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Hala Gorani Tonight

Austria Enters New Lockdown Despite Weekend Protests; Vaccine Skepticism Driving Romania's COVID Death Toll; Russian Spy Agency Denies Claims Of Ukraine Invasion Plan. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNNI HOST: Hello, everyone, it is Monday, we are live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. It is day one of a new national

lockdown in Austria as COVID cases skyrocket there. I've been speaking to the country's chancellor about that drastic decision. We'll have that full

interview for you soon.

Then five people are dead, more than 40 injured after a car plowed into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin. We're expecting an update from officials

there any moment. We'll go there live. And later, two missionaries are freed in Haiti after being kidnapped last month. They were part of a group

of 17. We'll have the details on their release.

At any moment now we're expecting to hear a police update about the deadly car ramming in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Let's go to the news conference

where officials are updating us on what happened and what they know.

DAN THOMPSON, CHIEF OF POLICE, WAUKESHA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Through barricades into a crowd of people that were celebrating the Waukesha

Christmas parade which resulted in killing five individuals and injuring 48 additional individuals. I just received information that two of the 48 are

children and they're in critical condition. We have information that the suspect prior to the incident, was involved in a domestic disturbance,

which was just minutes prior, and the suspect left that scene just prior to our arrival to that domestic disturbance.

When the suspect was driving through into the crowd, one officer did discharge his firearm and fired shots at the suspect to stop the threat,

but due to the amount of people had to stop and fire -- did not fire any other additional shots. The officer is on administrative leave as part of

the department protocol. No one was injured as a result of the officer firing his -- discharging his fire weapon -- firearm. The subject was taken

into custody a short distance from the scene, and we are confident he acted alone. There is no evidence that this is a terrorist incident.

Due to the wind yesterday, there was a power outage downtown Waukesha to further complicate our emergency response. I want to identify the victims

that we've -- that we know of at this time. And I say this with great sorrow. Virginia Sorenson, a 79-year-old female, Leanna Owens, 71-year-old

female, Tamara Durand, 52-year-old female, Jane Coolidge, 52-year-old female, Wilhelm Hospel, 81-year-old male. The suspect involved in this

tragic incident is identified as Darryl E. Brooks; a male of 39 years of age who is a resident of the state of Milwaukee.

At this time, the Waukesha Police Department is referring five counts of first degree intentional homicide with additional charges based on the

investigation, but those will come in time. There are many roads in downtown area were closed as investigators worked through the crime scene.

Those roads have since been opened. I'll say this, minutes after the incident occurred, I responded to the scene, and what I saw out of the

chaos and tragedy were heroes. First responders and the community coming together and working together on triaging victims.

The Fire Department working in partnership with the Fire Department, getting these victims to the hospital. The Fire Department transported

multiple victims. Chief Howard talked about that. Officers picked up victims and put them in a squad and rushed them to the hospital, and

citizens also picked up victims and rushed them to the hospital. There's also off-duty law enforcement, Fire and EMS personnel that were attending

this event who immediately got involved and took part in saving lives.


I want to thank our community partners. I want to dispel some rumors. There's no pursuit that led up to this incident. This is not a terrorist

event. I want to thank our first responder partners. It is a long list and I apologize and we apologize if I forgot anyone. Waukesha Fire Department.

No words can express the partnership that we have with the Waukesha Fire Department and how we worked together as one in this incident. MABAS,

Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Chief Howard will talk about that.

The Suburban Mutual Aid Response Team, which we call SMART, responded, which it includes dozens local law enforcement agencies. FBI, ATF, the

State Division of Criminal Investigations, School District of Waukesha, the Milwaukee Fire -- the Milwaukee Police Department Fusion Center, Wisconsin

State Crime Lab, Wisconsin State Patrol. After this press conference, we will provide a link on our website for any questions regarding witness

information, if there's any additional video that a citizen might have, they can look at this link or any family members or individuals that need

to recover property.

The Waukesha Police Department website is the only source for information. Do not release information from any other source as it has not been vetted

and could lead to false information. Thank you.


