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Russia: Four Charged as Concert Hall Death Toll Rises to 137; Analyst: Israel Agrees to Hostage-Prisoner Exchange Proposal; Inside the Dangerous Journey to Escape Haiti; Groups Condemn Environmental Devastation of Gaza; Native Fish Population of Adriatic Sea Under Threat; Servers Compete in Century-Old Cafe Waiters' Race. Aired 12- 12:45a ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 00:00   ET


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.


Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, as Russians paid tribute to those killed in the concert hall attack. Moscow charges the four suspects with terrorism.

With gang violence raging in Haiti's capital, we'll look at the dangerous journey some are taking to get back to the United States.

And the enormous toll of war on Gaza, not just on human lives, but also the long-term impact on the environment.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: The four men accused of killing more than 130 people at a concert hall outside Moscow have gone before a judge, each with a number of visible injuries. One was in a wheelchair and appeared non- responsive.

Three of the men entered plea -- guilty pleas. All are being held in pretrial detention. Investigators say the men are from Tajikistan and have been in Russia on either temporary or expired visas.

Outside the concert hall, thousands of people gathered in the rain on Sunday to remember the victims.

The death toll from the terror attack now standing at 137. More than a hundred others are injured.

Inside what's left of the venue, crews searching debris from the devastating fire the gunman are accused of setting, using robots and dogs, trying to find any more bodies still in the rubble.

CNN chief global affairs correspondent Matthew Chance was at Sunday's makeshift memorial and has more now on how people are reacting to the terror attack. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you join me outside the Crocus City Hall near Moscow, where on Friday night, gunmen killed at least 130 people inside that prominent concert hall.

You can see thousands of people have now turned out from around Russia to pay their respects, to lay flowers, cuddly toys, as well, out of respect for the children who are affected.

It really is a major event that has affected this country, and it has fed feelings of instability amongst ordinary people.

ALEKSANDRA RUDENKO, MOURNER: I feel terrible about of the violence that exists in our world.

CHANCE: Yes, in our world, and in Russia, as well. Do you feel -- do you feel safe in Russia?

RUDENKO: Yes, I think so. Not today because of this --

CHANCE: Attack.

RUDENKO: Attack can be in every country. And I think that it is a problem of all world.

CHANCE: Do you feel safe in Russia now? Do you still feel safe, or there are so many things happening, you feel a bit more insecure?

MAXIM TKACHEV, MOURNER: You know, I don't know how to answer that question properly, but I all I can say is that terrorist attacks, there will -- there are worldwide problem.

So this topic -- well, it's not safe to feel, when there are terrorists --


TKACHEV: -- in the whole world. So I should say, well --

CHANCE: This is part of the broader, broader process.


CHANCE: You can see orthodox priests have come out to deliver prayers at this memorial, as well. This as investigators inside the burned-out rubble of the concert hall are still going through the debris and are still saying that they're finding bodies. And so the death toll could rise.

In terms of the investigations, well, the authorities say at least 11 people have been taken into custody, including the four suspects who they believe carried out the actual shootings inside the Crocus City Hall.

Of course, ISIS said they carried out this attack, but the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who is vowing revenge, calling it a barbaric act, has said that it could be linked with Ukraine, something Ukrainian government has categorically denied.

Matthew Chance, CNN, at the Crocus City Hall near Moscow.


HOLMES: Tymofiy Mylovanov is president of Kyiv School of Economics and Ukraine's former minister of economic development, trade and agriculture; also associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He joins me now via Skype from Kyiv.


It's good to see you again, Tymofiy.

Vladimir Putin has tried, without evidence, to link the attack to Ukraine. Has that tactic worked on any level? And how's it going down there in Ukraine?

TYMOFIY MYLOVANOV, PRESIDENT, KYIV SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, in Ukraine, there is very clear, very open denial, official statements, denying any involvement or relationship to the attack. It's, of course, very critical for us to demonstrate openly, to provide any evidence, and to make it very clear that this is not, in any way, related to -- to Ukraine.

