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Omicron Variant Developments; E.U. Commission President: Time to Discuss Mandatory Vaccination; Delta Variant Remains Dominant around the World; Oil Prices Rebound ahead of OPEC; World Health Organization Updates on Omicron; WHO Calls for Better Sequencing, Continued Cooperation; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Says Putin Is Prepared to Invade Ukraine. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired December 01, 2021 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, we take you inside the lab, where scientists first discovered the Omicron variant. The view from

South Africa is coming up.

Also tonight, back to school in Havana. Cuban students get back in classrooms for the first time since the pandemic began.

And how many goals does it take to win a match?

England's women's football team has an unbelievable answer.


ANDERSON: It is 7:00 pm in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome to the show.

New restrictions, quarantines and still a lot of uncertainty. The coronavirus Omicron variant causing global havoc in a pandemic that just

won't end.

You can see on this map all the travel restrictions and bans around the world. The countries in red in Southern Africa are facing these measures

after the variant showed up last week.

Zimbabwe imposing a lockdown and mandatory quarantine for all travelers. India and France extending bans or suspending international flights. Japan

preparing to do that. Norway, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and South Korea reporting their first cases of the variant, bringing the total number of

countries globally to more than 2 dozen.

A closer look at what's happening in Asia and Europe. Ivan Watson connecting us from Hong Kong, Salma Abdelaziz is in London.

More warnings, more restrictions out of Europe today.

What can you tell us, Salma?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today we heard from European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen, who wants to see a common and

coordinated approach across the bloc.

They issued a statement today, with her saying we need to plan for the worst but hope for the best. She highlighted that this is a region that is

already very much in the grips of yet another wave of COVID-19. Hospitals were already struggling with an influx of coronavirus patients.

And now this adds yet another challenge. And for the E.U., there is four key things that they want all member states to focus on here.

First is those travel restrictions they mentioned. They want travel restrictions to be reviewed on a daily basis; again, across the bloc, all

member states want to coordinate on these travel restrictions, to limit the flow of this new variant.

Secondly -- and I'm sure you heard this many times -- they want to hear about boosters, boosters, boosters, across the bloc. They want governments

to roll out these booster shots, target the vulnerable, make sure they're basically going at breakneck speed with these third shots.

Finally, as well, the unvaccinated across the region need to be targeted. We still have huge pockets of unvaccinated people. Germany has just under

69 percent of the eligible population that are fully vaccinated.

So the E.U. saying we need to target with government messaging, PR campaigns, whatever it takes, those people who refuse to get their shots,

they need to come out and get them now.

And you see this coordinated strategy starting to take place. But of course, all countries are rolling out their own restrictions as well.

France saying it is going to extend travel restrictions against southern states until Saturday, creating a new list called the scarlet list, with

new rules.

The U.K., now separate of the E.U., but also in overdrive. Prime minister Boris Johnson at a vaccination clinic just yesterday, trying to get that

message out there, to get your booster shot, to get vaccinated if you're not vaccinated.

All of this trying to offer that layer of protection. The final bit of advice from the European Commissioner is to follow the science and that's

what we're waiting on, we're waiting on the scientists to tell us what happens next, how effective our vaccines will be with this.

All of that, in the meanwhile, while all of these other steps are taken.

How likely is it that the European Union would start a mandatory vaccine?


ABDELAZIZ: That's a very, very good question, Becky. I can say that governments have, let's say, flirted with this idea. I was actually in

Austria in Vienna just last week, where the government has, for the first - - it will the first government in European region to do this -- has mandated vaccines on February 1st.

You'll be required to get that shot; otherwise you could face fines. We're already seeing countries like Germany making life for the unvaccinated

almost impossible. You now have to have proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test to be paid, to be able to go to your job and get your salary.


ABDELAZIZ: You have to have that proof. So even if mandates don't go into place, life -- social life, public life, work life -- if you are

unvaccinated, it is going to become increasingly difficult. It is going to be nearly impossible to get to work, to go to a cafe, to see a friend, if

you don't have those shots and proof of those shots.

ANDERSON: Ivan, a resurgence in COVID-19 has left thousands in northern China in a lockdown, explain.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of thousands locked down, Becky.

Can you believe that we're now at about two years since COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan?

