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Death toll in the Morocco earthquake now logs at 2,100. Spanish Football Association Chief Steps Down in the Wake of the Women's World Cup Kiss Controversy. Biden meets Vietnamese Officials to Boost Ties in Asia despite China's tensions; Foreign Aids Starting to Arrive in Morrocco for Assistance; Putin Claims Victory Despite Rigged Results; Djokovic Wins Fourth U.S. Open Title. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 03:00   ET




PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Paula Newton, ahead right here on "CNN Newsroom."

Rescuers in Morocco scrambling to find people who may still be alive following with a devastating earthquake as the death toll tops 2,100.

An urgent search here in the United States. Police say an escaped killer is now taking new steps to try and blend in.

Plus, victory for Spanish women's soccer off the field. The official who gave this woman player an unwanted kiss. He's now out. Details in a live report from Valencia.

So, rescuers in Morocco are of course racing against the clock to find more survivors of Friday's powerful earthquake as the death toll fortunately continues to climb. More than 2,100 people are now confirmed dead after the country was hit by the 6.8 magnitude quake, the strongest in more than 120 years.

Near the quakes at the center in the Atlas Mountains, scenes of destruction and devastation with homes in small villages reduced to piles of rubble. Many have spent yet another night outside in tents, and some have been told they'll need to remain in these makeshift camps for at least another week.

CNN's Nada Bashir is in Marrakech for us with a live report. Nada, good to see you on the ground there. Now, since this earthquake struck, we've clearly seen the pain that's been inflicted. It's likely to last in this country for generations. But right now, in terms of the concern about what people have to do in order to continue to mount those rescue efforts. What's needed, what is in place, and what about other needs like food, water and medical care?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, look, Paula, you're absolutely right. The key priority at this stage continues to be the search and rescue effort. And what we've seen over the weekend is a struggle by the authorities and by the rescue teams to make it to those regions hardest hit by the earthquake on Friday night.

Many of those regions impacted most were in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in remote areas that are difficult to get to, but also were made difficult to get to by damage to the roads. So, it has proven to be a struggle so far. We've heard from eyewitnesses describing that struggle, describing not seeing rescue teams on the ground. Some of these villages have been nearly entirely flattened according to eyewitnesses, and we've seen the destruction, the devastation in these areas. It is hard to describe.

Some of these villages completely gone, so you can imagine the devastation that these communities are going through. But of course, that search and rescue operation is still very much ongoing. We are now beginning to see international rescue teams coming into Morocco to support in that effort. There has been some delay in that front. Some of the people that we've been speaking to questioning why there has been delay on that front. But we have heard from the Moroccan government thanking those from the United Kingdom, from Qatar, who have sent in teams, including Spain, to help with that search and rescue operation.

But of course, the death toll is steadily rising, but so is, of course, the spread of the impact, the extent of the impacts. And there will be a shift eventually, a focus on the humanitarian relief front. And I mean, if you look at the villages, there is a huge amount of need here in Marrakech. What we've been seeing over the weekend is families sleeping in the streets at night because they're afraid of the potential impact of another aftershock. They're afraid that their homes simply aren't safe, that they could fall victim to another earthquake. So that is the concern for many here. But what we have seen is locals going out to donate blood.

We've seen locals gathering items, goods, taking them in vans to deliver to those remote areas. So there has been a community outpouring as well as an international outpouring of support.

NEWTON: Yeah, the need just so great right now at this hour. Nada Bashir for us in Marrakech. Thank you.

And we want to stay there where a restaurant owner Cassandra Karinsky is standing by for us. She experienced Friday's devastating earthquake firsthand. And we're glad to see you and we're glad you're okay.

First, I want to go to the moment that this happened. I mean, what did it feel like when it was happening?


CASSANDRA KARINSKY, RESTAURANT OWNER: We, no one really knew what was happening. It was really frightening. I thought something was gonna, I thought it was like some sort of gap. I don't know. That's what it was gonna be some sort of something happening in the kitchen. It was about to explode. It was like a very deep rumbling and vibration. And then it continued and everyone started screaming, running out. A lot of people thought it might've been a bomb attack and the vibrations of that.