STEVE HOWARD, WAUKESHA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, Dan. Before I get started, on behalf of the men and women of the Waukesha Fire Department,

I'd like to say our prayers go out to the families and the whole community that was affected by yesterday's tragedy. On the city of Waukesha Fire

Department responded to a mass casualty incident yesterday afternoon. All 26 on-duty personnel responded to the incident from five stations. Our

closest downtown station was within sight of the parade route.

Our units started to spontaneously respond based on radio traffic and dispatch information. We immediately activated our mass casualty protocol

and utilized the MABAS, which is our Mutual Aid System -- Mutual Box Alarm System, to the second level -- second level to provide us with additional

resources to treat the victims. We received our resources from 12 Area Fire Departments. We were also aided greatly by off-duty firefighters and EMS

personnel, medical personnel and just civilian bystanders.

They greatly assisted us with their initial treatment and triage of patients. Patients were transported to six-area hospitals with Fire

Department, EMS transporting 22 patients. Law enforcement personnel, bystanders also transported additional personnel or additional victims to

the hospital. At this time, we believe that 48 people were treated at local hospitals, although this number might increase based on information being

gathered. Like Chief Thompson, I also had an opportunity, I did respond to the incident.

I got there just a little bit after the chief did, and based on my observations, very overwhelmed by the response of the community to this

tragedy. People banded together to do the best they could to deal with this incident. Last night, going out and visiting the fire stations and the

people that responded, overwhelmingly our personnel express their sincere thanks for everyone who stepped up and assisted with the treatment of the

citizens that were injured. Again, our hearts go out to the families and the victims of this senseless tragedy, and we appreciate all the assistance

and support that's been offered to the city of Waukesha Fire Department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor Shawn Reilly.

MAYOR SHAWN REILLY, WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN: Thank you. Last night, we experienced a senseless tragedy. Many of us were participants in the parade

and witnessed these horrific actions.


We are all -- we are all trying to process what we experienced. Our police, firefighters, partners and so many others sprung into action immediately

last night to help the people that were injured. For those of you who do not live in Waukesha, you need to know that Waukesha is a community that

helps their neighbors. Waukesha is a community that takes pride in its identity and has a wonderful spirit. Waukesha looks after each other.

Waukesha enjoys its celebrations and the entire community joins in those celebrations.

We are a close community. Waukesha is a community where many of its residents have lived for generations. Waukesha is also the type of

community where new residents tell their friends to move here because it is so special. Waukesha has held what can be described as a Norman Rockwell-

type of Christmas parade for almost six decades. Last night, our wonderful Waukesha parade became the scene of a horrific tragedy.

Last night, that parade became a nightmare. Last night, many were severely injured. Last night, lives were lost during the middle of what should have

been a celebration. Last night, many were severely injured, lost their lives, and all who were there were traumatized. We experienced a horrific

tragedy. We have so much healing that needs to occur. Waukesha though, will not be defined by the horrific events of last night. We are a community

that will come together.

We will help those who experienced the loss of a loved one or were injured. We will work together to bring healing. The healing needs to begin now.

With that in mind, I share the following. Our prayer vigil will be held tonight at 5:00 p.m. at Cutler Park. The Waukesha Public Library, which is

immediately adjacent to it, will be closing at 4:00 p.m., so the public can utilize that parking lot. The downtown South Street Parking ramps, which is

also immediately near it, will also be open for free parking.

We know that members of the community want to help out and help the victims. The Waukesha County Community Foundation and United Way of Greater

Milwaukee and Waukesha County have joined together to create the United for Waukesha Community Fund. This fund will support the needs of the families

impacted, and there will be a website on our page that will tell you how to access that fund. Many people witnessed traumatic events last evening.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call or text 800-985-5990 to be connected to a trained, caring counselor, and they are available 24/7. That

number will also be on our website. Please, only call 911 for true emergencies. There will be a resource center set up at Carroll University

for all victims from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. That information will be placed upon our website. The

District Attorney Victim Assistance Program is also available to provide assistance and an e-mail for that service will be shared on social media.

