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Hala Gorani Tonight

NATO Focuses on China and Russia; Boris Johnson Puts Brakes on England Lockdown Easing; Israel Elects Naftali Bennett As New Prime Minister of Israel; Netanyahu Ousted As Longest-Serving Prime Minister; Trial Of Myanmar's Ousted Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Begins; Jailed Belarusian Journalist Appears At News Conference; Unclear if Roman Protasevich's Appearance Was Voluntary. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 14, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN London, I am HALA GORANI TONIGHT. It is all smiles for Joe Biden and NATO members in

Brussels, but when it comes to Russia and China, no one was really laughing. Boris Johnsons puts on the brakes of lockdown easing, delaying

the move in England for another four weeks. And a new era in Israel. Naftali Bennett's government gets down to business as the country gets used

to a brand new government.

We are waiting for a press conference from the U.S. President Joe Biden after these NATO meetings that took place in Brussels today. We'll bring it

to you live when it happens. At the meeting, leaders answer the U.S. president's call to push back against Russia and China.

Though there were still some divisions, members of the military alliance approved a joint statement today labeling Russia as a threat and

highlighting what they call challenges posed by China. The message is considered a diplomatic win for President Biden who is attending his first

NATO Summit since taking office.

He's met with several leaders throughout the day, including the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the leaders of NATO to take a tougher

stance against their rivals. And he was very clear about America's commitment to NATO.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NATO is a sacred obligation, and I constantly remind Americans that when America was attacked for the

first time in its shores since what happened back in the beginning of World War II, NATO stepped up. NATO stepped up and they honored Article 5.


GORANI: Well, a very different message from the one that Donald Trump sent during his four years in office to NATO. That's Jens Stoltenberg by the

way, the NATO Secretary General, he praised Mr. Biden's commitment after the meeting in Brussels, saying the atmosphere was very friendly. He also

had a pointed message for both China and Russia.


JENS STOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GENERAL, NATO: 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 disagreed that in an age of global competition, Europe and North America must stand strong together in

NATO. To defend our values and our interests especially at a time when authoritarian regimes like Russia and China challenge the rule space in

national order.


GORANI: Joining me now is Latvia's President Egils Levits who also met with Mr. Biden today. Thank you President for joining us. First of all,

what was your conversation like with the American president, and did you hear from him what you wanted to hear from him regarding the U.S.'

commitment to protect its allies in the Baltic region against potential Russian expansionism?

EGILS LEVITS, PRESIDENT, LATVIA: Yes, it was a very good meeting with President Biden. President Biden said clearly that United States is

committed to Baltic security and committed to NATO. And it is very important for the Baltics, for Estonia, for Latvia, Lithuania, but it is

very important also for all European allies of the United States.

And I think it's first historical summit today for two reasons. The first reason is that we adopted NATO agenda, 2030, which is renewed agenda which

reflects a new geopolitical situation, and the second reason is that America is back, I would say.

America is back to NATO and we have close allies, and we stand together in order to defend our interests and common values. NATO is alliance which is

based in common values, and it was --

GORANI: Yes --

LEVITS: Set by all participants and especially for this and especially also by President Biden.


GORANI: So, when you say America is back, can you compare today's NATO Summit with Joe Biden as U.S. President with the summits that were attended

or that were ignored in some cases by President Donald Trump? How is it different having Joe Biden in office as far as you are concerned in Latvia?

LEVITS: Of course, we have a very good atmosphere in the summit and America renewed the commitment to the European allies. And it is in the

interest of United States and also of the European allies as in the interest of Baltic states.

I think it is necessary to have very strong Trans-Atlantic links and President Biden, I can repeat is committed to that. Trans-Atlantic links as

a basis for the security of United States, North America on the one side, but also for European allies. And I think it is absolutely necessary

because we have to contest with authoritarian regimes, authoritarian powers which are not sharing our values like Russia in Europe, but also China as a

growing geopolitical power.

GORANI: President Levits, what did Joe Biden tell you today that is giving you this confidence that the U.S. is back and that it has the Baltic states

back when it comes to what you would call a threat by Russia? What did he tell you specifically?

