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Hala Gorani Tonight

U.K. Prime Minister Johnson Reintroduces COVID Restrictions; Leaked Video Adds Fuel To Outrage Over Alleged Holiday Parties At Downing Street During Lockdown; Pfizer Recommends Booster To Fight Omicron; Biden Says U.S. Troops On The Ground In Ukraine "Not On The Table;" U.K. And Australia Join Boycott Of Winter Games; Instagram CEO Makes First Appearance On Capitol Hill; Indian Defense Chief Killed In Helicopter Crash; Japanese Billionaire Arrives At ISS. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 14:00   ET



LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Work from home as he defends this video of his own staffers joking about flouting COVID rules last Christmas.

We're going to be back with more breaking news in just a moment. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Hala Gorani starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Thank you very much, Lynda. Hello and welcome everybody, I'm Hala Gorani. We begin with breaking news in the

United Kingdom. Just in the last hour, Boris Johnson reinstates some COVID restrictions in England, saying his plan B will buy more time for booster

shots. Mask requirements for most indoor spaces and working from home guidance will be reintroduced.

And an NHS COVID pass will be required for entry into night clubs and larger venues, this already exists by the way in other European countries.

Listen to the Prime Minister just minutes ago.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: Let's do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones this Winter and to reduce the

pressures on RNHS. As we learn more, so we will be guided by the hard medical data around four key criteria. The efficacy of our vaccines and our

boosters, the severity of Omicron, the speed of its spread and the rate of hospitalizations.


GORANI: Well, the uproar continues though, and this is the back drop that this announcement was made against. An uproar against an alleged Christmas

Party that took place last year while the entirety of the country was in lockdown. The Prime Minister's former press secretary resigned earlier

today, leaked video obtained by "ITV" shows Allegra Stratton joking about an alleged party during a press briefing rehearsal.

Now, this recording was leaked just in the last 24 hours. Listen to what the whole country got a look at just in the last 24 hours, as I said and

what caused so much uproar.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas Party on Friday night. Do you recognize those




Hold on. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would the Prime Minister condone having a Christmas Party?

STRATTON: What's the answer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The party was cheese and wine --


STRATTON: It was cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting.



STRATTON: It is recorded. It's a fictional party, it was a business meeting and it was not socially-distanced.


GORANI: So, you have to remember that last year, people weren't allowed to go to the bedside of sick relatives. Johnson apologized for the offence

that the video caused and he announced an inquiry. Here with the latest is CNN's Salma Abdelaziz, she's outside Downing Street with more on how 10

Downing Street is responding to what's really turning into quite a bit of a scandal, Salma.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I mean, it's hard to really over emphasize just how much this has sent shock waves through the country. As you know,

Hala, this is quite a scandal-prone government, but this seems like a water shed moment.

And that's because this time last year was an extremely sensitive time in this country, you remember, tough COVID rules, tough restrictions under

lockdown, and this video appears to show senior aides, senior staff laughing, joking, mocking sarcastically at these COVID restrictions,

talking about this alleged Christmas Party on December 18th taking place in this building just behind me here at 10 Downing Street.

I spoke to a young woman who lost her father to COVID-19, he felt ill during this Christmas period last year around the time that this alleged

incident took place. So, I asked her what was her reaction when she saw that leaked video. Take a listen.


SAFIAH NGAH, COVID-19 BEREAVED FAMILIES FOR JUSTICE: And the first time I saw it, it was last night, and to be honest, i didn't -- I couldn't really

believe what I was watching while I was watching it. It was really shocking. I think bewilderment is the word that I'd use. To see government

officials talking so callously about something that, you know, took my dad's life away, but also took the lives of over 150,000 people in this

country. So, it really was quite shocking and really strange, really cynical.


ABDELAZIZ: Now you can hear that, that accusation there. Very cynical. I went on to say where do you think the responsibility lies? She said the

buck stops with the prime minister. He is responsible. She wanted to see a full investigation into what this administration has done.

And Hala, it's important here to note, we are no longer talking about just one party. CNN has spoken to multiple officials that indicate there was at

least two social gatherings, one that took place near the end of November, a second one that took place on December 18th, that one that you hear about

in the leaked video.

The prime minister of course, continues to deny any wrongdoing. He has said that there will be an investigation to find out what has happened, led by

his cabinet secretary.


But in the court of public opinion, I think he's already lost here, Hala.

