Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Deadly Protests in Kazakhstan; Djokovic Won't Know Until Monday If He Can Defend Title; Xi'an Lockdown Brings Heartbreak and Dysfunction; Kazakhstan on Edge after Anti-Government Rallies Turn Deadly; Trump Supporters Still Contesting 2020 Election; China-Europe Trade Route Returns to Economic Relevance; Tech Event Wraps Up in Vegas. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 07, 2022 - 01:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world, I appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, deadly protests in Kazakhstan, sky high gas prices are the problem. But what are the issues beyond the surface? We'll discuss. The latest in the saga of Novak Djokovic and the rejected visa. His family says he's being held captive, Australian official saying he's free to go.

And is one of the -- it's the final day of one of the world's biggest tech events, the new gadgets everyone's talking about.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: And welcome everyone. We begin in Kazakhstan where the military alliance of former Soviet states is laying out the parameters of its mission there. The Collective Security Treaty Organization, as it's called, says its deployment will be quick and its troops will have a limited role. The Russian led group sent what it calls peacekeeping contingent at the request of Kazakhstan's president.

He appealed for help after anti-government rally swept the nation over spiking fuel prices. State media now say 26 people were killed in the protests along with 18 security personnel. Media is also saying that 700 security forces were injured. The health ministry says so were more than 1000 protesters. Our Nic Robertson with more.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): On Almaty streets in a hard to verify social media posts, an ugly overnight crackdown. People scream and scurry for cover. Panic as well as bullets in the air. They're dead. They're dead, the man says, a motionless body just out of safe reach, stretched out on the freezing ground.

In the same city, the country's biggest protesters fought pitch battles with uniform forces. Casualties accumulating on both sides. Law enforcement appearing to gain the upper hand with arrests and killings. Police claim they took deadly action overnight, describing and as yet unverified shadowy shoot, first ask questions later crackdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Last night extremist forces attempted to storm the administrative buildings and police department in the city of Almaty. Dozens of attackers were eliminated, and their identities are still being verified.

ROBERTSON: The mayor's burnt-out office in Almaty apparent testimony to the ferocity of the battles fought without offering proof. The Kazakh President claiming protesters are foreign backed terrorists and often use trope to deflect blame that the Russian government is also repeating a characterization rejected by protesters.

Neither thugs nor terrorist, this woman says, the only thing flourishing here is corruption.

We want the truth, this protester says, the government is rich. But all of these people here have loans to pay. We have our pain, and we want to share it.

But truth and facts here are in short supply the internet down for a second day. Residents reporting a scary quiet, braving government warnings to stay indoors to go out and search for open shops to buy essential.

Russian state media reporting heavily on allegedly rampant looting by some protesters, as well as highlighting violence against Kazakh law enforcement. As part of a regional security agreement, Russian paratroopers began deploying to guard state and military facilities. The fourth consecutive day of protests, gunfire and explosions still rocking Almaty, Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Now skyrocketing gas prices were the final straw that drew protesters to the streets of Kazakhstan. But the reasons behind these rallies have been years in the making. An expert on the region joins me in about 30 minutes to discuss.

Now, the Australian open is just 10 days away but whether defending champion Novak Djokovic will compete is far from certain. He was denied entry into Australia for allegedly not meeting vaccination requirements and could be deported. His wife Jelena expressed her anguish on social media within the past few hours admitting that she needs to take, "a deep breath to calm down."


The professional tennis players association, which was co-founded by Djokovic says it has been in contact with him and has verified his well-being as they put it. It will be at least Monday before an Australian court decides whether Djokovic can compete his 10th Australian title and his 21st Grand Slam or be kicked out of the country. CNN's Phil Black with the latest.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rally in Serbia's capitol, a huge crowd join Novak Djokovic's family demanding freedom for a national hero.

SRDJAN DJOKOVIC, NOVAK DJOKOVIC'S FATHER (through translation): They're holding him captive? Our Novak, our pride. Novak is Serbia and Serbia is Novak.

BLACK: His mother's emotions are more personal.

DIJANA DJOKOVIC, NOVAK DJOKOVIC'S MOTHER: I feel terrible. Since yesterday, last 24 hours, they are keeping him as a prisoner. It's just not fair. It's not human.

BLACK: This is the drab building in Melbourne, Australia where Djokovic is now reportedly confined. A hotel recently used to quarantine returning travelers now housing asylum seekers and the world's number one tennis player.

D. DJOKOVIC: Terrible accommodation. It's just some small immigration hotel, as we can -- if it's hotel at all with some box with -- it's so dirty and the food is so terrible.

BLACK: Outside that hotel, Melbourne-Serbian community is rallying too, furious at Djokovic's treatment.

There's less concern for Djokovic from one of his greatest rivals, the sixth ranked, Rafael Nadal.