China, nearly two years later, maintains a zero COVID case policy. So when it detects these outbreaks -- and we have got about 106 cases detected in

this northern border region of Inner Mongolia in China -- that prompts just incredible reaction, where all public transport is shut down in two key

cities there.

People are ordered to stay in their homes, with the exception of kind of medical workers. And there are these mass testing sprees, where a city of

some 300,000 people, the authorities say, all of those people get tested three times in less than a week.

And this is how China has succeeded in, after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, of maintaining a zero COVID policy and track record for the most

part, where, you know, these kind of outbreaks that you're seeing in Inner Mongolia, while it is a big deal in China, you would dream of having 106

cases in several cities, in most other countries around the world right now.

China so far says it has not detected this new strain of the Omicron variant. The same cannot be said for other countries in northeast Asia.

Japan says it has detected at least two cases; South Korea says it has found at least five cases.

Not explaining how they got into the country but South Korea says it has had a record on Tuesday of daily new infections and it is taking


For example, announcing that a United Nations peacekeeping conference that was scheduled in Seoul for next week, it is going from in person to online,

because it is expected to have hundreds of visitors from more than 150 countries around the world.

They're taking this seriously. Japan has issued a request, not a mandate yet, a request to airlines to not issue any further reservations for

international passengers for the entire month of December, which is going to put quite a damper, of course, on international travel just as countries

here in Asia were starting to open up again and starting to get ready to allow more free international travel -- Becky.

ANDERSON: What is the vaccine policy in China at this point?

WATSON: They've had a massive vaccine rollout across the country. The numbers are staggering. And they're demonstrative of how China, when it

puts the state in motion, it can really inoculate massive numbers of people, just the same way that it can test huge numbers of people.

There are concerns about some of the efficacy of some of these vaccines. Sinovac, where some of the numbers, the manufacturers have not been as

transparent about some of this and worries, for instance, that the last variant that exploded onto the scene, Delta, could punch through that

Sinovac vaccine.

Arguments that some Chinese officials have downplayed. The big question for China is, as a new variant is rapidly running around the world, China is

trying to maintain zero cases while also preparing to host the Winter Olympics in just over two months' time.

How is it going to pull that off?

You've got senior Chinese government officials acknowledging that this will present challenges but insisting that they'll be able to conduct the games

basically within a kind of Olympic bubble -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong, reporting for you tonight. Salma is in London on the wider European story. Thank you, both.

Despite all the talk and actions sparked by the variant, the World Health Organization says Delta remains the world's dominant variant; not

surprising, given news of Omicron surfaced just last week in South Africa, of course.


ANDERSON: CNN's David McKenzie and his crew got access to the South African lab where scientists first identified that new variant. Have a



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After tracking COVID for many months at this lab, Jeanine du Plessis is bracing herself.

MCKENZIE: Have you seen a lot more positive cases in the last few weeks?


MCKENZIE (voice-over): First a trickle, then a flood. At the Wits VIDA lab, they're studying a disturbing variant of an old foe.

DU PLESSIS: It's still too early to actually to tell. There is so much that is so unknown about the variant. Everyone feels a little bit of

hopelessness in a moment like that.

MCKENZIE: This lab is really at the cold (ph) phase of the COVID response. They are expanding so fast. They're putting their samples in freezers right

here in the hall way. They come in, in shifts. And as this wave develops, they will be operating 24 hours a day.

They know how bad it gets. This was delta's awful impact in Johannesburg. In July, patients stacked in hallways struggling to breathe in exclusive

footage obtained by CNN. At the lab Wits VIDA and all across the globe, they are trying to understand whether omicron is more transmissible,

deadlier, whether it breaks through existing COVID-19 vaccines.

What does it feel like that the entire world is hanging on this, this discovery that was figured out here initially?

ALLISON GLASS, PATHOLOGIST, LANCET LABORATORIES: Yes. So I mean, it can -- does feel a bit sort of surreal when you watch the news and you see the

impact it's having globally. And you're thinking, wow, it's sort of affecting stock markets and airlines and people's travel plans. You don't

plan on having that sort of ripple effect.

MCKENZIE: A spike in cases first happened in Pretoria with a cluster infection at this technical university. But hips of a new variant were

first detected by scientists and pathologists at Lancet Laboratories.