GORANI: All right, Salma Abdelaziz in front of 10 Downing Street. Let's get more on this fallout, I'm joined by John Rentoul; he's the chief political

commentator at "The Independent" newspaper. Also with me is human rights barrister Adam Wagner. Thanks to both of you. John, let me start with you,

will Boris Johnson survive this, do you think, politically?

JOHN RENTOUL, CHIEF POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, THE INDEPENDENT: Oh, yes, I don't think we're at that stage yet, Hala. I mean, I think this is -- this

is very damaging for the prime minister, but it's not the sort of thing that would force him out of office. I mean, his relationship with his MPs

is seriously damaged by a number of things in recent weeks. And this is -- this is really made things so much worse. But there is no evidence yet that

the opinion polls have turned.

I mean, there's one snap poll today that which puts the Labor Party in the lead again. Which is going to worry conservative MPs. But they're not at

the stage where they think Boris Johnson is going to lose them the next election.

GORANI: So, I'll get to that question after I ask Adam this legal question. If there indeed was a gathering and the inquiry reveals that there was a

gathering and that this gathering went clearly against social distancing rules and COVID guidelines that the government itself had asked -- had

asked their constituents to abide by, could there be a criminal issue for those who attended the party?

ADAM WAGNER, LAWYER, DOUGHTY STREET CHAMBERS: Yes, i think there could be. I mean, the Metropolitan Police are investigating whether there's a

criminal issue at the moment. There are some legal barriers potentially to there being criminal liability. Most interestingly, a part of the COVID

laws which potentially unbeknownst to the general public exempted everything that was happening at number 10 Downing Street from the COVID

laws which i think would feed into a sort of political narrative of one rule for everybody else and one rule for them.

But legally, it might get them off the hook. But that may -- that may be wrong and in fact, they may have been a breach of the law in that prevented

gatherings of more than one person indoors, you know, unless they're reasonably necessary for work which this clearly, well, from what it sounds

like it wasn't.

GORANI: All right, Allegra Stratton, who is the lady you saw in that leaked video tearfully resigned today. Let's listen to what she told reporters.


STRATTON: The British people have made immense sacrifices in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. I now fear that my comments in the leaked video of

the 20th of December last year have become a distraction in that fight. My remarks seemed to make light of the rules. Rules that people were doing

everything to obey. That was never my intention. I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days, and now for my profound apologies to all

of you at home for them.

I understand the anger and frustration that people feel, to all of you who lost loved ones, who endured intolerable loneliness and who struggled with

your businesses, I am truly sorry, and this afternoon, I am offering my resignation to the prime minister.


GORANI: So, John, is this going to take the heat off of the prime minister, do you think? These resignations?

RENTOUL: No. I mean, this is -- I mean, Angela -- Allegra Stratton, the former spokesperson for the prime minister, I mean, she wasn't even at this

party. I mean her mistake was to have taken part in that rehearsal for a press conference where she gave what appeared to be a flippant answer. But

no, the question is, who organized the party and was it -- was it against the law at the time? And who attended the party? I mean, the prime minister

didn't attend it, we understand.

But he must be held responsible for the behavior of his staff, and if they were breaking the coronavirus rules at the time. The resignation of Allegra

Stratton is not going to be -- not going to be the end of it.

GORANI: And Adam, the prime minister during prime minister's questions today said, no matter what happened, we were abiding by the rules. But any

gathering this time last year was against the rules. Wasn't it?

WAGNER: Yes, I mean, more or less. And what's perhaps more interesting and where I think attention might shift is the leaving, due, which apparently

the prime minister himself gave a speech at in November. And in November last year, the U.K. was in full lockdown. So the rules were even stricter.


And I think that the -- you know, that there has been -- there are rumors about that gatherings, other parties potentially in his personal flat. And

I think this is just going to run and run whilst the denial happen and whilst the government on coming clean, the prime minister isn't coming

clean, and while the police are investigating, the police have no choice, but to investigate. I think this will run and run and potentially lead to

more embarrassment, although I think it's still unlikely that there will be any prosecutions.

GORANI: John, last one for you. You said you don't think we were at the point where his party believes that he will lose them the next election.

When does that point come? When is the breaking point do you think for the Tories with Johnson?

RENTOUL: Well, I mean, if you think back to what happened to Margaret Thatcher, hugely successful prime minister, being prime minister for 11

years. You know, she -- the party got rid of her extremely ruthlessly because she was heading for a defeat in the -- in what turned out to be the

1992 election. If the party forms the view that Boris Johnson is leading them to defeat, then I think they will be equally ruthless. But as I say,

we're a long way from that now.