RAFAEL NADAL, 20-TIME GRAND SLAM WINNER: If he wanted, he will be playing here in Australia without a problem. Now he went through another -- he makes his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions. But then there are some consequences.

BLACK: The consequences in this case could alter the future of world class tennis. Spain's Nadal, Djokovic and the Swiss player Roger Federer have each won 20 Grand Slam tournament. Federer isn't playing in the Australian Open. So, Djokovic has departed, that would leave Nadal with an easier run to potentially win his 21st title, statistically becoming the greatest of all time. Nadal, unlike Djokovic is open and proud of his vaccination status.

NADAL: I believe in what the people who knows about medicine says, and the people says that we need to get vaccinated, we need to get the vaccine. That's my point of view.

BLACK: This picture shows Djokovic at Melbourne airports passport control shortly after his arrival, trying and ultimately failing to convince border officials he should be allowed into the country. His lawyers will argue the case again before Melbourne court on Monday. But even if they're successful, there's little chance of calming Australia's public and political outrage.

BARNABY JOYCE, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Sometimes they get a sense that people who make a lot of money start believing they've evolved somehow above the laws of the land whether you like them or not.

BLACK: Phil Black, CNN, London.


HOLMES: And CNN's Angus Watson is joining, is following the story, he joins me now live from Sydney. So, yeah, let's talk about where things stand. Certainly, it's not where Novak Djokovic usually stays when he's at a Grand Slam tournament, where the things stand?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Quite extraordinary, Michael. The world's number one men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic, staying in an immigration detention facility in downtown Melbourne, a hotel that's been repurposed as a kind of an overflow area for people who have come into Australia on the wrong visas or have been kept there in Australia for some time.

Now, we saw those pictures from Belgrade there in the package earlier, people gathering to show their support for Novak Djokovic. That's happening right now. We have people largely from Melbourne-Serbian community coming out to show their support for their star who's holed up in this immigration detention facility until at least Monday. He's seeking an injunction on his deportation order that was slapped on him when he arrived in the country almost two days ago now. He's been kept there while people -- while they pored over his immigration. His ease exemption, his medical exemption had to come into the country and vaccinated that was rejected and he's being held now but he doesn't have to be according to the Home Affairs Minister speaking this morning.



KAREN ANDREWS, AUTRALIAN HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER: Mr. Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia, he is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so, and border force will actually facilitate that.


WATSON: So, we were in this crazy situation, Michael, in which it could be resolved. But tennis Australia, of course, don't -- want to give the best possible chance for their star to come back and defend his 2021 title.

HOLMES: Yeah, I wanted to ask you too about that, you know, it's not just in the Euro COVID-19 that Australia has enacted these tough border controls, there are men sharing, Novak's digs who are hoping that he might get their message out.

WATSON: That's right, Michael, as I mentioned there, there are people in this immigration detention facility that are stuck there, that don't have the opportunity to leave. There are people that have tried to come into Australia seeking asylum by boat, the Australian government has very strict rules, saying that you will never be able to stay in this country if you arrived as an undocumented person by boat. These people are refugees. They have been designated as such.

One of the people stuck in there was actually a translator for U.S. forces in Afghanistan attempting to escape persecution there. We have someone in there from Burma, we have somebody in there from Iran. There are 33 men there who don't know their fate. My colleague at CNN here, Hilary Whiteman spoke to one of these men earlier who said that he's in there indefinitely and all he wants us to be given a sentence to know how long he has to be stuck there in immigration limbo. He won't get that, Michael.

HOLMES: Yeah, that is a very important angle to this too. And a spotlight being shone on it. Angus Watson, appreciate the reporting, thanks so much.

And Ben Rothenberg is Senior Editor at Racket Magazine. He joins me now again from Melbourne. It's interesting, some in Serbia, and even I was watching tonight right-wing media here in the U.S. has saying that Djokovic is a virtual prisoner. But it's not really the case, is it?

BEN ROTHENBERG, TENNIS EXPERT: No, I don't think prisoners are usually, you know, offered chances to go to the nearest International Airport and leave the country. That's not normally how imprisonment works. And he has volitionally chose to extend his stay in Australia after not getting his visa approved, he got an injunction against his deportation order. He would have otherwise been on a flight out of here last night and said he's getting a hearing on Monday. And so, he has to sit and wait. And I'm sure conditions that aren't comfortable for him and certainly not ideal preparation for potentially playing a tennis tournament if he's successful, but he is in Australia still, because he has chosen to be, that he could have withdrawn from the country. He could have left the country. He could have left the tournament but obviously, his goals and ambitions professionally and also, I'm sure at this point his stubbornness about feeling like he's in the right in this situation are not going to make it as easy for him to leave as it technically is on paper.