Our community needs to heal from physical injury and emotional trauma and what was taken from us by this senseless act. What we do today and in the

days ahead is what will define us as a city, and I know we'll come together and help Waukesha heal. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Jim Sievert(ph).

GORANI: You heard there from the Waukesha, Wisconsin mayor, the chief of police and the chief of the Fire Department. The Police Chief Dan Thompson

there, updated us, confirming that five people lost their lives as a result of this Christmas parade tragedy car ramming, 48 injured, and sadly, two of

them are children in critical condition. He gave the names of the five people who died, three women and two men, aged 50s to the oldest, an 81-

year-old man. He named the suspect, Darryl E. Brooks, 39 years old, who will be charged with homicide.

Anthony Barksdale joins me. He is a CNN law enforcement analyst, he's in Baltimore, Maryland. So, one of the, obviously, headline pieces of

information from this news conference is that, this is not a terrorist incident. We know there have been car ramming terrorist attacks in Europe,

for instance, this is not what this was.


ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: And that is -- that's one thing that law enforcement can take off of the list of concerns, but we

still have to make sure that the case against Mr. Brooks is a winner, that he pays for what he did and that the victims and their families get some

type of justice out of this tragedy.

GORANI: And there's so much evidence and information, so many elements that law enforcement can sift through, because in this day and age, people

are filming on their cameras, phones, et cetera. So, they're going to have to really piece together, A, the timeline, but also the motive here.

BARKSDALE: Absolutely. We still need to know where it all started and we, unfortunately, know how it ended. But the timeline is critical, because in

my mind, you're thinking, when we present this in court, will it be clear to a judge, to a jury. And law enforcement still has a lot of work to do to

be sure that this case is solid.

GORANI: All right. A really tragic day in that -- in that -- in that town and in Wisconsin. A Christmas day parade, the first since the COVID

pandemic, it was supposed to be a happy day and it ended in terrible tragedy. Anthony Barksdale, thanks so much for joining us on CNN. We're

going to take a quick break, we'll have the rest of your news after this.


GORANI: Some people are just not happy about new COVID restrictions. It was a weekend of COVID discontent across Europe with thousands of people

taking to the -- taking to the streets to protest action against new restrictions in several countries. Some, like Belgium and the Netherlands,

saw them turn violent. The Dutch Prime Minister called the rioters "idiots who used COVID restrictions as an excuse." A school was set on fire there

and both protesters and police officers were injured.

Dozens of people were arrested. Though, there were still protests, things have been calmer in Austria, which entered a full national lockdown today

for everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. And this is why coronavirus hospitalizations in the country have tripled in just a month.

Look at where they were on the graph in June, look at where they are today. A little earlier, I spoke with the Austrian Chancellor Alexander

Schallenberg, I asked him why he decided to go into a lockdown for everyone, a drastic measure, rather than just the unvaccinated.



ALEXANDER SCHALLENBERG, CHANCELLOR, AUSTRIA: Our approach was to get the non-vaccinated to get the vaccine instead of locking up, if you want to, or

locking down the vaccinated part of the society. The problem is the numbers, the incidents are extremely dynamic in Austria, and we only have

66 percent of the population already which got the vaccine. And so we decided for 20 days to install a full lockdown, which includes everybody in

the society.

Now, I'm very saddened that we have to take this approach because I would have hoped that we can avoid it, but in order to safeguard the hospital and

healthcare system we have and the intensive care unit, and make sure that everybody in this country who needs an intensive care unit has access to

one. And we Austrians are very proud of our health system, and we want to keep it that way. That's why I saw myself in the situation that this

government together with the federal states have installed this lockdown.

GORANI: And how do you enforce it? Because you, yourself, acknowledge people are just sick and tired. We're almost two years into this. What

happens to those who say, you know what? I am done being locked down, I'm leaving my house, what happens to them?

SCHALLENBERG: Well, obviously, there will be controls as there have been in the past. But my appeal is, and that's the thing that saddens me most.

We have enough vaccines. We have science that gave us the possibility, the exit ticket out of this vicious cycle of virus waves and lockdown

discussions, and simply not enough people are using this possibility and taking this exit ticket. And that's why we are still stuck in this

situation, and that's why we have -- and that, it is the most important point for me.