But, you know, the building was shaking, it was frightening. And we had a full restaurant and we really, I mean, everyone has run out to get onto the street to safety.

NEWTON: Yeah, it does sound like a terrifying experience. And was everyone, is your restaurant, okay? Was everyone in the restaurant at the time, okay? I mean, what was the damage that sustained?

KARINSKY: Yeah. Luckily, myself, all the staff and all our guests were okay. We're very lucky in the area that our restaurant is and I live, we're very, very lucky. There's been no real damage, a few of cosmetic scenes here and there, but we're very, very fortunate. I mean, the hardest hit are those poor rural communities up in the mountains, which is just devastating, what's happened up there.

NEWTON: Yeah, and as the days and the hours have rolled on here, you're becoming to know what is happening there firsthand. I mean, from what I understand, you have tried. You're some of that community that Nada was speaking about just now, trying to really mount some kind of an aid effort for those communities?

KARINSKY: Yeah. Well, I know, I've got a number of, you know, great friends here, Moroccans and expats, and you know, we all felt a bit helpless sitting around. So, a lot of people went in their own cars yesterday. I was quite moved by how many people were out there actually purchasing goods, water, food.

We took a drive up to Amizmiz and we were told that one of the hardest hit villages in Mintala, but it was very hard to get to. But I looked at my friends and said, let's just go for it, let's see if we can get up there. And we had a carload of goods.

We've got about a kilometer outside of the village and they stopped us and they said, that they had to close it off because they were trying to organize a number of dead bodies and there was military crew there, also some Spanish aid.

So we just had to leave our goods in a locked facility with the government and we were told that was going to get to them. And a lot of other volunteers, Moroccans from London were there. So it's, and I think we were like the second carload of people going up there. So there are, there is a lot of need and desperation up there for people to get goods. And now we're trying to get medical sanitary products.

But there's, and it's a continuing thing with winter coming on. I've got friends here trying to manufacture and source tents. We need to get these people into more sort of grounded accommodation. It's gonna take them a long time to rebuild these mud brick homes. It's, there's a lot more to have, a lot more to do in the future months, which is a lot of work, a big job.

NEWTON: And in trying to deliver some of this aid, I mean, what did you see on your trip there?

KARINSKY: Saw a lot of destruction, just people sleeping outside in just under little very loose fitted sheets and sticks trying to cover themselves. I mean, it's cold up there. We got back late last night. It was getting really cold up there.

We saw, it was very scary driving up there. There was a lot of debris, fallen rocks on the road, which they have tried to clear, but the access was quite difficult. It's just -- But there's a resilience to the Moroccan people, which I've always, I've lived here for 18 years and I've always been humbled by the generosity and their resilience and their kindness.

You know, they're asking how I am up there. I'm like, oh my God, I mean, they just get on with it. And they're just a community that's so supportive of each other, which is really a beautiful thing to see. And they're all just, they need help, but they're very proud still. So yeah.

NEWTON: And I'm sure they are still also dealing with a lot of trauma, not just the destruction around them, but obviously as the death toll continues to mount and many of course are injured. I want to ask you, you know, we've seen in tragedies like this at times where communities that rely on tourism do not want all the tourists to leave and not come back for months. I mean, what's your message to people now? I mean, understandably in places like Marrakesh, tourists have left. It's just not a time to be there. But what's your message to people? Because, you know, not a lot of people are seeing it as a place that they want to return to right now.

KARINSKY: Look, thank you for bringing that up, so, yeah, I wanted to bring that up and I forgot. I've got this restaurant we had a massive convention coming to town this week and we were fully booked and of course now we have nothing. Like I said before where I live and where the restaurant is, it's very cosmetic things are moving as normal here. The Medina has been hit nothing like what the rural communities in the mountains have and they're cleaning it up fast.


We really, tourism drives the economy here. And there's a lot of people, younger generation, who work here in Marrakesh, who raise funds to center their families in the villages. We need to keep that, we need to keep that support going. It's critical and it really is a really, yeah, I mean, important time for people to still support Morocco and Marrakesh and come to town. And it is fine. I mean, it's, yeah, it's safe.