Of course, I'm afraid President Putin might not have a choice but to blame or try to blame Ukraine in some way, regardless of the evidence. Because otherwise, he appears to be weak.

He needs to respond to ISIS or to whoever was behind the attack, but he doesn't have the capacity, because he's back down in Ukraine.

HOLMES: I add -- and to that point, I'll just quote back to you a tweet that you posted. And I'll read it out. Quote, "It might be the beginning of the end for Putin. Once people and his thugs understand that he is weak, he will lose power, because his power is based on strength and his ability to deliver security to the Russian people. It is a trade of secondary and human rights for security."

And to that point, given how he portrays himself as the one, the only one who can provide security for the Russian people, how does this attack potentially hurt him?

MYLOVANOV: Well, it depends on how it is going to play out. But of course, the social contract after Yeltsin, when Putin came to power, was that he's going to solve the security issue in Russia, including the Chechen (ph) war. And in response, of course, there'll be some sacrifice of human rights.

So I think Russian peoples have delivered on their part. It's not a democracy anymore. And there is fear and suppression of any dissent, opposition figures being killed and murdered while, you know, if Putin appears to be unable to deliver security, especially in Moscow, that is going to start people wondering, especially some people around them, but also people in Moscow.

Because often Russia doesn't really care about what happens outside of several cities.

HOLMES: Yes. How else do you think he might leverage the attack? I mean, do you think, as some do, that he's looking for an excuse to justify a full mobilization to bolster forces in Ukraine, given the massive troop losses Russia has suffered.

MYLOVANOV: Yes, absolutely. There is fear. There is concern here in Ukraine and elsewhere that Russia will justify this event or use this event to justify a full-scale mobilization and some kind of major atrocities or continuation of the war, or even escalation in Ukraine.

But of course, mobilization itself for Russia, presents a problem, regardless of the terror attack in Moscow. That's going to be difficult even in the current circumstances.

Plus, as we have seen before, people who have been brought to court after torturing or not, one of them non-responsive, but the other three clearly are not related to Ukraine. They are not from Ukraine. They are from -- they are Tajiks. And there is a history of terrorist attacks over the last 30 years, 20, 30 years in Russia from people unrelated to actually -- to Ukraine.

HOLMES: While I've got you, I wanted to ask you, too, a war-related question when it comes to the war itself. What -- what do Ukrainians make of Republicans in the U.S., holding up that aid package for Ukraine, aid Ukraine so desperately needs.

I mean, what are your fellow Ukrainians saying about that delay? And the opposition by some Republicans, including Trump for any aid to be sent.

MYLOVANOV: You know, with the people in Ukraine died daily, with the regular daily attacks, bombings by Russia. We see progress they're making on the battlefield. So the war is, in no way, in a stalemate. In fact, we are -- you know, we're losing some of the territory and soldiers.

So that's, that's painful. Of course, we understand that no one owes us a dollar, no taxpayer in the country, always -- or in any country always does anything.

But on the level of humanity and especially given the commitment and given the situation security for us and for Europe and really, really the deaths of people that could have been avoided, it's extremely -- it's extremely emotional, personal, and painful.


So now why -- why is the U.S. in such a situation? Well, it's politics. It's the election. And it's very unfortunate that we have become a victim of this.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes, indeed. Wish we had more time, but we don't. Tymofiy Mylovanov, always good to see you. Thanks so much.

Well, Ukraine's president says Russia has been bombarding the country with massive aerial attacks. Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in the past week alone, Moscow has launched nearly 200 missiles, nearly 140 Iranian drones, and close to 700 guided aerial bombs. Sunday say another huge assault.




HOLMES: You hear them there, air raid sirens sounding in Kyiv as residents hunkered down, many of them in the subway system.

Ukrainian officials say the capital suffered only minor damage, but Kyiv was only just one of the targets. A Russia missile struck critical infrastructure in the Lviv region, as well, in the West. One missile even entering Polish airspace.

