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Djokovic Grateful Visa Cancellation Overturned; Russian Diplomat Warns Of Risks OF Confrontation; NATO Talks Set For Wednesday After U.S.-Russia Meeting. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 02:00:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. The world's top tennis player is now the face of pandemic politics. Anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic is clear to play in Australia for now. But the saga is far from over. Face to face but hardly eye to eye. U.S. and Russian diplomats squared off at the start of a busy week for Moscow on the world stage.

Plus, with the -- with the Olympics fast approaching. China puts more cities under lockdown to try and contain Omicron.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN NEWSROOM with Rosemary Church.

CHURCH: Good to have you with us. And we begin this hour in Australia where the Immigration Minister is still considering whether to remove top ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic from the country one day after a judge overturned his visa cancellation. The visa was first revoked when he arrived in Melbourne last week after authorities determined Djokovic didn't qualify for an exemption from the country's COVID vaccination rules.

The Prime Ministers of Australia and Serbia discussed Djokovic's case during a Tuesday call that touched on Australia's border policy during the COVID 19 pandemic. Meantime, Djokovic is already out on the court training and tweeted this photograph saying he's grateful and wants to stay and compete in next week's Australian Open. Another win would give him a record 21 Grand Slam titles.

But Djokovic's family hailed the judge's ruling as the most important victory of the tennis stars Korea. Take a listen. They've lost.

DIJANA DJOKOVIC, NOVAK DJOKOVIC'S MOTHER (through translator): We've tried really hard to fight for him and the whole world has been fighting for him. We've experienced sadness, disappointment, fear, we can't phone him. They took his phone from him. One time we were on the phone with him they cut the call off. We wondered is he sick? Is everything OK with Novak. As a mother you can imagine that this was very difficult for me. This is the biggest victory of his whole career. Bigger than any of his grand slams.


CHURCH: And CNN is covering all the developments. Our Phil Black is standing by in Melbourne, Australia. And CNN World Sports Patrick Snell is joining us from here in Atlanta. Good to see you both. So Phil, this saga far from over with Australia's Immigration Minister still deciding what he will do next. And of course, a lot of questions remaining on Djokovic's choose positive COVID test on December 16th. What is the latest on all of this?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on December 16 test that's according to the affidavit that Djokovic gave to his lawyers was submitted to the court. That's what he says he became aware that he was infected with the coronavirus. The issue is that on the days after, on that day and days after there are social media posts will show he attended a series of public events and appointments the day after he was seen photographed with a big group of children at an award ceremony without showing any obvious caution or care .

So, so far his family who refused to answer questions about this in Serbia, Djokovic will be pursued by questions. Now on this he will have to face this at some point because on the surface there are only two logical explanations. There is either a serious factual discrepancy in terms of the timeline, his version of events, or he has shown a pretty significant disregard for the safety of others.

Meanwhile here in Melbourne, Djokovic is free but there is still a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over his head because, as you say, the country's immigration minister is still considering whether or not to deploy his personal powers to once again, cancel Novak Djokovic's visa. We were told that this was being considered almost 24 hours ago, a short time ago. Another statement confirmed that is still being considered.

So no obvious rush here. But I guess that makes sense because having lost in court because of procedural errors, it is likely that the government wants to be very thorough in determining just what it is going to do next, in order to ensure if it is indeed building a case whatever justification it gives her further action will be beyond any form of legal criticism. But for the moment what that means is that Djokovic is free.

Free to train, free to prepare for the Australian Open but he still cannot say with any certainty that he will be allowed to walk onto center court in about a week's time, Rosemary.


CHURCH: Yes. We'll be watching this closely of course. And Phil, Djokovic supporters took to the streets of Melbourne to celebrate his release and his win and things did get out of hand. What's the latest on all of that?

BLACK: Well, it was a pretty exuberant crowd outside his lawyer's office last night. That was where Novak Djokovic had been watching proceedings of his court trial. That is where he would have heard the judge overturn the decision to cancel his visa. That is the location that attracted a really big -- really enthusiastic, you know, crowd of supporters mostly from the Australian-Serbian community.

