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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Kazakhstan In Crisis: President Orders Security Forces To "Kill Without Warning"; Novak Djokovic Thanks Fans For "Continuous Support"; Omicron Disrupts Healthcare Systems Worldwide. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired January 07, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. This is THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo in London.

Tonight, the president of Kazakhstan issues shoot to kill orders, calling protesters gangsters and terrorists.

Then, more on the world's number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic. How his vaccine dilemma is drawing attention to those caught in Australia's

immigration system.

And a reunion, a telescope, and the greatest save in hockey. We're going to have your first weekly good news wrap of 2022.

Now, armed with new shoot-to-kill orders, security forces in Kazakhstan appeared to have regained control of the streets after days of violent

protests. President Tokayev is using an iron fist to crush the biggest uprising in the former Soviet republic since independence. He's rejecting

international calls to negotiate with anti-government demonstrators, calling them terrorists who have been trained abroad and he says must be


His forces are getting help from thousands of Russian-led troops. They're being deployed by an Alliance of Former Soviet States that's been linked to

Russian's version of NATO. This is the first time in history that their collective protection clause has been invoked, raising concerns across the


Antony Blinken is questioning the need for foreign intervention.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It would seem to me that the Kazakh authorities and government certainly have to capacity to deal

appropriately with protests, to do so in a way that respects the rights of protesters while maintaining law and order, so it's not clear why they feel

the need for more. We're trying to learn more about it. I think a lesson in recent history is once Russians are in your house, it's somewhat difficult

to get them to leave.


NOBILO: This is how the city of Almaty looks after some buildings were ransacked and burned this week. State media stay 18 security personnel and

26, quote, armed criminals were killed in the unrest. Protesters deny they are terrorists or thugs, saying they have legitimate grievances against a

corrupt authoritarian regime.

CNN's Nina do Santos looks at how the demonstrations descended into violence and what could happen next.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kazakhstan rarely makes headlines in the West but that changed when these protests of a rising

living costs were met with brutal repression.

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN (through translator): I gave an order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill

without warning.

DOS SANTOS: A so-called peacekeepers from Russia and other post-Soviet states hit the streets of the country's biggest city, Almaty, there's deep

unease at where the Central Asian state is now heading.

ANNETTE BOHN, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, RUSSIA AND EURASIA, CHATHAM HOUSE: The rest is going to be keeping an eye on Russian imperial ambitions, and

perhaps they could start stationing troops there.

But nonetheless, they could -- they could make several power plays.

DOS SANTOS: Home to 19 million people spread over the ninth-largest sovereign landmass, Kazakhstan stands between two increasingly autocratic

superpowers, Russia to the north and China in the east.

Economically, it still has one foot in the past, relying on Russia for most of its trade. Whilst also hosting the Baikonur Cosmodrome, crucial to the

Kremlin space program.

Large deposits of coal and natural gas, as well as a 3 percent chunk of the planet's oil reserves, and 40 percent of its uranium mean that Kazakhstan's

people could be rich. But, thanks to a ruling elite in power since the fall of communism, few, sharing that wealth.

The number of billionaires almost doubled in Kazakhstan during the pandemic, according to some estimates, while the country scored just 38 out

of 100 in a recent corruption index.

This week's protest will only further deter foreign investments needed to kick start the economy and reduce unemployment.

BOHN: It forms a centerpiece for China's Belt and Road Initiative and China has invested over 26 billion in oil and other investments in


There are substantial investments on the part of Western international oil companies.

I think the general population or people tend to be unaware that Kazakhstan is, of course, a leading oil and gas exporter and producer.

DOS SANTOS: With the country in disarray, this former Energy Minister, an oligarch, sentenced in absentia in Kazakhstan for corruption charges that

he denies, is making his own bid as a self-styled opposition figure from Paris.


MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV, KAZAKHSTAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): In literally three days, the revolution is taking place. There's a real

revolution not only from the point of view of regime change, regime change has not yet taken place, but the revolution has taken place in people's


People have understood that they are not weak that they can force the regime to listen.

DOS SANTOS: For now, it's unclear what the future holds for Kazakhstan and the country's stymied potential. What is becoming clearer is the world is

watching and is worried.

Nina Dos Santos, CNN in London.


NOBILO: We're joined now via Skype by Melinda Haring, the deputy director of the Atlantic Counsel's Eurasia Centre, to discuss this anti-government

revolt in Kazakhstan.

Melinda, thank you very much for joining us.

First of all, I'd like to get your opinion on President Tokayev's remarks calling these many thousands of protesters as terrorists or bandits. How

would you characterize them?