A huge amount of damage has been done by this story, and as Adam says, it will continue to run and run until the prime minister can provide a

satisfactory account of what happened in Downing Street last year while these lockdown rules were enforced. And until he can do that, it's going to

carry on doing him some damage, but we're not at the point where the parties are yet looking for a new leader.

GORANI: John Rentoul, Adam Wagner, thanks so much to both of you for being on CNN this evening. All this controversy comes exactly one year after the

United Kingdom became the first country in the world to administer a COVID- 19 vaccine. We all remember this image, it's Margaret Keenan, she's now 91, she got the first dose of Pfizer in December 2020, it's been a year, feels

like ten, sometimes it feels like yesterday. She says it's been quote, "a wonderful year", and that getting the vaccine was the best early birthday


Fast-forward a year, and the U.K. has administered almost 120 million vaccine doses with around 68 percent of the population now fully-vaccinated

and some 20 million-21 million with three jabs. Now, let's talk about Omicron. Because this is the variant that has really ruined our December

plans for many of us. New data from Pfizer is giving us a cautious bit of hope today on one of the most pressing questions in the pandemic right now.

How well do vaccines protect against this Omicron variant? Pretty well according to Pfizer. But most of the protection comes from boosters. So

your third dose essentially. The company says its preliminary lab studies show a third dose provides a robust immune response against Omicron

compared to two doses. Pfizer's chief scientific officer tells us just how big the difference is. Listen.


MIKAEL DOLSTEN, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, PFIZER: We believe that with the two doses -- with the two doses, you still have relevant protection for

severe disease. But clearly, the drop in antibodies is substantial. However, the good news this morning is that our data show convincingly when

you get your boost, the third boost, the antibody level rise 25 fold and are now similar to the originally two-dose boost that predicted well

against ancestral stains as well as Delta.


GORANI: Let's bring in our CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So should we be encouraged? I mean, this should be a reason for us

to get our boosters, right? According to what Pfizer is saying?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. So get a booster If you can get a booster. I breathed a sigh of relief when I

heard this, and not a complete sigh, but certainly a partial sigh. And I know a lot of people are going to be a little bit cynical and say, oh,

Pfizer says three is better than two.

Well, they want to make money. I understand that cynicism. But it actually jives with sort of matches with what was found in the South African lab and

also with what South African doctors are seeing when they're treating patients who have Omicron and are vaccinated.

To make a long story short, two doses actually does do some good, three doses is even better. Let's take a look at some of the specifics. What the

South African and the Pfizer lab found is that two doses may not provide sufficient protection against infection with Omicron. In other words, you

could have two doses and still get infected with Omicron. But you may not get that sick, and if you don't get that sick, well that's a win for the



Two doses may still give significant protection against severe disease, in other words, what these labs found is that you're going to -- likely going

to be significantly protected against severe disease, significant is the word that Dr. Alex Segar(ph) used with me, he's the head of that South

African lab. He said significant. And however, what Pfizer found is that the third dose may give more robust protection. So really, it's kind of

what we've known all along in general with Delta which is two doses is good.

Three doses is better. So, go out and get the two doses if you haven't already and certainly get the booster if you are far enough away from your

second shot. Now, this has made many people wonder, geez, this may be just a three-dose vaccine. There is plenty of three-dose vaccines out there,

maybe this is one of them, and Hala, our colleague Kate Bolduan, she talked to Dr. Anthony Fauci about this earlier today.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't see that changing tomorrow or next week. But certainly,

if you want to talk about what optimal protection is, I don't think anybody would argue that optimal protection is going to be with a third shot.

Whether or not it officially gets changed in the definition, I think that's going to be considered literally on a daily basis. That's always on the


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: I'm kind of stuck with, is it a matter now of when, not if, the definition --

FAUCI: Yes --

BOLDUAN: Of fully-vaccinated changes?

FAUCI: You know, my own personal opinion, Kate, is what you said is correct. It's going to be a matter of when, not if.


COHEN: So, I think what public health experts would say here is don't really worry so much about the official definition of fully-vaccinated. Is

it two doses or three? Get the two doses and when it's time, get the third dose. Hala.

GORANI: All right, thanks very much for that, Elizabeth Cohen. Still ahead, we'll talk about COVID some more. We'll go live to Johannesburg and Rome

for the very latest news on the pandemic worldwide. And also after the break, Angela Merkel has now formally handed over the German Chancellery to

Olaf Scholz. It's a new era in Germany.