We have not only decided a 20-day lockdown, but we have also decided that by 1st of February, we will have a mandatory vaccination policy on COVID-


GORANI: OK, so, that is the most drastic measure. I think some would argue in Europe, to mandate vaccines. Who will be mandated to get this vaccine

starting February 1st? Is it everybody over the age of 12?

SCHALLENBERG: Well, we have to discuss the issue of age, who will be affected, but it will affect the whole population, but i will leave it to

the experts now to figure out what the details of the regulation are. Many other EU states and western states have mandatory vaccines on other areas

like smallpox and so on.

GORANI: Right.

SCHALLENBERG: And many other countries like France and Italy have mandatory vaccination for certain areas of the public life like health

services. And we have decided instead of separating different parts of the society and the economy, that we have a general horizontal obligation for

everybody, and it will start from 1st of February on. And yes, I agree, it is a drastic measure. I would have preferred to go another way.

But if one year in having the vaccine, of having national campaigns, of having media explaining again and again what this is about, that we have

such a high degree of insecurity, of people believing in fake news -- and yes, we do have a political force in Austria, the Freedom Party which is

openly campaigning against the vaccination, this is something which separates Austria from other countries. So, we saw ourselves and the

necessity to take this drastic step.

GORANI: I was going to ask you why you think in Austria, the vaccination rate is so low compared to countries like say, the United Kingdom where

there's very little vaccine hesitancy, Portugal, where a vast majority of citizens have been vaccinated. Do you put it -- because we're all -- we all

have access to the same news sources. Do you put it down to the -- to the political interests in your country who may be actively arguing anti-

vaccine positions?

SCHALLENBERG: i believe it would be too simple if we did that. Yes, we do have, and this separates us from other countries. We do have a political

force in this country which actively campaigns against it, and which is one of the three biggest parties in the parliament. But I believe that many

other features, socio-economic features, mistrust in science or belief in more biological or other healthcare possibilities.

So there are many different factors which probably play in, but the end -- at the end, the result is very clear, we only have 66 percent plus of the

population who got vaccinated, and this is not sufficient to break out of this vicious cycle. It's as easy as that.

GORANI: So, you're saying from February 1st, you don't -- you're leaving it to the experts in terms of the ages -- fine.


But then, presumably, people who refuse the vaccine from February 1st onwards would be subject to some penalty. Have you decided what it will --

what it will be?

SCHALLENBERG: Yes, it will be an administrative fine, a penalty, and we still have to decide on the height, what amount of money we'll have to pay.

Here again, lawyers will have to think about that one. But the message is clear, that we have a greater good we have to safeguard, that's the public

health in this country. And yes, we are intervening in, you know, the private sphere of every person, but this is for the greater good, and

lawyers have very clearly said again and again it is possible. Many other countries have done so. Not horizontally for the whole population --

GORANI: Yes --

SCHALLENBERG: But for part of the population. So, I would rather have it otherwise. But unnecessary -- unluckily, we have to take this step it


GORANI: Before the interview you said, you know, this is necessary because we want to get out of this nightmare once and for all. I presume you've

thought about the economic cost. I even have a friend who had to cancel a ski vacation in your country, the Christmas markets, the pre-Christmas

shopping season. What is this going to cost Austria?

SCHALLENBERG: I mean, obviously, you never take a lockdown decision lightly. Already when we took the lockdown decision for the non-vaccinated

part of the society, which is nearly 2 million people out of roughly 8.8 million in Austria, this was not a light-hearted decision. This is not a

decision any politician takes easily.

GORANI: Yes --

SCHALLENBERG: and that we now said for three weeks, we will have a full lockdown is a drastic measure to get the incidents again down, to ensure

that our ICUs are not overrun and beyond the limits. And yes, the economic cost, the social costs are enormous But on the other side, if you look at

the continuous pandemic which that has cost our economy in the past couple of months, I believe a short snap lockdown might be the right way to get

out of this.