HOLMES: Yeah, good point. Has there been a good answer to how on earth the Victorian, and the federal government and Tennis Australia didn't actually have a conversation before he hit the tarmac about all of this? How does it happen?

ROTHENBERG: I asked the question at this point really are, you know, the ball is in the court to use their analogy for Tennis Australia. I think the Tennis Australia clearly gave Djokovic an impression that things were squared away. And then he was good to go for playing the Australian Open to get on a plane without consulting with the relevant immigration authorities and other federal officials and federal officials had sent letters which we've seen to Craig Tiley who's the head of Tennis Australia, saying that this exemption which we believe Djokovic applied under about having had COVID positive test results in the previous six months as a valid reason for not getting vaccinated before entry, were not going to apply for international arrivals, this would not be something they should rely on.

Tennis Australia did not heed that or not pass it on to Djokovic and nor to its panels, which we should arrange, to do its processing of exemption applications. And so, then Djokovic is left stuck in the airport with incomplete information and application that did not pass the really tough scrutiny probably got after all the political firestorm around his impending arrival.

HOLMES: What are the other players saying about it all? I know that some are saying well, you know, he knew the rules. Others sort of coming to use defense. I know John Isner, the American player has jumped to his defense and just in the last hour or so the Australian player Nick Kyrgios saying that the handling of the situation has been poor.

ROTHENBERG: Yeah, I think players certainly have a lot of sympathy for Djokovic in this moment of just knowing someone who they generally like and get along with in the locker room is being, you know, stuck in a hotel. Accommodations doesn't want against his wishes as well as is different work, he can't leave the country but he's trying to play the tournament. And he's in can difference he doesn't like, and they have sympathy from him on a collegial, you know, sort of human level but there also is a large contingent thought among players that he was trying to get special treatment after trying to avoid the responsibility to get vaccinated which so many other players willingly obliged by, and that this is somewhat the consequence for that risk he took and that certainly how Rafael Nadal, one of his greatest rivals in his career had framed it, saying Djokovic essentially created these difficulties by himself by choosing the path of staying unvaccinated rather than the wider, much more unobstructed road of just being vaccinated and coming in the country in the tournament through the normal front doors they arranged.


HOLMES: Yeah. A fellow writer, an Australian did his own Twitter poll and out of about 5000 respondents, I think he quoted 5% thought that Djokovic should be allowed out of the hotel and to play. You know, what's been the reaction of the Australian public if there's one thing and I'm Australian, they don't like is somebody sort of going around the back door and getting what others can't get?

ROTHENBERG: No, definitely. There's a real Australian solidarity about being really important to follow the rules in general, I think especially around COVID, and all the sacrifices have been made in the country, especially in Victoria and in Melbourne, which has had some of the harshest lockdown rules at various points during the pandemic. There's not a lot of sympathy for Djokovic. And he's not someone honestly, who was necessarily especially popular figure on court, even before his application, got rejected or approved and then rejected even before the news of his exemption, he had already been pretty conspicuously left off promotional posters from the Australian Open. He was not a player they were showcasing as being an attractive draw for the tournament. He's a divisive character here. And at that division and that polarizing, this is probably seen in that poll. HOLMES: And putting your actual professional tennis writers hat back on again, what does this mean for the field? How much does these open things up?

ROTHENBERG: It makes things considerably more interesting from a competitive level in that Djokovic was a big, big favorite to win, as he always is not surely, it's so, so well, winning nine titles in his career here and he was going for history, trying to win a 21st Grand Slam, which seemed possible unlikely but now Rafael Nadal suddenly who's here unhealthy, not at its best, but here and ready to play. It can also get to the 21st Grand Slam first and there's a few other younger contenders, especially U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the final there to prevent Djokovic's Grand Slam bid.

Medvedev is number two and would probably be the clearest favorite for the field. But absolutely, as much as they sympathize with him, you know, on a human level competitively, his peers won't miss him being in the draw.

HOLMES: Yeah, yeah. Ben Rothenberg, thanks so much, it's been great talking to you today on this, there in Melbourne fourth. I appreciate it.

ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Michael. I appreciate it.

HOLMES: All right. Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, we'll find out what restrictions cities in India are enforcing this weekend in hopes of slowing the rampant spread of the Omicron Variant.

Also, the Beijing Olympics less than a month away and despite growing COVID-19 cases in parts of China, the World Health Organization doesn't seem too worried. We'll have those stories and more when we come back.



HOLMES: Chile will begin offering a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose next week to residents with compromised immune systems. It will be the first Latin American country to do that. Neighboring Argentina, meanwhile, reporting record COVID infections for the third straight day on Thursday nearly 110,000 new cases registered.

