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UK's Prince Andrew Stripped Of Royal And Military Links; U.S. Envoy Warns Of Escalation Amid "Drumbeat Of War" In Russia Tensions; Britain's MI5 Spy Service Warns Lawmakers Over Chinese Agent Of Influence; Awaiting Australian Minister's Decision on Djokovic's Visa; Serbian Tennis fans speak on Djokovic after COVID Scandal; Former Syrian Colonel Convicted of Crimes against Humanity; Australia Ties Southern Hemisphere Temperature Record; Australia Immigration Minister Cancels Novak Djokovic's Visa. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 01:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Holmes and this is CNN Newsroom. Coming up on the program, Prince Andrew stripped of his royal titles now effectively a private citizen. But why now and how is he going to pay his legal fees? We'll discuss.

The drumbeats of war warnings from the West that a clash between Russia and Ukraine could well be on the horizon.

And record heat in Australia. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the southern hemisphere will be live in the weather center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from CNN Center. This is CNN Newsroom with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: Welcome everyone. We begin with a further fall from grace for Britain's Prince Andrew as the sexual abuse case against him in the U.S. is allowed to proceed. The Queen's second son being stripped of all military titles and royal charity roles. A royal source says he will also lose the use of the title "His Royal Highness."

The Duke of York held eight British military titles most notably colonel of the Grenadier Guards, which came with a big role in the annual trooping of the color ceremony. A source close to Prince Andrew says the Duke will continue to defend himself against the claims that he sexually abused Virginia Giuffre.

Meanwhile, his accuser was speaking out about the case tweeting that she's glad her lawsuit against Prince Andrew can go forward, and that quote, I'm glad I will have the chance to continue to expose the truth, and I am deeply grateful to my extraordinary legal team. CNN royal correspondent Max Foster with more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, will no longer be called His Royal Highness, according to a royal source, and all his military titles and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen and he won't get them back. The source says.

He's still part of the family. But he's out of the firm. He'll focus instead on defending himself as a private citizen in a U.S. lawsuit. If the decision followed a U.S. judge's ruling this week that a civil sex abuse case against Prince Andrew can proceed.

Virginia Giuffre says she was only 17 when she was trafficked by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to the royal who she alleges sexually abused her in three different locations. Prince Andrew denies her allegations and says he never even met her.

Giuffre's lawyer told the BBC he didn't think his client was interested in a purely financial settlement. A source close to Andrew says, quote, this is a marathon, not a sprint. And the Duke will continue to defend himself against these claims.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR VIRGINIA GIUFFRE: Not comfortable to have to sit there and answer questions in this lawsuit. He's not going to be able to evade and dodge. He's going to have to step up now and answer.

FOSTER: Andrew has been under scrutiny for years for his relationship with the late Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell. Though the relationships have damaged his reputation, the prince hasn't been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. Maxwell was also found guilty last month on five federal charges including sex trafficking of a minor.

PRINCE ANDREW, DUKE OF YORK: It's a Newsnight for about six months --

FOSTER: After a disastrous, U.K. TV appearance in 2019, where he tried and failed to clear his name. The Duke temporarily stepped back from public duties.

PRINCE ANDREW: I can absolutely categorically tell you, it never happened.

FOSTER: The lawsuit is another blow to the 95-year-old queen, who in the past year has endured the death of her husband, Prince Philip and being leveled with allegations of institutional racism against the palace by her grandson Harry, the Duke of Sussex and wife Meghan, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

At the time the palace described the claims as concerning and said they'd be dealt with privately. Who knows how she feels is the mother and grandmother about the family's trials and tribulations. But as a monarch, she's known to put duty first and casting Andrew out was the only way she could protect the family firm from further reputational harm. Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire, England.


HOLMES: Joining me now from Los Angeles is Sandro Monetti. He's a trustee of the Royal Society of Saint George and a royal watcher for us. Good to see my friend. So Prince Andrew effectively stripped of royal patronages, military commissions won't carry out public appearances, no His Royal Highness, effectively a private citizen now, isn't he? How much of a fall is this been for the queen, second eldest?

SANDRO MONETTI, ROYAL EXPERT: The Duke is in disgrace. You know, 2022 it was supposed to be a good year for the royal family.


Coming up is the 70th anniversary of the Queen on the throne. Instead, this year is overshadowed by the Prince Andrew scandal. And looking at that statement, it's so cold and stark. Imagine if this had been handled differently. The royal family could have said, We love you, Andrew. We'll fight. This is a family. They could have waited to let the system play out and see what was the outcome of the sex assault lawsuit. Instead, they've acted swiftly, decisively and decided that Andrew is so toxic he needs to be thrown out in the garbage.

HOLMES: Yes. I guess the case against him, we might say that's far from resolved one way or the other. He denies the allegations. But it really does show how embarrassed the family is the firm by the revelations, and accusations even unproven.