And is where police did have to use pepper spray in order to try and disperse that crowd or get them under some form of control. But nothing more significant than that. We understand an excited crowd that required some assertive action from the police. But his fans will be waiting, no doubt for this next decision, either the Australian government is going to confirm that it accepts the judgment of the court or in a more dramatic action, a real escalation, we will see the Australian government moving to cancel his visa and deport him once again, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes. We'll watch to see if that happens. And Patrick, you join us with the tennis perspective, of course. So what impact will all of this likely have on players at the upcoming Australian Open? And will this (INAUDIBLE) Djokovic on if he gets to stay of course, or could it potentially have the opposite effect on him do you think?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: Just a fascinating scenario, isn't it, Rosemary? Who knows? I mean, I don't think Djokovic would ever have thought he would be in this position what he's been through over the last few days and it is going to be really, really interesting to see how he responds. This is a man through his childhood, through his upbringing, an elite athlete but he is one that is no stranger to adversity.

He thrives on proving people wrong on overcoming setbacks. And there is so much at stake for him, Rosemary at this year's Australian Open. Not only is he trying to win a 10th title there in Melbourne. But as we heard right at the top of the show, he's going for a 21st Grand Slam title to become the most decorated and most successful player in men's tennis history. You got this three way tie at the moment.

You got Roger Federer on 20. The iconic Swiss. You've got a Spanish legend Rafael Nadal on 20. The man from Mallorca, Federer is not playing at this event due to injury. Naval is. So it's just everywhere you look. There are plot twists, but it's going to be -- this is what I don't know. I don't know how Djokovic is going to respond to this kind of adversity, the mental toll it may have taken.

That's what we're all watching. That's what we're all eager to see. And it brings me nicely to a statement from the ATP tour. That's the men's professional tour that came out with this statement. Again, reminding players of the importance of getting fully vaccinated, but also basically saying that it has been "damaging on all fronts," this whole chain of events down under concerning Djokovic.

And the fact, the statement referencing the players well being and the impact has may have had on his preparations for this year's first slam of 2021, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. And when of course Djokovic talks to the media he's going to be asked some questions about their positive test on December 16th. We still want some answers on that. Patrick Snell, many thanks to you. Phil Black in Melbourne. Thank you to you too. Appreciate it.

Well now to a critical week of diplomacy across Europe aimed at averting a new conflict between Russia and Ukraine. U.S. and Russian diplomats met in Geneva on Monday, the U.S. wanted assurances Russia will pull its troops back from Ukraine's border amid fears of a possible invasion. While Russia demanded guarantees Ukraine will never join NATO. Neither got what they wanted.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister insisted his country has no plans to attack, but he did issue this warning.


SERGEI RYABKOV, RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: We call on the United States to take maximum responsibility at this moment. The risks associated with a possible increase in confrontation should not be underestimated. However, the business like professional nature of the conversation, of course, sets a more optimistic mood. But nevertheless, the main questions hang in the air.

And we do not see that the American side has any understanding of the imperativeness of their solution in a way that suits us.


CHURCH: And more talks are set between Russia and NATO in Brussels this week. For the latest, international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us now live from Geneva. Good to see you, Nic. So very little was achieved in talks between the U.S. and Russia.


CHURCH: Can we expect any progress from these upcoming talks between NATO and Russia?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. And remembering as well, of course, it is Russia that demanded these talks that had President Putin get in a phone conversation with President Biden twice. It's Russia, that has -- that has raised its troop level on the border of Ukraine and then demanded these talks. So, really Russia in the driving seat in a way, and that's what we heard from the Deputy Foreign Minister yesterday, here saying, look, we'll go ahead.

There's hope, we will go ahead. We don't -- we haven't been heard properly by the United States. Also, ahead of the talks yesterday, saying that I did wasn't happy about what they're hearing from Brussels, but saying that he would go ahead and have those talks with the Russia NATO Council on Wednesday and then on Thursday with the OSC, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

And then perhaps the Russians would reflect on their position and take it back to President Putin to decide how to move forward. Wendy Sherman who's leading the U.S. delegation heads for Brussels today where she is expected to brief the NATO -- NATO's policy making body, the North Atlantic Council. Also she is expected to meet with E.U. diplomats of the European Union principles security body as well. And this was what the United States said it would do going into these talks that it would get back with its allies and partners at NATO and the European Union to brief them on Russia's tactics during the meeting Monday. So yes, there is still road ahead for the torts. Yes, Russia is still engaged. And that was always going to be, you know, a key factor of how the meeting concluded yesterday was Russia literally going to say we haven't got enough or anything like what we want, and then walk away from the talks.

What Russia has done is said, we haven't got anything like what we want. This doesn't work for us. We aren't ready to talk about other issues that the U.S. put on the table potential of arms control. But we are ready to continue talking. And that -- and that's where the situation lies right now. But it's far from conclusive, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Nic Robison joining us live from Geneva. Many thanks. Jill Dougherty is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and CNN's former Moscow bureau chief. She joins me now from Washington. Always great to have you with us.