GORANI: Just one last one then for you, chancellor. To those who are saying this goes against my rights to decide whether or not I want to get a

vaccine, it goes against my rights two years in to decide whether or not I want to risk catching this illness. What do you say to them? Because there

are those in your country who are literally demonstrating against these policies.

SCHALLENBERG: You know, I fully understand and we don't expect to reach 100 percent of the society. A no policy always get 100 percent of support.

But we have to be aware that the vaccination is not a selfish thing. You're not only protecting yourself, you're protecting your friends, your family,

your colleagues at work. So, this is something which is for the public health, and this is a higher good which we have to protect.

And at the end of the day, if we don't, then everybody suffers because even the non-vaccinated -- sorry, the vaccinated might not have access to an ICU

at the end because it's filled with non-vaccinated COVID-19 patients. So at the end, everybody loses out. That's why we believe that we have to take

this drastic step, and, again, we're not doing this light-heartedly. We have thought about it, I myself have been skeptical of this for a long

time, but I'm convinced now that it is the only exit out of this vicious cycle we're in.


GORANI: And that was the Austrian chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, speaking to me just minutes ago about this measure announced throughout the

country of a national lockdown, at least 10 days, possibly up to 20 days. After the interview, the chancellor said around half a million people --

this might be interesting to some of you wondering if these policies were effective. He told me half a million people got vaccinated after the

original lockdown for the unvaccinated only was announced.

That's 500,000 people in a country that has a relatively small population in Europe. So, that announcement certainly had, according to the

chancellor, a definite measurable impact. Still to come tonight, on the front lines of Romania's COVID crisis.

How tragedy is unfolding there and what can be done to stop it. And then freedom for two foreign missionaries kidnapped in gang-controlled -- in a

gang-controlled suburb of Port-au-Prince. What about the other 15 still detained? We'll be right back.



GORANI: Welcome back. In Europe, temperatures are plunging and COVID cases are on the rise and countries are now scrambling to take action. Despite

those protests over the weekend, Austria as we've been discussing, has just gone into a new national lockdown and says it will make vaccines mandatory

from February.

Parts of Eastern Europe are being hit very hard. Romania is battling its worst COVID wave yet. The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates

in Europe with just over a third of people vaccinated. Compare that to like -- countries like Portugal for instance.

Ben Wedeman is in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and he's been reporting from there for the last several days and has a report to share with us.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala. Romania is actually on the other side the far side of a very brutal fourth wave of

COVID. The death toll today was 154 in Romania, which is dramatically better than it was earlier this month, where it almost hit on a daily

basis, 600 people dying from COVID. But despite this good news, doctors here are bracing for a fifth wave.


WEDEMAN: There's a jarring finality about death from COVID-19 in Bucharest University Hospital. Workers nail coffins shut, spray them with

disinfectant. Anguish echoes from the next room, a woman sees her loved one for the very last time.

This is Bucharest's biggest hospital. The morgue has a capacity for 15 bodies, but within the last 24 hours alone, 41 People have died. The

overflow ends up here in the corridor.

Every day, more COVID dead are wheeled into the morgue. Nurse Claudio Yunizta is close to the breaking point. "They keep coming. They keep

coming." He says. "We're working for nothing. We can't see the light at the end of the tunnel." And dark is Romania's tunnel. The country is in its

fourth wave of COVID, its worst yet. The death toll from Coronavirus hit a record level this month. Intensive Care Units are strained to the limits.


Hospital Director Catalin Cirstoiu tries to put the death toll in perspective.


DR. CATALIN CIRSTOIU, MANAGER, BUCHAREST'S UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: In Romania, each day, we have 400 patients with death, you know, 400 people. It's a

huge number. It's a community. It's a village, you know.


WEDEMAN: Romania has one of Europe's lowest vaccination rates against the disease. There are no lines at this Bucharest vaccination center. Medics

say they struggle against fake news, suspicion, and superstition.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of doctors, myself included, that work with COVID patients and we are trying to tell people that this disease

actually exists.


WEDEMAN: Parliament Member Diana Sosoaca has even tried to physically block people from entering vaccination centers. "If you love your children," she

says, "stop the vaccinations, don't kill them."