MONETTI: Absolutely, they want to distance themselves from this as much as possible. So talks went on at the highest level, I'm talking the big three, the Queen, Charles and William, clearly all in agreement, putting out that statement today on behalf of the royal family that Andrew has to fight this case as a private citizen.

And yes, Prince Andrew has continued to deny the sexual assault claims. But the royal family have taken this decision today. And it's a devastating one, there's no way back for him.

And I think losing the military titles will really make him reflect with sadness, especially because this year is the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War in which Prince Andrew served as a helicopter pilot, and he won't be able to take part in any of the anniversaries for that or any more military functions ever again. The Royals have acted decisively and swiftly.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, hopefully it doesn't sort of overshadow the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year because that is a huge deal. I want to ask you this, too, because it's interesting, how might he found his the fence or if there's a settlement? How might he paid for that if that option arises? I mean, who pays the bill? His life is largely funded, not completely, but largely by his mother.

MONETTI: Well, absolutely, you know, he has a pension for his services career. He gets, I think 323,000 a year in salary, but these legal bills are going to go I expect much higher than that. So yes, he depends on his mother. So, you know, will the Queen pay the pay the bills? Will Prince Andrew decide to go all the way and take this to court and seek to clear his name? I know you say hopefully it won't overshadow the Jubilee. It will. This is going to be the main story of the year as to see how this plays out in the royal watches. HOLMES: Good point. I mean, I guess when you think about, you know, Prince Andrew, what does all of this say about his judgment about his friends Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein and so on, pretty poor judgment.

MONETTI: Another example of poor judgment was when he gave his TV interview with the BBC to defend himself, one of the most inept PR exercises of all time, and that only served to incriminate him in the court of public opinion on a public opinion turned against Andrew at that time.

And so, yes, he hasn't done much to help himself. And the royal family have clearly said, OK, we've had it with you. You're out on your own. Don't get us involved in this scandal. He's repeatedly made bad judgments. You know, so, you know, if he's whatever he's guilty of, he's definitely 100 percent guilty of bad judgment and bad choices and terrible PR.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. You know, even if nothing huge comes from these allegations. Is there do you think any way back for him in terms of a royal role?

MONETTI: Zero. He's finished. We'll never see him again on the balcony with the queen. There's no way back that personally that I can see. And it be very difficult to imagine the royal family welcoming him back. Anything's possible. I wouldn't bet the house on it.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, exactly. Sandro, good to see you. Sandro Monetti there for us.

MONETTI: I'll save the queen.

HOLMES: European Union foreign ministers are expected to meet this hour in France where tensions between Russia and Ukraine will likely be high on the agenda. Three days of talks have hit a dead end with a US diplomat saying the drumbeat of war is sounding loud. CNNs Nic Robertson reports.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Dead deadlock again, a third day of diplomacy this week, and concern about the impasse with Russia growing.

ZBIGNIEW RAU, OSCE CHAIRMAN, POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER: The risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years.


ROBERTSON: The 57 nation globe straddling OSCE organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, where both Ukraine and Russia are members berated by Russia for denying their demands NATO courbet's core principles, their ambassador saying the Russian ideas we discussed in Geneva, Brussels and here in Vienna are a moment of truth. If our principles are violated, there could be catastrophic consequences. Russia has frustrations flowing all week. First following talks with

U.S. officials in Geneva Monday.

SERGEY RYABKOV, RUSSIAN DEPURTY FOREIGN MINISTER: We need ironclad waterproof bulletproof, the legally binding guarantees not assurances, not safeguards. Guarantees.

ROBERTSON: Next that talks with NATO in Brussels Wednesday, again, insisting NATO roll back to pre-1997 lines and deny Ukraine and others membership while refusing to engage in NATO's offer of compromise.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO allies have today made it clear on which is we are ready to sit down and discuss my compromises talk to the Russians on arms control on all the areas.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Right now the ball is firmly in the Kremlin's corner.

STOLTENBERG: Yes, we will -- we are waiting for the answer to our proposal to conveniences a meeting addressing a wide range of important issues for European security.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The answer not coming in Brussels.

(on camera): NATO Secretary General today said that the ball is now in the Kremlin's court, your turn to answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, the ball is in NATO.

ROBERTSON: What is clear, is these talks are far from over. This is quite thickest diplomatic difficulty that NATO and Russia and the United States have faced in many years.

(voice-over): So bad that by talks in Vienna, diplomats turning to language rarely used in Europe.

MICHAEL CARPENTER, U.S. AMBASADDOR TO THE OSCE: We're facing a crisis in European security. The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill.

ROBERTSON: Next little doubt here, war or peace or just playing diplomacy is in the hands of Russia's president.

WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I think there's only one person who knows what Vladimir Putin the President of Russia wants to do. And that's the President of Russia.

