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North Korea Launches ICBM as Asian Leaders Meet; Ukrainian Power Grid Near Point of Failure; U.S.: Crown Prince Has Immunity Against Lawsuit Regarding Murdered Journalist; Dutch Court Convicts 3 of Shooting Down Flight MH17; Five Protestors Sentenced to Death in Government Crackdown; China's Zero-COVID Policy Takes Huge Mental & Physical Toll; Brittney Griner Moved to Penal Colony in Mordovia. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 00:00   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Around the world this hour, you're watching CNN.


And coming up, the U.S. Justice Department seeks immunity for Saudi Arabia's crown prince, who according to U.S. intelligence, approved brutal execution of "Washington Post" journalist and Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi.

Close to breaking point. Ukrainian officials warn after weeks of unrelenting Russian airstrikes, the national power grid may not last longer.

And in China, the high price that so many are paying for zero-COVID.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with John Vause.

Well, those stories in a moment, but first, North Korea has launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile, just as Asia Pacific leaders were gathering in Thailand for the APEC summit.

Japan says the missile likely fell in the sea near Hokkaido inside the economic exclusion zone. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the launch as provocative and unacceptable.

It's a second suspected ICBM test by North Korea this month, the 34th day of missile launches so far this year.

Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday.

CNN's Will Ripley following these developments, live this hour in Bangkok. So I guess the message is pretty unmistakable.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it's a message, and there's also purpose, which is to gain scientific knowledge and advance North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear program, because remember, they had attempted to launch an ICBM several weeks ago, and that launch is believed to have failed. It actually was on a trajectory that may have taken it right over Japan, but then it disappeared off radar.

North Korea never actually acknowledged that launch. It was part of a barrage of around 80 missiles that North Korea launched during a period of just a few days.

Basically, what North Korea has been demonstrating is what it would look like, experts say, if there was some sort of a nuclear war with them. They could overwhelm, they claim, U.S. missile defense systems, South Korean defense systems, Japan missile defense systems.

And they were showcasing missiles that had a variety of different ranges. Yesterday, it was a short-range ballistic missile, which is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, just like today's launch, which is obviously incredibly more dangerous, more highly provocative than the previous launches, because you have this ICBM that shot up more than 6,000 kilometers in altitude. That is well into space.

And then a traveled around a thousand kilometers and splashed down, believed to be within Japan's exclusive economic zone. And so close, in fact, to Japan's Northern island of Hokkaido that one at the U.S. military American bases in that vicinity, they received a shelter in place alert, because the missile was detected and until it was clear that the missile was no longer in the air. If flew for more than one hour: One hour and nine minutes, as a matter of fact.

But until it was clear that the missile was down, they didn't want U.S. service personnel to be out and potentially in the path of falling debris.

Clearly, this type of missile, when they tested it, doesn't have a warhead in it. But still, it demonstrates a -- you know, an advancement, a remarkable advancement for a country that is so heavily sanctioned that it's very difficult for leaders here in Bangkok. And certainly, they talked about the North Korea nuclear threat in Cambodia last week at the ASEAN summit.

Remember it was President Joe Biden that held a trilateral meeting with the prime minister, Kishida, of Japan, President Yoon of South Korea. They talked about extended deterrence.

North Korea just yesterday put out a statement blasting the U.S. for this extended deterrent strategy. And here we are now, one day later, with this suspected ICBM launch, an intercontinental ballistic missile, that North Korea wants to show could potentially reach most cities in the mainland United States: Los Angeles, Washington, New York.

And what they want to prove by launching so many missiles is that they have an arsenal big enough that they can launch them at once, they could launch them in some sort of an attack. It would be very difficult for missile defense systems to shoot all of them down. They could overwhelm those defense systems, John. VAUSE: If we look at the year in its entirety and the number of short-

range, medium-range, long-range missiles which have been fired, developmental ballistic missiles, as well as, you know, everything else, what does the current stockpile look like? What is their capability of replenishing that stockpile as they move forward? How quickly can they do it?