The vaccines have been extensively tested in children and proven to be safe and effective. But she and others have sent wild rumors and magical

thinking swirling through social media.

Colonel Valeriu Gheorghita, a doctor, runs the country's vaccination programs.


VALERIU GHEORGHITA, HEAD OF ROMANIA'S VACCINATION CAMPAIGN: We have, unfortunately hundreds of deaths each day. So if -- this is the reality and

more than 90 percent of patients who died were unvaccinated patients.


WEDEMAN: Nearly 36 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In rural areas, however, it's half that. The village of (INAUDIBLE) is an hour's

flight from Bucharest and a world way. Religion holds sway here. Many put more faith in God than science. Village Mayor and Pentecostal pastor

(INAUDIBLE) refuses to be vaccinated.

"We're not against the vaccine," he insists. "But we want to verify it to be reassured because there have been many side effects. We don't think the

vaccine's components are very safe. It's not a safe vaccine it."

Experts say the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19. And just down the road, Dr. Daniela

Fedoraya has vaccinated 10 people on this day. "No," she's tells me, "We haven't seen any side effects in any patients we've vaccinated."

In the county seat of Suceava, fresh graves in the cemetery stark evidence of a recent surge in deaths. Every day in Romania, a village is dying.


WEDEMAN: And today, almost 700,000 Pfizer vaccinations arrived in Romania. The question is, will they have any takers? Hala.

GORANI: Why is there so much vaccine hesitancy? I mean, you mentioned fake news and people believe in conspiracy theories. But why are they -- why do

they have such a hold over Romanians in particular?

WEDEMAN: I think there's a variety of reasons for that. One is people simply don't believe the government. Another is that many people here are

deeply religious and religious figures have played, let's say an ambiguous role in terms of encouraging people to be vaccinated. Today, for instance,

there are reports on local media that a priest is being investigated by health authorities because he told those who went in for the weekly service

that those who are vaccinated have to leave the church and those who have masks on have to take them off.

So, there are so many factors here mitigating against just general acceptance of the need to get vaccinated and to avoid the sort of death

toll that we saw here earlier this month, Hala.

GORANI: Ben Wedeman in Bucharest. Thanks very much. To Haiti now. A U.S.- based Christian groups as two of its seventeen missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti have now been released, and are safe, and "in good

spirits." It says it can't provide any further details or information about those still held in captivity.

A powerful gang kidnapped the American and Canadian missionaries last month. Five children were among those kidnapped and they were demanding $1

million in ransom for each. CNN's Matt Rivers is following developments from Mexico City. Do we know who the two who were released are? Do they

include any of the children?


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unfortunately, no. What we do know is that these were two adults of the seventeen missionaries that were kidnapped. We

know that a dozen of them were adults and two of them -- the two that had been released are adults, according to a source of ours in Haiti Security


But, Hala, this is the first real substantive development in this story. Since we were back in Haiti a few weeks ago covering this story, we really

haven't heard much, at least publicly at all, about this situation and the status of these victims. And so even though some of these children are

still being held hostage, the fact that any of these hostages managed to be released, I think, is unequivocally good news.

In terms of who these people are, though, Christian Aid Ministries, which is the group that these missionaries were working on behalf of in Haiti

when they were kidnapped back on October 16th, keeping that information very close to the vest saying in a statement, in part, "They are safe, in

good spirits, and being cared for. But we cannot provide or confirm the names of those released. The reasons for their release, where they are

from, or their current location," adding that their hearts are with the 15 people that are still being held.

And frankly, that's not a surprise. We know that the State Department is advising this group, we know that the FBI is advised advising this group.

And that advice is to stay quiet about these negotiations, because any information that could come out about these negotiations could have a

negative impact on the negotiations as they go forward. So it's not a surprise that this group isn't releasing more information.

But it certainly also brings this story back to light and the fact that there are still fifteen people, including children as young as eight or

nine months old, still being held by one of Haiti's most powerful gangs 400 Mawozo, and when they will be released remains an open question.