MELINDA HARING, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ATLANTIC COUNCIL'S EURASIA CENTRE: Bianca, he's completely wrong. There's two groups. I think it's important

to say there are real protesters with real grievances. These protests began on January 2nd and it began because of a spike in the price of liquefied

petroleum gas. It was doubled, and people are really upset about it.

But they're offset about inflation, about inequality, and a lack of political freedom. Those people have real grievances. The demonstrations,

they grew and grew across the country and they became more destructive and deadly. But there's a second set of people, and those are the looters.

Those are the scenes we're seeing in Almaty that are really scary, but it's really important to distinguish between the two groups.

NOBILO: And, Melinda, Russia is now involved in trying to, quote, keep the peace in Kazakhstan. How is Russian involvement regarded by people in

Kazakhstan and their so-called peacekeeping force?

HARING: So, Bianca, people are really upset that the CSTO has Russian forces on the ground in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has pursued a multi-vector

foreign policy, which means it tried to balance its interest, right? And this is the first time that the CSTO has put forces in a place. Most

Kazakhs and analysts ands people I've spoken to and talked to think this is the end of Kazakh independence and they're really, really upset about that

footprint on the ground.

NOBILO: Well, I mean, that's worrying to hear you say that. My next question to you is going to be, whether or not all hope is lost? Here's

this moment where we have seen this outpouring of democratic sentiment, grievances being aired, protests in the streets. But now, the crackdown so

harsh, Russia is in the country.

What does that mean for the future of democracy in Kazakhstan?

HARING: Well, so Kazakhstan is not a democracy. That's the first point.

NOBILO: No, of course, but I mean, the aspiration.

HARING: Sure, sure. It means a couple of things. So, Russia has put troops there and the reason why they did that is because President Tokayev was

weak, and he didn't have to backing of the security services. What's happening is really a coup by President Tokayev against Nazarbayev. This is

likely the end of the Nazarbayev era.

Tokayev, who was his replacement, didn't have to backing of the military or security services, so as the protest movement grew more and more out of

control, he had to call Moscow and get some help. But it means that the Kazakh security services have to get behind Tokayev and it means that

Moscow is in the cat bird seat. Moscow comes out of the unrest in Kazakhstan in a stronger position. Its hand has been strengthened in

Central Asia, and also, it means Moscow is going into the talks, the security talks over Ukraine and the future of European security in a

stronger position. I'm really worried about the talks next week.

NOBILO: And what about the capacity for Kazakhstanis to kind of coalesce around opposition figures?

HARING: I don't see that, Bianca. The protest movement -- the legitimate protest movement that we've described over economic and social grievances

is leaderless at this point. The Internet is up and down, there's protests across the country, but I don't see how you bind people together with

excessive force, no Internet, and no real leader.

NOBILO: And what do you think is likely to happen next given everything you've said, given the fact that you're very concerned Russia's in the

country, there's been this immense crackdown, there are Internet blackouts, we're not able to get proper reports from journalists of what's going on

there? I mean, what was your assessment about what we can expect over the next week or so?

HARING: Well, I hope and pray that the violence will end, right? A lot of people think the violence we're seeing is paid for. We don't know who's

behind it yet. But hopefully, control -- hopefully there will be an end to the violence.


And I think one of the other questions, though, is what does this mean for Kazakhstan beyond just sort of Kazakh politics? One of the interesting

pieces is the role of China as well as Moscow.

And China was quiet for a while. And they said it's an internal matter. Let Kazakhstan deal with it.

Today, though, they released a picture of the president of China shaking hands with Kazakhstan. And they're basically saying that we're A-Okay with

what Russia's doing in Kazakhstan. Moscow provides the muscle and Beijing provides the capital. I think that's a scary combination. If it's

successful in Kazakhstan, it could be replicate in the other places as well.

NOBILO: What are the aspirations of this next generation of people in Kazakhstan? Because we know about some of the socioeconomic grievances. We

know about concerns over corruption, about resentment over the continued influence of Nursultan Nazarbayev. But what is it the next generation wants

or thinks is possible given the tentacles of China and Russia and the current political composition of the country?

HARING: I think young Kazakhstanis want a chance at a real democracy. They know that they haven't had any political choice. They're aware of how deep

the corruption goes. Radio Europe has done some brilliant exposes on the corruption in the Nazarbayev family.

But like you said, it's going to be a hard road because of all the different limitations and the geopolitics of Kazakhstan. But their civil

society is active, and there is a growing protest movement in the country, and it has been growing since 2019. And those are legitimate protests.

NOBILO: Melinda Haring, thank you very much for joining the program, for sharing your thoughts this evening.

HARING: Thank you.