CHURCH: So no breakthroughs in those high stakes talks in Geneva. So where do you see all this going? And how likely is it that a Russian invasion of Ukraine can be averted at this juncture?

DOUGHERTY: Well, the second question is almost impossible to say. I mean, if you talk to the Russians, they say we have no intention of invading Ukraine. So forget about that. But what we're looking at right now, you know, this was not as Wendy Sherman, you know, the Deputy Secretary of State said, it wasn't a negotiation. This was the two sides coming together, putting out their positions which each side knows very well.

And the Americans are saying, your -- you Russia, your demand that Ukraine and other countries in that region can never be part of NATO is a non starter, it's not going to happen. So let's talk about some things that maybe we could agree on, which would be, you know, limiting military exercises in Europe or limiting missiles, medium range and short-range missiles in Europe. Maybe we could work on that.

But I listened very carefully to Sergei Ryabkov and he is the deputy foreign minister, his discussion with journalists this afternoon. And what he was saying is, no, you can't peel away these individual issues. We want the whole thing. We want these security guarantees as he put it, ironclad, waterproof bullet proof, legally binding. So, I don't think they got very far at all today. The Russians are saying, well, let's see what happens with the next inner talks with the -- with NATO and Russia and then OSCE.

And then we'll figure out whether we advise our president to, you know, take the next step have more talks or not.

CHURCH: Right. And of course, as the U.S. was preparing for these critical talks with Russia, it was also signing off on a new security deal for Kiev. So how will all that likely play an effort to avert war?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, Kiev, the situation in Ukraine is very, very complex.


DOUGHERTY: And so, what the Russians don't want obviously is for the United States to give more weapons, more military hardware or anything to Ukraine. So that, obviously would be something that Russia would be concerned about. But I think what, you know, the real difficulty here is that the conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues to wage on. And it's not going anywhere. And that's all tied to what's going on in these negotiations.

You know, I think what I felt as I listened to Sergei Ryabkov, it seems that the Russian are really feeling that they just want to tell the Americans what they feel, that there's a certain -- I wouldn't say hubris, but there's a certain almost glee and happiness that they're finally giving it to the Americans. Ryabkov said, we put our cards on the table. So I think there's a lot of that kind of posturing. We're telling them what we really feel.

But when it comes down to it, you're getting a pretty much, you know, a hard position from the United States. So, I don't know where all of this goes because Vladimir Putin does not want to step down. And he doesn't want to back track. And that's very difficult -- very difficult to see what you do if they don't return the Russians as Wendy Sherman has said to their barracks.

CHURCH: And Jill, as you mentioned, NATO will hold talks on Wednesday in Brussels with Moscow. What can we expect to come out of that, given NATO's reach into Eastern Europe has been at the center of all of this as far as Russia is concerned?

DOUGHERTY: I think there's going to be almost exactly what you heard from the Americans today which is you cannot -- you Russia cannot dictate what we do in NATO. If you want to talk about some objective issues. Yes, we're, you know, we're open, again, the military exercises and the missiles in Europe, but they're not going to budge on that. And I think the Russians know that, too.

So the scenario that is worrisome is this idea that Vladimir Putin may be setting this up, knowing that he won't get any agreement and using that as an excuse to invade, you know, I tried, I couldn't do it. They wouldn't agree. Therefore, I had to go in. Now that obviously could happen, or maybe it won't happen. It's very -- that's the hardest thing to judge I think at this point.

CHURCH: Yes. We just don't know where this is going. Jill Dougherty, thank you so much, as always for your analysis. Appreciate it.

Kazakhstan's president says the Russian-led military alliance that came to help restore order will completely withdraw over a 10-day period. He had asked for their help during the protests that began last week. The Interior Ministry says nearly 10,000 people have been detained in the unrest. Meantime, Parliament has confirmed the President's nomination for a new prime minister after the former prime minister resigned during the protests. Fred Pleitgen has details now from across the border in Kurdistan.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation in Kazakhstan appears to have somewhat calmed down. It certainly still is very fragile at the same time, apparently also very fast moving as well. On Monday, a call with leaders from the region, the Kazakhstani president, he called the events that unfolded in Kazakhstan over the past week or so, the protests that took place in so many cities there an attempted coup.