NEWTON: We hear you and we understand exactly why people in those communities, really their livelihood depends on tourism and with that gone now, at least for a few weeks, that it is a lifeline that they cannot afford to lose as they continue to rebuild. Cassandra Karinsky, thank you so much for your time. I Really appreciate it.

KARINSKY: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, for more information about how you can help victims of the Morocco earthquake, go to In the United States, authorities in Pennsylvania are still pushing to

get an escaped killer back behind bars as the manhunt enters day 12 now. State police held a news conference Sunday so they could get out these new photos of Danilo Cavalcante. You're looking at those right now. That's on the heels of him being spotted multiple times this weekend.

And law enforcement officials say they've now learned Cavalcante got a hold of this van. That has prompted new concern about whether he has actually crossed state line now. CNN's Polo Sandoval picks up the story from there.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the firehouse that you see behind me here in Chester County, Pennsylvania, serving as a temporary command center for the search as they work to track down Danilo Cavalcante. Investigators here earlier, it said that the latest developments are considered quote "a minor setback."

Though when you look at those developments, that certainly could be considered an understatement given that authorities really have no idea where do we begin searching right now. And here's why. As you retrace the steps of this escape killer since Saturday night, they believed that one point, he managed to escape that perimeter near Lockwood Gardens, which was being looked at by authorities for several days.

Eventually, he made his way into, or at least onto, a dairy farm, which is where investigators believe he managed to steal a van because the keys were left inside. Cavalcante believed to have gone on a drive about 22 miles or so north into the Phoenixville, Pennsylvania area, where a surveillance camera at the residence of a former colleague of his actually captured him there. And when you look at it, this is really the latest image that we have, at least one of them what we have, showing Cavalcante appears to be in fairly good spirits especially for being somebody who's been on the run for a week and a half.

The hoodie that he's wearing going to investigators he actually stole from that dairy farm. Eventually Cavalcante then resumes its drive, making it west to northern Chester County specifically in East Nantmeal township, that is where investigators say the vehicle literally ran out of gas forcing him to ditch that car. And that is where there is a temporary perimeter setup. Authorities are searching that particular area, though they have no reason to believe that it could potentially still be there.

During a press conference on Sunday, Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens addressing some mounting criticism that this individual was able to slip past hundreds of men and women in law enforcement.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I'm not going to make an excuse to you. I wish it had not happened. Unfortunately, there are a lot of circumstances. There are a lot of issues associated with that property. Tunnels, very large drainage ditches, things that could not be secured, you couple that with weather, aviation being down for a night. There are a number of reasons. Again, no excuses.

SANDOVAL: Bivens did add that they have no reason to believe that Calvacante may have crossed state lines, so this very much still remains a search this focused in Pennsylvania, though federal authorities are still involved, especially given the initial concern that he may have been headed to Mexico and then potentially to his native Brazil.

Authorities did say on Sunday also that his sister is currently in the custody of immigration and customs enforcement, though they did not elaborate on any details regarding any potential charges there. They did say, however, that one of the biggest focuses right now is to try to prevent a potential card checking, but also to cut off any potential support that Calvacante may turn to.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, Chester County, Pennsylvania.


NEWTON: Michigan State has suspended its head football coach as it investigates alleged sexual misconduct. Mel Tucker has been suspended without pay as the university looks into allegations that he spoke and acted inappropriately during a phone call with Brenda Tracy. She is a rape survivor and prominent advocate who has done work with the team. Tucker claims his relationship with Tracy was mutually consensual and intimate, but she says otherwise.


Michigan state says it is acting decisively and will investigate the allegations and you will recall its leaders repeatedly missed opportunities to stop Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State Physician who was convicted of sexually abusing young athletes under the guise of medical treatment.