NOBILO: Tennis star Novak Djokovic is thanking his fans for their support, as he waits to find out if Australia will let him compete or if it will

deport him. His lawyers will try to convince a judge on Monday he shouldn't be kicked out over COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Last week, Australian

Open organizers gave Djokovic a medical exemption to their vaccine mandate, meaning he'd have a shot at defending his title. But when the world number

one arrived in Australia, they revoked his visa, saying it wasn't compatible with medical exemptions.

He's now being kept at a modest hotel under the watch of border force officials. As CNN's Paula Hancocks explains, it's where asylum seekers wait

for their own deportation hearings, sometimes for years.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fans of Novak Djokovic voice support outside of his detention Center in Melbourne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not a criminal! He's a tennis hero!

HANCOCKS: A far cry from his usual welcome. The world's number one tennis star is here until at least Monday when a court will decide if he can

defend his title at the Australian Open or be deported. Australia requires people to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the country or have a

medical exemption, something Djokovic's lawyers claim he has.

Border officials and the prime minister disagree.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Rules are rules. And there are no special cases.

HANCOCKS: Back home in Serbia, Djokovics after parents hail him as a national hero being held captive.

KAREN ANDREWS, AUSTRALIAN HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER: Mr. Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to leave at any time he chooses to do


HANCOCKS: Fellow tennis stars are weighing in. Australia's Nick Kyrgios, who has opposed unvaccinated players coming to his country tweeted, I got

vaccinated because of others and for my mum's health, but how we are handing Novak's situation is bad, really bad.

American John Isner tweeted: What Novak is going through right now is not right. There's no justification for the treatment he's receiving. Two more

have gone afoul of visa restrictions. One has already left the country, according to Australia border force. Renato Voracova of the Czech Republic

is the second held in the same detention center as Djokovic. Her visa also canceled, but not before she played in a warm-up tournament according to

the Czech foreign ministry, adding she is leaving Australia.

Djokovic will leave hotel detention in a few days, but dozens of asylum seekers and refugees inside this building do not know when they can leave.

Medhi tried to enter Australia when he was 15, part of a persecuted religious minority from Iran. Today, he turns 24.

MEDHI, REFUGEE FROM IRAN: We are frustrated, exhausted, tired. We have been in detention eight years.

HANCOCKS: Medhi says he's been held in an offshore detention center. Australia's harsh asylum seeker rules leave some waiting indefinitely to

have their cases heard and have been criticized by the U.N.

MEDHI: I did not receive proper education, proper health care, no proper basic human rights. I'm traumatized, diagnosed with PTSD. I suffered. I


HANCOCKS: While Medhi welcomed the attention his famous neighbor has brought, he knows it will likely leave with him, changing little in his

uncertain future.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


NOBILO: That was CNN's Paula Hancocks reporting.

It's arguably the world's most impassioned debate right now, the social responsibility to get vaccinated versus the right to refuse it, and it

found physical expression in a standoff between Novak Djokovic and Australia. Djokovic is not officially declared his vaccination status, but

he's made his resistance to them clear.

So, let's look at the different perspectives. Australia, a country that's now 90 percent fully vaccinated, has been living under very strict border

rules throughout the pandemic. There are six states in the country, and they were closed off from each other throughout several points in the

pandemic, leaving families and loved ones separated for very long periods of time with rarely any exemptions.

The country also shut its borders to foreigners and introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for citizens in March 2020. And just four months later, it

restricted the number of people that could enter the country each week, leaving tens of thousands of Australian citizens stranded abroad.

However, Hollywood celebrities and sports stars were given exemptions to not only enter and travel within the country, but also in some cases skip

hotel quarantine. Djokovic's case is once again stirring up that double standard debate Down Under. The Prime Minster Scott Morrison initially

deferred the decision to the state, to huge backlash, before Djokovic's visa was then revoked. Morrison is now being accused of politicizing the

issue ahead of this year's federal election.

Meanwhile, in Serbia, their coronavirus vaccine rollout was initially swift, but stalled around 47 percent fully vaccinated due to vaccine

hesitancy -- doubts that are common in the Balkans, distrust of the government has deep roots in its authoritarian past.

Djokovic was born in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, in 1987, and famously used to play tense during the NATO bombings in the 1990s. With his

astonishing tennis success, he became a national hero and a powerful source of national pride. He's been called the pride of Serbia.

His father said in a press conference today, Novak is Serbia. Serbia is Novak. That's why you see a cross section of Serbs, including members of

the government, turning out for protests today in Belgrade. They're taking it personally.