LEVITS: So, Russia in the last year behaves aggressively towards neighbors, Ukraine, Georgia, I can mention it's obvious, but also as a --

military behavior in exercise, is that part and so on and so on. I think we should give a clear answer to Russia that we will not recognize such

behavior as normal, and we should be strong in order to stop such behavior and such aggression. It is in our interest, in the interest of all --

GORANI: Yes --

LEVITS: NATO member states.

GORANI: But just specifically, what was said by the U.S. President that has reassured you today. Could you provide an example?

LEVITS: Yes, President Biden said that America is committed to the security in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And United States will continue

the politics to --

GORANI: Yes --

LEVITS: Reassure the security in this region, but also to take new steps in order to increase the security in our region. I think it was a very --

GORANI: What new steps --

LEVITS: Clear political statement.

GORANI: If I may just to get specifics, what new steps did America commit to?

LEVITS: We have not spoken about specific military projects, but I think the most important is a political assurance that America is committed to

the security in Europe and especially in the Baltic region.

GORANI: What would you want Joe Biden to bring up, to address with Vladimir Putin in Geneva Wednesday? What would satisfy you as a Baltic

state in Latvia?

LEVITS: Yes, we are -- we are supporting this meeting of President Biden with President Putin. And all allies today felt that President Biden should

convey the message to President Putin that NATO stands together and is strong alliance, strong military alliance, strong political alliance, and

Russia should respect that because Russia can respect or is respecting only if the other side is strong. And we should demonstrate that we are strong

and President Biden --

GORANI: So, you're --

LEVITS: Will do so.

GORANI: You're saying that Vladimir Putin only understands the language of strength, that diplomacy wouldn't work with him?


LEVITS: Exact. Russia understands diplomacy or as a language of strength. And NATO demonstrated today unity and strength, a political will to defend

the member states. To depends our interests, to defend our values. And I think this is a very important and very strong message to President Putin

and President Biden will convey this message to President Putin.

GORANI: President Egils Levits is the Latvian president, thank you very much for joining us today live from Brussels. Our chief international

correspondent Clarissa Ward is also in Brussels following this NATO meeting. First, tell us how the Biden-Recep Tayyip Erdogan face-to-face

unfolded today in Brussels. I know that the U.S. President called it a quote, "very good meeting". What more do we know?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hala, we actually don't know much more than that yet. Because the only we heard from

President Biden was exactly those few words, that the meeting had gone very well, but we're still waiting for this press conference when hopefully

we'll hear more details about what the two leaders talked about. Because this has been a tricky relationship in the past. It was just one month ago

that Erdogan was saying Biden had blood on his hands for selling weapons to Israel.

Of course, Biden has also called Erdogan an autocrat in the past, he has called him out on cracking down on opposition members and academics and

journalists in Turkey. And generally, just taking a very different approach in tone than what we heard from President Trump who of course famously

described Erdogan as a good friend who was doing, quote, "a fabulous job". You can be sure they will probably have talked about the issue of the U.S.

calling what happened in Armenia a genocide, which is a real thorn in the side of the Turkish leader.

They will also be talking about the U.S.' support of Kurdish forces in northern Syria who of course Turkey views as a sort of existential threat

and a part of the PKK which it views as a terrorist organization. So, having said all that, Hala, despite the thorny topics and areas of

disagreement, the understanding that we've been given really from both sides is that this is not expected to be an adversarial meeting, this is

not about picking faults with each other, this is about finding areas where the two countries can cooperate.

And certainly, there's an expectation that Turkey with the Turkish lira plummeting and the economy in a downward spiral may be more amenable than

previously to really find points in common to work with the U.S. on.

GORANI: And though China is mentioned in the communique, still there are some pretty significant disagreements between NATO allies on how robustly

to push back against China.

WARD: Very true. And listen, there are 30-member states in NATO. So, it's of course, understandable that there would be a discrepancy and differences

in how each member state thinks is the best way to deal with China.

The very fact that it's mentioned in the communique, that it is called a systemic challenge is significant though. And we did hear from the

Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, he said that China does not share our values. He singled out the crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.

The aggressive use of surveillance technology. He also talked about the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang in northwestern China.