RIPLEY: Oh, they can do it. They can build these things pretty quickly. Remember, all during the diplomatic detente, the Korean detente with the former U.S. president, Donald Trump, even though North Korea's had stopped the military parades and had stopped showcasing and rolling the missiles through the streets of their capital, Pyongyang, it was believed -- in fact, satellite imagery proved -- that they were still manufacturing these things, you know, in a number of different locations, some known, some suspected and never acknowledged across North Korea.


And so the fact that they're testing this many means that they have a lot more in their stockpile that they're not testing that are hidden away in bunkers underneath, deep underneath mountains, in secret locations across the country.

They have the ability to roll these things out and fire them at very short notice, because they're solid fuel ballistic missiles.

They also have tested this year Scud missiles, which is their -- more of their legacy missiles that you have to fuel up, and those are a lot easier to detect, easier to shoot down. They are kind of like -- they don't operate like a ballistic missile. They don't travel at 22 times the speed of sound like the ICBM that was fired. They'll travel at slower speeds.

But still, by being able to launch Scud missiles, as well, North Korea is showing that they're keeping their old missiles ready to go. They're developing new missiles. Their arsenal keeps growing.

And the danger keeps growing, North Korea says, if they feel threatened by the United States. And it's this extended deterrence, just these talks that were happening in Phnom Penh that are apparently triggering these latest missile tests.

Of course, we know that there is still activity at North Korea's underground nuclear test site, at Punggye-ri. They could conduct their seventh underground nuclear test at any moment. When that's going to happen is pretty much anyone's guess, John.

But North Korea certainly demonstrating that they continue to have, they've continued to grow their capabilities during times when they did it quietly. And now obviously, this year, they're doing it very much in a very loud way.

Thirty-four missile launch events this year. North Korea, every time they launch now, they're just breaking their own records, because there's never been a year like this before in North Korea. VAUSE: Yes. And they ain't done yet.

Will, thank you. Will Ripley, live for us there in Bangkok.

Winter is still a month away, but right now in Kyiv, the temperature is below freezing, minus four degrees Celsius, 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with many other parts of the country, the capital has seen its first snowfall of the season. The light dusting of white is a harbinger of hardships yet to come.

After almost two months of near-constant Russian attack, Ukraine's power grid has been left severely damaged. Officials warn it may not last much longer.

Already, millions are living without electricity, which means no heating, no lighting. As winter sets in, millions more may soon be plunged into darkness.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The consequences of another missile attack against Ukraine continues all day. Again, there have been emergency power outages, in addition to planned ones. As of now, more than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity.


VAUSE: Moment of impact in the East for the first time in weeks. The Ukrainian city of Dnipro was hit by a missile strike. According to city officials, an industrial area was hit and surrounding residential buildings. The damage leaving dozens wounded.

Several people were killed in a separate strike on a residential building in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Meantime, the results of an investigation into a missile that fell into Polish territory should be released in a few days. That's from a Polish government spokesperson who was interviewed by CNN.

The missile hit the village near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday, killing two people. Polish President Andrzej Duda went to -- went to the site on Thursday. He called it a tragic accident, which Poland and NATO say was likely caused by a stray Ukrainian air defense missile.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy initially said he had doubts the missile was not Ukrainian, but now he says he wants to establish all the facts. The Polish leader says he's trying to support his Ukrainian counterpart.


ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLISH PRESIDENT (through translator): It is an extremely difficult situation, and it's not a surprise to anyone that there are emotions here. President Zelenskyy has emotions, too. He is going through everything his nation is going through. It is his nation that chose him for this post, and for which he feels responsible.


VAUSE: Well, there's economic pain, too, in Russia, nowhere near what it is in Ukraine. But those international sanctions are standing to bite in Moscow.

Fred Pleitgen reports the Kremlin not letting up on its attacks, but it's taking political heat for the war's economic fallout at home.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Russia continuing to hit Ukraine's towns and energy infrastructure, once again firing dozens of rockets and missiles, leaving millions without power or heat, as winter has clearly arrived.

And the Kremlin making clear its aerial blitz won't stop. "The special military operation continues," the Kremlin spokesperson says, "and its continuation does not depend on climatic weather conditions."

Kremlin-controlled media showcasing the Russian army's targeting of civilian infrastructure, as Moscow attempts to freeze Ukraine into submission.