The Spanish Football Federation is looking for a new boss after Luis Rubiales resigned as president. Now this follows weeks of criticism over that unwanted kiss he gave star player Jennifer Hermoso after their Women's World Cup victory. On Friday, the Spanish national prosecutor filed a complaint against Rubiales for sexual assault and coercion against Hermoso. In a social media post, Rubiales maintained his innocence and said he will continue to defend his honor.

CNN's Don Riddell has more on this controversy.


DON RIDDELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: It's been three weeks since the Spanish football team won the Women's World Cup in Australia, but the story ever since then has been dominated by the male president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales. And he's in the news again because he has finally submitted his resignation to the Spanish F.A.

Ever since he was roundly criticized for planting an unsolicited kiss on the lips of the player Jenny Hermoso, Rubiales has remained in his position but he has now changed his cue. Rubiales revealed his intentions during an interview with Piers Morgan.



RUBIALES: I'm going to -- Yes, because I cannot continue my work.

MORGAN: What was the final moment for you? Was it talking to your family, your dad perhaps?

RUBIALES: Yes, my father, my daughters, I spoke with them. They know it's not a question about me and some friends, very close to me. And they say to me, Luis, now you have to focus on your dignity and to continue your life because if not, probably you are going to damage people you love.

RIDDELL: Rubiales has also resigned from UEFA where he was a vice president. His departure is hugely significant. His behavior and up until now his lack of contrition and his refusal to take any responsibility for it all has been hugely damaging for the reputation of Spanish football on the world stage.

The scandal exploded at a time when Spain is bidding to co-host the Men's World Cup in 2030. In the wake of the kiss, Spain's players refused to play again for the national team until Rubiales quit or was fired. Since then, the team's entire coaching staff has resigned in protest and last week the head coach Jorge Vilda was fired. He was succeeded by the team's first female coach Montse Tomei.

It remains to be seen what happens next but the players have been calling for a systemic change in a football culture that they believe is deeply flawed. Will the departure of Rubiales be enough? I guess we'll soon find out. Back to you.


NEWTON: Our thanks to Don for that report.

Now a new strategic partnership for the U.S. and Vietnam. After the break, we will go live to Hanoi for the latest on President Joe Biden's diplomatic push in the region.

And Hurricane Lee has strengthened back to a Category 3 storm in the Atlantic. We'll have the latest on its path and its impacts along the U.S. East Coast. That's ahead.




NEWTON: U.S. President Joe Biden in Hanoi this hour says he is sincere about improving America's difficult relationship with China and looks forward to meeting with President Xi Jinping quote "sooner rather than later." His comments come after the Chinese foreign ministry suggested the U.S. is trying to in its words target a third party, namely Beijing, during his visits to India and Vietnam.

But Mr. Biden denied that, saying the U.S. isn't aiming to contain China but wants it to act on quote, "the up and up in international relations and trade." Biden is working through a very busy final day in Vietnam, and he met with the country's prime minister and they unveiled a new strategic partnership between those two nations. Now, Mr. Biden later met with Vietnam's president and the two men attended a state luncheon together. Next up, the U.S. president will sit down with the chairman of Vietnam's National Assembly.

CNN's Anna Coren is live for us at Hanoi and has been following all of the developments. And, you know, to quote Biden again, He says the U.S. is a Pacific nation and we're not going anywhere. His Indo- Pacific strategy is seen as a counterbalance, of course, to China's growing economic and military weight.

So, I guess the question to you, Anna, is where does Vietnam fit into all of this, especially given the historic announcements today?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, Vietnam certainly welcomes what is going on. And we've just got word that Vietnam Airlines has signed a multi-billion deal with Boeing, a $7.8 billion deal to purchase 50 737 MAX aircraft. Now that will support 30,000 jobs back in the U.S. It's these tangible concrete results that President Biden will return to the U.S. with. He has signed his comprehensive strategic partnership which elevates the U.S. to where China and the U.S. sit in their relationship with Vietnam.

And yes, this is about trade, this is about semiconductors, the A.I. industry, cloud computing, there's going to be deep cooperation between the two countries. But this is also about countering China.