But he also took pains to say that China is not an adversary, and certainly, many countries advocate a path of cooperation particularly

Germany which of course has more than $250 billion worth in trade every year with China. So significant that it's in the communique, but that

doesn't mean there's a united front exactly in terms of how to approach the unique and complex challenge that China does pose.

GORANI: All right, our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward there following that NATO meeting and of course, looking ahead to the

Putin-Biden sit-down as well. Thanks very much Clarissa. We are -- here is a look by the way at the stage and the podium where we expect President

Biden to be holding a news conference any minute now. They're running late today by the way, more than an hour late, very late I'm being told by my

producer. But when he starts speaking, we'll bring that to you live.

The British government is delaying the lifting of England's remaining lockdown restrictions amid fears over the rise of the Delta variant first

identified in India. Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the delay a short time ago. The remaining restrictions were initially intended to be

lifted next Monday. But the government says a four-week delay from the June 21st plan to date would help close the gap between the number of first and

second doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered.


Prime Minister Johnson explained the government's reasoning.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We've obviously faced a very difficult choice. We can simply keep going. We've all looked a step

forward on June, the 21st, even though there is a real possibility that the virus will outrun the vaccines and that 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 that we have met all our four tests for proceeding with step four on June, the 21st. I think it is sensible to wait

just a little longer.


GORANI: CNN's Scott McLean joins me now live from Downing Street with more. So, four more weeks, I mean, we're not in a full lockdown. I imagine

most Brits support the idea of kind of extending these measures, these safety measures, you know, to make sure that there aren't huge outbreaks

throughout the country.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Hala. That may be true but you can probably also hear the protesters just outside of the gates of Downing

Street here calling to get Boris Johnson out. And I know for a fact that Boris Johnson can hear the protesters because just before we were on air,

he actually just popped out for a photo opportunity with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

And so Boris Johnson is facing pressure in all directions. Pressure to obviously keep this virus in check and keep his promise not to go backwards

with this easing of lockdown restrictions.

But also pressure from even from within his own party to get back to some semblance of freedom. Obviously, Boris Johnson, you know, critics will say

that we're sort of at risk of having this forever lockdown and the virus constantly changing and never really getting back to any sense of normalcy.

And so, the prime minister today made clear to say that, look, July 19th, he believes will be the ending date. Not the best before date. But he also

said that look, that's based on the data we know right now, Hala, it's not based on what could crop up, which is some other more dangerous variant

that spreads more easily and kills more easily as well.

This Indian variant or this Delta variant is nothing to mess around with either. We know that it's 64 percent more transmissible than the previous

dominant strain the U.K. or the Alpha variant. We also know that vaccines are less effective against it, but 7 percent less effective for two doses

and 17 percent less effective for one dose.

So, the government made pains today to point out that these vaccines are still 90-plus percent effective when it comes to preventing

hospitalizations, but obviously, nothing is full proof. So, the government says that, look, while of course 4 weeks will buy them more time to get

jabs in more arms of everyone over the age of 50, two-thirds of the adult population and at least one dose for every one over 18.

They also recognize that numbers are likely to continue to rise, hospitalizations likely to continue to rise, and there will be some deaths

as well. But the Prime Minister says that a little bit of caution now can save thousands of lives, Hala, that's really what's behind this decision.

GORANI: And what about travel, anyone watching us from outside the U.K., thinking of coming here?

MCLEAN: So, the prime minister was asked directly about what this might mean for travel, and he gave one of his briefest answers probably of the

entire press conference. And all he would say is, look, I'm advising people to continue to obey the green, amber, red system, but nothing beyond that.

A lot of people have been a little ticked off by that government system even though the government says look, we re-evaluated every three weeks or

so. Some people planned holidays to Portugal, for instance. One of the only European country that used to be on the green list, the government has put

it on the amber list which forced a lot of people, a lot of stress and caused them a lot of money trying to scramble back to the U.K. before they

would have had to quarantine.

And so, you're right, Hala, a lot of people are probably wondering when they might be able to go on a vacation, but the prime minister not really

giving the clearest answer today.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much Scott McLean. Still to come tonight, cyber crime, Ukraine and prisoner releases. Presidents Joe Biden and

Vladimir Putin have a lot to discuss in their Wednesday summit. We'll go to Geneva for a live report.