GORANI: Some news just in to us over the past few minutes about COVID restrictions in Europe. If you're in this part of the world or traveling to

this part of the world, Denmark's prime minister says the country will introduce tighter new measures including the closure of schools, it's due

to surge in cases -- due to a surge in cases there. The prime minister said authorities would add a few days extra on either side of the school

Christmas holidays to try to make up for those lockdown days.


Bars and restaurants will also have to close from midnight on Friday. So, those are new restrictions in Denmark and these restrictions are added to

other tighter restrictions in other parts of this region. Let's take a closer look at some of the places the pandemic is hitting hardest right now

in the past day, Germany recorded 527 COVID-related deaths, its highest daily toll since February. Cases there are soaring as the country has one

of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.

South Africa's positivity rate is dropping, but just slightly, but it has hit a grim threshold. The country's total deaths in the pandemic just

crossed 90,000. Joining me now, Barbie Nadeau in Rome, David McKenzie is in Johannesburg. So, David, let's talk about these Omicron cases. They are

still on the rise I understand according to these numbers.

But what are researchers and doctors saying about whether or not these vaccines are protecting, because they're the doctors on the front lines

treating these patients with Omicron. What are they saying about whether or not vaccines, especially the booster protects people infected with Omicron?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hala, it's very early to tell, but I think the predominant opinion here is that vaccines do work against

Omicron, at least, when it comes to preventing serious disease. The regulator here only allowed booster shots just a short time ago to be

instituted. That hasn't been rolled out by the government.

So, the predominant vaccine here is the Pfizer vaccine, clinicians I've been speaking to extensively over the last few days do say that they

believe that this is -- these -- even with the Omicron variant, that the vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease.

They haven't seen a rush on hospitals yet with this wave, despite the very high numbers of infection. So, there is some hope that this will be at

least if not less severe, but certainly as severe as Delta and not more so after those very serious fears when you looked at the number of mutations

on this variant. And so the -- it's a qualified optimism right now which is also borne out by the level of lab work that is been done here in South

Africa and elsewhere that you've been talking about this hour. Hala.

GORANI: Right, yes. And Barbie, we're still looking at just some dreadful numbers out of Europe. Germany for instance with almost 600 deaths in one

24-hour period. Why are these numbers still on the rise?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well the numbers are on the rise primarily because people didn't put restrictions in place soon enough. And you know,

everything takes a couple of weeks. That's the number of cases it rise, the number of deaths always follow by about two weeks, the number of spike in

these cases. But what's important here is, we're talking about the Delta variant. The Omicron variant is not the predominant variant in Europe yet.

And so as they're looking at these new cases across Europe and these new restrictions, you know, you consider that France and Portugal have now been

given -- risen by the CDC to a level four, you know, warning against travel and things like that. You see that people are getting nervous again and the

restrictions are just coming too late in many places. You know, the fact that in the U.K. now, you have the mask mandate for indoor, you know,

indoor dining, indoor shopping or things like that.

You look at a country like Italy where the numbers aren't rising quite as quickly, we've always had a mask mandate here. So there is just such a

variance of the restrictions across Europe. It's hard to understand -- it's easy to understand why the case numbers are different country-to-country

based on how restricted it's been, Hala.

GORANI: Sure, thanks very much Barbie Nadeau in Rome and David McKenzie in Johannesburg. Speaking of Germany, well, that country has a new chancellor.

Get used to this name because you've been saying Angela Merkel for 16 years, it's Olaf Scholz now. It is the first change in 16 years and he has

some big shoes to fill. The former Chancellor Angela Merkel wished him all the best as he was sworn in.

Mr. Scholz who had been serving as vice chancellor and finance minister in a coalition with Merkel for the past four years, thanked her for her work.


OLAF SCHOLZ, CHANCELLOR, GERMANY (through translator): It is a big challenge and I am very thankful that the citizens of this country and the

German Bundestag gave me this task. The fact that we're able to gain so much experience together for so long will help me.


GORANI: Well, our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin. And he's from another party, but during the campaign, his whole

message was I'm the candidate of continuity. How will things change under Olaf Scholz?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's certainly what he did. And it certainly appears to have been quite

successful for Olaf Scholz, and some of that continuity can already be seen. It was quite interesting because in that speech, that short speech

that he gave as he moved into the chancellery in Berlin, he did say, look, I've worked so much together with Angela Merkel that certain things are

going to continue.


