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Novak Djokovic Appeals Decision; Kazakhstan Power Grab Plays Out after Crackdown on Protests; Europe Protests over COVID-19 Restrictions; Brazil Boating Disaster. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired January 09, 2022 - 02:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers, joining us from around the world, I'm Lynda Kinkade, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

More questions than answers: we are learning about Novak Djokovic's vaccine exemption as photographs emerged of him on the day he tested positive for COVID.

The apparent power grab in Kazakhstan, where mass protests turned deadly. Live on the border.

A harrowing incident in Brazil, boaters enjoying a day on the lake find themselves victims of a disaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Lynda Kinkade.

KINKADE: Less than 24 hours from now, Novak Djokovic could find out if he will be allowed to defend his title at the Australian Open or be sent home. An Australian court will consider whether to reinstate his visa, which was canceled on arrival in Melbourne for allegedly not meeting the vaccination requirements for entry.

Court documents submitted by Djokovic's attorneys confirmed the world number one men's player is unvaccinated. Now photographs posted online show him maskless at several events last month, at the same time his lawyers say he had tested positive for COVID-19.

They also claim Australian authorities granted him a vaccine exemption after he recovered.




[02:10:00] KINKADE: Still ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, across Europe, COVID rules and legislation, fueling more protests. We will look at France and Italy, after a short break.




KINKADE: Welcome back.

After a violent crackdown on protesters in the street, Kazakhstan's president now appears to be moving to consolidate power behind the scenes.

On Saturday, officials said the nation's former intelligence chief was detained on suspicion of treason. That move coming days after he was fired from his post. The intelligence chief was an ally of the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was also removed as the head of the security council this past week.

He retained that post after leaving the presidency and still wielded significant political power. His press secretary denied rumors that Nazarbayev had left Kazakhstan.

Most foreign citizens have been kept out of Kazakhstan during the turmoil but Fred Pleitgen is monitoring the situation from the border with neighboring Kyrgyzstan. He joins us now for more on all of this.

Good to have you there for us, Fred. Foreign nationals are not allowed into the country to see what is happening.


KINKADE: So what are your sources inside the country telling you and what is being said on state media?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, you are right, Lynda. Foreigners are not allowed to go into Kazakhstan. And we can see this play out at this border crossing, where foreign nationals who have tried to go across have been rejected.

Even people from Kyrgyzstan have not been able to cross the border, either. But we are being told that it is becoming more calm on the streets, with that crackdown going on, after the days of violence, with the government under President Tokayev saying they're moving into a new phase of what they call this anti-terror operation.

And the fact that you had people going on in the streets in protest, they say a lot of that has been steered from outside the country. Now of course, there is no evidence to support that.

But that is one reason why they had that crackdown and why they invited foreign forces in as well. So what you are seeing now, in many places in Kazakhstan, is that there are a lot fewer protests. It's more calm. You are seeing less fighting as well on the streets.

We have heard, though, that there has been shooting going on in Almaty as well, some bangs going on in that city as well. But in general, things seem to be calming down as the crackdown is moving into a new phase.

And right now the government is saying they are looking for people they say were behind what happened there. Apparently, thousands have already been detained, more than 4,000. And also dozens of people were killed in that crackdown.

As well, the security forces are also saying that 16 security forces were also killed as those protests were unfolding. But you are right, I think, it does appear to be the fact that President Tokayev does seem to be consolidating power and, at the same time, moving Kazakhstan closer toward Russia.

He held a phone call with president Vladimir Putin of Russia yesterday and thanked him not only for providing troops to Kazakhstan but also for providing them in a very quick way.

Of course, the Russians move extremely fast, using some 70 aircraft to bring paratroopers into Kazakhstan, getting around 3,000 troops on the ground quickly and getting them ready to also support the Kazakh troops as well.

So that went quick and certainly does move Kazakhstan much closer into the orbit of the Russian Federation as well.

KINKADE: All right, good to get that perspective from you, Frederik Pleitgen for us in Kazakhstan, thank you so much.

The White House is laying out some ground rules ahead of the high- stakes talks between the U.S. and Russia. A senior official says President Joe Biden is open to discussing missile deployments in Ukraine and Europe, as well as the possibility of restricting U.S. and NATO exercises but only if Russia makes, quote, "reciprocal commitments."

One item not on the table, the number of American and NATO troops stationed across the region. The Kremlin and U.S. delegations are set to meet in Geneva on Monday.

A day at the lake in Brazil turned into a nightmarish disaster. An enormous rock wall collapsed onto several tour boats. Next, the latest on search and rescue efforts.

Plus, an unexpected blizzard in Pakistan left thousands stranded in their cars. We will have those details ahead.





KINKADE: Welcome back, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Lynda Kinkade, let's take a look at some of the COVID headlines making news.

In northern China, more than 13 million people will be tested after authorities said they found locally transmitted Omicron cases. Health officials say new cases in Tianjin and mark China's first community spread of the highly infectious variant.


KINKADE (voice-over): This is in Paris. Protesters taking to the streets, Saturday, angry at French president Emmanuel Macron, saying he wanted to, quote, "piss off" the unvaccinated. They also oppose a new vaccine pass being considered by lawmakers. It would require proof of a vaccine and not just a negative COVID test.