The foreign ministry said that Serbia has a strong impression that Djokovic is a victim of a political game against his will and was lured to travel to

Australia in order to be humiliated. His father even compared him to Jesus, saying his, quote, detention is an attempt to crucify Djokovic in the same

way. It's orthodox Christmas day in Serbia today, too.

But in a country that's sensitive to its international portrayal with strong vaccine hesitancy, this is also seen as a symbol of something much

greater than Djokovic. An op-ed for the Serbian news site Ekstra (ph) said it's not just a lesson to Novak Djokovic, but to everyone.

Well, this story certainly sparked a lot of conversation, and we'll be back after a short break for a check of your other international news headlines.



NOBILO: Omicron is now putting a huge strain on health-care systems with staffers falling ill and unable the work, even as the number of patients

soars. We're seeing that here in the U.K. The Ministry of Defense has deployed 200 troops to support hospitals with staff short annals. Health

officials say last week, absences were up almost 60 percent due to sickness or self-isolation.

In India, one major hospital in Delhi has suspended all routine in-patient admissions, procedures and nonessential surgeries. More than 300 doctors

have tested positive at that hospital alone.

Let's bring in CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, thank you for joining the program.

Omicron might be milder. We obviously keep hearing that, but what is the toll the sheer volume of infections is taking on public health systems?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think what people need to remember even if just a small percentage of people with

omicron end up in the hospital or end up dying, a small percentage of a huge number can still be a really big number, and so omicron is so

incredibly transmissible. I think even just in our personal lives -- I know here in the United States, I know many more people infected with omicron

than, say, delta over last summer.

So, even if just a small percentage of these people end up in the hospital, that's a real problem, especially because, as you were just saying,

hospitals are suffering such staffing shortages because staffers there have omicron. So, this is really -- this is really a big issue. Just because

something is mild doesn't mean that it's still not taking a toll on health- care services.

NOBILO: And we do keep saying it's mild, and evidence seems to suggest, that but what have we actually learned about it now that it's been in

circulation for a little while? And in addition to that, about long COVID?

COHEN: Right. I think the long COVID piece of this is important because, you know, we know, it seems pretty clear that it is a more mild illness and

there are people who have had a fever for a few days, home for a few days. We know that because we can see that.

What we don't know is if those people suffer from long COVID symptoms. I'm not trying to think of the worst of the worst case scenarios. It's just

that this virus surprised us before. It's logical to think, well, if people were only a little bit sick, they won't get long COVID. It doesn't

necessarily work that way, certainly with previous variants, we've seen plenty of people who didn't get all that sick, didn't end up in the

hospital but did end up the long COVID. They did end up, for example, with the shortness of breath for many, many months, or with brain fog for many,

many months.

I personally know people who had COVID, not terrible cases, a year ago, and are still suffering from some symptoms. So I think when we think about why

we want to avoid omicron, it's not because we're so worried it would put us in the hospital, although it could, it's also because we don't know what

the long-term implications are, considering that this virus has surprised us over and over again -- Bianca.

NOBILO: It has indeed. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks for joining us.

He was a titan of motion pictures and in the roles he played, the words he spoke and courage he showed. He was a powerful voice for civil rights

during a tumultuous time in America. Actor Sidney Poitier has died. He was 94 years old.

Poitier pushed back against engrained racism in his day to become Hollywood's first leading black man in films such as "The Defiant Ones" and

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." And for his portrayal of an itinerant laborer in "The Lilies of the Field", he was the first black man to win an

Academy Award for best actor.

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying Poitier not only entertained, but enlightened.





NOBILO: If you wanted the sky, I'd write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high, lyrics from the theme song from of his

film "To Sir with Love".

So to you, Mr. Poitier, to you, sir, with love.

We'll be right back.


NOBILO: It's time for your weekly dose of good news.

A Chinese man has been reunited with his mother after being kidnapped when he was 4 years old. The man posted a video on Douyin, or TikTok to the rest

of the world, where he drew a detailed map with the village that he was taken from, without even remembering the name of his birthplace. Following

DNA tests, it was a heartwarming meeting between mother and son years after he disappeared.

But also one step closer to understanding the mysteries of the most distant part of the universe, the $10 billion James Webb telescope has completed

its most challenging phase, the deployment of a huge shield that would protect it from the sun's rays. It will be this summer before the telescope

is ready to peer into the cosmos fully.

And a hockey fan noticed a suspicious mole on the back of a Vancouver Canuck's staff member Brian Hamilton. This fan has been studying to be a

medical student and by pressing her phone against the arena's plexiglass with a message, she got his attention. The result, it was cancer. She

saved his life and was awarded with a $10,000 medical school scholarship.

Well, it's been lovely joining you this week. Until Monday, good-bye.