And then the first full day on the job for Israel's new prime minister. How Naftali Bennett is pledging to unite the country after the Netanyahu era.

We'll be right back.


GORANI: On the heels of this week's NATO Summit meetings, U.S. President Joe Biden will head to Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, for talks with

Russian President Vladimir Putin. It will be the first face-to-face meeting of the adversaries since Mr. Biden took office, and they have obviously a

lot to discuss including a former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed who is in a Russian prison.

Last year, Reed received a nine-year sentence for endangering Russian police officers after a night of drinking. Reed denies the charges. Reed's

parents are pleading with both presidents to work out a deal for their son's release. Of course, this will be one among many topics the two

leaders discuss. CNN's Matthew Chance joins me now live from Geneva, Switzerland, with more. Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, that's right. There's a list as long as your arm of course of fraught issues the

two presidents, President Biden, President Putin have to discuss when they meet here in Geneva, Switzerland a couple of days from now for that first

face-to-face presidential summit.

But the most emotional issue perhaps on both sides is the issue of citizens in each other's jail. There are a couple of American citizens in Russian

jails, one of them you mentioned, Trevor Reed. He's in a pretty dire situation. You mentioned why he was put there, sentenced for nine years

after a drunken night out basically endangering the lives, he was convicted of Russian police men.

Since he's been in prison since last year, there's been very little consular access to him. He's been diagnosed with COVID-19. His health is in

great -- we got a letter exclusively that he sent to his parents a week ago in which he said this. "I've got pain in my lungs, also I suffer from a

cough from time to time. I've lost a few kilograms in weight."

And he's asking does the embassy and the State Department in Washington know about me. He's not got very many consular visits. In fact, the Russian

embassy -- the American embassy in Moscow says they've lost consular contact with him for the past several weeks.

And so, it is a matter of great concern and it's why in the run up to this summit here in Geneva, the parents of Trevor Reed have issued an emotional

appeal on CNN for President Biden, President Putin to try and find some kind of deal to get him and the other American Paul Whelan released. Take a




PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED: We've been told that President Biden is definitely going to bring up Trevor's case and Paul Whelan's case with

President Putin. And our hope obviously is that they can come to some agreement that will let our son come home.

I guess Putin is open to a prisoner exchange. I know some people say we shouldn't do a prisoner exchange because Paul and Trevor are innocent of

the charges against them and the people that we will be trading are guilty criminals. But I really don't care how my son gets home.


CHANCE: Yes, Trevor Reed's mom says she doesn't care whose exchange for her son as long as he's brought home. But unfortunately, that's been the

obstacle because in exchange for Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed who are -- have been sentenced on what many critics regard as trumped up charges, you

got two Russians in American prisons that are in a different category of criminal according to U.S. diplomats.

One of them is somebody who is convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine and he's been sentenced for a very long sentence indeed. And then the other

one is Viktor Bout, he's one of the world's most notorious arms traffickers, a Russian citizen there in prison in the United States as


And in exchange for Whelan and Reed, the Russians want those two criminals returned back to Russia. I mean, so far, it's not been something the U.S.

authorities have been willing to consider. But that might change in the course of this presidential summit. Hala.

GORANI: So, the question is, are the Russians ready? Is Vladimir Putin ready to discuss a prisoner swap?

CHANCE: He's definitely ready to discuss it, yes, but unfortunately only on those terms that I've just set out. Look, the Russian foreign ministry,

the Kremlin have said time and again it is our policy to get Russian citizens in American jails back home to Russia.

And of course, you know, the Americans want that as well. Now, whether a deal can be done to solve at least that area of tension in this very

fraught U.S.-Russian relationship, I think is something we'll get a better idea of, you know, at the end of this summit. They're definitely going to

be talking about it, will they resolve it? We'll just have to see.

GORANI: All right, Matthew Chance live in Geneva, thanks very much. Still to come tonight, just after ceding power to Naftali Bennett, Benjamin

Netanyahu who vows to oust the new prime minister saying it will happen quicker than you think.



GORANI: It's -- it still feels weird. It sounds weird to my ears to say Prime Minister Naftali Bennett because it's for the first time in 12 years

that our government is not led by Benjamin Netanyahu. It's getting down to business in Israel today.