A major pundit even calling for Russia's general in charge of the Ukraine war, Sergey Surovikin, to step up the attacks on the energy sector.

VLADIMIR SOLOVYEV, RUSSIAN TELEVISION PUNDIT (through translator): I appeal to Army General Surovikin, a hero of Russia. Comrade Army General, I ask you to complete the destruction of the energy infrastructure of Ukraine.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Russians accuse Ukraine of trying to orchestrate a provocation after NATO governments now say a missile that landed in Poland, killing two people, was probably fired from Ukrainian territory, even as the U.S. and its allies say Russia bears the ultimate responsibility.

And Moscow is increasingly buckling under Western sanctions. The country is now officially in recession.

And, while President Vladimir Putin called on Russian companies to help veterans and pensioners, even on state media, a member of Russian Parliament with a reality check.

YEVGENY POPOV, RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER (through translator): What will we drive? We have nothing to drive. Are we going to drive railcars? We just need to acknowledge that. Let's nationalize everything. But what will we drive? How will we make phone calls? What will we do?

PLEITGEN: But in many areas of Ukraine that Russia has illegally annexed, the issues are more existential. Mariupol remains largely destroyed, many residents squatting in the ruins and struggling to get by.

GALINA SHEVTSOVA, MARIUPOL RESIDENT (through translator): What have I turned into. I'm the last bag lady. I don't like myself anymore because of how I look. I never looked like this.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Hope is hard to come by for the folks here, as the toughest winter months still lie ahead.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VAUSE: Joining us now is General Mark Hertling, a CNN military analyst and former commanding general of U.S. Army, Europe, and 7th Army.

General Hertling, good to see you.

GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Good to see you, John. Good to be with you tonight.

VAUSE: Thank you. Now, here's a little more from the Ukrainian president about this ongoing air assault on the nation's power grid. Here he is.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): Another Russian terrorist attack has occurred. Dozens of missiles. Civilian sites are the main target. Russia is waging war on electricity and heat for people by blowing up power plants and other energy facilities.


VAUSE: There's also reporting from "Politico" that Ukraine is anticipating increased Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure in the coming days, and that Kyiv does not have enough replacement parts to bring heat and power back online if those occur.

So if these attacks continue, as they have been, would Ukraine have, what, days or maybe weeks before total failure of the power grid?

HERTLING: It -- it's going to be challenging, John. We've know this has been coming for a while.

And when you think about the general categories of electricity and heat, you know, the attacks on the power infrastructure, the first thing that comes into mind is the cold weather. Kyiv was below freezing today. They received their first frost and snow. Several of the other areas of the country are seeing the same kind of very cold weather.

But you also have to consider all of the other things that that lack of electricity affects. The ability for surgeons to do operations, emergency services, recharging of batteries. All of the things that are associated with what we see in modern life are going to be affected by this, and it's going to be very challenging for Ukraine to withstand this.

But Mr. Zelenskyy, President Zelenskyy has said they have a plan to do it. The Ukrainian citizens have been pretty stalwart in their -- in their countering of these kinds of attacks. But it's going to be very, very difficult.

VAUSE: And there's only so much you can do, because this has been a very effective, very targeted offensive by the Russians. "The Washington Post" reported that Russia "has focused less on well- protected power generation plants and more on the network nodes that are key to keeping Ukraine's electricity grid functioning and providing critical services. Most of the substations and transformers need to sit above ground. Many need to be clear of obstructions around them, making them easy targets."

Now, repairs can often take weeks or months. That is, if Ukraine has the parts. But then again, what's the point if they could be easily targeted again?

So what are the options here, trying to protect what's left of the power grid? Is there any way the Russians can be stopped before the whole thing is gone?

HERTLING: They really can't, other than, you know, defending the air against the incoming missiles, which Ukraine has been very good at doing.

You know, John, I've said from the beginning that Russia has been somewhat dysfunctional in their attacks against the Ukrainian military. They have been horrible on the battlefield. But they have been extremely successful in criminal attacks on the civilian population.

They are certainly building a case for themselves with regard to war crimes. It will come back, I believe, in the future on them.