And he also said that he believes that a lot of that was induced from the outside and by outside forces. Now so far, the Kazakhstan government has not provided any sort of evidence that that could be the case. However, they did say that they would be providing evidence very soon. So that's certainly something that many people are waiting for, and waiting to see what that evidence could be.

At the same time the Kazakhstan government has also reacted to some of the international criticism for what some perceived to have been a very heavy handed approach and a very heavy handed reaction to those protests. A senior Kazakhstani official, he spoke to our own Christiane Amanpour, and here's what he had to say.


ERZHAN KAZYKHANOV, KAZAKH SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION: The problem started with the fact that the peaceful protest unfortunately has been hijacked by perpetrators, terrorist groups, domestic and foreign, and that created a big problem for the country so that the President announced their emergency situation and he assumed the office of the chair of the National Security Council.


PLEITGEN: And it certainly doesn't appear as though the Kazakhstani government is changing its line or changing that that approach that is taking but at the same time the death toll is also shooting up as well. The authority saying that 164 people have been killed. 103 of those In Almaty alone.


PLEITGEN: That of course was really pretty much the hardest hit city of those protests and it was also where some of those very troubling images came from of soldiers apparently sweeping through the streets there and apparently also opening fire as well. Now, the Kazakhstani authorities are saying that the situation is coming under control. A day of mourning was put in place on Monday.

The internet was also restored at least for a while. But they also acknowledged that a lot of that calm is now happening because there are foreign forces on the ground. Of course the largest contingent of that are Russian forces and the Russians are saying their forces will remain on the ground for as long as needed. Fred Pleitgen CNN Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. CHURCH: New details on what's thought to be North Korea's second weapons test of the year. The South Korean military says the North fired a presumed ballistic missile more than 700 kilometers to the east, and that this missile appears more advanced than the one North Korea fired six days ago. The North said last week's launch was a hypersonic missile. Although experts doubt that claim.

The Blue House expressed strong regret over the new launch but the U.S. military said it does not pose an immediate threat.

Well, we are tracking developments in Italy where the President of the European Parliament has died. David Sassoli was in the hospital for more than two weeks. He fell ill with what his office says was a serious complication with his immune system. There are reports the Italian center left politician was also treated for pneumonia in September. A spokesperson says funeral plans will be announced in the next few hours.

Time for a short break. But just ahead. China puts more cities on lockdown as COVID cases saw or less than a month from the Beijing Olympics. We are live in Hong Kong.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well Sweden is the latest European country to tighten its COVID restrictions. Requiring restaurants bars and cafes to close at 11:00 pm starting Wednesday. The Prime Minister also said new attendance limits on indoor public events and she wants people to work from home. Things are getting tougher in Italy as well where the health minister says two thirds of hospital ICU beds are filled by the unvaccinated.

The country is now requiring two vaccines plus a booster to get a green pass, allowing people to enter almost all public places.

And China is charging full steam ahead with its zero COVID policy to stop the Omicron variant as the Beijing Olympics are about three weeks away. The government has put more cities under strict lockdown and ordered mass testing for millions more people.


CHURCH: And in Hong Kong, the city is closing in-person learning for primary schools and kindergartens as officials brace for an Omicron outbreak to worsen. CNNs Anna Coren joins me now live from Hong Kong. Great to see you, Anna. So China has probably the most draconian measures in place putting more cities under lockdown. What is the latest on this and of course school closures in Hong Kong.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, here in Hong Kong, Rosemary, the chief executive Carrie Lam that came out today and said that kindergarten, primary school students there will be no classes from Friday onwards. She was resisting closing schools despite the recommendation from some on her team saying that, you know, we need to shut schools to ensure that the outbreak is fifth wave that they're anticipating doesn't get out of control. She said she didn't want to do that for the mental health of students. But sure enough, today she has announced that a major blow obviously for these children who've only just got back to school. That's not the only restrictions in place in Hong Kong, Rosemary. Flights have been banned from eight countries where there's a huge Omicron outbreak such as the United States, the U.K., Australia.

There's no dining and restaurants after 6:00 p.m. So they are doing everything they can to try and I guess stop that fifth wave from really hitting this city. But, you know, they are adhering to the same rules as what China is there's zero COVID strategy. On the mainland, it's even more extreme. Chinese authorities very concerned about Tianjin, which is a municipality of bordering Beijing. And you mentioned the Winter Olympics is just over three weeks away.