In early November, they spotted a strange anomaly in their positive PCR tests. Then it happened over and over again. It reminded them of tests for

the alpha variant first detected more than a year ago in the U.K.

What was it like to see this anomaly cropping up again?

GLASS: Well, it was a bit disturbing because it made us worry that we were dealing with something new and because it coincided with an increase in

positivity rate. It made us worry that we could be dealing with a new variant.

MCKENZIE: Lancet urgently notified South Africa's genomics team. Within days, they described and made public disturbing details of the highly

mutated virus. Much of the world shut off from Southern Africa. And scientists here say they are now struggling to fly in critical reagent for

their lab work to understand omicron.

Why was it so important to alert everybody about this?

GLASS: Especially with the reaction of the world to Southern Africa on the announcement of the variant. And a lot of people say, well, why didn't you

just keep quiet about what you find?

But what's important is we know a new variant is likely to cause an increase in cases, whether they'd be more severe or not.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


ANDERSON: And do join us for our CNN town hall, "Coronavirus Facts and Fears," hosted by Anderson Cooper and my colleague, Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci. That's Wednesday, 9:00 pm Eastern time, if you're in the U.S.; Thursday, 10:00 am in Hong Kong, if that's where you're

watching and 6:00 am in Abu Dhabi.

Oil prices are rebounding but that is after U.S. crude briefly fell below $62 on Tuesday. That is the lowest number in three months. Let's look at

where prices stand now. You can see, well, quite a significant rebound. Anna Stewart joining me now live from London.

There is an OPEC meeting going on at present. It is a key meeting. One assumes that will be having an effect on the oil markets, though at present

I don't see an awful lot of information out of that meeting.

What are the expectations?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, OPEC meets today and they'll be joined by Russia for OPEC+ tomorrow. That's really where we expect to get

news and what they do with output in January. That's a key decision that needs to be made.

When we look at the prices and how this is influencing things, hard to tell. Oil prices had something of a roller coaster ride, as you said, over

the last few days, double-digit percentage declines on Friday; a modest recovery on Monday, down yesterday, back up today, not as high as they were

earlier in the session.

That's because investors, like everyone else, are trying to work out what this new variant really means for the global economy.

What does it mean for travel restrictions, does it mean potentially more regional or national lockdowns, what would that mean for the economy?

And ultimately for OPEC -- and this is where it is getting interesting -- what does it mean for the demand for oil?

Could it reduce that?

So really muddy waters.


STEWART: Just days before this OPEC meeting, they had a few days, they pushed back some of the technical meetings to try and take stock of what's

going on. But they don't have all the answers yet.

And what we expect from this meeting, Becky, is really quite varied. A lot of this, a few months ago when prices were at multiyear highs, there was an

expectation they would continue to slowly increase the output for January, 400,000 barrels, slow and steady wins the race.

But lots of complications since then, including this but also, of course, the U.S. releasing strategic reserves into the market.

ANDERSON: It is fascinating, isn't it?

We had so much going on in the oil markets, with the U.S. putting pressure or trying to put pressure on OPEC+ to increase production so that the

prices would fall. That was, what, 1.5 months ago.

Now we've got this Omicron variant, which, of course, is now creating concern about economic growth around the world. It is difficult times,

isn't it, for these oil ministers and these oil producing countries at this point.

In the end, stability is what they're looking for, albeit stability at a relatively high price. The sort of numbers that we have been seeing of late

allows the Saudis and the UAEs to balance their budgets. This was not what they were able to do during the COVID sort of 18-month period.

STEWART: Yes, and what we really have seen, just in the last few weeks, is a tussle for power, really between the Middle East and the traditional OPEC

producing countries and Russia and the U.S.

And big resistance from OPEC not to increase output. And actually as a result of what the U.S. has done with other countries, releasing more oil

onto the markets, was actually one of the reasons, I've been told, they may hold off increasing output for January.

And if you look at adding then in the Omicron variant and how that could negatively impact demand, that probably lends weight to that strategy. That

said, I wouldn't place any bets on this meeting because I have seen conflicting expectations from experts and analysts, who we should get some

news on that about this time tomorrow -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, good stuff. All right. Well, stay on it for us. We're back to you tomorrow.

