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Kazakhstan's President Says Situation "Stabilized" after Deadly Rallies; NATO Holds "Extraordinary" Meeting Amid Russian Troop Buildup; Australian Open 2022; Trailblazing Actor and Activist Sidney Poitier Dies at 94. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone, I am Michael Holmes, appreciate your company.

We begin in Kazakhstan, where an eerie quiet has fallen after massive anti-government protests that have raged for days. Right now, the nation's president says the situation has stabilized in the largest city, Almaty. A local journalist told CNN security forces are in control of government buildings in the city center.

The journalist also said several bodies riddled with bullets could be seen on the streets on Friday. The U.S. has approved of voluntarily departure of non-essential staff from its consulate there.

Meanwhile, more Russian-led troops are moving in. The group says the number of what it calls peacekeepers will grow to about 3,600.

State media says dozens of people were killed in clashes between police and protesters. The president making clear there would be no negotiations and gave his troops the go-ahead to kill protesters without warning. Scott McLean with more.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After days of protests that turned violent in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, the government has succeeded in restoring some order. The Kazak president warned protesters that security forces would shoot without warning.

He also now has help from a Russian-led military alliance of former Soviet countries which has troops and equipment on the ground.

The Russians have promised to have a light touch and stay only as long as needed but the U.S. secretary of state warned that once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes tough to get them to leave.

The internet is down throughout most of Kazakhstan though we are getting a glimpse of things inside Almaty. A journalist saw bodies with gunshot wounds; military checkpoints outside government buildings, where warning shots are fired for anyone who gets too close.

After a night of heavy gunfire, there were no protests of any protests in Almaty on Friday, but people were out trying to get food and essentials. But cash machines and card machines are not working while the internet is down.

For most people, the only source of information is state media and Reporters without Borders say that journalists have been attacked and arrested while covering the protests. On Thursday, a journalist was killed. The government blames terrorists, its preferred description of violent protesters -- Scott McLean, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Now some of Kazakhstan's powerful neighbors are signaling their support. Chinese state TV reporting that President Xi Jinping sent a message to the Kazakhstan leader, saying China opposes any forces, quote, "undermining Kazakhstan's stability."

And Russian president Vladimir Putin went a step further. The country's defense ministry saying nine Russian military transport aircraft had landed in Kazakhstan with many more on the way.

That's not the only reason Russia is making headlines. NATO foreign ministers met on Friday and say they're committed to a united response to Russia over its aggression toward Ukraine.

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said the Kazakhstan and Ukraine situations are different but share one common factor.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are very particular drivers of what's happening in Kazakhstan right now, with regards to economic and political matters and what's happening in there is different from what's happening on Ukraine's borders.

Having said that, I think one lesson in recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it is sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.


HOLMES: NATO's secretary-general says the alliance must be prepared for the possibility that diplomacy with Russia will fail. Friday's meeting comes just ahead of next week's talks between the U.S. and Russia over Moscow's military buildup along its border with Ukraine. CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest.



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: With that extraordinary session of NATO foreign ministers, the NATO secretary- general Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia continues to build up troops on the border of Ukraine and bring in more military hardware, including artillery pieces.

He said that the NATO foreign ministers are absolutely united in their position, happy to have talks with Russia. However, Russia's demand that NATO should deny Ukraine membership was off the table, he said.

Russia, he described, has put itself in a position where it is not an apparently trustworthy interlocutor because of its invasion of neighbors in the past, because of the demands that it is putting on the table and because it is ramping up troops.

And that, he said, leads to a very dangerous situation.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: The challenge is that, when you see this gradual military buildup, combined with the threatening rhetoric, combined with the track record of Russia, that have, actually, used force against neighbors before -- Georgia and Ukraine.

The capabilities, the rhetoric and the track record, of course, that sends a message that is a real risk for a new, armed conflict in Europe.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who was part of that meeting, said that Russia is creating a false narrative by saying that it is U.S. forces, NATO forces, that are the threat to Russia, close to Russia's border.

He said that what Russia is trying to do at the moment by taking this twin track approach, of talking to the United States, talking to NATO separately, of giving them separate security demands, he said that is an effort to divide NATO.


BLINKEN: Russia is now demanding that both the United States and NATO sign treaties to withdraw NATO forces stationed in the territory of allies of settled Eastern Europe and to prohibit Ukraine from ever joining NATO.

They want to draw us into a debate about NATO, rather than focus on the matter at hand, which is their aggression toward Ukraine. We won't be diverted from that issue.


ROBERTSON: So, NATO and the U.S. in alignment right now; NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg saying that they had to be prepared for diplomatic failure. And if that is the case, very strong and tough sanctions on Russia would follow.

But how to solve this diplomatically really isn't clear. Threading that needle, finding something that President Putin can take away from the talks, that he can feel is a success, given it has set such a high bar and something that is not going to divide the NATO allies, that is the tough challenge -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Moscow.


HOLMES: Defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has made his first public comments since his visa was revoked for allegedly not having a valid medical exemption to enter the country.

Djokovic posted on social media his appreciation to fans as he remains holed up in an immigration detention facility in Melbourne. Dozens of people have been protesting outside the former hotel where he is believed to be staying.

We've also learned that Renata Voracova is being held in the same facility after her visa was revoked as well. The Czech government says she decided to withdraw from the tournament and leave Australia.


HOLMES: COVID cases fueled by the Omicron variant are running rampant across Europe, France reporting more than 328,000 cases on Friday, just shy of the record set just a few days ago.

The country working to increase vaccinations; the health minister says 230,000 people, including more than 20,000 children under the age of 12, have received their first vaccine dose just since Monday.

Meanwhile, Germany imposing tougher restrictions as the Omicron variant spreads. Even those who are fully vaccinated will be required to show proof of a negative test to enter restaurants, cafes and bars. Only those who have received booster shots will be exempt.

And now to a profound loss in Hollywood and around the world. The charismatic actor Sidney Poitier was a powerful voice, an advocate for his race in films that he made and in the struggle for human rights in the U.S. He died Thursday evening. He was 94 years old.

Poitier pushed back against the ingrained racism of his day to effectively become Hollywood's first Black leading man in films such as "The Defiant Ones" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

He was the first Black male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of an itinerant laborer working with white nuns in "Lilies of the Field."

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

I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Stick around for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA." I will see you a bit later.