COVID-19.

With just a little more than 10 percent of the Brazilian population vaccinated so far, and the majority of Brazilians opposing the idea of hosting the tournament in the first place, the football pitches (ph) like this one, are destined to remained empty.

For CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon -- Rio de Janeiro.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, thank you for watching. I'm John Vause.

Please stay with us. CNN NEWSROOM continues after the break with my friend and colleague Robyn Curnow.

[01:57:40]

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