Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Putin Claims Landslide Win, Extends Rule Over Russia For At Least Another Six Years; Putin Takes Swipe At U.S. Elections In Address; First Over-The-Counter Birth Control Pill In U.S. Available Online; Iceland Volcano Eruption Spews Lava, Prompts Evacuations. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 13:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Congressman, great to have you. Thank you so much.


KEILAR: So, for the first time ever, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentions Alexei Navalny by name in front of cameras. What he said about the death of his most outspoken critic.

Plus, a missing fuselage panel, an engine fire, a lost wheel and a hydraulic fluid leak -- all of these happening just this month, all on United planes. The airline is now scrambling to reassure customers that its flights are safe.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Russians are preparing for at least six more years of Vladimir Putin after he secured an inevitable landslide victory in the country's presidential election.

The race offered no real alternative, considering Putin's opponents are either dead, jailed, exiled, barred from running or handpicked.

Most notably missing, Alexei Navalny, who died in a Russian penal colony one month ago.

During a victory speech, Putin made an unprecedented break with his tradition of not saying Navalny's name.

He not only spoke about his late rival's mysterious death but he confirmed about a -- would confirm reports about a proposal to exchange Navalny in a prisoner swap just days before the opposition leader died.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The person who spoke to me had not finished his sentence yet when I said I agree. But unfortunately, what happened, happened. There was only one condition -- for him not to come back. Let him sit there.


SANCHEZ: Let's discuss with Steve Hall. He's the former CIA chief for Russia operations, also a CNN national security analyst.

Steve, thanks for being with us this afternoon.

What struck me most about Putin's remarks were his references to Navalny. He called his death sad but then he went on to say that there are other cases where people in prisons pass away.

I'm curious, from your perspective, why invoked Navalny's name now.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Boris, it's a lot easier to invoke somebody as dangerous to Vladimir Putin as Navalny was after you've effectively killed him or your system has done so by -- by simply putting him in this gulag prison system that the Russians have.

So I think it is, indeed, striking that, before his death, Putin was they're afraid or did not want the general public to be thinking that's strongly about Navalny and so he didn't use his name.

Now, of course, you're saying, well, yes, this was Navalny. It was all very unfortunate. Which, of course, like everything else that comes out of the Kremlin, is essentially false. So that's -- that's no big surprise there.

It's also no big surprise that Vladimir Putin is trying to find some sort of moral equivalence between, oh, yes, occasionally, there's a death in a Russian prison. That happens in the United States and other places.

Which, of course, is, indeed, ridiculous, like again, everything else that comes out of the Kremlin these days.

SANCHEZ: To that point about a lot of ridiculous things from Vladimir Putin's mouth, he was talking about Americas so-called -- in his words, so-called "democratic system," saying the U.S. judicial system has become, quote, "ridiculous and a disgrace."

That sounds like propaganda for Donald Trump

HALL: Yes, Putin's -- in the Kremlin, his -- and his spokespeople are so good at this. They understand where the -- where the tension points are in not only our own democracy, but in other Western democracies.

And so you'll hear things, like, well, you know, there's a lot of problems with U.S. elections. There's problems with the U.S. legal system. Because he knows that as a free-thinking Western society, we say, oh, maybe we have to think about that. That's exactly what he's trying to do.

He also, of course -- it's really no surprise there should be no surprise that Vladimir Putin would very much rather see Donald Trump as the next president.

Because Donald Trump is saying things like, well, let's let the Russians do whatever the hell they want in whatever NATO country they want. We're not going to come to their assistance. And the current president, Biden, is saying precisely the opposite and trying to strengthen these alliances.

So again, it's very beneficial for Putin to have somebody like a Donald Trump in the White House as opposed to a Biden.

SANCHEZ: Steve, on the question of NATO, there were speculation that Putin was waiting until after his reelection to institute another mobilization, effectively a military draft in Russia.

Do you expect that to be the case? How do you see the timing of this election now altering the landscape of the battlefield in Ukraine?

HALL: Really not a bit. Because, of course, it wasn't really an election. It was a Potemkin Village performance. And so to sort of describe any of -- any of the typical language that we normally use about elections is -- is, again, what Putin would like.

There was a little -- there are -- there's always a little bit of stability tension in Russia around the time of when they put on this performance that they -- that they -- where they'd bring out the ballot boxes and people line up.

And so I think Putin probably was waiting because that's a greater probability or possibility for people to take to the streets, which, of course, in Russia, Putin pays close attention to.

Now that that's all sort of behind him, I think some of these more unpopular things, coupled with some very popular things that he might try to do to -- to avoid people coming out onto the streets.

But you know, if Russia is going to be serious about winning convincingly, finally, in Ukraine, there is going to have to be increased pressure to for him to call up more Russian young people who are inevitably going to die in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands in Ukraine.


SANCHEZ: Steve Hall, appreciate your perspective. Thanks for being with us,

HALL: Sure.