The new prime minister is leading the most diverse coalition in Israeli history made up of eight parties from across the political spectrum. Here

you see Bennett at his new offices today. He received a security briefing. He met behind closed doors with Benjamin Netanyahu for a brief handover.

Netanyahu declined to take part in a traditional goodwill photo op. Instead, he made a defined statement.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): And so we will face them in a strong and united opposition and overthrow this

government at the first opportunity. Will be faster than you think.


GORANI: Let's bring in CNN's Hadas Gold live in Jerusalem for more on this first day of the new coalition government. Hadas.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hala, it is hard for many here to believe that for the first time since 2009, somebody other than Benjamin

Netanyahu is being called the Prime Minister of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu now holds the title of opposition leader, but he has dominated Israeli

politics not only for the past 12 years as prime minister but for decades now, somebody who has left an indelible mark on Israel's history and will

likely continue to do so for years to come.


GOLD: The balloons were left hanging as Netanyahu waved goodbye from what might have been the final election night. Once again, his Likud Party won

the most number of seats, but not enough to claim outright victory, and break Israel's political dysfunction. Four elections in two years, and an

inability to form a lasting government. As he left the stage, the many political enemies he collected along the way began gathering to oust him,

aiming to bring an end to one of the most influential figures in Israeli history.


NETANYAHU: We never intended to stay.


GOLD: Netanyahu launched his political career in the United States as Israel's ambassador to the U.N.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE tonight, a bloodbath rocks the cradle of civilization. Is there one man who can stop it?


GOLD: Where he honed his skills with the media that barely knew how to pronounce his name.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Our first guest tonight is Benjamin Netanyahu. Benjamin Netanyahu is the recently resigned ambassador to the United



GOLD: A connection with the media and the U.S. that would define the rest of his political path.


NETANYAHU: And we are asked to defend this tiny country.


GOLD: A representative of Israel during some of its tenses periods like the Gulf War.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you repeat them for us now?

NETANYAHU: I must say that this is the darnest way to conduct an interview.


GOLD: Soon after, Netanyahu pulled off his first stroke of political magic in 1996.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The exit polls and projections were giving the incumbent Shimon Peres a uf slight lead, something in the range of about 1-

1/2 percentage points over his challenger, Benjamin Netanyahu, but --


GOLD: Squeezing by two in his first term as prime minister with a wafer- thin majority. During his first term, U.S. brokered peace initiatives gave the Prime Minister the world stage legitimacy he craved, but Israeli voters

were not convinced, and he was ousted after one term. Netanyahu spent part of the next 10 years preparing himself for his next move, returning to

power in 2009.


NETANYAHU: With pride but with great humility.


GOLD: His relationship with the new U.S. President strained from the start, as attempts to restart the Palestinian peace process sputter, reaching a

near breaking point as Netanyahu positioned himself the chief antagonist of the Iran nuclear deal.


NETANYAHU: A red line should be drawn right here.


GOLD: Which Obama was negotiating. Even addressing the U.S. Congress, infuriating the White House.


NETANYAHU: That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.



GOLD: Obama giving a short rebuttal just hours later.


BARRACK OBAMA, THEN U.S. PRESIDENT: The alternative that the Prime Minister offers is no deal, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again

pursuing its nuclear program.


GOLD: The relationship between the two men remain tense, as Obama continually criticized Israeli settlements in the West Bank, seen as

detrimental to any formal peace process. But U.S. relations turned with Donald Trump's 2016 election win.

It was a bromance that Netanyahu craved, an American president with whom he shared a common language, fake news and alliances with the far right, the

critics say normalized extremism, and almost identical Middle Eastern agenda, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.


NETANYAHU: Our greatest ally, the United States of America. Today, its embassy opened here.


GOLD: Endorsing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.


NETANYAHU: And on this day, you too have charted a billion future, a billion future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the region.


GOLD: And proposing a deal of the century with the Palestinians. So favoring the Israeli position, the Palestinians dismissed it as the slap of

the century. Then the Abraham Accords, historic normalization agreements with Arab countries.


NETANYAHU: You have successfully brokered the historic peace that we are signing today.