Now, despite COVID-19 cases rising in parts of China, the Beijing Winter Olympics are going ahead as scheduled, of course, the opening ceremony in fact just 28 days away February the fourth that's coming up quick. The World Health Organization says China's strict lockdown measures to stem the outbreak appear to be working and it does not expect any increased risk associated with the games.


DR. MIKE RYAN, EXEC. DIRECTOR WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: Certainly, at this stage, given the arrangements that have been put in place for the athletes and the -- by the organizers, we don't perceive that there's any particular extra risk in in hosting or running the games.


HOLMES: Now elsewhere in China, more than 13 million people are now in their third week of an extremely strict lockdown. Xi'an is seeing the worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began. Local authorities trying to get a handle on the crisis but they're also facing growing unrest over the harsh measures.

China's Vice Premier has told hospitals not to turn away patients after reports of people being denied entry because of the lockdown. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now live from Hong Kong. This lockdown in Xi'an really taking a pretty horrific toll, isn't it?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, you know, residents in the lockdown northern Chinese city of Xi'an say that they continue to struggle to get food, basic supplies, even access to life saving medical care. Local health officials have been punished, they've apologized but for many angry medicines across China, it's too little too late.


LU STOUT (voice-over): As the Chinese city of Xi'an enters a third week of hard lockdown, a harrowing story of loss and punishment.

(On camera): As we reported earlier in a graphic video that went viral in China, a pregnant woman was turned away from a hospital in Xi'an because she didn't have a valid COVID-19 test. According to the posts from a Weibo user who claims to be her niece. The woman is sitting outside the hospital and bleeding so much. There was a pool of blood at her feet. Hours later, she was finally admitted but ultimately suffered a miscarriage. And we have since learned that hospital officials have been punished.

(Voice-over): The head of the Xi'an Gaoxin Hospital and its Emergency Centre Director had been suspended. The municipal government announced on Thursday, the Director of Xi'an CDC was also issued a disciplinary warning by the municipal government. He apologized and bowed to the patient, but to angry netizens in China, it's not enough.

One Weibo user accuses the government of only taking actions after tragedies happened. Another says there's no need to sacrifice individuals for the group because we should be able to protect people's lives. A top-rated comment adds, this just goes to show COVID-19 might not kill you, but bureaucrats can. A metropolis of 13 million, Xi'an has been in hard lockdown since December the 23rd after more than 200 local COVID-19 cases were detected over two weeks. Residents are forbidden from leaving their homes unless it's for COVID test, a month before the Beijing Olympic Games, local officials have vowed to achieve community zero COVID before beginning to ease the lockdown but zero COVID has come at a cost.

MATTIE BEKINK, CHINA DIRECTOR, ECONOMIST INTERNATIONAL UNIT: Measures in Xi'an are China's toughest on such a scale since really the early days of the pandemic. There are no signs that China will deviate from the dynamic zero COVID approach or that this current outbreak has been effectively contained. There are still cases in China every day.

LU STOUT: Social media has been flooded with cries for help. Residency they continue to struggle to get food, basic supplies and medical attention.

(On camera): One user on shell home shoe on his Instagram like platform appealed for help after a hospital refused to admit her father who had just had a heart attack. Why? Because they lived in a medium risk area of the city. She later writes that her father was allowed an emergency operation but "the delay was too long, and rescue failed. I don't have a father anymore."

(Voice-over): CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of these videos and posts. The video of the bleeding pregnant woman outside Gaoxin hospital was widely shared before it was deleted. But the cracks in China's zero COVID strategy have been exposed.


LU STOUT (on camera): And Michael, sadly, we have learned another pregnant woman in Xi'an has suffered a miscarriage because of a delay in getting access to medical care due to the strict lockdown that is underway, the central government is now weighing in on the issue with the Vice Premier, as you mentioned earlier, Michael saying that patients should not be turned away under any excuses from hospitals in Xi'an. But we should also note that earlier this week, CNN did manage to contact the hospital. Xi'an and Gaoxin hospital staff members said that they turned away initially, that first pregnant woman, they did so in accordance with government COVID-19 regulations. Back to you.


HOLMES: And I'm curious, I mean, do you have any sense of whether China's zero COVID policy, I mean, has run its course?

LU STOUT: That is the been the big question right now. Look, in many ways, China's zero COVID policy has been successful. It has in the past year in particular managed to stem outbreaks and to save lives through this zero-tolerance approach of tackling the virus and various variants with mass testing, tracing campaigns, snap lock downs, travel restrictions, et cetera. But it has taken a personal toll and many as we've seen play out, and especially in the last week in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an.

On top of that, Michael, you had an interesting report released earlier this week by the political consultancy, the Eurasia Group that cited China's zero-COVID policy as the number one geopolitical risk for this year, citing and anticipating a continued more infections, more lockdowns, more disruptions, more public pushback, that will have ripple effects, not just in China, but globally. Back to you.