As you mentioned, you know, the northern neighbor of Vietnam, 800-mile border. Yes, it is Vietnam's largest trading partner, but it is a problematic relationship particularly in the South China Sea where China has encroached its laid claim to the Spratly and Paracel Islands which Vietnam says are theirs.


So to have the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific is very important for Vietnam and President Biden spoke about this arc, this 50-year arc from conflicting normalization to now this elevated level and we just heard from the president at this state luncheon and he said a day like this that may have seemed impossible not that long ago now there are boundless possibilities ahead.

The Vietnamese president saying that this was a momentous occasion and the opening of a new chapter but President Biden has made it perfectly clear America is very much involved in the Indo-Pacific. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: All the effort we've advanced from day one of my administration to demonstrate to our Indo-Pacific partners and to the world, the United States is a Pacific nation and we're not going anywhere.


COREN: Now President Biden in his press conference last night, Paula, said he wasn't interested in containing China. There's obviously much conjecture about what this trip is all about.

The G20 in India and now here, this 24-hour stopover in Vietnam. President Biden said he wants China to succeed. He wants it to do well, but on this even playing field. But this is certainly, America shoring up it's relationships, it's allies in the Indo-Pacific, you know, America also wants to diversify away from China in regards to those global supply chains. And that is what we are seeing, these deals that are being made here in Hanoi today.

It's not just Boeing. We know the head of Intel is here, Google, Amcor. There are various industry heads making these very substantial deals, which will pave the way for the future between these two countries, Paula.

NEWTON: All right. Anna Coren for us, thank you for continuing to follow what is a busy day for President Biden in Hanoi. I appreciate it.

Now, Hurricane Lee has strengthened back to a Category 3 storm in the Atlantic. And even though it is far from land, forecasters say its effects are now being felt along the U.S. East Coast with dangerous surf and rip currents reported in parts of the southeast late Sunday.

Lee's top sustained winds are about 120 miles an hour, and it could reach Category 4 strength in the coming hours. The storm's long-term path? Well, that's hard to predict. It's been impacting islands in the Caribbean, and by midweek, forecasters believe it will make a hard turn to the north, eventually moving between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast.

Hawaii's most active volcano is erupting for the third time this year. Mount Kilauea began spewing lava on Sunday afternoon after a period of strong seismic activity that's according to the United States Geological Survey. Scientists say the lava flow is currently confined to the surrounding crater floor and thankfully isn't threatening any residents. It last erupted in June.

Vladimir Putin is claiming a landslide electoral win for his political party but like any vote held in Russia these days the outcome is raising all kinds of doubts. We'll dive into that.

Plus, humanitarian aid is being distributed after that deadly earthquake in Morocco but much more is needed. We'll tell you about the country sending help. That's next.



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Back to our top story now, the devastating earthquake in Morocco. The death toll has now topped 2,100, with that number expected to rise even more in the days ahead.

Rescuers continue to dig through the rubble in a frantic search for survivors, and they are getting more help, thankfully. Both Spain and the U.K. have sent search and rescue teams to the country. And while emergency workers have been deployed to hard-hit areas, some remote villages have been difficult to access now. Residents in villages along the foothills of the Atlas Mountains are dealing with a new difficult reality.

Many are now staying intense, with some being told they'll need to remain in these makeshift camps for at least a week. CNN's Sam Kiley has more from one hard-hit town.


SAM KILEY, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: People here in Asni in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains have talked that when this earthquake struck and it did this, they didn't so much feel the tremors as feel that they were being caught up in some kind of war. And that is exactly what it looks like. They didn't feel the ground shaking under them, they said. They felt and heard the sounds of explosions. Explosions from within and without their own homes and explosions up in the hills.

And 25 people were killed in the town of Mulai Ibrahim which is just about three kilometers a mile and a half or so from here. This is normally a tourist paradise not just for foreigners but for locals too. Some of the victims still being left buried under the rubble because it's too dangerous to get them out, are actually Moroccans who were up in these mountains enjoying the cooler temperatures in the summer. Everybody we're talking to here though has got to complain that the central government is really nowhere to be seen in their words.

