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Hala Gorani Tonight

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister: No Risk Of A "Large-Scale" War To Unfold In Europe Or Elsewhere; Boris Johnson Faces Calls To Resign Over Hypocrisy; International Airlines Cancel Flights To U.S. Over 5G Antennas; Russia-Ukraine Standoff; India Battling Third COVID-19 Wave; Ex-NBA Player Sonny Weems Racially Abused In China; Rome's Villa Aurora To Be Reauctioned. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired January 19, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. No risk of large-scale war with Ukraine

according to Russia. But does the U.S. agree and does Ukraine believe Moscow? We'll bring you the latest on those diplomatic talks. Then, in the

name of God, go. Those words being directed at the British Prime Minister earlier by lawmakers in his own party. We'll have the very latest from

Downing Street.

And later, more travel misery as major international airlines cancel flights to the U.S. What you need to know if you're headed that way. The

U.S. Secretary of State is promising relentless diplomacy to try to stave off a feared Russian invasion of Ukraine even as he warns Ukrainians to

prepare for, quote, "difficult days ahead". Antony Blinken met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev today, one of two stops he's making in Europe

before those critical talks Friday with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Blinken says Ukraine is facing an existential threat to its sovereignty, and warn that Russia could double the number of troops it has along the

Ukrainian border. Listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and

that gives President Putin the capacity also on very short notice to take further aggressive action against Ukraine.


GORANI: So what is Moscow saying even as it continues to carry out those military drills near Ukraine? Russia says the west is actually the

aggressor, pointing to new weapons deliveries to Ukraine and NATO surveillance flights. But Russia's deputy foreign minister is downplaying

talk of war.


SERGEY RYABKOV, DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, RUSSIA: I do believe that there is no risk of a larger scale war to start to unfold in Europe or elsewhere.

We do not want and will not take any action of aggressive character. We will not attack, strike, invade, quote, unquote, "whatever, Ukraine".


GORANI: Those remarks were in answer to a question by our Fred Pleitgen today. And Fred joins me now live from Moscow with more. Tell us more about

what Russian officials are saying about these threats to Ukraine that so many are worried about.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, exactly that. The Russian deputy foreign minister there saying that the

Russians believe that they are not the ones who are threatening, but that they are essentially the ones who are threatened. And it was -- it was

quite interesting to listen to the deputy foreign minister because he further elaborated on that as well, because I asked him, if you're not

threatening anyone, why are there more than a 100,000 Russian troops around Ukraine?

And he said that the Russians essentially believe that Ukraine is being more and more integrated, as he put it, into the NATO structure even

without formally being a NATO member. And the Russians are saying that they've come to a point where they believe that, that needs to stop. And so

that's why they put forward those demands to the United States and those negotiations that took place in Geneva last week, and the gentleman leading

those talks was actually Mr. Ryabkov whom we just heard from there.

And the Russians are saying they want answers from the United States as fast as possible in written form as to whether or not the U.S. is thinking

of accommodating any of those demands. Now, of course, the U.S. has said that most of what Russia wants, a stop to NATO enlargement, Ukraine never

becoming a member, that, that is a non-starter to begin with. And Secretary of State Blinken also said while he was in Ukraine, that in his next

meeting with Sergey Lavrov; the Russian foreign minister which is said to take place on Friday, that he is not going to have written answers for

Lavrov at that meeting.

That, of course, is something that won't necessarily make the atmosphere in that meeting any better because Sergey Lavrov with the past couple of days

has been saying that the Russians really want those answers quickly. But I think one of the things that we are hearing from the Russian side, and I

think this is really important, and from the U.S. side if you will as well, at least diplomacy is still ongoing.


Because if we keep in mind, Hala, what we heard last week from the Russians after those initial talks where they said they were so disappointed that

they were wondering whether or not further talks would be in order. At least, now, the top diplomats are speaking to one another, will be speaking

to one another. We heard from the Kremlin today that they say they believe those talks on Friday are going to be extremely important, Hala.