Poland activated F-16 and is demanding answers from Moscow.


WLADYSLAW KOSINIAK-KAMYSZ, POLISH MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENSE: If there was any premise indicating that this object was going in the direction of any targets located in Poland, of course, it would have been shot down and more adequate measures would have been taken.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, Ukraine says it launched successful strikes on Russia's Black Sea fleet again. They say they hit two Russian naval vessels, a communications center, and several other facilities in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to meet Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant at the White House on Monday. An official says they will discuss the urgent need for more humanitarian aid to reach desperate civilians in Gaza and efforts to get the remaining hostages held in the enclave released.

Meanwhile, CNN analyst Barak Ravid says that Israel has agreed to an approved -- a proposal from the U.S. that would release around 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of 40 Israeli hostages, but he says the response from Hamas could take a few days.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Doha with details.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have seen a concerted diplomatic push from the United States over the last few days, trying to push these indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel forward. Now we've heard from our CNN affiliate, Channel 11, citing a senior

Israeli government official that Israel has agreed to a U.S. proposal that would see some 700 Palestinian prisoners released as part of this -- this deal.

One hundred of them, we understand, would be those serving life sentences for having killed Israeli nationals that, in return, they would be 40 Israeli hostages that would be released.

Now this is Israeli agreeing to a U.S. proposal. We obviously have to wait to see what Hamas thinks of this particular deal. We know that there are technical teams here in Doha still based here and tried to work out the details.

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What happens now is that Israel -- Israel and the U.S. and the Qatari and Egyptian mediators are waiting to get the response from Hamas.

And what I hear from Israeli officials that this could take between -- I don't know -- a day to three days, because those details need to go from Hamas representatives in Doha, who are negotiating, to the person who really calls the shots. And this is Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in Gaza with -- in a bunker some hundred feet under the ground.

HANCOCKS: Now we know that Hamas just ten days ago had proposed that there was between 700 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released as part of this deal.

And in recent weeks, if not months, there have been quite significant gaps between the two sides, not only when it comes to the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released, but also which prisoners would be released.

Meanwhile, we have heard from the chief of UNRWA -- this is Philippe Lazzarini -- saying in a tweet that Israel has informed the U.N. group the main U.N. body within Gaza that they would no longer be able to facilitate their age distributions in Northern Gaza.

Now, Lazzarini has called this outrageous so at a time when a U.N.- backed report has just said that there could be famine in Northern Gaza between now and mid-May.

Now, Israel has accused these 12 members of -- of UNRWA of being part of the October 7 attacks, now those 12 have been released from their duties.


We know that there was an independent investigation that's ongoing within UNRWA, Lazzarini calling on countries not to stop funding at a crucial time, he says, when those in Gaza so desperately need it.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Doha, Qatar.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: A week after the Israel Defense Forces began an operation at

the al-Shifa Hospital in Northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent says the Israeli military has surrounded two hospitals in Southern Gaza, and their, quote, "teams are in extreme danger and unable to move at all," unquote.

The IDF releasing this video stating that it is conducting what it calls an operation in the al-Amal neighborhood but denies it is in al- Amal and Nasser hospitals.

Israel says it launched strikes on about 40 targets in the area, claiming to continue to dismantle the, quote, "terrorist infrastructure."

CNN cannot independently verify those IDF claims.

France and the U.S. are ramping up evacuation efforts from Haiti as the Caribbean nation continues its chaotic descent into gang violence and political instability. We'll have that and more when we come back back.


HOLMES: In the coming hours, Donald Trump will have two major legal threats colliding in New York.

First, the former president is facing a critical deadline to post the nearly half a billion dollars in bond money for the civil fraud judgment against them.

That's cash his lawyer says he does not have on hand. If Trump fails to secure this bond, the state attorney general could begin seizing assets like his properties.