HOLMES: Wow. All right. Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong, I appreciate the reporting as always, thanks.

LU STOUT: You bet. HOLMES: Well, India is seeing its highest case numbers since early June. It just reported more than 117,000 new daily infections. In New Delhi alone, more than 15,000 cases reported Thursday evening and the region plans to go into lockdown over the weekend.


DR. SURESH KUMAR, MANAGING DIR. LOK NAYAK JAI PRAKASH NARAYAN HOSPITAL: This number of cases is increasing very rapidly. We have seen that within two days the number is doubling. But if we discuss the overall number in the country, it may go just double what it was seen in the last year.


HOLMES: Now, for more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's Vedika Sud standing by there, live in New Delhi. Interpret these latest numbers for us, they really just came out, didn't they?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Worry numbers from India's health ministry there, Michael, India has once again breached 100,000 new daily cases mark. This is the highest strange since June last year when just about the second wave was tailing off.

New Delhi, India's capital has recorded more than 15,000 new daily cases while Mumbai has reached a record high ever since the beginning of the pandemic with more than 20,000 cases. Another reason for us to be worried is the slump of therapy, which is one of the largest slums in Asia. As of Thursday evening, it has recorded 107 new cases of COVID-19. And we all know that the settlement out there people live cheek to jowl really and that is a cause for concern. Interestingly, India's health ministry in the last press briefing this week have not called this officially a third wave, Michael.

HOLMES: And something else that we've seen around the world too even if Omicron is not perhaps as severe, it still makes people sick. And what's been the impact of workers in health care areas in big cities, calling out sick.

SUD: The pressure on the healthcare system can be felt in the big cities for now, Michael. Let's just give you a few figures we've been able to correlate over the last few days. In Mumbai in just four hospitals 313 resident doctors have tested positive for COVID-19. We're not even talking about the nurses or the senior doctors in these four hospitals. Speaking to these health care workers, what they've told CNN is that they can feel the pressure on the health care system in their hospitals. And with the Omicron variant, has -- according to the health ministry, which is driving most of the cases in India now, these numbers could go up.

Even in Delhi into hospitals 260 or rather, I think 145 healthcare workers have tested positive earlier this week. Again, there is going to be pressure on the healthcare system in these hospitals.

While in the state of Bihar in just one hospital, there are over 260 cases of doctors being infected including healthcare workers. So, it's really worrying to see the number of healthcare workers testing positive in big cities and states. This is, of course, going to put a pressure on the healthcare system. Hospitalization numbers also going up earlier this week when you and I spoke, it was significantly low, but with the numbers going up, especially in big cities, the hospitalization rate is also going up and this could further put pressure on India's healthcare system.


But I must say, that compared to last year's second wave, India and the Indian government is more prepared along with the state governments to take this burden but how far can it go before it crumbles is the question really, Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. That's a lot of sick outs (ph). And it's happening around the world too.

Vedika Sud there in New Delhi. Appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

SUD: Thanks.

HOLMES: Now the U.S. is marking in the first anniversary of the January 6th attack on the capitol. We're going to have a look at the ceremonies and President Biden's harshest attack yet on Donald Trump?

Also still to come on the program, the big lie behind it all. How Trump and his supporters are keeping the false narrative of a stolen election alive.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.


HOLMES: And welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. And this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Kazakhstan's leaders tell state media they are back in control of all government buildings, in the country's largest city. That is after massive anti government protests swept the nation this week.

State media also says that 26, quote, "armed criminals" were killed, along with 18 security personnel during the unrest. More than 700 law enforcement officials were injured. 3,000 protesters reportedly detained.

Meanwhile, the Russian-led military alliance says its peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan will be short and limited in scope. This coming as the European Union and Britain appeal for calm.


NABILA MASSRALI, SPOKESPERSON, EUROPEAN COMMISSION (through translator): We condemn acts of violence, acts of vandalism and looting, which have taken place in Almaty, and we regret any loss of life. The violence must stop. LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: We condemn the acts of violence

and destruction of property in Almaty. And we will be coordinating further with our allies on what further steps we should take.


HOLMES: Joining me now from Washington is Paul Stronski. He's a senior fellow in Carnegie's Russia and Eurasia program. And appreciate you taking the time.

Ostensibly, this started with a doubling in the price of liquid petroleum gas but what are the deeper issues at play?


PAUL STRONSKI, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE RUSSIA AND EURASIA PROGRAM: Yes, you're right. The spark of this unrest was this gas price increase. But what really is the cause and that's caused this to spread around the entire country was a tremendous disconnect between the governing elites and political elites in the country, and the everyday life that people are experiencing.

This is a country with a tremendous hydrocarbon oil and gas wealth. But that money -- that wealth is not distributed evenly among the population, so you have tremendous wealth in people who spend their time in places like Dubai and London.