GORANI: Sure, but up until now, we've really been going in circles, haven't we? The Russians want one thing, the west says no way and vice

versa. What's an off-ramp here? What would a breakthrough look like on Friday?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's very difficult to see that there could be a breakthrough on Friday. But I think you're absolutely right with -- to say

that they've been going around in circles. But they've been going around in circles at the same time the Russians have apparently continuously been

also building up their forces. So, the situation apparently has been getting more and more dangerous as all of that progresses. I think

essentially what the Russians want is they want security guarantees, is what they're saying.

One of the things I picked up today from the deputy foreign minister was actually quite interesting. He said that even if the U.S. would not be

willing to guarantee that Ukraine would never become a member of NATO, he said that the U.S., if they offered unilateral guarantees, that the U.S.

would never vote in favor of Ukraine becoming a NATO member, that, that maybe would be OK for the Russians as well.

Now, it's difficult to see that the U.S. would agree to that in any way, shape or form. It seems like something that they would dismiss immediately

as well, but maybe there are certain areas where there could be compromise.

For instance, if you look at a large scale actions, for instance, large- scale exercises on both sides of the NATO border and the Russian border, maybe a halt to that, maybe some troops withdrawn, there could be certain

things that might help. It certainly doesn't appear as though either side is going to get everything it wants in these negotiations.

GORANI: Thank you very much for that, Fred Pleitgen. Well, what about Ukraine? Ukrainian leaders are thanking the United States for its support

amid the growing threats from Russia, but behind the scenes, they believe the U.S. could do more right now. Matthew Chance is in Kiev with the



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing from the United States at the moment is a show of solidarity, coming to the

Ukrainian capital in the way that Secretary of State Blinken has. He was preceded by a bipartisan congressional delegation that came here from the

U.S. Senate to show their support for Ukraine, Ukraine's sovereignty, Ukraine's territorial integrity, and that's all well and good, and the

Ukrainians are very happy with that.

But what they also want, and we're sensing a bit of frustration behind the scenes because what they also want isn't just the promise of tough

sanctions against Russia if it invades, they want sanctions now to try and -- on Russia to prevent it from taking the step of invasion. They want

military aid now, more of it. They're already getting some, they want more to bolster their armed forces so they can more easily and more readily

defend their country against what they regard as an impending Russian threat.


GORANI: And that was Matthew Chance in Kiev. Let's talk U.K. politics now because it was a dramatic day, to say the least. We're hearing calls for

Boris Johnson to resign, but from every corner of parliament, from within his own party. What's significant is how his fellow conservatives piled on

to their own prime minister. Two moments in parliament prove it. Take a look.




GORANI: This doesn't happen every day. You're looking at that first moment, a conservative MP, Christian Wakeford, defecting, walking across

the line to physically join the ranks of the opposition who welcomed him with cheers. The other significant moment came from Tory Party Grande David

Davis, you see his picture there.

He's not a household name outside the U.K., but in this country, he is a big deal among Tories. He invoked history to condemn the prime minister's

leadership, essentially comparing Johnson to Neville Chamberlain who was ousted to make way for Winston Churchill. Listen.


DAVID DAVIS, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: And I spent weeks and months defending the prime minister against often angry constituents.

And I reminded them of his success and delivery of Brexit and the vaccine and many other things. But I expect my leaders to shoulder the

responsibility for the actions they take.

Yesterday, he did the opposite of that. So I'll remind him of a quotation all together too familiar to him of Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlin. You

have sat there too long for all the good you have done. In the name of God, go.



GORANI: That is incredible. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is live outside Downing Street. David Davis was Brexit secretary, a big deal in the Conservative

Party and a senior minister, and he's asking Boris Johnson now to leave.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Hala, I think I heard people gasp when that moment happened. It was really talking to the Brexit heartland of this

country, the very people who voted Prime Minister Boris Johnson in. I mean, this is representative of him losing his base, Hala, because today, the

prime minister's audience was his own party. He needed to convince them that they need to keep supporting him despite this growing scandal, that

he's the man to clean up the mess even if he's the man behind the mess. Take a listen to his defense.


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: I thank people very much for everything they have done. I recognize the enormous sacrifice that

people have made. I apologize for misjudgments that may be made in Number 10 by me and anybody else, but, please, can I ask him to wait for the

inquiry to conclude.