They begin on the 4th of February and the last thing authorities want is an outbreak of Omicron in the capital city. Now Tianjin, the port city is 130 kilometers from the Chinese capital and prior to this outbreak of Omicron cases there was a fast train linking the two cities, you could get there within 26 minutes. Many people lived in Tianjin and then worked in Beijing. Obviously that fast train has been closed as have most trains.

But interestingly, Rosemary, the city is only in a partial lockdown. They're looking down neighborhoods, whereas in Hunan Province, which is in central China, some cities there which is where the major outbreak, Omicron outbreak is, they are completely looking down at those cities, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Anna Coren joining us there live from Hong Kong. Many thanks. And still to come here on CNN. Why Australia's Immigration Minister still has the ability to counsel Novak Djokovic's visa an end the tennis styles chance of defending his Australian Open title. Back in a moment.



CHURCH: Tennis star, Novak Djokovic, is back training Tuesday in Melbourne after a judge overturned the Australian government's decision to cancel his visa. But Djokovic's legal battle is not necessarily over. Australia's Immigration Ministry says they are still considering whether to cancel the can tennis stars' visa again.

For more on this, we want to turn to tennis commentator, Ravi Ubha, who joins us live from London. Good to see you.

RAVI UBHA, TENNIS COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: So, what is the Australian immigration minister likely to do next? Would he be bold enough to make an example of Djokovic's anti- vax stance and throw him out of the country?

UBHA: Well, Rosemary, I think given the fact that it hasn't been declared yet, that Novak is going to be fully allowed to play at the Australian Open because we don't know what the government's next move is going to be. I think it is a safe assumption. I think they may be in a statement where they're trying to build the case where they have evidence to try and -- to try and allow -- well, basically not play the Australian Open. And, you know, we're hearing reports that on this declaration form there was something -- I will state it that a question was asked, have you been in any other country in the 14 days prior to arriving to Australia? And probably it was written as no when, in fact, he had gone from Serbia to Spain.

So, I think it's very much a case of the government trying to build more of a case against them. It is an election year. And the fact that they haven't just said after the court hearing on Monday would be -- and that's the end of it, I think they're very much trying to build that case.

CHURCH: And what are we to make of Djokovic's testing positive for COVID on December 16th but still attending a series of public events on that day and the following day without wearing a mask while surrounded by children and adults? What does that tell us about Djokovic? And what questions are being asked about this?

UBHA: Well, Rosemary, that's a very good question. A good point. We have to separate that from the actual procedural matter about being allowed to play the Australian Open or not. But, of course, it raises a lot of questions. And if you are not a Djokovic fan, you're going to be wondering exactly why you knew he tested positive on December 16th, what -- which I think is a very, very safe assumption, why he is out attending public events. In the first place, he's out without a mask. We know the rules are that, you know, he's not allowed to do that.

So, there was a press conference that was arranged by his family, his brother, was asked that exact question. And at the time of that question, he basically shutdown the press conference. So, Djokovic, if he does play the Australian Open, Rosemary, he's going to have a pre- tournament or a pre-match press conference. I'm sure he's going to be asked that exact question. It's going to be fascinating to see what he says.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, he won't get away with not answering that in Australia but we'll be watching very closely, of course. So, what lessons have been learned from this? And what should be done about future sporting events, tennis events, events like this where other players arrive fully vaccinated while players, like Djokovic, choose not to vaccinate and potentially put the health of others at risk?

UBHA: Yes. That is such an interesting thing that's going to pan out the rest of the tennis season. We know the French Open, for example, is the next grand slam coming up, that's going to be on the end of May. Emmanuel Macron is really taking a hard line stance on those that have not been vaccinated. But the French Sports Minister has already said -- came out and said that Djokovic will be allowed to play the French Open given the protocols that will be in place for the bubble at the French Open.

So, nothing is set in stone for him not to be able to play the French Open. But it is very interesting when you had these tennis players who, you know, as of a few months ago, the vaccination numbers and percentage of players who were vaccinated wasn't all that high. That climb very, very high in the last few months. And I think that's because, Rosemary, come and play at the Australian Open, the players were told you have to be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption. But that's what the -- many players have to, you know, if they wanted to get the vaccination, obviously, you know, presumably for their health. But also allowing to play the Australian Open because it's one of the four majors and it's a chance where they can pick up, you know, the most prized money. That's so important as they fund their season.

CHURCH: So, what's your assessment of the way Australia has handled this issue?