ROBERTSON: The clock is ticking. Putin's battle ready army forward deployed near Ukraine's border will eventually need to go back to base. Nic Robertson, CNN, Brussels, Belgium.


HOLMES: Ukraine's Foreign Minister says his country has the right to join any organization it wants, psresumably including NATO. And it won't bow to quote, illegal ultimatums from Russia. CNN's Sam Kiley had a chance to speak with the country's Deputy Prime Minister about what it will take to protect Ukraine.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you want to see now more military hardware coming in as a deterrence? Do you want to see some serious deliveries of some serious kit?

OLGA STEFANISHYNA, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Let's make it clear that we as Ukrainians, we understand that no other nation would fight for Ukraine on its territory. But what we understand also clearly that if Europe wants to sleep well, and to feel that their democracy safe, they should invest in Ukraine's defense, they should make sure that our army is twice as capable as it can be to deter and to fight against Russian aggression.


HOLMES: Joining me now from Washington is Josh Rogin. He's a Washington Post columnist and CNN political analyst. Josh, this new information, OSCE chairman said the risk of war in the OSCE's area that's 57 countries, by the way, is quote, now greater than ever before, in the last 30 years, how significant someone in his position making that assessment. What does it say about the state of affairs?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells us that the Western countries led by the United States, including members of NATO and the OSCE have run out of options that they've exhausted what they consider to be the responsible thing, which was to pursue diplomacy with Russia, in search of a deescalation strategy. And because they're not willing to capitulate to Russia's demands, that means that the progress for diplomacy is unclear and that that leaves only two options.

One is that Putin decides to invade Ukraine or the other is that he backs down and because nobody knows which one he's going to actually choose. That's insanely risky and insanely dangerous situation for the region and the world to be in and without a lot of good diplomatic option.


There is not a lot of hope that a solution could be found in the near term.

HOLMES: Yes, this sort of situation that's ripe for a misunderstanding that escalates up because then to your point, Russian's deputy foreign minister said in Vienna that his country would need to take unspecified, quote, necessary measures if Russia's demands are not met. What does that or might that mean invasion or what?

ROGIN: Well, the Russians have leveled a series of threats, including invasion, including positioning Russian troops in Latin America, places like Venezuela and Cuba. Today, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, briefed reporters in Washington and he said very clearly that those threats wouldn't change the U.S. position. He further said that any provocations that they're ready for either way, they're ready for a Russia that doesn't attack that ready for Russia that does attack.

So it seems clear that the rhetoric is just getting more and more heated and that the escalatory ladder is being claimed by both sides. And, you know, in the end, it's just going to be up to one man, Vladimir Putin whether or not he decided to push us over into a war. And to be honest, there's not really anyone in the U.S. government or the U.S. intelligence community who has a firm idea of whether or not he plans to do that.


ROGIN: And so as the threats mount the situation gets even more and more tense.

HOLMES: Yes. And the U.S. is sort of got a warned of stronger sanctions. They've got a whole sort of bunch of arrows in the quiver. But Russia has been sanctioned a lot already cyber-attacks, election interference, Crimea and so on. Is there any evidence that any of that has deterred Mr. Putin in any way?

ROGIN: Well, it's impossible to know what Putin might have done if we hadn't put all those sanctions on.

HOLMES: Yes, true.

ROGIN: So we can't count the wars, we didn't fight. We can't count the provocations that the sanctions prevented. So we really don't know, to be honest. But what we can say that the sanctions do, effectively in many cases, as they keep the Russian state and the Russian Kleptocracy, from getting rich enough to really pose even more of a threat than they do now.

The sanctions are really to keep our foot on the neck of the Russian regime. Now, of course, Putin doesn't like that. And it's not clear that more sanctions are going to make him like that anymore. So sanctions are not a panacea. They're only really useful as part of a broad strategy that includes some way to deal with Russia, in some way to address the concerns in the relationship. And that's what we really don't have right now.

So sanctions are fine. They're just not the end all be all. I mean they never were going to be and they never will be.

HOLMES: Yes. And you made a good point. We don't know what he would have done without them. What then the next steps if both sides are as they appear to be firmly entrenched, and again, the risk of escalation Russia saying, well, our security concerns haven't been met, and using the failure of talks as a justification for military action, or a provocation of some sort.

ROGIN: Right. Well, what I'm seeing now in Washington is a renewed push by especially Republicans, but not only Republicans in Congress, to tell the administration to do more now that threats are not enough to deter Putin. And we shouldn't threaten sanctions, we should put on sanctions, including on the Russian pipeline, Nord Stream 2, including by giving Ukraine a lot more arms and weapons and money that they could use, just in case they do get invaded.

So now that the diplomacy seems to have failed, I think the choice of the Biden administration is, do we just stick with the threats? Or do we act now? And I think as time goes on, the pressure to act will grow. And that will be a tough decision for them because again, risks pushing the escalation ladder even higher.