But experts say his bank accounts should be handled first, as they would be much easier to take.

Meanwhile, Trump could also learn the new trial dates at his delayed criminal hush money case. There will be a hearing where Trump's lawyers can argue for a longer postponement or to have the charges dismissed.

The earliest the trial could begin is April 15.

Now, earlier on CNN, members of the U.S. Congress weighed in on the broader impact of Trump's looming bond deadline and possible asset seizure.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): President Trump is actually gaining popularity, because they're just focusing on trying to go after him. I think that's -- you know, you're seeing the product of that in real time.

And what we need right now is to focus on the issues the American care -- American people care about: secure the border, stop spending money we don't have.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I actually think that -- that there is risk in not seizing these assets and the open window that exists in him trying to secure these funds through other means. We've seen a lot of interesting transactions happening with Truth Social, and other means. And there's a very real risk of political corruption.



HOLMES: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that Trump should be treated as any other American would under the law.

France is organizing flights for vulnerable nationals, as they call it, who want to leave Haiti, the country announcing that on Sunday. It comes as the U.S. State Department has evacuated more than 230 people looking to escape the spike in gang violence in Haiti's capital, Port- au-Prince.

Evacuations of U.S. citizens are also happening through state- coordinated efforts with Florida's government saying another 21 Americans flew out of Haiti and arrived in Orlando late on Saturday.

CNN's David Culver is on the ground in Haiti with more on the difficulties in trying to get Americans out safely and back on U.S. soil.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The challenge for U.S. citizens trying to leave Port-au-Prince begins as soon as they start driving to the U.S. embassy.

CULVER: Getting there involves driving through either gang-controlled or gang-contested territories. It's dangerous, and it's unpredictable, in armored vehicles.

CULVER (voice-over): We saw that firsthand. And yet this is the only way out for some.

The airport is shut down, and many feel trapped.

In recent days, the U.S. embassy began evacuating citizens who could make it to the embassy.

CULVER: Managing the safety of those evacuations is regional security officer Steve Strickland.

How does Haiti, how does Port-au-Prince today compare to your past 19 years?

STEVE STRICKLAND, U.S. DIPLOMATIC SECURITY SERVICE, SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: There's nothing like Port-au-Prince. The security situations here are nothing like anything I've experienced before. I've spent time in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, in Africa, and the unique -- the unique circumstances here, I've not seen a parallel to those in any other security environment that I've served.

CULVER (voice-over): Amid these challenges, there are some who fear Americans are being abandoned in this gang-filled war zone.

STRICKLAND: The truth of matter is literally, on a daily basis, there are phone calls that we're engaged with at the highest levels of the U.S. government, where the No. 1 topic is safety and security. How do we help get our U.S. citizens out of -- out of the country to a safe place?

CULVER (voice-over): Launching these evacuation flights from the capital is a critical first step. Jenny Geom (ph) and her five-year- old son, Conrad (ph), registered a few days ago.

She's had to leave behind her mom and other loved ones so as to get back to their home in New York.

CULVER: Getting to the embassy is terrifying. It's a potentially deadly commute.

CULVER (voice-over): Some who had confirmed their spots canceled last minute, either emotionally unable to leave behind loved ones, or just unable to get to the embassy safely.

CULVER: So is there an option to go from here and go pick them up? Is that even a reality.

STRICKLAND: it just really is an unfortunate. The security resources that we have are stretched so thin, the ability to do that is -- it's really a non-starter. We just don't have that capacity to do it. We'd love to do it. It's just simply an impossibility, unfortunately.

CULVER: With some seats unclaimed at the last minute, our team, as U.S. citizens, is able to travel out with them and chronicle their journey.

CULVER (voice-over): We board in gang-controlled territory on a patch of land that's secured and surrounded by a robust and reassuring American military presence.

We take off for the Dominican Republic.