ABDELAZIZ: There you heard it, wait for the inquiry, be patient, hold on, don't go any further until we know more from the investigation. The prime

minister, again, evading questions, kicking the can down the road, pointing it all to an investigation because, remember, Hala, his latest defense --

and this has been going on for weeks now, we've been following it and his excuses have gotten thinner and weaker over time.

The latest excuse is that, though, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the man who sets the rules, who writes the rules, who tells the police to enforce

the rules, the prime minister somehow did not know the rules. The opposition leader was quick to call him out on that.

GORANI: All right, thanks very much, Salma Abdelaziz at 10 Downing -- no, we're hearing --


KEIR STARMER, LEADER OF THE LABOR PARTY OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: The Prime Minister have -- and frankly unbelievable defenses to the Downing Street

parties, and each week it unravels.


ABDELAZIZ: There you have it -- there you have it, Keir Starmer saying each week it unravels. I would argue, Hala, that each day it unravels.

Every day, we see new headlines in the press, new leaks around these parties, multiple parties again taking place just behind me in 10 Downing

Street at the height of the pandemic. It's not over yet for the prime minister, you still have an investigation underway. You have cracks in the

system within his own party. Now, growing calls for his resignation.

They haven't reached that threshold of 54 MPs needed to call a vote of no confidence, but every day, support for him is waning. Hala?

GORANI: OK, Salma Abdelaziz, thanks for that. Let's speak to someone who knows the Conservative Party from the inside. David Gauke is a former

Conservative MP and Justice Secretary, and he is the author of this month's cover story in "The New Statesman", "The End of the Party: How the Party He

Served has Been Destroyed by Boris Johnson". He joins me live this evening. Thank you very much for being with us.

So, first of all, David Davis; senior Tory MP, former Brexit secretary calling on the prime minister to step down. Did that surprise you? It was a

very dramatic moment.

DAVID GAUKE, FORMER BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: It was a very dramatic moment. I think two points I would make. First of all, a lot of the

supporters of Boris Johnson want to say, oh, this is just coming from those people who didn't want to leave the European Union, who were anti-Brexit,

and, you know, that's why they're anti him. And of course, you know, David Davis, a leave campaigner was Brexit secretary, they both resigned from

cabinet on the same day in 2018.

It's also the case that, you know, David Davis enjoys drama. I mean he likes the dramatic gesture, but, you know, it was a very powerful point,

and quoting Leo Amery, a very famous speech from 1940 where he called for Chamberlain to go, quoting in turn Oliver Cromwell from the 17th century to

the long parliament, so it was a significant moment, and clearly, the prime minister's position is very fragile.

GORANI: Going back historically, a very long way, but the drama and the pressure on Boris Johnson is very much one that he is having to confront

today. You wrote in your piece "how my party lost its way", even the fall of Boris Johnson would not banish the ruling conservatives, what defines

the ruling conservatives today. What does that mean exactly? What do you mean?

GAUKE: Well, the argument that I make in "The New Statesman" piece is that the reasons why Boris Johnson became prime minister in 2019, there were

particular circumstances in place there, but the fact is that the Conservative Party is changing. It was very worried in 2019 about losing

votes to its right, to Nigel Farage's Brexit party, and I think the Conservative Party will continue to worry about losing votes to a sort of

right-wing insurgency party.


It had a very ideological Euro-skeptic ideological parliamentary party or a sizeable part of the parliamentary party was about stopping -- we're not

prepared to compromise on Brexit, a very hard Brexit. And also, I think there's a factor which is -- applies across the world. But politics is

changing, and I think we're seeing a re-alignment of British politics, very similar I think to the re-alignments that we have seen in U.S. politics

where the defining issues are no longer about economic security, it's much more about culture and identity --

GORANI: Right.

GAUKE: And the Conservative Party has to go after those, if you like, white-working class voters who are quite nationalist, quite populist --

GORANI: Yes --

GAUKE: Conservative.

GORANI: So the thing with --

GAUKE: Yes, stop --

GORANI: So, you don't think, but in the U.S., the thing with culture politics there is that you have crises and controversies manufactured out

of -- out of thin air, right? I mean, they're not real problems that people face on a daily basis in reality. It just becomes this kind of rhetorical

battle over things like, you know, a critical race theory in the United States, for instance, is one of them. Do you see something similar

happening in this country? I find that fascinating.