GORANI: So we don't know why these two are released and not the other fifteen? We don't know if a ransom was paid or anything like that?

RIVERS: As far as we know, right now, no, we can't confirm one way or the other exactly why these people were released, whether that ransom was paid

or whether this was some sort of sign of good faith on the part of the gang to suggest, OK, well, they don't want to kill these people. They want to,

you know, eventually come to a negotiated solution here, a negotiated release. But in terms of the exact reasoning that brought us to this point,

it's still unclear.

GORANI: Matt Rivers live in Mexico City. Thanks. Still to come. Two international sports organizations with two radically different approaches

to the case Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. We'll explain after a break.



GORANI: On the one hand, the international Olympic Committee accused of rolling over for Beijing in the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai,

who'd vanished from public view a few weeks ago. On the other hand, the Women's Tennis Association, taking a much tougher line. One of those

organizations says Peng is fine while the other is renewing calls for an investigation into her sexual abuse allegations and in fact, her

whereabouts. CNN's Will Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Olympics organizers trying to calm the controversy over Chinese tennis Peng Shuai. Less than three months before

the Beijing Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee releasing a statement appearing to support the Chinese government narrative that the

three-time Olympian is doing just fine despite growing concern for her freedom.

A 30-minute video call, Peng, IOC President Thomas Bach, and two other officials, CNN not allowed to see the video, an IOC statement summarizing

the call with Peng saying she is "Safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time." No

mention of Peng's explosive allegations three weeks ago that one of China's most senior communist leaders sexually assaulted her. Claims quickly

scrubbed from Chinese social media.


CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: The IOC seems to be so meek -- taking an incredibly meek and frankly, pathetic path to dealing with China

when, of course, the IOC holds this great gift. It's the Olympic Games, and they have power. There is leverage in the IOC.


RIPLEY: that leverage apparently being used to bolster the Communist Party line. China under growing pressure from the White House, the United

Nations, International Tennis stars, Beijing seeking to quickly turn the page, state media releasing these videos of Peng over the weekend out and

about in Beijing at a youth tennis tournament at a famous Sichuan restaurant, where the conversation just happens to mention the date

November 21st repeatedly. CNN has no way to verify the videos. We can't confirm when they were taken. These videos shared on Twitter, a platform

blocked inside China, Chinese state media eagerly tweeting updates and images of Peng totally ignoring the story in their own country.

Unlike the IOC, the Women's Tennis Association taking a much harder stance, demanding direct communication with Peng, unmonitored, uncensored. This WTA

statement to CNN says "This video does not change our call for a full, fair, and transparent investigation, without Censorship." The WTA prepared

to pull its billion dollar business out of China.


BRENNAN: when the history books look back at this time, they will say to the WTA, what an incredible master class and humanitarian leadership, the

right way to do it to call China on its abuses. And the International Olympic Committee sitting there, as they always do, basically doing



RIPLEY: Which makes some say the IOC is complicit in the apparent silencing of a tennis icon, who dared to speak out against a Chinese leader. Will

Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


GORANI: Well, Russia is denying that the Kremlin is building up military forces to invade Ukraine calling the claims "absolutely false." Over the

weekend, the top American diplomat said the U.S. has real concerns about Russia's military activity. A Kremlin spokesman says the West is spreading

false information and creating hysteria. CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest. Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Hala, what Dmitry Peskov is saying there that, you know, this is hysteria that's being

whipped up. He's saying that this is, you know, potential cover for a provocation. And essentially, that's what Secretary of -- U.S. Secretary of

State Antony Blinken was saying that Russia, with all these troops on the border, some of them three thousand miles from their normal base, almost a

hundred thousand with tanks for military hardware, that Russia could do what it did back in 2014. And, you know, create an excuse and claim a

provocation from across the border.

So, you know, what we're seeing at the moment to a degree is posturing, but it's very real posturing. I think the intelligence assessment at the moment

is while they don't know what's in President Putin's mind, they don't think there is an immediate advance of those troops across the border, because

they're not seeing the sort of the chain behind those troops that sort of flows of ammunition, flows of fuel that you would need for a military

advance into Ukraine.