We have seen some evidence of their help with these yellow tents offering temporary accommodation. Here in Asni, that's accommodation for 1,200 people who've lost their homes or whose homes are now uninhabitably dangerous. This area has been struck in the last 24 hours by at least four aftershocks, local people tell us and they're saying they're just not getting the help that they need. Inevitably there is always going to be a level of frustration from people hit with this cataclysmic event but there are dozens of these villages all over this region and for that reason it is the hardest hit region in all Morocco where the death toll continues to climb well over 2,000 now.

Sam Kiley, CNN in Asni.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NEWTON: Morocco's government and some volunteers are handing out desperately needed supplies, but the kingdom has now formally accepted aid from four countries after weighing its needs. Many more have offered assistance, and Morocco says it could ask for additional help as the situation on the ground continues to unfold.

CNN's Michael Holmes has our story.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More boots on the ground. A Spanish search and rescue team arrives in Marrakesh to assist with relief operations in Morocco.

The help coming just in time as rescuers face blocked roads and mountainous terrain as they search for survivors in some of the country's hard-to-reach villages.

But this specialized unit of Spain's armed forces has faced challenges like this before, having deployed in previous disaster zones like Turkey, Nepal and Haiti.


The Spanish Defense Ministry says the team has four dogs with them, as well as tools that can cut through concrete. All things Morocco needs as rescuers push deeper into the remote areas of the Atlas Mountains. Many countries have sent offers of help. And so far, Morocco has accepted assistance from some, after what it says is careful assessment of its needs.

On Sunday the Moroccan King thanks Spain, Qatar, the UAE and the U.K. for their support, which is beginning to funnel into the country. In Qatar, shipments of emergency vehicles were loaded on a transport plane bound for the quake zone.

The gulf nation also sending pallets of supplies and rescue personnel to the region. Help is also on the way from the U.K. with 60 search and rescue specialists joining the efforts.

The Tunisian government says it's also sending reinforcements who stood with bags packed and ready to leave as the country's interior affairs minister wished them luck in what will likely be difficult work ahead.

KAMEL AL-FEKI, TUNISIAN INTERIOR AFFAIRS MINISTER (through translator): God willing we will be proficient as expected. We will do our best, standing alongside those who will also participate in the search and rescue in the Moroccan regions affected by the earthquake.

HOLMES (voice-over): Some food and water is already reaching some hard-hit areas, these supplies organized by the Moroccan government and civil society organizations.

Other essential items are being collected outside grocery stores in Marrakesh by volunteers. ABDELTIF RAZOUKI, VICE PRESIDENT, DRAW SMILE (through translator): I

think the food supplies collected today should be able to sustain at least families for a week covering all their food needs.

HOLMES (voice-over): Needs that are likely to continue in the coming days, weeks and months as Morocco faces a long road to recovery.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


NEWTON: President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is claiming overwhelming victory in regional elections held across the country and in parts of occupied Ukraine. The international community and monitoring groups say these so-called elections were rigged and an outright sham.

There was limited choice in many places with opposing candidates blocked from running. One independent Russian vote monitoring group says they saw many instances where the result was falsified.

CNN investigative reporter Katie Polglase joins me now from London. with more. Now, Putin nearly made a clean sweep of the ballot in annexed areas of Ukraine. That doesn't come as a surprise to anyone. And some, of course, point out, look, this is a blatant violation of international law.

KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Well, Paula, really, it depends which side you're on. To Russia, these are valid elections. These are legitimate. The spokesperson for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, said that the importance of these elections cannot be overstated. But of course, to the West and to Ukraine, viewed as a sham, being viewed as rigged, as you mentioned.

The United States said the results are prefabricated and that this is a propaganda exercise. But it's worth noting that there is some dissent within Russia, as you mentioned, and that is quite key and quite rare to see. There is a vote monitoring body called Golos that have commented they've been viewing these elections. This is what the co-chair of Golos had to say about these elections.


STANISLAV ANDREYCHUK, CO-CHAIR, GOLOS (through translator): Probably one of the main features of voting in 2023 is the blatant use of power resources by the state and a rather blatant disregard for the law on the part of members of election commissions in some regions.