HOLMES: Great analysis as always, Josh Rogin. Thanks so much.

ROGIN: Anytime.

HOLMES: And we have this just in to CNN, South Korea reporting another suspected missile launched by North Korea. Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff say Pyongyang fired an unidentified projectile towards the east. It comes after the North claims it successfully test fired a hypersonic missile on Tuesday. That's the third time Pyongyang says it's tested the high tech weapon and Kim Jong-un.

British lawmakers are calling for action after the nation's spy agency warned of a Chinese agent actively working to obstruct UK politics. MI5 issuing an alert on Thursday stating that a woman named Christine Lee has been quote, involved in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. It's alleged she's doing this by covertly establishing links with current and aspiring Members of Parliament, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, telling Sky News that Lee even met with former prime ministers.


SIR IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKER: I want to know from the government. What in heaven's name are they doing after all I understand that this woman arranged money and donations to the Labour Party that she met David Cameron that she was given that she was given an award. Now it turns out from the Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May.



HOLMES: Duncan Smith is a vocal critic of the Chinese government, and was in fact sanctioned by Beijing last year for his comments on the treatment of Uighur Muslims. CNN reached out to Christine Lee for comment we haven't yet received a reply.

Coming up here on CNN Newsroom, a mixed reaction from the U.S. Supreme Court on the White House vaccine mandate what it struck down and what it lets stand. Also still to come call it a love story in the age of the pandemic. A woman gets to know her blind date more than she wanted to, because of a COVID lockdown in China.


HOLMES: Welcome back. The U.S. Supreme Court dealing a blow to the White House COVID vaccine policy. On Thursday, it struck down mandating vaccinations for large corporations but did allow the mandate for some health care workers. And France says it is relaxing entry conditions for people vaccinated against COVID-19 who are travelling from the UK that will start next Friday. They won't have to quarantine on arrival but they'll still need a negative PCR test 24 hours before departure.

The World Health Organization in Africa says cases in parts of the continent appear to be plateauing. It added that weekly cases plateaued in the week, ending January 9.

Now, in China concerns are growing about new cases in Shanghai linked to a traveler who apparently broke quarantine rules. David Culver is in Beijing with more on this. David, tell us more about these new cases in Shang chi. How did it happen? How concerning?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, happening in China's financial hub. Of course, this major metropolis more than 24 million people call it home. And Michael, to your point, this is a traveler who came in went through the quarantine procedure, which here in China is very strict. It's 14 days in centralized quarantine. And then in Shanghai, which is believe it or not considered rather lacks, it's another seven days on top of that, and usually your home if you live in Shanghai, or it could be in a hotel.

Well, according to health officials, this individual was in the midst of those seven days had already done her 14 tested negative multiple times. And in the midst of the seven day isolation where you're supposed to be monitoring yourself, apparently, this person went out and about in Shanghai was doing some roaming went to a bubble tea shop. And while there, health officials say transmitted the virus to at least four other people.

So now you've got five confirmed cases there. Three of them are asymptomatic. Two of them considered locally transmitted confirmed with symptoms. Nonetheless, may not sound like a lot but it's caused a lot of travel restrictions now to be put in place and people from that district in Shanghai certainly facing restrictions if they want to come here to Beijing, but you got to take the wider picture of all of this.


And this is a city, Shanghai that has really tried to balance the heavy COVID restrictions with keeping businesses open, allowing people to move about as freely as possible. And here now they're facing some of the repercussions of that. So restrictions, no doubt there are now being heavily enforced. And it's all about trying to keep Beijing safe. This has become a fortress of sorts here. And they're trying to maintain as best as possible a virus free capital city, Michael, as we are now three weeks away from the start of the Winter Olympics.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. That is this rather remarkable story about a blind date that went longer than expected. Tell us about them.

CULVER: Remarkable, terrifying. I guess it depends who you ask. Right. This is a young woman who was set up for several blind dates, she says, in her hometown of Zhengzhou, she went there during her vacation. In the midst of her fifth blind date, it was a cooking date at her date's house or his apartment. She's there. They're cooking a meal together.

While they're there, confirmed cases are announced in their city. Snap lockdowns go into place, folks sealed inside their homes, including this pair who just met so several hours turned into several days. And the reason we know about this is because she started blogging on social media and posting videos about her experience. She even described the guys as nice, but suggesting it's awkward, right? She says he cooks, he cleans, he works a lot. And he doesn't talk much.

So it's not clear how it's going to end up for the two. I mean, I think some could look at this and say, Oh, it could turn into a beautiful love story, maybe even a movie or it could turn into something much more depressing. We'll see how it ends up for the two of them. Nonetheless, they're navigating this and their story going viral here in China, a lot of folks talking about this on Chinese social media. Perhaps a lesson in that, Michael, is opt for the two bedroom if you can splurge.