And they already worked on some of that before he even took office. In by far, the most important area that he's going to have to do big things in,

and that's fighting the coronavirus pandemic here in Germany. You just talked about it with Barbie there. The numbers in Germany right now are

absolutely disastrous, and the Germans understand they need to get it under control.

So what Olaf Scholz did, before even taking office is, he got together with Angela Merkel, they got together with the leaders of the German regional

states, and they came up with new measures even in the interim time between these two governments with new measures, tougher measures here in Germany

to try and get things under control.

And all of political parties are now or most in the political parties are now saying that they could even think about mandatory vaccinations come

February here in this country. So certain things have already continued as he has taken office. But there are also other areas where things could

potentially change at least to a certain degree. If you look at for instance, at foreign policy, Olaf Scholz has said that he's very much in

favor of very good Trans-Atlantic relations.

Of course, Angela Merkel also very good at Trans-Atlantic relations, but he really pointed out every time he's asked about foreign policy, especially

right now as you obviously have those conflict going on in eastern Ukraine with the Russians amassing forces there. Olaf Scholz said just yesterday

that he was very fond of President Biden speaking to NATO allies before speaking to Vladimir Putin and then afterwards again. So he said that new

multilateralism by the U.S. is certainly something the Germans value, and they obviously want to be a strong partner.

One figure to keep an eye on, Hala, and I think that we'll be keeping an eye on for a long time is the new foreign minister. For the first time,

Germany has a female Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock from the Green Party, and she is very tough on Russia and also very skeptical of the Nord

Stream 2 Pipeline.

GORANI: Yes --

PLEITGEN: And so, those are some things where you could indeed see some nuances at least change in German politics, Hala.

GORANI: It's going to be very interesting to observe that the Nord Stream 2 issue, the relationship with Russia, we're going to be talking --


GORANI: Right away about the Putin-Biden phone call after the break. Thanks so much. Fred Pleitgen is live in Berlin. And still to come, actions may

speak louder than words, but how will the U.S. respond to Russia's military build-up at the border with Ukraine? I speak to the former British

ambassador to Russia to get his take on new comments by both the Kremlin and Washington.

And then the head of Instagram faces a grilling on Capitol Hill over reports the social media giant knew that its platform could have a harmful

effect on teenagers.




GORANI: Well they may have had a virtual meeting.

But will they be taking concrete action?

The Kremlin said Russia and the U.S. have agreed to appoint delegates for a followup discussion of security issues in Europe after Vladimir Putin and

Joe Biden spoke for the first time, since the summer. Then it was in person and this time it was over a secure video conference call.

The two-hour call was dominated by the situation you see here. As many as 175,000 Russian troops gathering right at the border with Ukraine. The

State Department said that the scale is much larger and potentially much more lethal than what we saw when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

The White House said it is ready to respond with tough economic measures should Russia invade.

Sir Tony Brenton is the former British ambassador to Russia and is joining us from Cambridge.

Thank you for being with us. So Biden is threatening more economic sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.

Is that any kind of deterrent if Vladimir Putin is intent on pursuing a ground invasion?

SIR TONY BRENTON, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, it is some kind of deterrent. Russia is already subject to a lot of economic

sanctions, of course, and has basically shrugged them off and pursued its policies. It won't want to make itself subject to any more if it could

achieve the objectives without having to go through that.


GORANI: What is the objective?

What is the objective in this case do you think?

BRENTON: One of the interesting things is emerged from recent events is it is rather clear what Russia wants. They want assurances that Ukraine won't

join NATO, that Ukraine will not act as a base for NATO forces or for Western missile systems.

And very encouragingly, it sounds as if Biden agreed that he would discuss these issues with Russia following yesterday's exchange. And Putin has said

today that he's now going to put concrete proposals to the Americans over the next few days.

GORANI: Biden said U.S. troops in Ukraine as a deterrent to a Russian invasion is not on the table.

Does this mean we are noticeably seeing kind of a lowering of the tension between the two leaders, do you think?

BRENTON: Well, let's not get carried away. We have got some sort of basis for discussion, which is a good thing. On the other hand, what the two

sides want is still very far apart.

The United States will not and the West won't give an assurance that Ukraine will never join NATO. That doesn't matter very much since Ukraine

is highly unlikely to join NATO in the foreseeable future.