POLGLASE: Now, Golos have since been declared a foreign agent by Russia, perhaps unsurprising given dissent and its reception inside Russia. But when we look at the broader context here about these elections, the West saying that they are a sham, really to look at the motivation as to why Russia would be conducting them, we have to look at the domestic audience here. Because let's not forget, just earlier this year, there was a mutiny

against Putin. There was a mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, who since mysteriously died in a plane crash. And that reflects perhaps the concern by the Kremlin and by Putin about the level of authority and the support he has back home.

And so, when we're looking at the projection of this authority in the Ukrainian annex territories as well as inside Russia, there's 21 regions of Russia that are holding elections. This is where also the focus is, showing to the Russian people that they still have control in this war in Ukraine. The areas that they've taken from Ukraine are very much still under their control.

And that also Putin still has control over Russia and that his leadership and his leadership of the Russian people is very much still in place.

NEWTON: Yeah, you make a very good point. It is a very potent propaganda message for Putin, especially as he was touting the online capability of voting and also returning to that internal analysis.


One expert again saying that it was a return to Soviet practices and something they saw during those times. Anyway, we'll leave it there for now. Katie Polglase, thanks so much. I Appreciate it.

Now a diplomatic dust-up after the G20 summit between the U.K. and China. Coming up, we'll explain the reported arrests of two British Parliament employees has led to a war of words between the two nations.


NEWTON: Obviously unacceptable. That's what British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he told Chinese Premier Li Zheng following reports that a parliamentary researcher and another parliament employee had been arrested on charges of spying for Beijing. Now the two leaders met in New Delhi during the G20 summit. Listen.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: With regard to my meeting with Premier Li, what I said very specifically is that I arranged a range of different concerns that we have in areas of disagreement and in particular my very strong concerns about any interference in our parliamentary democracy, which is obviously unacceptable.


NEWTON: But China is now forcefully denying it tried to steal British intelligence information. Its embassy in London is calling the accusation, quote, "completely fabricated and nothing but malicious slander."

CNN's Nic Robertson has been following all of this diplomatic dustup for us from London. And Nic, good to see you and have you on the story. And it's got to be said, right, the U.K. isn't the only country right now calling out Chinese political interference. But why have these recent incidents so rattled British politics?

NIC ROBERSTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think there are several reasons. The charges as we know are going to, well the two men in question will appear in court in October, but they were actually arrested in March.


So that's some time back, one 20-year-old arrested in Edinburgh in Scotland, another 30-year-old man arrested in Oxfordshire. Both of them brought to London and both questioned under the possibility that they've broken the Official Secrets Act in some way, the precise charges we don't yet know.

But the fact that they were arrested back in March and the news is only coming out now has upset some conservative MPs. Why? Because some of them have been targeted specifically for sanctions by Russia. So, there are senior conservative MPs who have a vested interest in knowing what nefarious activities China may be getting up to behind the scenes in parliament. And I think the other issue is a very clear one, an interest of British national security.

How could a researcher working for senior conservative parliamentarians involved in foreign affairs issues and involved in groups that scrutinize China's economic role in the world and the way that it wants to position itself in the globe?

So there will be two sort of avenues here that will be causing disturbance. One, how could this happen but the other how could senior, very senior conservative members with vested interests in China not be informed about this particular case?

NEWTON: Yeah Nic, I don't have a lot of time left here but you know as I said Canada has been dealing with this, Australia has dealt with it in the past. I mean is the accusation here that Britain could be a light touch for this kind of foreign interference and spying?

ROBERTSON: I think it's a case that there will be concerns raised about how a researcher with the sort of background he may have had come to have the access that he had inside Parliament. Whether or not the U.K. is a light touch compared to other countries really isn't clear because we don't know the extent of the charges at the moment. Was he passing secret documents that's not in the public domain or was he really a sort of a super influencer trying to influence other young researchers and those sorts of people we don't know?