GAUKE: Yes, up to a point. I mean, I don't think we're in exactly the same position as the U.S. by any means, I don't think the cultural divides are

as strong in the U.K. as they are in the U.S. Issues like abortion, for example, are of no particular relevance in the U.K. debate. But on issues

like immigration, and on issues --

GORANI: Yes --

GAUKE: Like our relationship with the European Union, on those types of issues, I think that does drive the way in which people vote, and I do

think that our policy -- and you can see the evidence of this. You know, once upon a time, you know, the best indicators of how someone would vote

would be their economic security. Now, you would look at an educational background, you would look at the density of the population they live in,

is it rural? is it urban?

GORANI: Yes --

GAUKE: You know, what's the ethnic diversity of the area in which they live? Those factors are becoming increasingly important. It's less about

economic class --

GORANI: Sure --

GAUKE: It's more about cultural identity. Different from the U.S., but I think there are similarities.

GORANI: Let me ask you one last question, the obvious one, which is, can Boris Johnson survive this?

GAUKE: He can survive, but I think it's unlikely, increasingly unlikely. A few months ago, I thought he would see through all his current

difficulties, but I know talking to my former colleagues who are Conservative MPs, you know, there's a lot of disquiet. And it's hard to see

how he gets out of this because the public I think have really lost trust in the prime minister, and to the extent that I think it's very hard for

him to recover.

GORANI: Thank you so much, David Gauke, for joining us, we really appreciate your time this evening. And still to come, this volcano has

caused so much destruction and grief in Tonga this week, and scientists say it may not be done erupting. That is next. And turbulence in the aviation

industry. Several big airlines are cancelling flights to America over 5G safety concerns. So if you're planning a trip to the U.S., you want to stay

with us.



GORANI: Well, if you live in Tonga, the last thing you want to hear is that, that giant volcanic eruption could happen again, the very volcano

under water that caused these massive waves. Well, scientists are saying don't discount the fact that it could be a possible occurrence in the

future. Now, you'll remember that Tonga's prime minister says the country is still very much dealing with this unprecedented disaster.

Volcanic eruptions have left much of the nation covered in thick ash. You're seeing some of the images there. Tsunami waves have wiped entire

buildings away, communications are incredibly limited. The World Health Organization says it's impossible to place international calls or even to

reach other islands by phone, plus there is the possibility of COVID-19 arriving with international aid. Now, Phil Black tells us what Tonga's most

urgent needs are right now.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days after this eruption sent shock waves across the Pacific, only now is the world hearing from people

in Tonga living with the aftermath of that blast and the tsunami that followed. The World Health Organization's doctor, Utaris Satoya(ph) spoke

to CNN via satellite phone from the main island Tongatapu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So after the eruption, initially, there was like a sound on the roof like a rain, and it was not actually a rain. It was small

pellets falling from the -- from the sky, and then it was followed by a very fine ash.

BLACK: Aid groups now know what people in Tonga need most urgently.

SAINIANA ROKOVUCAGO, PACIFIC HEAD OF PROGRAMMES, IFRC: Today, for the first time, did we get -- did we get to speak to the Secretary General of

the Tonga Red Cross society, who confirmed that water is the number one issue.

BLACK: Much of the local water supply is contaminated by ash from the volcano and sea water from the tsunami. New Zealand Navy ships are on their

way with vast stores of fresh water and desalination equipment. Aid flights are now possible because the runway of Tonga's main airport is clear of ash

and debris. Tonga will welcome the aid deliveries, but doesn't want people from outside the country to help distribute it.

SEAN CASEY, PACIFIC COVID-19 INCIDENT MANAGER, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Tonga is a COVID-free country and I think they want to stay that way. And

bringing in teams brings with it risk. We have a lot of COVID around the world at the moment, Omicron variant circulating and including in

neighboring countries here in the Pacific.

BLACK: Communications are still a big challenge, especially with the outer islands. The one under water cable linking Tonga to the world is damaged,

and will take weeks to fix. New Zealand geologists predict the volcano, Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai will continue to be active in the coming days and

weeks. The volcanic island first rose out of the water only seven years ago. These satellite pictures are from before and after the recent

eruption. The blast has destroyed almost everything above the surface. Phil Black, CNN, Melbourne, Australia.