Similarly, they will not give assurances on the nonbasing of Western weapons systems or at least so it seems so far. And that could be a break

point. So I would guess that, for the moment, the Russians will maintain their military buildup until they see how the discussions begin to go.

GORANI: So what happens next then?

What is the -- in your view -- and you know Russia very well and you know Vladimir Putin -- what does he want?

You said he doesn't want Ukraine to join NATO or a military buildup or Western missile defense systems in Ukraine.

Does he want to invade Ukraine?

BRENTON: No. Well, he would like Ukraine to become part of Russia again. But he's quite a realistic guy. And he knows that Russia would pay an

enormous price for launching a war, which it wouldn't necessarily win.


BRENTON: So if he could gain assurances from the West that his immediate concerns which are about Ukraine acting as what people described as an

unsinkable aircraft carrier bang next to Russia, if he can get assurances that that won't happen and that Ukraine will somehow, using the word

neutralized, that will be quite a big win for him in the Russian context and he will most certainly go for it.

GORANI: What do NATO countries want from this?


BRENTON: Well, NATO countries --

GORANI: What is their position here because you're detailing a series of measures NATO could take by avoiding a clear military buildup and that

should technically defuse the situation if that's what Russia wants.

What does NATO, do you think, want here?

BRENTON: The NATO position is incompatible with what the Russians want.


BRENTON: NATO said Ukraine is a free sovereign state. They can join NATO if they want to. We can put whatever missile systems and troops we want into

Ukraine if they want them. So there is a big division of principle on those points.

The issue, however, the point, however, is that if you start talking about these things, then, with a bit of luck, you begin to find practical

solutions and you begin to edge toward an outcome which is acceptable to both the Russians and to NATO.

Not there yet. We're a long way away. But we've edged a bit further over the last couple of days than we were before.

GORANI: What about the personal relationship, what is Vladimir Putin like and what's the best way to approach him?

How do you think his relationship with Joe Biden is unfolding versus, for instance his relationship with Trump before this current President of the

United States?

BRENTON: Well, this is quite interesting, of course, because the story, when Biden came to power, was he detested Putin. He described Putin

publicly as a killer and got a response, it takes one to know one from Putin. It sounded very bad.

But it looks as if at their summit in June and at their virtual meeting yesterday they managed to find a reasonably decent means of communicating

with each other. Putin is very businesslike. He's cold. He's very realistic. He gives no ground.

But he is a man who is determined to do business. And so far, it looks as if Biden and Putin have found a way of doing business with each other,

which Putin didn't really find with Trump because it was -- Trump was always in competition with Congress and who was going to be tougher with


GORANI: So one of the things that you said at the beginning of the interview is obviously Putin doesn't want more sanctions against Russia.

But there are currently a set of sanctions, I think we have a graphic that shows they're already subject to quite a few of those after the 2014

invasion of Ukraine.

Do sanctions really ever work in foreign policy?

Do they get the side, the opposing side to bend to your will, if you apply that economic pressure?

BRENTON: They do sometimes. Iran was brought to the negotiating table by the heavy sanctions against it. South Africa, apartheid was brought down

partly by sanctions. But with a big country like Russia and a proud country, they are -- they never work actually. They've been imposed on

Russia six or seven times since the end of the Second World War.

And they've never brought about a substantive change in Russian policy. And in the current dispute about Ukraine, they were imposed in 2014 and have

been strengthened regularly since and have on the whole an entirely negative effect because they've united the Russian people and the Russian

elite behind Putin against what they see as external enemies.

GORANI: All right, thank you so much, Sir Tony Brenton, former U.K. ambassador to Russia, for joining us this evening. Appreciate your analysis

and time.

Canada has just become the latest country to announce its officials will boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. That's a few hours after the

U.K. and Australia made similar announcements, joining the U.S. in a protest over China's human rights record. And as Ivan Watson explains from

Hong Kong, China may have good reason to be worried.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hala, a day after the Biden administration announced it would conduct a diplomatic boycott of the

2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, then you have Australia and the U.K. jumping on board the same bandwagon.

Let's take a listen to the Australian prime minister making his announcement.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: The human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia consistently raised. We've

been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues. And there's been no obstacle to that occurring on our side.

But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues. So it's not surprising

therefore that Australian government officials would therefore not be going to China for those games. Australian athletes will, though.


WATSON: The Chinese government is very unhappy with this growing diplomatic boycott movement and part of the response can be boiled down to, well, we

didn't invite these Western official delegations in the first place. Here's a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign minister.