And then you have also people who are really struggling to get by on a daily basis.

HOLMES: Right. And so to that point, how has Kazakhstan's leaders -- not just the current ones, but the ones before -- how have they miscalculated, not just in the handling of the protests, but the management of those issues that caused the anger in the first place? They sort of messed it up, didn't they? They misread.

STRONSKI: They really did misread. And the country has a lot going for it. It has a very highly-educated population. It's got a lot of national resources and what the -- the country has, you know, like most former Soviet countries, corruption is a huge problem. Rule of law is a huge problem.

And as the oil wealth and life started getting better in the -- you know, early 2000s, late 1990s, the government started making the population promises. Promises that their socioeconomic life would get better, promises that they would open up the political system, promises that they would have a greater say in at least how their local affairs were done.

But, each and every time they made these promises, they never really quite delivered.

HOLMES: Right.

STRONSKI: So you don't have fair elections. And we've never seen fair elections in Kazakhstan, even down to the local level. And you know, corruption to get some of the basic services that a lot of the rest of the world take for granted, you need to pay extra for them. And so there is this real disconnect.

HOLMES: Moving forward then, you're at the invitation of Kazakhstan there now Russian, quote-unquote, "peacekeepers". What are the potential implications of those foreign boots on the ground?

STRONSKI: Well, what is very strange about this, you know, these are -- these are Russian peacekeepers. They're under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

This is an organization that had existed for 30 years, but it has never deployed its troops anywhere. And so the fact that they were deployed within a matter of just hours after the violence broke out is really unprecedented. And it is, in some ways a little bit worrying.

You know, we are seeing a fairly recently installed leader in Kazakhstan. President Tokayev, he's been there for just about two years. And he clearly was seen as slightly weaker.

And as these protests really erupted, and turned violent, he's seen to you know, not rely on his own services but to turn to Russia. And that raises a whole lot of questions about, you know, what sort of agreement he has with Russia.

HOLMES: You have written with Carnegie -- I was reading it earlier -- that a systemic and real reform is needed and that if the government doesn't learn from its mistake, this situation isn't going to get -- isn't going to defuse. Quite the opposite. What could happen if there aren't substantive changes?

STRONSKI: Well, I think you know, the first issue that the Kazakh's government needs to do is it needs to actually restore peace on the street. You know, Kazakhs -- average Kazakhs are actually appalled by the street violence, and they don't support that.

But, you know, the government has promised them that they would, you know, open up media space, open up space for greater civil society activity, and really, clampdown on those issues that really vex the average person. And those include corruption, corruption in every day life that people experience but also the tremendous corruption that people witnessed of all the money leaving the country by the wealthy. They need to sort of address that wealth gap. There's a huge gap between sort of the urban rich centers and the rest of the country. And they really need to sort of put in some, you know, greater rule of law.

I mean I think -- these are changes. Kazakhstan has talked about them for years. They might change them on paper, but the implementation of them has been a long-standing problem. And I think the Kazakhs -- many Kazakh people have just gotten a little bit fed up with it.

HOLMES: Thank you Paul. Really appreciate that.

STRONSKI: Yes. Thank you. [01:39:53]

HOLMES: Violence also erupting in Sudan, where an activist group says at least 3 protesters were shot dead during anti coup demonstrations. We are hearing others were injured and brought to nearby hospitals.

Video posted online showing demonstrators running through plumes of tear gas as gunfire rings out. Dozens have reportedly been killed during protests against the military rule, since the late October coup.

The U.S. marks one year since the attack on the Capitol that left several people dead and shook the very foundations of the democracy. A candlelight vigil was held on the Capitol steps on Thursday evening attended mostly by Democratic members of Congress.

On January 6 last year, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol hoping to stop the certification of Joe Biden's election win based on false claims by Trump that the presidency was stolen from him when, of course, it was not.

Mr. Biden spoke out forcefully against his predecessor, without even mentioning his name.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A former president of the United States of America, created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.

He has done so because he values power over principle. Because he sees his own interest as does more important than his country's interest and America's interests.


HOLMES: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to those who protected the Capitol and she spoke with CNN's Anderson Cooper about the ongoing threat to democracy.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You always have concern. You have to be ever vigilant. The democracy is like a horizon, you don't want to get too far away, you are always reaching for it to improve it and the rest.

But the fact is, this is the United States of America. This is this great country. It has resilience. It has strength in its institutions. It can -- it survived a civil war, and it can survive the previous president of the United States.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The "Wall Street Journal" editorial board said democracy isn't dying. Do you agree with that? It's not dying. PELOSI: No. No, it isn't dying. But it needs attention. And everything is an opportunity. Right now I see us having an opportunity where this horrible thing, a catastrophic attack on the capitol where democracy almost overturned an election.