GOLD: For Netanyahu, shifting the diplomatic paradigm in the region from land for peace, to peace for peace. But after 12 consecutive years in

power, Netanyahu making little progress on peace with Palestinians, three bloody conflicts with Hamas-led militants in Gaza, more settlements in the

West Bank, all helping make Israel an increasingly partisan issue in U.S. politics.

Meanwhile, an ongoing legal battle on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, threatening jail time, Netanyahu denying all the charges, even

after a world-leading Coronavirus vaccination campaign, in the end, it was the personal equation, the many enemies made along the way that led to his

downfall. Former allies and longtime foes reaching across the political spectrum with one common goal, bringing King Bibi's reign to an end, at

least for now.


GORANI: We'll see if that coalition lasts. Hadas Gold, thanks very much. The trial of Myanmar's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is now underway

four months after a military coup overthrew her elected government. It comes as the junta rejected criticism by the U.N.'s High Commissioner for

Human Rights over its use of deadly force against protesters. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is in Hong Kong.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Starting today, Myanmar's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is on trial, the first of several criminal cases

against her. Today, she faces a number of charges including illegal possession of walkie-talkies, and breaking pandemic protocols. Suu Kyi

denies all allegations of wrongdoing. Her lawyer says the trial isn't finished by late July.

Suu Kyi is also charged in a separate case with violating the Official Secrets Act that's punishable by up to 14 years in prison and state media

reported new charges of corruption on Thursday that carry a 15-year penalty if she's convicted. As for the legal proceeding, starting today, analysts

call it a show trial.


DAVID MATHIESON, INDEPENDENT ANALYST: This is exactly a show trial. This is a political spectacle in order to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi and the

democratic opposition, that's all it is. It shouldn't be taken seriously as a legal proceeding. It's not. It's a political process by the coup makers

to discredit the democratically elected leader of Myanmar.

STOUT: So what would the likely outcome be?

MATHIESON: The likely outcome would probably be a dragged on process the way that they always do with dissonance. They try and make it the spectacle

of discrediting anyone who disagrees with the military. I think given the number of charges that she's actually facing, I think a guilty verdict is

almost fait accompli.

And what that's designed to do is actually marginalize her and discredit her in the eyes of many people in Myanmar and it simply won't work. I think

people really understand that the military is really trying to vanquish Aung San Suu Kyi and end her political career, and I don't think it would



STOUT: The military deposed Suu Kyi and seized power in a coup on February the 1st. It is claimed, without evidence, that an election won by her party

in November was fraudulent. Suu Kyi is among more than 5,900 people detained in Myanmar since the coup, that's according to the advocacy group,

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which also says more than 850 people have been killed. Kristie Lu stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

GORANI: Still to come tonight, a jailed Belarusian journalist makes another public appearance flanked by authorities.


We discuss after the break. And the U.S. government is assessing a reported leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant after a French company that helps

operate it warned of an imminent radiological threat.


GORANI: We are expecting any moment now a news conference with the U.S. President Joe Biden. It's his first NATO Summit since taking office. They

are way behind schedule in Brussels today unlike Cornwall where they were actually early for some of their scheduled events. The U.S. President will

be discussing presumably the top issues that were discussed. Between NATO allies, he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. He said that

was a very good meeting.

And even though there are some disagreements that remain between the allies on China and other topics, it is a very much an opportunity here for the

NATO allies to display unity in Brussels. We'll bring you that press conference when it starts.

A press conference or a parade? The journalist jailed in Belarus after his Ryanair flight was diverted, has appeared on camera and opposition leaders

are questioning whether or not it was forced. Roman Protasevich only appears on screen intermittently. And one government critic says he's being

used as a trophy. Let's get to CNN's Fred Pleitgen with more on what we saw unfold today. Tell us more about this "press conference."

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think you're absolutely right to say it's a "press conference." Certainly the opposition

immediately cried foul and said that Roman Protasevich, as they've been saying in the past, is essentially a hostage of the regime of Belarusian

president, Alexander Lukashenko.

That's exactly how they saw this press conference as well. There was really a very, very almost bizarre look to it with Protasevich sitting there on

stage, yet some Belarusian officials next to him from the even from the Belarusian military.