So there's a sort of time safety net there, if you will, but at the same time, you know, Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, is saying we

have to be clear-eyed about this, you know, we have to sort of come up with a way of how we're going to deal with this either, you know, a posture by

NATO that puts off President Putin or perhaps, you know, a firmer military understanding of what happens if President Putin does move forces across

the border.


So, you know, on the Russian part, they lay historic claim, essentially, to influence over the territory of Ukraine. In reality, they've annexed Crimea

back in 2014. And that is strategically important for the Russians. It's got one of their important naval bases. And it's quite obvious to military

analysts that to secure that, President Putin would have to secure more territory inside Ukraine. That's why the threat is being felt at the

moment, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Nic. Still to come. An effort to save the biggest trees on earth. Nearly 20 percent of the world's giant sequoia

population has been wiped out. Twenty percent. We'll show you why after the break.


GORANI: And now to an alarming report, wildfires have killed thousands of those beautiful giant sequoia trees in the last two years in California.

They are the world's largest tree. And the report says that nearly one- fifth of their entire population is now gone. CNN's Stephanie Elam shows us the damage.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're on a hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. But this is a tour of Sequoia destruction.


CHRISTY BRIGHAM, CHIEF, SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS: I'm not happy about 2,000 to 3,000 more dead large sequoias. It's a big number to



ELAM: That's three to five percent of the remaining monarch sequoias in the world. According to a preliminary report by the National Park Service,

killed in the KMP Complex Fire that churned through Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks and the windy fire further south. And that big number

is on top of an even larger loss of mature sequoias last year in the Castle Fire part of the Sequoia complex, that wildfire eviscerating 10 to 14

percent of the world's giant sequoia population.

Brigham says this means in just the last two years, up to a fifth of mature sequoia, trees that have stood for at least a thousand years, if not more,

have been lost to wildfire.


BRIGHAM: That's not sustainable. That is not getting wildfire and climate change resilient forests.


ELAM: It's a conflict of concerns these scientists never thought they would see, the threat made worse by another year of drought leaving the sequoias

dry and vulnerable.



GARRETT DICKMAN, BOTANIST, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: That means its water source has been there for over 2,000 years, that that water's not there

means that the climate and the world around it has changed.


ELAM: But lessons learned last year helped save some sequoia this year.


BRIGHAM: Before the Castle Fire, we have never seen losses of large trees like we had in that fire, 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias lost in a single

fire event. And that really changed what we decided we were willing to do to protect trees if we could.


ELAM: And what they were willing to do called for innovation in the face of fire. From literally throwing what they could at the threat, like sprinkler

systems that spray trees 35 to 40 feet in the air, and dropping fire retardant gel from aircraft into hard to reach groves to extreme tree

hugging, swaddling some of the world's largest trees like General Sherman and General Grant in structure wrap.


BRIGHAM: We had hand crews going in and doing this kind of raking and fuel removal around individual trees and groves. We did backfiring operations to

change fire behavior.


ELAM: But the loss of any sequoia, such rare and majestic beauties, is one too many to lose.


BRIGHAM: It is dead. That tree is dead. It is not coming back. This tree that is at a minimum a thousand years old and has survived many, many, many

previous fires and should have lived another thousand to two thousand years is dead, is gone.


ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN, the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


GORANI: What a shame. Well, before we go tonight, new findings on what makes for a good hug. If like me, you're not the most tactile person in the

world, well, I'm not sure if you'll find yourself, your behavior in any of these examples. Researchers at the University of London examined hugging

behavior. They found that long hugs, those lasting five to ten seconds, are more pleasant than short hugs lasting just one second. I'd go for the one

second one myself.

They also found that crisscross hugs are more common than neck-waist hugs. And that crisscross hugging style is more common between men than between

women or mixed pairs. Well, I think it's because they're more likely to be the same height. Otherwise, it would be a little awkward. Researchers hope

this and future studies will help them wrap their arms around what they call an understudied human behavior.

There you have it. Thanks for watching tonight. Do stay with CNN. There's a lot more. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next.