HOLMES: At least he wasn't an axe murderer or something. I mean, yes, if you didn't like each other --

CULVER: Yes, we know of.

HOLMES: That we know of that's right. They could be an update.

CULVER: Right.

HOLMES: David Culver, that one cracks me up. Thank you, David. Good to see you. Good Lord.

CULVER: All right, see you, Michael.

HOLMES: What if they're holding (ph) each other. Well, Hong Kong strict COVID policy is taking a toll on the city's economy. It's a packing air cargo and imports and raising prices on much needed consumer goods. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout with our report.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Empty terminals, board staff and flight displays with cancellation after cancellation. Two years of pandemic have empty what was once one of the busiest airports in the world.

(on camera): As the city tightens restrictions amid an Omicron outbreak, Flagship carrier Cathay Pacific is slashing flights with air cargo capacity cut to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels is putting pressure on supplies of fresh produce and a plethora of goods not made in Hong Kong.

(voice-over): The Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau tells CNN it has been closely communicating with the aviation industry, with a view to maintaining smooth air cargo services into and out of Hong Kong and addressing the basic daily needs of society while safeguarding public health.

The city's economy is highly dependent on trade relying on imports for food and consumer goods. And with the squeeze on cargo, industry experts have warned of a sharp rise in prices and what was already one of the most expensive cities in the world. Hong Kong logistics trade body chief says shipping cost is expected to go up 20 to 30 percent and such increases will be passed on to Hong Kong consumers.

Cathay says the sharp cargo reductions will likely remain in place until March. The announcement follows temporary flight bans on several countries including the U.S. and U.K. and new quarantine requirements for air crew. Hong Kong is holding firm to a zero-COVID policy with strict quarantines and border restrictions. And while the tough policy has saved lives, it is also isolated the ones thriving business and logistics hub.

In November, FedEx said it would close its crew base in the city. Even air mail to countries like the UK has been suspended. International trade groups have warned Hong Kong could lose talented investment unless it relaxes its restrictions.

BRENDAN SOBIE, INDEPENDENT AVIATION ANALYST: I remain concerned about Hong Kong's position as a hub long term because of the very strict policies and strict zero-COVID strategy of Hong Kong and the -- and its lack of a recovery so far. Basically the gap between Hong Kong and other hub airports in Asia Pacific is widening.

STOUT: The Hong Kong government maintains the curbs are essential for public health and to allow the city to reopen to maintain China.

CARRIE LAM, HONG KONG CHIEF EXECUTIVE (through translator): Well there's nothing we can do because we have to fight the epidemic.


STOUT: A once-glittering international finance center is now locked in a zero COVID bubble so residents make do with what they have. Like Richard Ekkebus, a two-star Michelin chef at one of the most celebrated restaurants in Hong Kong. Working with a more limited and pricier supply of fresh produce.

RICHARD EKKEBUS, CULINARY DIRECTOR, LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL: Pricing has gone up significantly up to 35 percent due to shortage of supplies, shipping freights that went up tenfold. So that definitely has significantly impacted price structure in everything we get in Hong Kong.

STOUT: He now uses spiny lobster from Hong Kong instead of French blue from Brittaney (ph). So a locally sourced local Hong Kong lobster is still worth two Michelin stars.

EKKEBUS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

STOUT: Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the fate of vaccine skeptic Novak Djokovic looming over the Australian Open overshadowing the rest of the event and now frustration and suspense are building. We will have that when we come back.

Also, what do tennis fans in his home country have to say?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we are Serbs. We are on his side. So everything he says is right.


HOLMES: We go to Serbia to find out. That's coming up.


HOLMES: Well, any time now, Australia's immigration minister could reveal whether he will use his authority to deport Novak Djokovic or let him stay and play.

Djokovic, of course, the number one seed in the Australian Open and wants a shot at winning a record 21st Grand Slam. Round one starts Monday. Will he be on court?

CNN's Paula Hancocks with the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start with our number one seed, Novak Djokovic --

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A slightly delayed but familiar draw for the Australian Open Thursday. And Djokovic was back on the court, trying to defend his title at next week's tournament.

You could be forgiven for thinking this is a regular Grand Slam, but it is anything but.

The sports world is waiting for this man, Alex Hawke. The immigration minister has the power to personally intervene and revoke Djokovic's visa.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood firm that having a visa is not the only requirement to enter Australia during the pandemic.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: That individual has to show that they are double vaccinated or must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.


HANCOCKS: Djokovic is unvaccinated but believes his medical exemption of having had COVID-19 last month suffices. A court reinstated his visa Monday on a procedural issue. The next move has to come from the government.

The Djokovic saga has completely overshadowed this tournament. Other top players asked less about their hopes or chances, but more about their opinions on the world number one.

LYN OAKES, MELBOURNE RESIDENT:: It's really disappointing that Tennis Australia has allowed for this to happen because the Australian Open is more than one tennis player.