HOLMES: Now across the U.S., supporters of the former president are still pressuring local election officials to recount the 2020 election. Many are running for office and they want to make it easier to overturn future elections and victories they don't like.

CNN's Sara Murray, reports on that.


RON HANKS, SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Ron Hanks and I approve this message.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): U.S. Senate hopeful, Ron Hanks is shooting at fake Dominion voting machines, and calling for an audit in Colorado, a state Joe Biden won in 2020 by more than 13 points.

In liberal Washington state, a local Republican Party is knocking on doors trying to uncover voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're canvassing now in about a dozen counties.

MURRAY: In Crowing, Minnesota a bright red county in a state that's gone blue since 1976, residents are pressing the Board of Commissioners for an audit based on false and misleading pretenses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That log will tell us if that thing went on to the Internet and switched any votes.

MURRAY: And in Alabama which former president Trump carried by 25 points, Republican secretary of state John Merrill (ph) is still batting back unfounded claims of fraud.

JOHN MERRILL (R), ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: I think a lot of that is people listening to people who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. It is almost as if they will claim that a murder was committed, and yet they cannot prove that the person ever lived, let alone a body or a weapon.

MURRAY: In the year since rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, convinced the 2020 election was stolen, many Republicans are still lapping up Trump's election lies. They're pressuring local officials to revisit 2020. Some are even running for higher office. Others are passing legislation making it easier to meddle in election administration.

JESS MARSDEN, COUNSEL, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: 32 of those bills have become law in 17 states which is a really unprecedented amount of legislative interest and of the mechanics of election administration. MURRAY: Efforts to undermine confidence in election results begin in

hotly contested battleground states. But has since ballooned into a nationwide crusade.

In Colorado, election officials like Justin Grantham (ph) are aware of Hanks' ad.

JUSTIN GRANTHAM, COLORADO CLERK AND RECORDER: With his copy machine that he blew up with the rifle? Yes, I have seen that.

MURRAY: But State Representative Hanks rebuffed offers to learn about the voting systems firsthand.

GRANTHAM: I've extended multiple offers for him to come into my office and talk to me about the election and he's not responded and not come in.

MURRAY: Hanks told CNN he appreciates the offers but he did his own research.


HANKS: I didn't really need it. I was at other locations. And so that made it rather redundant.

MURRAY: Asked why he's still spreading debunked conspiracies, Hanks says, nothing has been debunked.

HANKS: I think that is a false argument. We have found evidence and it is compounding daily.

MURRAY: Back in Alabama, when Merrill met with election deniers including My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: The whole technology was attacked.

MERRILL: He easily debunked their claims.

MERRILL: The information that they had been sharing with us could have been cleared up by doing a simple Google search of the (INAUDIBLE).

MURRAY: Other officials though are aiming to appease their constituents. When CNN asked a Crowing commissioner, who previously said he's confident in the county's election for an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got an email last night. I'm going to read it.

MURRAY: He declined, instead reading our interview request to audit supporters in a county meeting.


MURRAY: This week, he and other board members voted to ask Minnesota secretary of state to launch an audit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion passes. MURRAY (on camera): Now, democracy advocates are already worrying that the swirl of disinformation could lead to more violence surrounding future elections.

Even Dominion warned that violent ads like the one that Ron Hanks is running in Colorado could potentially endanger their employees as well as their customers.

Sara Murray, CNN -- Washington.


HOLMES: Well, a journey across two continents that could soon become much more common. Why freight trains are making a comeback.

We'll have that after the break.


HOLMES: Welcome back.

The coronavirus pandemic has been causing well-documented delays in shipping channels and hurting the global supply chain. But that is creating some new opportunities for an old method of transportation, freight trains.

CNN's Cyril Vanier, explains.


XAVIER WANDERPEPEN, DIR. OF DEVELOPMENT, EUROPE/CHINA TRAINS, SNCF: This train arrived last night to Paris and will be unloaded today.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over) : At this freight station outside the French capital, the end of a journey across two continents.

(on camera): So this train carried consumer goods all the way from China to France.

Headbands, electric bikes, sweatshirts, shoes -- you name it. But also items that are used in industry -- components and spare parts, like steering wheels, like valves, tubes. And then all of them are going to be trucked to their final destination.

(voice over): Rail only accounts for about 5 percent of goods transported between China and Europe. That number though set to tick up as an old trading route is brought back to economic relevance.

Beijing has been promoting, even subsidizing it. Part of its Belt-and- Road initiative aimed at increasing trade ties and China's economic clout. More than 6,000 miles from the city of Xi'an through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany and further into Europe, an odyssey usually completed in less than a month.