Tragedy in the U.S. Heartland: a small Michigan town is in shock after bullets fly at a high school there. What police have now learned about

their teenage suspect. More on that coming up.

And new threats emerge from China and North Korea all the time. What the U.S. and South Korea are doing differently to counter them. That's up next.

And in the next hour, I'll speak to guests in Iran and the United States, as day three of nuclear talks conclude in Vienna.





ANDERSON: Officials from the World Health Organization are giving an update on the coronavirus now. Let's listen in. The chief saying there is

still a lot to learn about the Omicron variant.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: -- South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly.

It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing. We call on all countries to take

rational, proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations.

This includes measures to delay or reduce the spread of the new variant, such as cleaning of passengers prior to traveling and/or upon arrival or

the application of quarantine to international travelers.

Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. WHO continues to

call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully

vaccinated immediately.

At the same time, we must not forget that we already are dealing with a highly transmissible, dangerous variant, the Delta variant, which currently

accounts for almost all cases globally. We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta.

And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron. But if countries and individuals don't do what they need to do, to

stop transmission of Delta, they won't stop Omicron, either.

Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage and very low testing, a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants. That's why we continue to

urge countries to fully fund the attraction avatar (ph), to ensure we have equitable access to vaccines, tests, therapeutics all over the world.

As we mark World AIDS Day, we are reminded that, more than 40 years into the global AIDS epidemic, we still have no vaccine and no cure for this


Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not one but many vaccines and many other effective tools.

This virus has demonstrated that it will not simply disappear. How many more lives and livelihoods it takes is up to us. Ending the pandemic is not

a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.

Christian (ph), back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Director General.

Let me open the floor for questions and to remind everyone, please unmute yourself when you are called upon.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. I just want to find out -- you spoke about the issue of the variant, the new variant that was detected by South


The decision by developed countries, such as U.K., United States of America and the E.U., to impose travel restrictions against (INAUDIBLE) member

countries has led to a loss of economic (INAUDIBLE). It has brought a negative impact on the economy of these countries that are still struggling

to rebuild their economies after, you know, due to COVID-19.

What is your message to the globe, in terms of what must they do, when they are information such as this?

Because this will lead to deterrence (ph) where you find (INAUDIBLE) not serving (ph) information.


GHEBREYESUS: Thank you very much. I'll hand it over to Dr. Jaouad Mahjour, assistant director-general of emergency preparedness.



In fact, there is some modeling that shows that travel ban might be helpful in the beginning of an outbreak to give more time for countries to be

prepared for the spread. But this is clear that a travel ban cannot stop this situation and, more importantly the travel ban can jeopardize the

effort to fight against the outbreak.

This is why we call that all countries should apply comprehensive measures from the countries of departure and the countries of arrival and are using

a risk-based approach and evidence-based approach on the situation to take a comprehensive measure, including testing, including checking of symptoms

and others.

And these measures could be more effective to prevent the spread of the new variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much and (INAUDIBLE).

DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I just want to take this opportunity to thank the scientists from South

Africa and Botswana and all over the world, who are working with us to share this information in almost real time.

The detection of this variant in South Africa was reported to us through our technical Advisory Group for Virus Evolution very quickly. And

immediately we held meetings, where information analysis was shared with us and with our partners, the Advisory Group for Virus Evolution, so that

decisions could be made. And I think that should be commended.

What should also be commended is the improvements and enhancements of testing and sequencing that have happened throughout the course of this

pandemic, particularly in South Africa but also in southern Africa. There are a lot of efforts that are underway and, of course, this needs to

continue to be improved.

We need investments in this. But we need countries to continue to do surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, whichever virus is circulating. And, remember,

Delta is dominant. But the more the virus circulates, the more opportunities it has to change.

So we need to strengthen our surveillance around the world. We need to strengthen our genomic sequencing around the world, make sure we have

better geographic representation all over the planet and that that information continues to be shared with us.

We do not want to see countries penalized for sharing information, because this is how WHO and our partners, this is how we make assessments and how

we provide advice.