But in the meantime, unfortunately, Ukrainian citizens are still suffering. And Russia, I have to give them credit for this, as you just pointed out, they are targeting the kinds of connections, the synapses that are difficult, extremely difficult to repair, as opposed to the major power stations. And they're just draining Ukrainian repairmen and manpower as they try and fix these things to provide for a warmer and more electrified winter for Ukrainian citizens.


VAUSE: Well, it's agreed it's pushed to the very brink. Ukraine has appealed to other Western nations to try and provide some help.

We now have the E.U. commissioner on crisis management prioritizing the assistance for Ukraine. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANEZ LENARCIC, E.U. CRISIS MANAGEMENT COMMISSIONER: We have prioritized winterization -- winterization already months ago, and these needs related to the coming winter are now even more pronounced, following the systematic destruction by Russia of critical infrastructure in Ukraine.


VAUSE: So the E.U. has already donated about 500 generators; 200 more are on the way. They're also sending the prefab shelters, sleeping bags, you know, all that kind of stuff. Is there much else which can be done in terms of assistance for the Ukrainians, apart from just basically sending them warm gear to help fight off the cold?

HERTLING: Well, the warm gear and the generators. It was interesting to me to hear the E.U. minister talk about generators, because I was very familiar with that during my time in Iraq, serving with Iraqi soldiers.

We were able to deliver not just the small kind of generators that most people are familiar with, but in fact, there was one or two occasions where we delivered something called the mother of all generators. It was a huge capability provided by an electrical engineering company that actually powered an entire city. A small city, nothing like Kyiv or Kherson, but a small city nonetheless.

But when you're talking about manufacturing these kind of large generators to supply, in a very quick manner, a large country like Ukraine that's the size of the state of Texas, it's going to be very challenging, especially now that winter is upon us, and getting those generators there.

So that could be the next push, as opposed to some of the weapons systems.

VAUSE: I remember the mother of all generators back in Iraq, back in the day. It was big.

HERTLING: It was big.

VAUSE: General Hertling, thanks for being with us, sir. Appreciate it.

HERTLING: Always a pleasure, John. Thank you.

VAUSE: The Biden administration has recommended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives sovereign amnesty, usually reserved for heads of state. So this means -- means Salman will be shielded from a lawsuit currently before a U.S. court for his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a descended [SIC] -- dismembered, rather, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi's fiancee and the human rights organization she founded, called DAWN, allege that a team of assassins kidnapped, tortured, and assassinated the Saudi dissident.

A 2021 U.S. intelligence report said bin Salman approved the operation. As crown prince, he was not entitled to head of state immunity, but in September, he was named prime minister by the king, a title historically held by the king himself.

Sarah Leah Whitson is the executive director of DAWN, a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit against the crown prince. She's with us now from New York. Thank you for staying up late.


VAUSE: OK. So in February of last year, a report by U.S. intelligence said this: "We assess that Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

Now that Mohammed bin Salman has this reputation (ph) for immunity, one critic has said it's like giving him a license to kill. And that doesn't seem to be an exaggeration.

WHITSON: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, coming from the president of United States, who promised the American people, who promised the entire world that he would hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi; to instead, two years later, have him intervene in a judicial proceeding that he did not have to intervene in, to instead say that he is immune from prosecution, to literally block his prosecution, is a pretty shocking development.

VAUSE: Here's part of the court filing by the Justice Department. They wrote, "Under common law principles of immunity, articulated by the executive branch and the exercise of its constitutional authority over foreign affairs and informed by customary international law, Prime Minister bin Salman, as a sitting head of government, is immune while in office from the jurisdiction of the United States District Court in the suit."

I mean, to your point, this makes this decision sound almost routine, like a technicality. Could the argument against immunity been just as easily made?

WHITSON: Absolutely. I mean, it's -- under Saudi law, it's very clear that, in fact, the king in the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia retains all authority, legislative authority, policy authority, governing authority. Notwithstanding a title a prime minister, all power resides and continues to reside in the king.

And if you read any single provision in the Saudi laws, it will say that the king has the authority over the prime minister.

This is not like the United Kingdom, where the prime minister actually has powers as head of government.

Of course, the additional factor is that this is an exceptional appointment that was made, designating Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince for clearly the very specific purpose of evading accountability. It was granted to him mere days before this lawsuit as a ploy, as a plot to evade accountability.