NICK SHUKLA, MELBOURNE RESDENT: I think we should give him the chance to correct that human error or mistake, whatever he's committed. But I think it's good for every one of us to see him playing on the court.

HANCOCKS: Deputy minister Barnaby Joyce, offers a blunt view.

BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY MINISTER: The vast majority of Australians said didn't like the idea that another individual, whether they're a tennis player or the king of Spain or the Queen of England, can come up here and have a different set of rules.

HANCOCKS: A mantra we have heard repeatedly over the past week. Rules are rules, no matter who you are.

Paula Hancocks, CNN -- Melbourne, Australia.


HOLMES: All right. Let's go to World Sport's Patrick Snell now who joins me live. Patrick, I mean one imagines the government is not going to pull him during the tournament which of course starts in a couple of days.

If immigration minister does act and tries to remove Djokovic, what will that do to the tournament?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORTS: Hi Michael, yes. It's just fascinating to see how this all plays out. And still, we wait, right? What is going to happen?

To answer your question, the tournament, you, know if it does get that far, if that's the scenario, it would lose its top star on the men side of things. Certainly, the man who had history in his sights, number 21.

That was the scripting, Michael. It would go back to last year when he lost the final of the U.S. Open in New York City, somewhat surprisingly lost that final in straight sets to the Russian star, David Medvedev. He was beaten and then there's -- the narrative was, well he's going to get it done at the Australian Open inn Melbourne next year. Why? Because Novak Djokovic is the undisputed king of Melbourne.

This was meant to be his crack at number 10, a 10 Aussie open crown and a history making number 21, the most decorated and successful men's player of all-time. I'll tell you what else though, it could potentially, we will see how this is all going to play out, but maybe it paved the way for a certain Rafael Nadal, Michael, who is also on 20 Grand Slam titles.

Kind of flowing a little bit under the radar this week and in the buildup to the Aussie open as a result of everything that has been happening to Djokovic. He too once number 21. The plot twist, we've been them thick and fast, haven't we?

HOLMES: It's crazy, isn't. You have Djokovic on 20th, you've got Nadal on 20, Federer on 20. Federer is not there. Nadal has only won one of his 20 in Australia, so it's not his favorite tournament. What a time.

Patrick, you've been doing this a long time. You are a young man, but you have been doing it a long time. What's it been like to cover this story? You ever see anything like this?

SNELL: Well, first of all, I'll take the compliment. Thank you. No it has been all utterly extraordinary.

You know, these last few days, we have been updating it and working on it, hour by hour, waiting for it, day by day. It's just been incredible.

You know, going back, you know, over a week now the thought of a leading player in the world, Novak Djokovic, in immigration detention for a number of days, Michael, unable to prepare, and fine-tune his normally meticulous preparations. Unable to play a tournament in the regular tune-up event as he tried to prepare for his title defense. Just unthinkable.

And then everything we learned as a result of Djokovic taking legal action. What then transpired, what we then learned about his movements post that COVID-19 positive test we now know he received in his homeland in December -- all of that.

And then if I can go back some 24 hours, this crazy narrative around the draw. We are all set for the draw, to report on it at 3 p.m. local time Melbourne. At last, we were telling ourselves, ok, we can finally focus on some tennis.

And what happened? They delayed the draw Michael, for over an hour with no explanation whatsoever.

HOLMES: It's amazing. And we are waiting to hear from the immigration minister, perhaps in the next couple of hours. And might hear something then.

I was talking to Ben Rothenberg earlier and mentioned, you know, the Aussie legend Todd Woodbridge, one half of the famous Woodys. He told local media and to quote him here, he said it's very, very visible that this whole thing is taking a toll on him.

What's your read on what might be the impact in terms of, you, know you have distraction, the preparation, the interruption -- sheer energy spent on just getting on court? [01:39:52]

SNELL: I mean it can be like nothing he has ever experienced ever. As I mentioned earlier, he couldn't play the tune up event that he had been hoping to play for. That's when these elite athletes fine-tuned their games, blow away the cobwebs, right, ahead of the main event.

The seasons first calendar gear Grand Slam where this history was on the line, and where still might be on the line. But there is no way of knowing.

SNELL: Look, Djokovic is the ultimate fighter. He is so motivated by success, I think back to you know, born in 1987 in the former Yugoslavia, the war torn region that he grew up in, and all the hardship he experienced. That is what has made him the ultimate competitor, Michael.

He is steely focused on the normal circumstances. I found a little quote, actually, from the Novak Djokovic Foundation, "belief is the most common word to me, even more than hope. For one to achieve his dreams, he has needs to truly believe in them. He has utter self belief at all times.

But as I say, under normal circumstances, it is going to be fascinating to see how he handles this. We have seen videos of him in recent days and it's just a different looking Djokovic. It really is.