SANCHEZ: Of course. So next, this can be a game changer for women, especially in rural

areas. The first over-the-counter birth control now on sale online. The details straight ahead.


KEILAR: Starting today, Opill, the first over-the-counter birth control pill approved in the U.S., can be ordered online. No doctor visit, no prescription, no age restrictions.

CNN health reporter, Jacqueline Howard, is joining us now in this story.

Give us the details here, Jacqueline.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Well, Brianna, I can tell you this is a milestone in the rollout of Opill. Earlier this month, we know that shipments were sent to distribution centers. And now, starting today, online sales are beginning.

We know that Opill appears to be in stock on Amazon. We know that has been updated to allow for online orders.

And this product, Opill, is a progestin-only birth-control pill. It can be up to 98 percent effective. It costs about $19.99 for a one- month supply, $49.99 for a three-month pack, and $89.99 for a six- month supply.

And these online sales, Brianna, they're starting today. And they're just one more step in this rollout.

Next, we can expect to see sales in stores. That would be the next milestone to hit.

KEILAR: OK, so which stores will be receiving this? And when will people be finding this on store shelves?

HOWARD: We know that major retail pharmacies, like CVS and Walgreens, plan to carry this. We expect the packages, the product to make it through the distribution timeline to appear on store shelves in early April.

And as for online orders, we know that those orders will be processed in a day or two. And you can expect shipment within a day or two.

But as for the in-store supply, that will take later this month, early April -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Jacqueline Howard, big news. Thank you for that.

A volcano is erupting in Iceland for the fourth time in three months. And experts say this is the most powerful eruption yet. So what's going on here? We're going to talk to a volcanologist right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SANCHEZ: The lava blockers are holding and there has been no damage to critical infrastructure after a major volcanic eruption in Iceland on Saturday, the fourth since December.

KEILAR: Really a feat of engineering here. Officials say anti-lava barriers are diverting the lava away from communities as other parts of Iceland remain in the clear.

This is happening after the eruption forced the evacuation of the Blue Lagoon, which is one of the country's most popular tourist spots. You go to Iceland, you're going to this thing.

So let's talk about this now with Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist and author, "Misadventure, My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava and Life."

Jess, thanks for being with us again to talk about this as we watch this for yet another eruption here.

One expert said that this eruption on Saturday was the most powerful so far. What's behind all of this activity that we're seeing?

JESS PHOENIX, VOLCANOLOGIST & AUTHOR: So Iceland sits at the intersection of two tectonic plates, and those two plates are pulling apart. And so that allows the molten interior of the earth to breach through the crust at the surface and we get volcanic eruptions.

Iceland just happens to be sitting right on the jackpot because they are directly on that connection between those tectonic plates.

It makes for pretty consistent volcanic activity. Sometimes big, sometimes small. But you can guarantee that Iceland is always going to be at risk for eruptions.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we spoke to you fairly recently when there was a pretty substantial one. How long do you think this one is going to last this time around?

PHOENIX: I wish I had a crystal ball, Boris. It would be -- it would make volcanologist's job a lot easier if we could say how long these eruptions would take.

The trick here is that volcanoes are geologic forces. They operate on the scale of millions and billions of years, where we humans, we live for maybe 100 years, if we're lucky.

So this volcano could have eruptions and then quiet periods, eruptions, quiet periods. They could last from days to weeks to months, and sometimes even years.

So I wish I could say. But I will say that the eruptive activity has been calming a little bit since the initial phase on Saturday. So we're seeing a little bit of a decrease, but the hazards are still very real.

KEILAR: Just talk to us a little bit about these defensive barriers, which are -- it's pretty amazing the idea that you can divert lava.

The Blue Lagoon, which is one of the biggest tourist sites there in Iceland, was shut down and the defensive barriers have been pretty critical to make sure that it remains one of the big tourist sights.

PHOENIX: It is a really noble attempt at trying to shape the will of Mother Nature. It may or may not be effective.

Now, Iceland has a good track record of protecting critical places. Back in the '70s, they actually pumped seawater -- using boats and fire hoses, they pumped seawater onto a lava flow that threatened to close the harbor of a town called Hemahay (ph).

And they successfully blocked that lava to cool and not close the harbor. So if anyone is going to be able to engineer a solution or defenses, it's going to be Iceland.

There is still a chance that the volume of lava will be too great and the defenses will be breached. Also fissures could erupt an open up on the protected side of those defenses.


So it's no guarantee, but I am very encouraged that a lot of the precautions seem to be paying off.

KEILAR: Yes, pretty amazing stuff that they're attempting to do and let's hope succeeding to do there in Iceland.

Jess Phoenix, great to have you again. Thanks for being with us.

PHOENIX: Thanks, Brianna. Thanks, Boris.

KEILAR: So coming up, on the brink of collapse. CNN is inside Haiti where gangs are targeting the airport, police and power stations, and the death toll is rising.