There are a lot of mixed emotions for those who get out. Gratitude and relief --

CULVER: -- for getting here safely, as well as guilt and fear for those still in Port-au-Prince, knowing that what's happening on the other side of this border is getting worse with each passing hour.

David Culver, CNN, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.


HOLMES: Still to come on the program, some rights groups are accusing Israel of creating widespread environmental damage in Gaza, along with everything else as it continues its military operations there. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HOLMES: Israel has reportedly agreed to a U.S. proposal on a hostage and prisoner exchange with Hamas after a recent round of high-level talks in Doha.

CNN analyst Barak Ravid said the agreement would include the release of around 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 hostages held in Gaza. He understands that Israel is now waiting for a response from Hamas, which could take a few days.

Meanwhile, as the humanitarian crisis grows in Gaza, the U.N. relief agency, UNRWA, says Israel will no longer allow its aid trucks access to Northern Gaza.

The head of the agency calling the move outrageous, saying it is stopping, quote, "lifesaving assistance" during a man-made famine.

CNN has reached down to the Israeli military for comment.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Health Ministry says more than 80 people have been killed in the past 24 hours in Israeli operations, which now puts the death toll in Gaza since October 7 at more than 32,000.

The ministry doesn't distinguish between fighters and civilians in its data but has said the majority of deaths are women and children. CNN cannot independently verify the figures.

And as the death toll climbs, some experts are also accusing Israel of causing widespread long-term damage to Gaza's environment, also known as ecocide.

Open Global Rights, an independent organization, says Israel has systematically transformed Gaza's agricultural land to dust and caused the collapse of wastewater systems.

Environmentalists also say Israel's recent moves to test the flooding of some Gaza tunnels could cause severe damage to groundwater. All of it sparking calls to recognize ecocide as an international crime.

Kate Mackintosh is the executive director of the UCLA Law Promise Institute Europe, joining me now from New York. I expect to see, OK, we'll speak about ecocide more broadly in a moment.

But to begin, because it's front and center, we've seen the destruction all across Gaza, the loss of homes and the crucial to life infrastructure. How do you see the term ecocide applying to what's happening in Gaza?

KATE MACKINTOSH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UCLA LAW PROMISE INSTITUTE EUROPE: Yes. I mean, it's hard to have an accurate impression, of course, of the environmental destruction across Gaza, but I would say that reports, in particular, of the targeted destruction of farmland, plantations, orchards, olive groves, and so on, as well as the soil and water contamination from the intensity and scale of the bombardment, as well as from some of the some of the -- some of the missiles used, the use of white phosphorus, for example.

And of course, the flooding of tunnels with seawater do suggest that these acts might reach the threshold suggested for a crime of ecocide.

HOLMES: Right? And when -- when we -- when we look at the -- the legality, if you like, about it. And again, you know, using this conflict as an example, there have been calls for Israel to be formally charged with ecocide, which itself isn't a crime at the moment, as I understand.

But there is the Rome statute, which criminalizes environmental damage under its war crimes statute, if I'm making sense there. Am I correct? And is that enough? Should ecocide itself be a crime against humanity?

MACKINTOSH: Great questions. So there is a prohibition on causing severe, widespread, and long-term damage to the environment under the Rome Statute.


But there's another test in that crime. In order for it to be a war crime, it has to be clearly excessive, in relation to what they call the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

So to put that into straightforward words, if a particular target is extremely important to the -- the warring parties, they're allowed to make more environmental damage.

And that proportionality test makes it an extremely difficult crime to prosecute. And I think it's one of the reasons that that has not been prosecuted. That crime has never been prosecuted at the International Criminal Court.

Not the only reason. There's also an increasing understanding of the importance of protecting the environment.

But a crime of ecocide would not introduce that -- that proportionality test. And we believe that a crime of ecocide actually better reflects wider existing law, as well as the kind of safeguard that we need, actually, during conflict and outside conflict to protect the environment.