UBHA: Well, I think it's been -- there have been some mistakes, I think, by many fronts -- on all fronts. Nobody's going to come out of this looking very, very good. You talked about Novak and the positive test that he had and, you know, being out in public thereafter. That's not going to look good on him.

I think the way, the communication was between the government -- the Federal Government and the State Government is -- that's something you have to look into.


Also, there was clearly some miscommunication between that. You also have to wonder, you know, if the medical exemption deadline was December 10th, as we know it is, and Djokovic tested positive on the 16th, how was he able to get around that? That is one of the major questions. If that deadline was the 10th and then he tested positive on the 16th, how he was allowed to still, you know, have a chance to enter Australian play.

CHURCH: Yes. A lot of questions to be answered yet. Ravi Ubha, thank you so much for talking with us. Appreciate it.

An American man is reportedly doing well several days after receiving a genetically modified pig heart in a first of its kind transplant. The genes that caused the human body to reject pig organs were removed from the heart and human genes that help the immune system were added. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the transplant 11 days ago. The doctors will need to monitor the patient for weeks to see whether it worked.


DR. BARTLEY GRIFFITH, SURGEON: We've never done this in a human. And I like to think that we have given him a better option that what continuing his therapy would have been. He is recovering and speaking to his caregivers. And we hope that recovery that he is having now will continue.


CHURCH: And according to the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, the patient, David Bennett, who is 57 had terminal heart disease and the pig heart was the only available option. Authorities say, there are more than 100,000 Americans on the National Transplant Waiting List and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ.

Mexico's president said he thought he might have the flu but he got a different diagnosis instead. And we will have the details for you after this break.

Plus, new sanctions against the government and family of Nicaragua 's president. Why the U.S. and European Union are getting tough on Daniel Ortega.


A number of Nicaraguan officials are facing brand new sanctions as President Daniel Ortega has been sworn in for a 5th term. The U.S. and European Union accuse his administration of human rights abuses and undermining democracy. The U.S. sanctions include the defense minister and military chief of staff. The EU sanctions cover members of Ortega's family. Ortega claimed a landslide victory in November elections after a crackdown on his political rivals.

Mexico's president says he has tested positive for COVID for a second time. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, says he is experiencing mild symptoms and will remain in isolation.


CNN's Matt Rivers, has details.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, once again, Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. It was in a Tweet that the president sent out on Monday evening, where he announced he tested positive once again. He said his symptoms are light at this point, but even though they are light, he says that he will be remaining and isolation and will be communicating with the Mexican public virtually at this point.

And, you know, this all sounds a little bit familiar. It's because we have been here before in some way. It was actually just about a year ago now, in that late January of 2021, that AMLO, as he is often known or called here in Mexico, tested positive for COVID-19, that was the first time. At that point, he was able to relatively quickly recover, something that he is hoping, of course once again, to do this year and this January in his latest round of his bout with COVID.

But, you know, this is a president who has come under a lot of fire. Both he and his government, for how they have handled this COVID-19 pandemic. On a personal level, he's come under fire for not setting a good example, as critics would say. In the beginning of this pandemic, downplaying its seriousness. And throughout this pandemic, even at times where Mexico has gone through horrific rate -- waves of this virus that has seen tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or Mexicans die as a result of COVID-19.

You know, he's only been seen, publicly, wearing masks a handful of times, including when he has flown commercially during this pandemic. But, you know, largely speaking, including at a press conference that he gave on Monday morning, he doesn't wear a mask. And that is something that critics have said, you know, set a poor example for many people here in Mexico to follow. Also, he oversees a government that has been largely, criticized for its pandemic response. Everything from its relatively slow ability to get vaccine doses, to vaccinate his population, to the simple fact that Mexico's government doesn't even require tests for foreigners to come here to this country during its entirety of the pandemic.

But still, Mexico's President AMLO, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has fought back against a lot of that criticism has defended his government's response to this pandemic. He said that while he has sidelined during this latest bout of COVID, he has already appointed a senior representative to represent him at his daily press conferences and in other presidential action.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

CHURCH: Scientists in the UK are getting a peek at what lurked beneath the sea millions of years ago. The fossilized remains of a giant sea dragon were uncovered during the draining of a lagoon in England's midlands. The 10-meter-long fossil was discovered about a year ago and is thought to be 180 million years old. Sea dragons were similar in shape to dolphins but they had large eyes and teeth and reach 25 meters in length. The marine reptiles became extinct about 90 million years ago.

And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. World Sport is up next. Then I will be back with more news from around the world in 15 minutes. You are watching CNN.