And in that press conference, he said that essentially he was doing all this on his own accord, that any reports about his health not being good

are all untrue. The opposition is essentially saying that he's being forced to say these things, that they don't believe a word of it and one of the

things that we have to keep in mind, Hala, is that, of course, this is already the third time that we've seen Roman Protasevich essentially

paraded for the public there in Belarus.


You had that statement that he was -- that he gave in detention, then that "interview" that he gave to Belarusian TV where you could still see very

deep marks on his wrists, which certainly very much looked as though he'd had handcuffs on in a very tight way. So his family is saying they believe

that he's being tortured and mistreated. The opposition is saying that he's being forced to do appearances like that.

And so far, certainly, the Europeans and the U.S. have given no credibility to some of the theories or some of the things that the Belarusian

government has been saying. Of course, that also has been one of the things that NATO has had to deal with as well in the past couple of weeks, how to

deal with that current situation with Belarus, Hala.

GORANI: I'm sure the opposition, the family of Roman Protasevich, is hoping that Joe Biden will bring up his case with Vladimir Putin when the two men

meet in Geneva where you are.

PLEITGEN: Yes. Well, I think that that certainly is very much a possibility. One of the interesting things that we've seen, and I think

that's why it's also quite interesting that, you know, this press conference today falls in the date of the NATO Summit, you have seen the

U.S. as far as Belarus is concerned, as far as the forced landing of that Ryanair plane that Roman Protasevich was on, that caused such a stir here

in Europe.

The U.S. has really been making a point to work with its European allies on that, to allow the European allies to take the lead, for instance, with

sanctions, to take the lead, for instance, in banning the Belarusian airlines from flying into European airspace.

And then the U.S. had said it's working very closely with those allies. But it certainly seems highly likely that President Biden will raise that

issue. But one of the things that Vladimir Putin has already said ahead of the summit is that first of all, he claims that he had no notification or

any sort of hint that Alexander Lukashenko would force that plane to land in Minsk.

And at the same time, obviously, he's saying that Alexander Lukashenko would make some of those decisions on his own. But, you know, we've seen in

the past couple of weeks, especially, Vladimir Putin really showing his support for Lukashenko just recently with Putin and Lukashenko together on

a boat in the Black Sea, certainly looking very chumsy there. It really seems as though Lukashenko, as long as he has that full support of Vladimir

Putin, it really seems unlikely that he would be willing to change course anytime soon, Hala.

GORANI: All right, Fred Pleitgen. Thanks very much. The U.S. government is investigating a report of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant. A French

company that partially owns and helps run the plant has warned of an imminent radiological threat. The concerns involve the Taishan Nuclear

Power Plant in Guangdong Province. CNN's David Culver reports.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. sources tell CNN this situation involves a fission gas leak at a nuclear power plant in Southern China.

They warn it has the potential to become a serious risk. They also stressed to me it could be quickly resolved without any further issue.

That's why U.S. officials are closely monitoring the situation. This began late last month when sources say the French company, Framatome that co-

operates the plant reached out to the U.S. Department of Energy, they petitioned for a waiver of assistance as they're dealing with a leak of

fission gas.

Experts tell me the gas is a normal byproduct of nuclear reactors and that it is radiological and if it rises above certain limits can be harmful.

Sources tell CNN Framatome followed up with two more requests for that waiver to be approved, citing this to be an "imminent radiological threat,"

and they've accused the Chinese of raising the safety limit so as to allow the plant to keep operating.

But despite the alarming notification, the Biden administration believes the facility is not yet at a crisis level according to one source through

statements we've heard from the French company that runs the plant, along with the plant via its website, both downplaying any critical concern as of

yet saying they're monitoring it and stress the plant is currently within authorized operating and safety parameters.

The concerning factor transparency, or lack thereof on part of the Chinese. Chinese officials have not responded to our request for comment that we

should note it is a national holiday weekend here. David Culver CNN, Shanghai.

GORANI: Still to Come. We took a look at the issue of mental health in Japan and the loneliness crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic,

so much so that the government has even appointed a minister to deal with it.



GORANI: Japan is in the middle of a mental health crisis as well as a pandemic. It is so bad that the Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed --

has even appointed a Minister of Loneliness earlier this year. Studies show a staggering 40 percent of the entire Japanese population feel loneliness

as Blake Essig found out.