I don't think there would have been much of a stretch under international law or U.S. law to not recognize this as a grant of immunity and just to say silent on the matter, which the Biden administration had a perfectly acceptable option to do.

VAUSE: When he was a candidate for president, Joe Biden promised Saudi Arabia would pay a price for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Here he is. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OT THE UNITED STATES: I would make it very clear, we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.


VAUSE: Often, when you're a leader, though, you have to make some pretty tough choices, some repugnant choices. You would prefer not to make them, but they are made for a great good. Is there a greater good here?

WHITSON: Clearly not. They really pathetic thing is that seeing Biden make concession after concession, flying to Jeddah to kiss Mohammed bin Salman's ring in order to gain concessions, primarily an increase in oil output, only to be snubbed, humiliated, insulted, to have an American citizen sentenced to 14 years in prison for seven tweets, right after Biden's visit. To have two Saudi women sentenced to decades in prison for some innocuous tweets.

This is Mohammed bin Salman stumping his nose, really just snubbing President Biden and snubbing every single President Biden criticize them for. And that is his heinous human rights abuses.

What we are doing by granting this concession to Mohammed bin Salman, by shielding him from accountability, is giving him a greenlight to keep at it, keep attacking people in the United States, as he has been doing, because they criticize him. Keep jailing women and men in Saudi Arabia, because they have an opinion about the politics of the country.

Keep subjecting Yemen to a siege, where millions of people are starving as a result of this idiotic war that he started. This is a green light, and it's not even delivering the promised goods of an increase in oil a put or strong support for the war in Ukraine.

Mohammed bin Salman has given nothing of what the U.S. has demanded of him.

VAUSE: With friends like these, huh?

Sara, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. We really appreciate it. Still ahead here on CNN, eight years after flight MH17 was shut down

by a Russian missile over Ukraine, families of the victims are once the closer to justice.

Also ahead, Iranian justices handing down death sentences to anti- government protesters, as civil unrest spreads into a third month. That story and a whole lot more after the break right here on CNN.


VAUSE: A fire in a residential building in a Northern Gaza refugees camp has left at least 21 people dead.

At this stage, Gaza's interior ministry says a large amount of gasoline in the building fueled this fire. There were no survivors.

Ukrainian officials say they found evidence of torture after Russia's pullout from the city of Kherson. They say the evidence was discovered in four detention centers that were used during the Russian occupation.

Ukraine's interior minister also says that the bodies have been -- he did not say where are on what circumstances.

CNN cannot independently corroborate Ukraine's claims. Russia has previously denied any allegations of war crimes, despite ample evidence gathered by human rights experts, criminal investigators, as well as the international media and a whole lot more.

Well, families of those on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have waited Years for justice. The plane was shot down by a Russian missile over the Eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Now they're a step closer after a Dutch court convicted three men on Thursday.

But as CNN's Nada Bashir reports, real accountability will likely remain out of reach.


NADA BASHIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, more than eight years since the tragic downing of Flight MH17, the Dutch court has now found three men guilty of the murder of 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight, including two former Russian intelligence officers, and a Ukrainian separatist leader.

The judge stating that the consequences of their actions were so severe and attitude so detestable, that a mere time-proscribed sentence would not suffice.

The fourth suspect was also acquitted.

Now, an international investigation found that MH17 had been shot down by a Russian surface-to-air Buk missile, fired from a village in Eastern Ukraine, then held by pro-Russian rebels. Prosecutors say the launcher belonged to Russia's anti-aircraft

missile brigade and was returned to Russian territory the day after the strike.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any responsibility for the incident. Speaking on Thursday, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson said Moscow will examine the Dutch court's position.

The trial marks the first time that an independent judgement has been made in the 2014 incident, but the men were tried in absentia and are unlikely to serve time.

But for the loved ones and relatives of those who were killed on board Flight MH17, this remains an important milestone in an eight-year battle for justice.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


VAUSE: Well, families of the victims on board MH17 wiped away tears after that court ruling.