HOLMES: Yes, and if the minister does act, Djokovic's team says that they will appeal that as well. That's going to be cutting it fine to the start of the Australian open.

Patrick Snell, good to see you, young man.

SNELL: Thank you. Thank you, young man.

HOLMES: All right. Well, Djokovic has of course come under a lot of criticism as the COVID scandal plays out.

Scott McLean spoke to some of the tennis star's fans in his home country of Serbia to hear what they had to say.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The streets of Belgrade are filled with tributes and memorials, to prime ministers, royalty, and homegrown heroes. But these days, no one is revered quite like Novak Djokovic. The world's number one tennis player now struggling to stay in Australia in large part because he's unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we are Serbs. We are on his side. So everything he says is right. It's a private thing. So I am vaccinated but if you don't want to do that, you know, it's ok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's his personal choice. It's an individual thing. That's how most people see it that way here. MCLEAN (on camera): Serbs are watching this drama down under just as

new COVID infections here are hitting record highs, and the Serbian government continues to struggle to convince people to actually take the vaccine. Even today, less than 60 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated.

Do you think that he should've taken the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that vaccine is the poison, so I think that he don't give it to his body.

MCLEAN (voice over): In Serbia, there's an indoor mask mandate and a mandatory quarantine period after a positive test. But Djokovic admits he didn't immediately isolate so that he could do an interview with a French newspaper. Drawing subtle criticism even from his most powerful defender, the Serbian president.

ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, SERBIAN PRESIDENT: If you know you're infected, you should not go out and infect others.

MCLEAN: But in Belgrade, outrageous is tough to come by.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't comment honestly. He's our Novak, after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well then, it was an error of judgment, you know.

MCLEAN: You're not too upset about it though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know but he says he has a mask. He says he was at a distance, and so on.

MCLEAN: Court documents show that Djokovic tested positive on December 16th and then negative on December 22nd. Djokovic's positive result came after 8:00 p.m. on the 16th, but he claims he wasn't notified until the next day, after he attended an event unmasked with children.

We wanted to see how the testing system works. So we had producer Nada Bashir take the same PCR test in Belgrade. Her result was emailed just 2 minutes after the result time stamp on the certificate. Though others who have been tested say the time for results to be emailed can vary widely.

The Serbian Public Health Institute did not reply to CNN's attempt to seek clarification. The health ministry directed us to comments from the government earlier this week.

ANA BRNABIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER: I don't know when he got the test results, when he actually saw them. And at what point in time he became aware of testing positive. I only know that the date is December 16th.

As for when he got them, when he actually looked at them, I really don't know. It's something that Novak's team should say.

MCLEAN: Scott McLean, CNN -- Belgrade, Serbia. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Still ahead, a former Syrian regime official convicted and sentenced in a landmark trial in Germany bringing a small measure of justice for some of the victims of Syria's brutal civil war. We will have that when we come back.



HOLMES: Turning now to Germany where a former Syrian colonel has been convicted of crimes against humanity in the first ever torture trial against the al-Assad regime.

Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison for his role in unspeakable crimes carried out at the notorious center in Damascus.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports but we do warn you, there are images viewers may find upsetting.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is in this small idyllic German city were Syria's long road to justice begins with an end to a decade of impunity for some of the worst atrocities of our time. This court in Koblenz is the first in the world to convict a former senior member of the Assad regime of crimes against humanity.

A year ago, it sentenced a junior codefendant to 4.5 years in prison for his role in the case. For nearly 2 years, the court heard of horrors that unfolded thousands of miles away at a Damascus detention facility where former colonel Anwar Raslan, allegedly oversaw the torture of as many as 4,000 detainees, sexual assaults, and the death of dozens during the early days of the uprising.

Raslan defected in 2012 and later fled to Germany where his past caught up with him. Some of his victims were among the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who also made it to Germany.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ordered directly to a man next to me make him lay on his belly and raise his feet in the air, like a stress situation. And once if the answers didn't suit him, the other man on command, starts to hit until he says stop. That's like hell.

KARADSHEH: Musician Wassim Mukdad (ph) was tortured 10 years ago. He says he's been tormented by the trauma ever since. Reliving that he trauma and confronting his jailer, he says was a duty to those who never made it out to tell their own stories.

WASSISM MUKDAD, SYRIAN WITNESS AND JOINT PLAINTIFF: I gave my testimony on the 19th of August, 2020. I felt relief. A huge burden from my shoulders, this memory that I kept willingly because I did not want it to be just lost. And the suffering will be in vain.

KARADSHEH: Activists have been collecting evidence of the regime's rampant and systematic torture, long before this trial. In 2014, some of the most damning visual evidence of state-sponsored torture emerged after horrific photographs of thousands of detainees tortured to death in Assad's jails, were smuggled out of Syria by a military defector code name "Cesar".