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the third time this week, Masatomi Yokoo and his team enter a home to clean, a simple job but nothing about it

is easy.


MASATOMI YOKOO, PRESIDENT, MEMORIES CO. (through translator): He probably died here. I don't know the shape because the body fluid has soaked into

the tatami so much. But I think probably here.


ESSIG: Yokoo, President of Memories Company, has been in the cleaning business for about 13 years. But recently, he says cleaning up after lonely

deaths where people die alone and remain undiscovered for long periods of time has sadly turned into big business.


YOKOO (through translator): We do this kind of work every day. This scene is that we always witness. We can see that his life is getting rough, and

that he is issuing an SOS. This is an ordinary scene for us.


ESSIG: The 79-year-old man who lived here died alone. The cause of death is unknown. Police say his body was found about a month after he died. Walking

through this apartment, it's as if time has stood still. There's still food and drinks on the counter, male on the floor. And if you take a look around

this apartment, there is garbage and clothes scattered everywhere. It's a heartbreaking scene. It is all too common here in Japan.

Michiko Ueda is an Associate Professor at Waseda City University who studies loneliness. While she says Japan's aging population is at great

risk of isolation, it's actually the young that suffer most. Her research, analyzing the public's mental health, found 40 percent of the entire

Japanese population feels loneliness. For those under 40, that number is 50 percent.


MICHIKO UEDA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, WASEDA CITY UNIVERSITY: They have high suicidal ideation, they wanted to kill themselves very often. And then also

they feel like they're use less because they have no meaning in life. So the psychological effect of loneliness on individuals is very, very high.


ESSIG: A psychological effect likely impacting more people as a result of the pandemic. In 2020, for the first time in 11 years, the suicide rate in

Japan increased from the previous year and changed.


UEDA: What typically happen is during the economic crisis, the middle-aged men died by suicide. But now it's the young women. So, definitely something

different is going on.


ESSIG: And the numbers show it's getting worse. According to the National Police Agency, the suicide rate in the month of April increased more than

19 percent compared to last April.


While the pandemic has claimed more than 10,000 lives in Japan during that time, more than 23,000 people have taken their own life. For Nanako

Takayama, those numbers are personal. She experienced loneliness depression, and contemplated suicide when she was 30 years old, shortly

after giving birth to her first child.


NANAKO TAKAYAMA, COUNSELOR, A PLACE FOR YOU (through translator): I wanted to disappear. I didn't know how to handle my feelings, and it was too

painful to think about what to do.


ESSIG: About a decade later, Takayama studies psychology and is a counselor at Anata no Ibasho, A Place for You, which is a 24-hour chat service for

those who just needs someone to listen. At times, she interacts with four to five people a day. She uses her own struggle with loneliness to help



TAKAYAMA (through translator): I want to say that you are not alone. We seriously want to listen to your story. Voicing your concern is never a bad

thing. It doesn't mean that you're running away from the problem or you're weak.


ESSIG: Experts say about 30,000 people here in Japan die lonely deaths each year. And when that happens, this is the result. Cleaners asked to come in

to pick up the pieces of a life lost.


YOKOO (through translator): I can't get used to this forever. Time has stopped here. I can feel what kind of life he was having here right away.

Honestly speaking, my heart aches.


ESSIG: Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


GORANI: Well, obviously loneliness, social isolation, and suicide are not issues unique to Japan. For support around the world, The International

Association for Suicide Prevention keeps a worldwide directory of resources and hotlines.

Do not hesitate to reach out. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide. And you can see their web addresses there on your screen. There's always

someone out there if you're feeling alone, or if you're feeling hopeless. Always remember that.

We are expecting any moment now the U.S. president to hold a press conference in Brussels. At the tail end of a NATO Summit, the U.S.

President discussed very important issues for the Alliance. Of course, this is coming after four years of Donald Trump.

So he came to Brussels with a very different message that America was back and that America was committed to NATO. When that news conference starts,

we'll bring it to you live. We're going to take a quick break here on CNN. I'm Hala Gorani. I'll see you same time, same place tomorrow. And after the

break, my colleague Isa Soares will take it away on "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Do stay with us.