[01:49:56] WANDERPEPEN: The train uses this advantage to be able to have circulation within three or four weeks, between Europe and China. So time is more quick and time is more (INAUDIBLE), of course.

VANIER: The value of time not lost on businesses, especially those that ship expensive cargo.

Luxury French furniture brand Ligne Roset sells its iconic sofas around the world with 20 percent of exports going to China usually by boat.

(on camera): So this container, full of furniture, is about to leave for Xiantao (ph) on China's east coast. It should get there in about 50 days. Now a similar container left yesterday by train, and that should get there in 35 days.

(voice over): These last few months, the maritime route has been a nightmare says the group's transport director. Shipping has become two or three times more expensive and a lot slower. Europe-China by sea is now taking up to 70 days, compared to 40 previously.

The pandemic has thrown the global supply chain into disarray. An increase in demand and a shortage of labor to work the ports and drive the trucks has led to scenes like these -- a bottleneck of cargo.

And so the good old-fashioned freight train is making a comeback. Near Paris, the director of development here expects in the number of trains plying the Europe-China route to double by the end of the decade.

The only spanner in the works, even trains billed as more reliable are not completely immune to the pandemic. This one arrived two weeks late after multiple German operators came down with COVID.

WANDERPEPEN: We live with the pandemic like everybody. So we say in French, "c'est la vie".

VANIER: Cyril Vanier, CNN -- Paris.


HOLMES: The British defense ministry is sharing details about a rare collision in the North Atlantic more than one year ago. HMS Northumberland was tracking a Russian submarine near Scotland when that sub hit a sonar that the British warship was towing behind.

A sonar is a sensor or sensors, that trail behind a ship when it's deployed. It is used for hunting down silent subs. It's not clear if the coalition was an accident but it is believed so.

New tech is making its debut in Vegas. After the break, your last chance to see the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: The Russian president there celebrating the orthodox Christmas which is today. Vladimir Putin appeared to attend midnight mass alone at a church on the grounds of his presidential residence. The cathedral made the service invite only due to the pandemic. It is not clear if others were allowed to attend.

Members of Turkey's Orthodox community also celebrated the feast of the epiphany on Thursday marking the birth and baptism of Jesus Christ. 10 swimmers, diving into the icy waters of Istanbul's Golden Horn to compete in a traditional race trying to retrieve a wooden crucifix, blessed by a priest and believed to bring good luck for the winner.


HOLMES: Now people have just one more day to catch the annual Consumer Electronics Show. CES 2022 kicked off in Las Vegas on Wednesday showcasing everything from high tech phones, to cars.

CNN's Karen Kaifa reports.


KAREN KAIFA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The show must go on. That is the approach by CES, the global annual tech showcase hosted by the Consumer Technology Association.

ALLISON FRIED, CES SPOKESPERSON: We bring people together this week, hopefully let us solve future problems. And again giving us living, working, playing better, all things for technology.

KAIFA: After an all-virtual show last year, CES was supposed to return to full form on the Las Vegas Strip this week. But omicron had other plans.

Big names such as Amazon, Meta and Google are participating virtually. So is General Motors which took the reveal of its Chevrolet Silverado electric vehicle online.

On the floor, which requires being vaccinated, and masked, are names like Samsung showing off a more affordable addition to its Galaxy S21 family of smartphones with the Galaxy S21FE (ph). And the Freestyle, a tiny home projector for movies, TV and more.

Beyond big names CES spokesperson Allison Fried, says in-person connections at the show are vital to small companies.

FRIED: This is their time to shine. These are people who have brilliant, innovative ideas that are trying to get it to market. And that market is at CES.

KAIFA: That includes more in the fitness and health arena in the COVID-19 era.

FRIED: Tele-medicine, digital therapeutics, remote patient monitoring systems is a big deal right now as center (ph) technology is getting smaller and smaller.

KAIFA: The show will wrap up on Friday, one day earlier than initially planned.

For Consumer Watch, I'm Karen Kaifa.


HOLMES: Well, your dog as it turns out might be bilingual. A new study out of Hungary indicates dogs might be able to tell the difference between languages.

One of the researchers explains.


ATTILA ANDICS, SENIOR BRAIN RESEARCHER: In this study we showed dogs excerpts of "The Little Prince" story in two languages -- in Hungarian and in Spanish. Some of the dogs were coming from Hungarian-speaking families. Some others were coming from Spanish-speaking families. And they never heard the other language before.


HOLMES: Now the dogs all laid down in a brain scanner while they listened to the different versions of a story. Researchers said the dogs could distinguish between speech and non-speech, random words, if you like. And their brains showed different activity patterns when they heard familiar and unfamiliar languages.

I think we are all smarter for that. I'm not sure.

Thanks for spending your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Hope you found that useful.

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN.

Do stick around though because too many Australians is never enough. Lynda Kinkade after the break.