WANG WENBIN, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): China has not invited any Australian government officials to the Beijing

Winter Olympics. Whether they come or not, nobody cares. Australian politicians, political posturing and selfish games will not impact

Beijing's success in hosting the Winter Olympics.


WATSON: Chinese officials have accused the U.S. and its allies of politicizing sport and they have threatened some counter measures; we're

not sure what they might be.


WATSON: Los Angeles is due to host the Summer Olympics in 2028. But unclear whether or not the Chinese government would want to wait that long.

The growing kind of criticism of China's human rights record and certainly of the massive government crackdown in Xinjiang, these are things that the

Chinese government doesn't want to talk about or linked at all to what is supposed to be a big demonstration of Chinese athleticism with the Winter

Olympics and of putting on a big show.

But it is creeping into international athletics. Look at the case of the Chinese tennis start Peng Shuai and the controversy surrounding her

censorship within China after she accused a former senior Chinese government official of sexual assault and then appeared to have been very

strictly censored after that.

This is a conversation that the Chinese government does not want to have. And it must be starting to wonder what might happen, when athletes from

around the world come into Beijing, if some of them begin to openly and publicly criticize the Chinese government, a government that, again, is

highly intolerant of any criticism whatsoever -- Hala.

GORANI: Thanks very much, Ivan Watson.

Still to come, facing calls for accountability, Instagram's CEO is about to testify anytime now before U.S. lawmakers about the potential harmful

effects of social media on children's mental health. It has been a big topic of discussion. We'll speak with Donie O'Sullivan after the break.

Stay with us.




GORANI: Instagram and its effects on kids, especially teens: the CEO of Instagram is making his first appearance before Congress right now amid a

firestorm of controversy over the potential harmful effect of social media on teenagers.

He's testifying at a hearing focused on ways to protect children online. And just yesterday, Instagram unveiled some changes to its platform, saying

it is taking a, quote, "stricter approach." Some critics are saying it is a little too late and little too little, the genie is out of the bottle.


GORANI: Our Donie O'Sullivan is following this.

What is Instagram saying it wants to roll out to try to protect the mental health of some of the teens, who, you know, suffering?

It has been proven scientifically from being exposed constantly to social media content.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, I don't think it is unfair to say that changes they announced yesterday aren't going to have

much material impact. You know and also probably not overly cynical to say that the changes, while they did bring in some changes, parental controls

and also a message to tell people to maybe take a break from the app occasionally and things like that.

There are some positive steps. But really it is to give the guy you see on the screen there, Adam Mosseri, something to tell Congress today. They

rolled out this news yesterday just about 24 hours before he appeared before Congress.

He just said -- took his seat there in front of the senators. But look, I mean, people like Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, and people

who've been calling out Facebook and Instagram for some time are saying it is not the prompts or the parental controls that will make a difference, it

is a fundamental redesign of the platform.

It is the algorithm, the algorithm that pulls people down QAnon rabbit holes and can pull young teenage girls into eating disorder echo chambers

and it is the algorithm that could cause so many other policymakers, like we saw in Myanmar, where there was so much hate speech on the platform.

GORANI: So what has Instagram's defense been so far of its platform, potentially of the content on its platform potentially harming kids and


O'SULLIVAN: Well, Instagram and Mosseri, who you see there on screen, got in a bit of trouble a few months ago when he compared the problems with

social media to car accidents.

He said that, you know, social media makes the world a better place; so do cars. Even though there are car accidents, of course, there is going to be

some mess-ups on social media as well. He got a lot of flack for making that comparison and later apologized.

But I do think that this is an insight into the way they think. They look at this as a bit of a utopia, to say, you know, we do so much good, we

connect so many people, they don't like to talk about the bad things.

And that is why they'll say, well, bad and hateful content on our platform is such a teeny tiny percentage. The problem for Facebook and for Instagram

is when they have so much content, a tiny percentage can still be millions or even billions of posts.

GORANI: But even when it is not harmful content, strictly speaking harmful content, the number of hours -- I mean I'm over 50 and I fall down an

Instagram rabbit hole and emerge two hours later, googly-eyed. I can't imagine a 15- or 16-year-old, the 15- or 16-year-old me, how many hours I

would wasted.

There is something about it that is addictive. It is designed to be addictive.

How do you navigate that?