So I do want to say a special thank you to so many researchers across South Africa -- I wish I had the list of institutions in front of me but there

are many -- for the great work that they do and will continue to do and to thank them for reporting this to us in such an open manner and as well as

scientists in other countries that continue to do the same.


QUESTION: Thank you.

On Omicron, the most optimistic scenario is that Omicron ultimately turns out to be both more transmissible and less dangerous than Delta.

If that turned out to be the case, what would that actually mean in practical terms for the world in the months ahead?

Thank you.


VAN KERKHOVE: Yes, thank you. Thank you for the question.

So there are a lot of different scenarios that we're considering for Omicron and, of course, it is still very early days in terms of -- OK. OK.

So it is still very early days in terms of our understanding of this variant.

And, again, we're grateful for the information that's coming in daily. There is the possibility -- we don't have all the information yet on

transmission in terms of if there is a fitness advantage, if it is more transmissible. There is some suggestion of that.

But again, it is early days. We expect to have more information on transmission within days, not necessarily weeks but in days.

In terms of the severity profile, we have seen reports of cases with Omicron that go from mild disease all the way to severe disease. There is

some indication that some of the patients are presenting with mild disease. But again, it is early days and we do have a surveillance bias right now in

terms of the cases that are being detected.


VAN KERKHOVE: There is also a suggestion of increased hospitalizations across South Africa. But that could be a factor of the -- of the sheer fact

that we have more cases. And if you have more cases, you have more hospitalizations.

So with regards to severity, there are studies that are underway, looking at hospitalizations, looking at those individuals who are hospitalized,

whether or not they have this variant or not.

And we're also getting a picture of some of the cases detected in other countries. As the director-general mentioned, there are reports of Omicron

in 23 countries. We expect that number to change. And it is important that information on these cases are also shared with us so that we learn more.

But it is certainly possible that one of the scenarios is that the virus, as it continues to evolve, may still have a fitness advantage, meaning that

it could become more transmissible, more transmissible than Delta; we'll have to see.

But we don't know quite yet about the severity. I do think we should caution about sort of a -- you know, best case/worst case scenario. The

more this virus circulates, the more infections there will be. The more infections there will be, the more people will die.

And this is something that can be prevented. So everything that we can do for Delta, which is dominant worldwide, needs to be applied and

strengthened for Omicron. So whatever -- however this unfolds, the way that we act now, decisions that are taken now in every country, will benefit,

however Omicron unfolds.


DR. SOUMYA SWAMINATHAN, WHO CHIEF SCIENTIST: Just to add to what Maria said, I think it is also very important for countries to really strengthen

and expand vaccination coverage, especially in the priority populations.

We know that it is people above 45 with underlying co-morbidities who are at highest risk of developing severe disease after getting infection,

whether it is Omicron or Delta or any of the variants.

We know that vaccines are likely to have some protection. We still need to find out if there's any loss of protection but we think vaccines will still

protect against severe disease, as they have against the other variants.

So this is a call for countries to really look at their own data, look at the groups that have been vaccinated, where are the gaps, what can be done

really to get people, who have been unwilling or who may have difficulties in accessing the vaccination sites.

So we really need to look very practically at the delivery constraints and also a call to all countries who are donating vaccines, we're very thankful

but we would like to see some advance visibility and transparency in when the doses will be available, which doses will be available.

Companies need to tell us very clearly how the supplies are going to float through COVAX. This is the time that we need increased vaccines to flow

through COVAX to the countries. And we are going to prioritize countries with low coverage.

And so I think it is a wake-up sign for us, as the DG has said many times, to really think about, as a world, what do we do with available vaccine

supplies now?

And how can we get them into the arms of people, who haven't been vaccinated yet?

Thank you.


ANDERSON: What do we do with available vaccine supplies, to get them into the arms of people who are yet to be jabbed?

Such an important question. It is a question posed there by the WHO.

We have been listening to a news conference, the first from the WHO since the Omicron variant was announced -- or was announced had been sequenced.

Jacqueline Howard listening in to what we heard.

And the WHO chief there not mincing his words at all about how disappointed he is with the sort of blanket travel bans and what he believes needs to

happen next.

What did you take out of what you heard?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right. He definitely used some forceful language, you know, talking about how the

travel bans, you know, seemed to kind of be ineffective.