MERYN O'BRIEN, RELATIVE OF MH17 VICTIM: I feel relieved. I feel like it's come -- the process has come to an end. And it's been very fair, and it's been meticulous, and it's been thorough. And the evidence has been weighed. And I feel like for those who want to hear, the truth is out there.

JORDAN WITHERS, RELATIVE OF MH17 VICTIM: And you've got to remember, while we were in court today, we still have to go home and sit at a dinner table without our loved ones. And I think that's -- that's never going to go away, that feeling. No matter what a court says or what happens in court, that's still always going to be the case. And for the, you know, nearly 300 victims' families, it's -- it's a difficult day.


VAUSE: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the verdict an important moment for accountability.

The U.S. also welcomed the verdict. U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken says, however, more work must be done to hold those responsible to account.

CNN has obtained exclusive photos of damage and debris from Tuesday's drone attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. and Israeli officials have identified the Iranian-made drone as similar to the ones used by Russia in Ukraine.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the images.

The Biden administration says it's likely that Iran was behind the strike against the Pacific Zircon. No casualties or oil leaks were reported. A U.S. officials says the ship did not appear to sustain any major damage.

A harsh crackdown on anti-government demonstrators in Iran has led to five protestors sentenced to death in recent days. At least 1,000 people have been arrested. Human rights group say at least 342 people have been killed since September. On Wednesday, a 9-year-old boy was added to the toll.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has our report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nine- year-old Kian wanted to be an inventor. He shows off a wooden boat he made for a competition. We don't know when this video was filmed. It surfaced on social media after little Kian was killed.

He was one of a number of people killed Wednesday in what state media said was a shooting incident in the Southwestern city of Izeh, where anti-government protests have been raging for days.


Family members say Kian was on his way home with his father when he was shot.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): The Iranian government says this was a terrorist attack, but activists say Kian is a victim of the regime's ruthless crackdown on protests, one of more than 40 children killed since September according to rights groups.

Every day for more than 60 days now, Iranians have been burying their dead. More than 300 lives lost in this battle for change.

Thirty-year-old Burhan Karami was shot in the head on Wednesday, according to activists. This disturbing video captures the moment the bullet struck him.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): At Karami's burial, mourners chant, "Mother, don't grieve for your child. We will take his revenge." With every funeral, the rage grows. The brutality only fueling their determination to risk it all for regime change.

That regime, struggling to contain the popular uprising, is now sensing protesters to death. Several have been handed the death penalty this week in what human rights groups say are sham trials, the repressive republic's latest attempt to crush the growing dissent.

But nothing seems to be stopping the will of the people.


KARADSHEH (voice-over): The third month of the uprising began with a new wave of strikes, and protests moving across the country. The rising voices for freedom refusing to be silenced.

Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


VAUSE: China's harsh COVID policy continues to spark outrage and deaths. It's pushing some residents to take desperate action to escape lockdowns. A report from Beijing with some fairly horrific images, just in a moment.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Welcome back, everyone.

While the rest of the world seemed to have emerged from the worst of the pandemic restrictions long ago, in China, zero-COVID has meant it's not just more of the same but now more extreme and longer lockdowns, often prompted by just one or two cases of COVID.

Some are so desperate to escape these lockdowns, they're taking their own lives. CNN's Selina Wang filed this report. And we have a warning: some of the images are very disturbing.



SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The piercing cries of a grieving daughter. She kneels and cries by her mother, who lays motionless on the ground, still wearing a mask.

Her mother jumped to her death from her 12th floor of her apartment building, their compound under lockdown in the Northern region of inner Mongolia, after two COVID cases were reported.


In this widely-shared audio recording, the daughter is heard banging on the tall barricades that locked residents inside. She pleads, "Open the gate! Open the gate! I'm begging you, please."

She's eventually allowed to rush to her mother's side. Neighbors filmed the tragedy from their windows.

Audio messages captured their desperate pleas to building management to be allowed to comfort the daughter. COVID enforcers and police surround the body.

Local police said the 55-year-old woman suffered from anxiety disorders. A later statement from police blamed managers of the locked building for their slow response.

In the Eastern province of Shandong, a group of COVID enforcers in hazmat suits drag a resident out onto the streets. Two people hold the man down while others kick and punch him. Another woman is thrown to the ground.