NEWTON: Which is why you say many will be pressing for more information as these cases come to light. Nic Robertson for us in London, I really appreciate it.

Next for us here on "CNN Newsroom," Novak Djokovic makes history once again. CNN caught up with the Serbian tennis star after another impressive performance at the U.S. Open. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



NEWTON: Novak Djokovic has won his fourth U.S. Open title, adding more incredible achievements to what you already know is an illustrious career. With Sunday's victory over Russia's Danil Medvedev in straight sets, Djokovic is tied with Australian legend Margaret Court for the most all-time Grand Slam singles titles with 24.

At 36, Djokovic is now the eldest man to win the U.S. Open singles title in the open era, and he's the first man to win three Grand Slam titles in a single season on four separate occasions.

CNN Sports' Carolyn Manno caught up with Djokovic after his historic victory.


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS: Congratulations to you Novak, the 24th Grand Slam Championship and some really beautiful and poignant moments with your family right afterwards, including your children and your wife and your team. Just walk us through what was going through your mind in those very special moments.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC, 2023 U.S. MEN'S OPEN CHAMPION: Yeah, I mean, of course it's an incredible achievement again. I was just hoping he's gonna put his last forehand in the net, which happened, and I felt a huge relief because it was a very demanding physically grueling match particularly in the second set.

You know, I did my best in the last 48 hours not to think about what- if scenarios. Two years ago, I feel like, you know, I probably let the emotions control me on the court. I was a lot on the line, you know, possible golden slam. And I lost to the same opponent in straight sets two years ago. So I learned my lesson and, you know, I felt that when I was struggling the most, actually physically and being under huge tension and stress, particularly in the second set, every time I would look at my daughter, she was sitting courtside, facing me, facing the bench where I was seated, she would give me a smile and a fist bump and that would of course melt my heart and give me this kind of energy and strength and also playfulness that I needed in that moment.

So, of course, once I shook the hands of my opponent today, the only thing I wanted to do right after that is hug her and then hug my wife and my son and my parents, all the team. Because yes, it's an individual sport, of course it comes down to how you're going to perform on the given day. But is a team effort behind the stage because they put in a lot of energy, you know, into my life, into my career and sacrifice and support. So, I value that very, very much.

MANNO: The mental fortitude that you've become known for was on display in that second set and an ode to Kobe Bryant was appropriate in that moment. And you mentioned the need for reinvention, which is something that he talked about when he was alive, the need to be better and strive for more. How much is that on your mind now as you look to where you're headed from here?

DJOKOVIC: Kobe was a friend and we had a great relationship and he was one of the people that helped me the most when I was struggling with an injury and after surgery it took me quite some time to get back on track and on desired level mentally and game-wise. And He was one of the people that I talked with the most in those moments and he was so kind and so generous, so helpful.


You know, many, many different conversations we had about the mentality, about the approach, about visualization about things that we can do with ourselves internally and then obviously externally whatever happens is in God's hands and when he passed away with his daughter three years ago, you know, my heart broke and I was extremely sad as most of the world of sport because his legacy will live forever.

He has been one of the most incredible basketball players, but more than that he is an incredible human being. So down to earth, so supportive, so charismatic, fantastic personality, mamba mentality. And 24 is the famous jersey that he wore. He made himself a legend of basketball and because of the relationship and kind of symbolics of 24 Grand Slams I thought, if I get a chance to win the slam a week ago, I thought of designing a shirt with our photo and Mamba mentality and a 24 at the back. So that was kind of paying a tribute and homage to him.


NEWTON: We go to the NFL now and it was Tom Brady appreciation day in Foxboro, Massachusetts in a halftime ceremony during Sunday's season opener. The New England Patriots honored their legendary former quarterback who helped guide the team to six Super Bowl titles. Brady, you can see him there, ran into the field in a rousing ovation from the fans. Patriots owner Robert Kraft also announced the team will hold a special in-stadium ceremony when Brady gets an early induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame next summer. The celebration for him just doesn't end there.

That wraps up this hour of "CNN Newsroom." I'm Paula Newton, the news continues with my friends Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo. That's right after a break.