Demonstrators also gathering in Turin, in Italy. They are furious over a vaccine mandate for people older than 50 and some other restrictions. Under the new rules, the unvaccinated won't be able to use public transportation nor sit at restaurants.


KINKADE: For more on those protests, I am joined by Barbie Nadeau, CNN contributor, joining us from Rome.

Barbie, how many people are protesting the vaccine passes in France and the over 50s vaccine mandate in Italy?

What sort of numbers are you seeing?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In France, there are more than 100,000 people who took to the streets all over France. We have seen less in Italy. It was in the hundreds in those protests.

But there were protests in Austria as well, 40,000 people there and every single time those people go out, maskless antivax people go out, they spread the virus even more and that puts more pressure on the health care system.

These restrictions are coming from science, the health care systems are starting to be under pressure. It's mostly young people unvaccinated and these people who choose not to be vaccinated are filling up the hospitals right now.

KINKADE: And Barbie, at least for Italy, we have seen this surge for the over 50s. So clearly the mandate is proving effective.

NADEAU: That's right, we've seen a threefold increase in people reserving vaccinations for those over 50. Of course, that's by law, coming into effect. People won't be able to go to work or get a paycheck. They will be fined if they do not get a vaccine, if over 50.

People are angry about that, for the people who do not want to get the vaccine. But mostly people are compliant here. We've seen great compliance here in Italy, with the booster vaccine.

Vaccines haven't been available to the young people for very long. And so we are seeing an uptick in those vaccines as well. And these governments are working to punish people not yet vaccinated, Lynda.

KINKADE: And speaking of the unvaccinated, Novak Djokovic, his family claim he is a symbol of freedom.

How is his story playing out amongst anti-vaxers in Europe?

NADEAU: He's definitely the hero of the antivax people here, across Europe. They think what he is doing is standing up for all of their rights by saying he does not want to get vaccinated.

Of course, the fact that he actually got COVID, in many countries, would preempt him from having to get the vaccine as well. But people are looking at him as a hero right. Now

KINKADE: All right, Barbie Nadeau, good to have you with us and sharing those angles. Thanks for joining us from Rome.

Search and rescue efforts are set to resume in Brazil, where an enormous cliff wall broke off and collapsed. It smashed onto several tour boats on Saturday, killing at least 7 people. It happened at a lake popular with sightseers in southeastern Brazil. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Divers in charge of a search and rescue operation stopped the search at dusk due to security reasons. That's according to Colonel Edgard Estevo from the Minas Gerais fire department, who confirmed at least seven people died after a canyon wall fell onto boats below, injuring about 30 others.

Earlier, local media reported there were as many as 20 missing but it still said that the number of unaccounted for now stands at three. It happened at Capitolio Canyon, a tourist attraction located in Furnas Lake, a hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian central state of Minas Gerais.

As people watched the canyon walls from tourist boats a short distance away, a massive rock formation collapsed, falling on top of at least four boats carrying tourists. Before we show you the video, we must warn you that it may be disturbing for some people.


ROMO (voice-over): Video posted on social media showed tourists on other boats in Furnas Lake, shouting, "Get out of there."


ROMO (voice-over): That was right before the canyon wall fell onto the lake. Minas Gerais governor Romeu Zema blamed torrential rains that have hit the region for the canyon wall collapse. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMO (voice-over): "Today we are suffering the pain of a tragedy in our state, due to heavy rains, which caused the detachment of a wall of stones in Lake Furnas in Capitolio."

He added that search and rescue teams from the Minas Gerais civil defense and fire department have been at the site since the first moments of the collapse to help those affected.

Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, who also retweeted the video of the collapse, said that the navy deployed a relief team to join the search and rescue efforts.

Authorities are now urging the public to avoid places in the area with high risk of land and rockslides as well as flooding due to the recent rains -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


KINKADE: At least 21 people are dead, some freezing to death after more than 1,000 cars were stuck on a road during a blizzard Saturday in northern Pakistan. Pakistan's prime minister described the snowfall as unprecedented and said many people failed to check the weather before traveling.


KINKADE (voice-over): This family, stuck in heavy snow in Pakistan, is one of the lucky ones. Rescuers were able to push their vehicle to safety. But Pakistani officials said on Saturday that there were more than 1,000 other cars stranded in blizzard conditions in a town about 67 kilometers from Islamabad.

Rescue operations were mounted to evacuate people trapped on the impassible roads. Pakistan's interior minister says in addition to the unusually heavy snowfall, a huge influx of tourists created the crisis.

Many visiting the area for a scenic drive through the mountain town to see the winter sights which quickly became a nightmare, as traffic began to back up and more bad weather rolled in.

Cars were buried in the snow and downed trees blocked passageways. Police say that people trapped in vehicles froze to death or succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Children were among the dead.

Imran Khan, Pakistan's prime minister, tweeted that he was shocked and upset at the deaths of the tourists. An Islamabad police spokesperson said all the roads where the traffic jam occurred are now clear and thousands of people who were stuck have been evacuated.

Shelters have been set up around the town to provide food and blankets for the rescued and the people who left their cars on foot. The Pakistani prime minister says that he has ordered an inquiry into the incident. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Thanks for joining us, I'm Lynda Kinkade, "AFRICAN VOICES: CHANGEMAKERS" is coming up next and we will have more news at the top of the hour.