HOLMES: Well, that's -- that's a great explainer for us. And -- and to broaden it out, it's not just Gaza. It's a global issue. You recently met with the U.N. high commission on human rights to brief him on ecocide. What did you tell him? Do you see action, effective action being taken?

MACKINTOSH: Oh, well, the U.N. high commissioner, Volker Turk, is 100 percent behind the creation of a new crime of ecocide. In fact, directly after that lunch that you referenced, he tweeted out a statement saying, high time for the international community to recognize ecocide as an international crime. I think he understands that. And he's said this on multiple occasions, that solving the environmental and climate crisis is the challenge facing us today and is also the key to realization of all human rights.

You know, there are no human rights on a dead planet.

So whether we'll see effective action, I think for the high commissioner, I mean, he continues to be a very powerful advocate for accountability for environmental destruction. And that is his role: leadership on human rights in the international community.

And I would say that, in his support for an international crime of ecocide, as well as in many other areas, he's most definitely showing that leadership.

HOLMES: Oh, that's good news. Yes. I mean, we've seen an enormous amount of damage done in Gaza to farmland, for one, which is all about sustainability once this is over, as well.

And you've worked a lot on the interconnectedness of environmental degradation and violations of human rights and how they tie into each other.

So what is the potential broad and long-lasting impact of ecocide? In Gaza, I would imagine it's things like getting the society up and running again.

MACKINTOSH: Absolutely. And I think we're only just starting to give enough weight to environmental protection in terms of the long-term impacts, as you said.

So we already have a prohibition on destruction of objects that are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. But that's the immediate destruction.

Of course, we have seen that in Gaza, as you've -- as you've mentioned already.

But I think some of these long-term effects are only going to become clear many years after the conflict. So we've already seen reports of -- that these kind of destructions of farmland, which of course, will have an immediate to impact on the threat of famine that the population of Gaza is staring down.

But it's also going to lead to soil erosion. It's also going to potentially destroy ecosystems. And as you said, that means that the reconstruction of Gaza may take many more years. And in fact, the impacts of those longer-term effects of the conflict may end up having equally devastating effects to the kind of immediate destruction we're seeing right now.

HOLMES: So -- so well put. I mean, we see the buildings destroyed. The lives, obviously, are paramount, but that -- that other destruction is long-term and important. I wish we had more time. We do not, but thank you. And thank you so

much for the work you do on what is an important issue, ecocide/ Kate Mackintosh, thanks.

MACKINTOSH: Thank you very much.

HOLMES: Recent data suggests the Mediterranean is becoming the fastest warming sea on the planet. That includes temperatures in the Adriatic Sea.

Now climate change and increased maritime traffic is threatening the native fish population in the region. CNN's Barbie Nadeau with those details.


BARBIE LATZA NADEAU, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the Adriatic Sea, it's a beautiful day for fishing, but problems swim beneath the surface. Invasive species threaten the native population and the livelihoods of those who fish it.

MARKO KRISTIC, FISHERMAN (through translator): About 15 years ago, this fish arrived to this region of the Southern Adriatic. There weren't many of them at first, but now there are lots. You can be sure to catch several each time you cast your net.

NADEAU (voice-over): As human-caused global warming heats up oceans to record levels, parrot fish and other tropical species are starting to displace the Mediterranean's native fish population.


They swim from the Red Sea through the Suez Canal or are carried in the ballast tanks of ships.

Fifty new non-native species, some potentially lethal to both native fish and humans, have spread to the Adriatic.

NENAD ANDOLOVIC, SCIENTIST, INSTITUTE FOR MARINE AND COASTAL RESEARCH (through translator): Ten years ago, many would have said that nothing could kill you in the Adriatic. However, things have changed since then.

NADEAU (voice-over): Croatian fishermen Marko Kristic finds plenty of parrot fish in his nets. He says they endanger his traditional catch and are of no use to him or his business, because the fish is unpopular in Southern Croatia.

KRISTIC (through translator): When I catch it, I can't sell it to anyone, because the local people don't eat the new fish. They don't know what it is, and they don't want to eat it or try it, or anything.