We do know and we did hear from WHO officials that travel bans help in giving time to prepare for the possible emergence of a variant into a

nation. But it won't just flat-out stop the spread of the variant.

And we also heard some powerful language, where we heard the head of WHO mention that the emergence of these variants is a toxic mix of low

vaccination coverage and not enough testing. And in its statements, WHO really called for countries to enhance mitigation measures, such as

testing, such as vaccines.


HOWARD: Those two steps with other measures are really seen as a way for us to get control of this pandemic -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Jacqueline, thank you for that.

And more from that WHO news conference as we get it. We're monitoring that for you.

Meantime, if Russia wants to invade Ukraine, it is putting in place the capacity to do so. That warning from the U.S. secretary of state, Antony

Blinken, on the eve of an urgent meeting with the foreign -- Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Blinken is also meeting with his Ukrainian


Tensions are growing as Ukraine says Moscow placed more than 100,000 troops near its borders. Blinken spoke after a meeting, a NATO meeting, just a

short time ago. Have a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're deeply concerned by evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves

against Ukraine. The plans include efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large-scale military operations.

Now we have seen this playbook before, in 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then, as now, they significantly increased combat forces near the

border. Then, as now, they intensified disinformation, to paint Ukraine as the aggressor, to justify preplanned military action.


ANDERSON: Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance watching all of this from Kiev.

We have seen this playbook before, says Blinken -- Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And of course the Ukrainians are a testament to that because they are

currently fighting a war against Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country. And they have seen part of their country annexed by Russia in the

form of the Crimean Peninsula.

You're right; these are more sort of very critical remarks by the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, about the state of military

preparedness of Russia, not only the major military forces that the U.S. says have been gathering near the border of Ukraine on Russian territory,

up to about 100,000 or so troops, according to U.S. intelligence assessments but also efforts underway, he says, to destabilize Ukraine


And that tallies very much with what the Ukrainian government has been warning about, the idea that there is a coup that has been planned inside

Ukraine. That coup was the warning that came from President Zelensky of Ukraine last week.

It was supposed to take place today or possibly tomorrow, he said. That plot has been uncovered, involving Russians and Ukrainians, along with

various other people, linking Ukraine's richest man as well with that plot.

I would have to say Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, denies any connection with that.

There are protests underway in Kiev tonight from various political groups, opposed to the government of Vladimir Zelensky. But, yes, I mean, so a real

sense of tension as the foreign minister of Ukraine goes into those meetings tomorrow in Stockholm with the U.S.


ANDERSON: Yes, Matthew, look, you were there in 2014 for that conflict.

The question is, is Russia readying for action?

This is Blinken's assessment. Have a listen.


BLINKEN: We don't know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he's putting in place the capacity to do so on

short order, should he so decide.

So despite uncertainty about intentions and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course.


ANDERSON: What we do know is the Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to get intel on what Moscow is up to at present.

To your mind, given your experience there and given what you entered (ph) in 2014, does this look like Russia is setting the stage for an invasion?

Or is this just saber rattling?

CHANCE: Well, it is definitely saber rattling. And as the secretary of state said there, it is not clear to anybody really, except inside the

inner circles of power, perhaps in Russia, about what they actually intend to do.

Do they intend to launch an invasion or not?

They say, of course, that they have got no intention of doing that. But I think what's pretty clear is that Russia wants to reassert its so-called

red lines. It wants to make clear that it is not particularly happy with the way that Ukraine has been moving closer toward, if not NATO membership,

then closer cooperation with NATO.

In fact, earlier today, President Putin of Russia said that he wants to start the negotiations with the United States to make sure that NATO does

not expand any further east.


CHANCE: It's something he says he wants to be a legal agreement, not just a verbal assurance.

ANDERSON: Matthew, thank you.

All right, what's the connection, folks, between Adele and Caesar's Palace?

More on that is coming up.

And 10 English players on the pitch against Latvia.

So what happens?

Details after the break.




ANDERSON: They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Well, given the chance, who wouldn't want to spend a weekend hanging with Adele?


ANDERSON (voice-over): The British star just announced a Las Vegas residency, starting next month. She can be found at Caesar's Palace from

January until April and will do two shows each weekend. Adele's fourth studio album "30" debuted at number one last week.