Many cases of brutality from COVID workers have not been held accountable, sparking outrage in China. But this time, police, without giving a motive for the attack, detained seven COVID workers involved in the beating.

In Hubei province, just outside of Beijing, a desperate father steps out of his car, holding a knife. He tells the authorities his baby son has been out of baby formula for a long time during lockdown. He gets back in the car and drives right through the COVID barrier.

Moments later, police arrive. They escort him, handcuffed, towards a large group of policeman. They surround him. One policeman sprays him down with disinfectant. He's arrested, all because he needed to feed his baby.

After outrage on Chinese social media, local police released a statement saying the man had been fined only 100 yen, or less than $15, and that his child's milk powder problem had been resolved.

These scenes of suffering and tragedy adding to rage over the growing human and mental health toll of China's brute-force COVID restrictions.

In the Southern metropolis of Guangzhou (ph), residents, locked down for weeks, rushed to the streets, pushing, kicking down red barriers and metal gates, trapping them in buildings.

Protesters cheering and shouting, demanding that they want to eat. They want to be unsealed. As people struggle to get enough food, essentials and medical care in lockdown.

Beijing recently announced incremental changes to COVID restrictions but said the country is sticking to its zero-COVID policy. And for people who've lost their loved ones in lockdown, these changes are all all too little, too late.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


VAUSE: Coming up here on CNN, life may soon get a lot tougher for basketball star Brittney Griner, now heading for a Russian penal colony. What her agent is telling CNN, that's up next.



VAUSE: Well, when given the choice of work "hardcore" or be shown the door, it seems many employees at Twitter chose the door. Elon Musk laid down the ultimatum earlier this week.

One employee who chose to stay tells CNN they received an email Thursday, saying the company's offices will be temporarily closed. Badge access will be restricted through Monday.

Earlier this month, Musk fired about half of Twitter's staff. This latest move comes at a difficult moment in the tech industry: mass layoffs announced at Facebook's parent company, Meta, as well as Amazon, Lyft and a bunch of others.

And changing of the guard underway at the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will not run for a leadership post, although she will stay in Congress.

The 82-year-old California Democrat will be giving up the speaker's gavel in January, when Republicans take control of the chamber, with a majority of two.

Pelosi rose to the top of the House Democrat caucus in 2002. She made history as the first and only woman to become speaker in 2007.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I'm so grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.


VAUSE: Pelosi's likely successor as minority leader in the House is 52-year-old New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. He would make history as the first black person to lead a party in Congress.

American basketball star Brittney Griner is said to be doing as well as could be expected after she was moved to a Russian penal colony. Her attorney says they saw her there as she serves her 9-year prison sentence.

She was convicted in August of smuggling drugs into Russia. Her appeal was rejected last month.

More details now from CNN's Kylie Atwood.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Brittney Griner's lawyer said that she has been moved to a penal colony hundreds of miles Southeast of Moscow, in Mordovia, and they said that she is trying to stay strong. She's trying to adjust to the environment.

Not saying anything specific about the environment that she is in, although they were able to visit her earlier this week.

But what we do know about penal colonies in Russia is that they have very harsh treatment for their prisoners. They all vary, but in some instances, there can be harsh labor. There can be torture, according to the State Department, a report on human rights, torture sometimes to the point of death. And we know that there are people who work at those colonies, who try

to get certain prisoners to bully other prisoners. It's not a great environment.

So that is extremely concerning for Brittney Griner's family and all of her loved ones in the United States.

Now, the State Department has said that they have not received official confirmation from Russian authorities that Brittney Griner has been moved. They strongly protest the fact that Russia hasn't given them an update.

And this all comes after President Biden just last week said that he was hopeful that, after the midterm elections here in the United States, that there could be some forward progress on trying to get Brittney Griner home, that Russia may engage more seriously in discussions about a prisoner swap for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who's another American wrongfully detained in Russia.

But so far, we haven't heard any updates on that front.

Kylie Atwood, CNN, the State Department.


VAUSE: I'm John Vause. I'll be back at the top of the hour with more CNN NEWSROOM. But in the meantime, WORLD SPORT starts after the break. I'll see you back here in just over 16 minutes.