NADEAU (voice-over): The Mediterranean is becoming the fastest warming sea on Earth, according to recent data. Scientists in neighboring Montenegro say invasive species, like blue crabs and lionfish, are thriving in the warming Adriatic, wiping out local species and damaging ecosystems, leaving the future uncertain for the communities who depend on that ecosystem to survive.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN.


HOLMES: Ireland is once again poised to get its youngest ever prime minister or taoiseach. The ruling Fine Gael Party has named higher education minister Simon Harris as its new leader.

The 37-year-old Harris would succeed Leo Varadkar, who surprisingly resigned last week, citing personal and political reasons. Varadkar had also been Ireland's youngest-ever leader when he was elected in 2017 at age 38.

He guided the country through some difficult times, including Brexit and the COVID pandemic. In his acceptance speech on Sunday, Harris pledged, quote, "hard work, blood, sweat and tears" as the next prime minister.

Still to come, on your mark, get set, go. Servers in Paris, competing in a historic waiter's race that's back after more than a decade. The action and the details when we come back.


HOLMES: And these are live pictures coming to us now from India, where thousands of people are celebrating the Festival of Colors in -- in India and also Pakistan.

The festival, known as Holi, marks the beginning of spring and celebrates the victory of good over evil.

Some communities begin the festivities the night before by lighting bonfires, followed by singing religious songs, and drenching each other in colored powder and buckets of water on the day of Holi.


Now, hundreds of waiters in Paris served up their A-game this weekend for a century-old race that has come roaring back to life in the City of Lights.

They took to the streets to show who could deliver the goods the fastest, and with the best balance.


HOLMES (voice-over): Waiting tables in Paris isn't just a job. It's a profession. And a good server needs a lot of hustle to get through the day.

But just who is the fastest waiter in town? Some 200 servers in Paris suited up to put their skills to the test.

CLAUDE ISAMBERT, WAITER: Black pants, black socks, well-polished shoes and a tie or bow tie with a jacket. That's traditional and Parisian. HOLMES (voice-over): Holding trays containing a typical French breakfast, the participants navigated a two-kilometer course through the Morais district in the revival of Paris's classic Cafe Waiter Race, last held in 2011.

The rules are simple: no running. That would just be gauche. And no spilling anything on the tray, which must be held in one hand.

LOUANE MOREL, WAITRESS (through translator): I've been doing this job since I was 16. I don't necessarily expect to be the first, because I don't necessarily have the best cardio. But I hope to at least arrive with a tray in good condition at the finish line.

HOLMES (voice-over): The race began in 1914, with servers balancing a bottle on a tray in the earlier days. But 13 years ago, organizers couldn't find any sponsors, so the race was put on the back burner.

Until the Paris city hall and water authority fired up the event again this year.

ANNE-SOPHIE BLANCHET, SPECTATOR (through translator): I find it wonderful that we're reviving this race, which highlights a very beautiful profession and which above all, is very difficult, I think, on a daily basis. So congratulations to them. And may the best win.

HOLMES (voice-over): So while this might not look like a typical day at the cafe, the men's and women's winners -- who completed the circuit in 13 minutes, 30 seconds; and 14 minutes, 12 seconds respectively -- say it's an expedited version of what they do every day.

With a healthy serving of stamina getting them across the finish line. Bon Appetit.


HOLMES: Now the U.S. men's NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 is all set. On Sunday, Marquette advanced by beating Colorado, 81-77. Marquette's Tyler Kolek had 21 points and 11 assists.

Meanwhile, Purdue powered past Utah State. The Boilermakers' seven- foot-four center, Zach Edey, had 23 points and 14 rebounds.

And by the way, the Cinderella story of this year's tournament has come to an end. The scrappy Yale Bulldogs losing to San Diego State 57 to 85.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. I'll have more news in 15 minutes. WORLD SPORT next.