KARADSHEH: But up until this trial, no one had ever been held accountable. The path to international accountability has been blocked by regime allies -- Russia and China.

(on camera): But that is starting to change now. Here in Germany and in other European countries, victims have found a new path to justice under universal jurisdiction. A legal principle that allows national courts like this one to prosecute grave crimes against international law, no matter where in the world they were committed.

(voice over): It is the breakthrough Anwar al-Bunni has dedicated his life to. The human rights lawyer was the driving force behind this trial and other cases in Europe.

ANWAR AL-BUNNI, SYRIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Crimes against humanity, it's not crimes who committed by one person. It's committed by the regime, by the state. When the charge will be crimes against humanity, that means the whole system, the whole regime, and all the person charged now.

KARADSHEH: Bunni believes this trial sends a message of hope at a time when Assad appears to have won the war and many in the international community seem keen to turn the page.

BUNNI: We want to send a message to the criminals, who are still in Syria, or they escaped here and think they are saved now and, ok, we lead -- there is no safe place can hide you. No safe place for you in all the world.

KARADSHEH: Victims say their battle for justice is only just beginning.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN -- Koblenz, Germany.


HOLMES: Now, the U.S. Secretary of State is going to be meeting virtually on Friday with the United Nations aide chief to discuss ways to get funds into Afghanistan's failing economy and help its suffering people.

Now, since the Taliban seize power last August, it has dried up and billions in reserve currencies frozen in foreign banks.

On Thursday, the U.N. secretary general asked the international community for help, citing the dire conditions faced by Afghans across the country.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Babies being sold to feed their siblings. Freezing health facilities, overflowing with malnourished children. People burning their possessions to keep warm. Livelihoods across the country have been lost.

These situations, without a more concerted effort from the international community will make it virtually every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan could face acute poverty.


HOLMES: Now, more than 20 million people, about half the country's population are in need of humanitarian assistance. That's according to new U.N. data. Nearly 13 million of them are children. Nearly 4 million -- young children, are facing malnutrition. And nearly a million are threatened with severe acute malnutrition which is life- threatening without treatment.

And for more information, you can help, you can head to our Web site at

We will be right back.


HOLMES: Now new data shows 2021 had above average global temperatures for the 45th year in a row -- think about it. The twin reports by NASA and NOAA also found it was the sixth warmest year in the more than 140 years of records. The reports say that ocean temperature last year were also at record highs. Experts blaming heat trapping fossil fuel emissions.


HOLMES: Now my home state, western Australia, is proving this year that it might follow the same pattern. The town of Onslow just tied the hottest temperature ever recorded in the country -- 50.7 degrees Celsius. That ties a record from 1960. Experts say this could also be the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

Joining me now is meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Very worrying trends. I've been to Onslow, it's pretty hot but it wasn't that hot when I was last there.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good day (INAUDIBLE). Nice to see you there. And it is a bit toasty.

You picked up on it I like it. My Australian friend there, my mate.

All right. Yes, that is an impressive record, right. 50.7 degrees Celsius. That is the hottest, or tying the hottest temperature in Australia's history. But to take that one step further, talking about how that is tying the hottest temperature in the southern hemisphere ever recorded, which was in south Australia as well.

So that was set back about 62 years ago in the year of 1960 -- January 2nd there with a 50.7 degree temperature reading as well. It's hot. It wasn't just Onslow, other locations achieving temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius on Friday. What an impressive streak of heat that we have seen.

Temperatures across the continent range from the middle 40s across south Australia into portions of the northern territory and into Queensland as well.

And you can see the progression of the heat wave, advancing a little further towards the east. Central Queensland, through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, that's when we will see the hottest temperatures.

And I want you to notice what's taking place across western Australia and to south Australia. A cooling trend. That's all thanks to the remnants of what was a tropical cyclone impacting western Australia. That was Cyclone tiffany and that's going to bring up a significant amount of precipitation to the area. Plenty of cloud cover area to put a cap on those temperatures and help cool things off.

And once again, Michael, bring some balance to the world of heat across the southern hemisphere specifically, into Australia. Back to you.

HOLMES: Absolutely.

Good to see you Derek, I really appreciate it. Derek Van Dam there with the very latest. All these worrying stuff.

We are about to say goodbye, but before we do we have some breaking news and that is that we are hearing that Novak Djokovic's visa has again been canceled. The immigration minister, Alex Hawk in Australia had the power to do that unilaterally. And apparently has done so.

We just got confirmation of that. Novak Djokovic's legal woes, visa woes, they continue.

Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong is going to pick up the news after the top of the hour and she will have a lot more on this. She's going to be busy next hour.

Novak Djokovic's visa, canceled yet again. His team says they will appeal, as they did before this happened. Let's see what happens. It's going to be a busy day.

I'm Michael Holmes, I appreciate your company. Kristie Lu Stout is next.