O'SULLIVAN: Absolutely. I mean, and look that is really where the issue goes beyond Facebook, right. TikTok, many people say, is even more

addictive. People can spend hours on that. These platforms, the way they make their money is by showing you ads.

So the longer you stay on the platform, the more ads you see, the more money they can make. That is the design of the platform.

They're not -- nobody is really going to seriously turn around and say we want people to spend way less time on our platform in a significant way

that could impact the value of our company and our shareholders.

This is obviously what we'll hear from the Instagram boss today, is trying not to go as far as saying, yes, we're going to totally solve the problems

by fixing the algorithms that make us money but try and talk about maybe how they will try and improve the experience within those confines.

But again, as I say, a lot of people say that is just not enough.

GORANI: All right, Donie O'Sullivan, thanks very much.

Investigators in India are trying to find out what caused a deadly air force helicopter crash; 13 people, including India's top military official,

were killed when the chopper went down in southern India. Vedika Sud has the details.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: India's chief of defense staff General Bipin Rabat, his wife and 11 others died in a chopper crash Wednesday.


SUD (voice-over): According to a statement from the Indian air force, the general was on his way from Salud to Wellington in southern India when the

incident took place. The general was India's top military official and was the principal adviser to the country's defense minister.

In a series of tweets, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said he's deeply anguished over the sudden deaths. He described the general as a true

patriot, who had exceptional insights on strategic matters.

Images from earlier in the day from the crash site show mangled remains of the helicopter, surrounded with thick plumes of smoke. The cause for the

chopper crash is not known yet.

The Indian air force has ordered an investigation into the accident. The Indian army called General Rawat a visionary who was instrumental in

creating the foundation of India's joint theater commands.

Rawat was appointed India's chief of defense staff in December of 2019. Prior to that, he was the chief of army staff. Politicians across party

lines have expressed shock and grief over his sudden death -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


GORANI: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.




GORANI: Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth but they're also severely threatened by climate change. A scuba instructor in

the Maldives is now hoping that one of her students, that once her students come to know more about the underwater world, they'll want to protect it as

much as she does. CNN's Anna Stewart reports.



ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zoona Naseem is the Maldives' first woman to be certified as a course director by the Professional

Association of Diving Instructors. Only around a thousand people have achieved this status worldwide.

For over 18 years, she worked as an instructor in hotels across the country. But eventually she found a different calling, opening this dive

center 10 minutes away from Male.

ZOONA NASEEM, DIVING INSTRUCTOR: Surprisingly, even 16- and 17 year-olds, they've never been to the ocean. That was something really sad that I

heard. Having the ocean around us, they have not been in the ocean. It is just not so right.

OK, good morning, everybody.

Are we ready for the next lesson?


STEWART (voice-over): Zoona's center primarily serves women and children.


STEWART (voice-over): About two dozen students as young as eight enrolled for diving courses here at any given time.

NASEEM: How do you signal OK?


In the next exercise I'm going to close your tanks today. We have a purpose here. The purpose is to make more people love the ocean. If you don't go

into the ocean, you don't love it. And you don't know why it is important to protect it. If you see something special you could always share it.

So how many of you know the signal for a lion fish?


A turtle?

Yes, very good.

Are we ready to go?

OK, just be careful when you stand up, OK.

When you take somebody new for the first time in the water, that is probably my favorite dive.


NASEEM: I believe we are opening a very new door to them, something that they have never seen before. A new adventure begins for them.


STEWART (voice-over): Zoona estimates that she's certified about 2.5 thousand drivers, the majority of which were under 18.

NASEEM: I believe that ocean should be the kids' playground. During the young age, they don't have the fear factor. A young age is a very good age

to introduce the ocean.

STEWART (voice-over): Zoona hopes some of these kids will become dive instructors and she says it is one of the tourism industry's most well paid

professions. But even more important, it's nurturing a connection to nature.


GORANI: A Japanese fashion mogul has just officially joined the outer space billionaires club. He's an ecommerce billionaire, this one. His name is

Yusaku Maezawa, floated through the hatch from a Soyuz capsule into the International Space Station just a few hours ago.

He plans to spend 12 days there, doing a variety of activities, including playing golf. And it is not bad for a guy who started out at a drummer in a

punk rock band. But this is just a warmup. He's already bought all of the seats on Elon Musk's first mission to the moon, tentatively scheduled for


When you have a lot of money, you do whatever you want. Thanks for watching. Stay with CNN, I'm Hala Gorani. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS is up next.