GORANI: Well, one of Tonga's most famous sons is raising funds to help victims. You may recognize him from Olympic opening ceremonies carrying his

country's flag, wearing a traditional Tongan mat. He set up a GoFundMe page which has raised more than 463,000 Australian dollars toward a $1 million

goal. The page says the money will go to those most in need and will help repair damaged infrastructure, schools and hospitals.

Well, the damage is not just in Tonga. The eruption triggered waves across the Pacific that even reached Peru, and they are getting the blame for an

oil spill. The environment minister there says about 6,000 barrels of oil spilled in the Peruvian sea after a wave hit a ship off coast.


And you can see it there, it's a disaster for biodiversity. The government says the spill was controlled and clean-up efforts are taking place right

now. Peruvian prosecutors have opened an investigation. Let's talk about those flights that are getting canceled, maybe one of yours is. Major

international airlines are canceling flights to the U.S. over fears that 5G cellphone service will interfere with some airplane's critical


So Emirates Airlines, Air India, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, British Airways and Lufthansa have all announced some cuts even as AT&T and

Verizon delay activating 5G on towers near some airports. Now, it's leaving many travelers grappling with sudden changes to their plans and airlines

unsure of where things go from there. So, after two years of COVID, we've got 5G now. Pete Muntean covers aviation for us and he joins me now from

Washington. Listen, if you want to travel by plane these days, you better be patient and you better be flexible.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so true, Hala, and this saga is not over just yet. Even after AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay this rollout

near certain airports, airlines say they still simply don't have enough information about that delay. Remember, 5G was supposed to roll out here in

the U.S. nationwide. So now, more and more airlines are saying their flights could be impacted by this rollout even still.

This is the statement from Delta Airlines, it says, "while this is a positive development toward preventing widespread disruptions to flight

operations, some flight restrictions may still remain." You mentioned all the international carriers coming in to the United States add even more to

the list. Lufthansa, British Airways, ANA, Air India, Emirates, Japan Airlines, all shedding some of their routes into the U.S. Now, what is the

issue here, are the radar altimeters, a very sensitive piece of equipment on board commercial airliners, cargo planes, helicopters, that send a radio

beam to the ground, it gets bounced back to the plane.

It gives a really hyper-sensitive reading of the plane's actual height above the ground. But what the problem is that, that runs on a similar spot

in the radio spectrum as these 5G towers -- and the concern is, that could create interference and cause those instruments to show faulty readings

when pilots really need it the most in low-visibility conditions right as they're about to land. They say it is so essential, and this has caused so

many --

GORANI: Yes --

MUNTEAN: Problems. We just heard from the FAA, still about 38 percent of the U.S. commercial airline fleet still not approved because of 5G to do

these low-visibility landings that they say are so critical. So, the airlines are really taking a conservative approach here, even though the

telecom industries like AT&T which owns the parent company of CNN, they say that this is really not much of an issue, and it's been rolled out in 40

other countries without a problem --

GORANI: Right, all right, Pete Muntean, thanks very much.

MUNTEAN: Any time --

GORANI: Still to come, Russia calls for water-tight guarantees on Ukraine and NATO -- well, that it knows the U.S. won't accept ahead of a new round

of high-stakes talks. I'll be joined by a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. And then Omicron is wreaking havoc still across western Europe. We'll go to

Paris to find out about strict new measures there as cases continue to spike. We'll be right back.




GORANI: We're just now two days away from a meeting that could, at least, help avert war in Europe but there's still a huge gulf between the United

States and Russia when it comes to Ukraine.

In Kiev, today the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said he will not meet Russia's demand for a written response to its security proposals when

he meets with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russia's deputy foreign minister says the priority is getting, quote, "watertight, bullet proof, legally binding guarantees" from the U.S. that

Ukraine will never join NATO.

Well, to put it bluntly, that is simply not going to happen. The U.S. has said it. NATO countries have said it. Russia says its national security

interests are being threatened and has promised to, quote, "defend itself," even as it vows not to attack Ukraine.

We're joined by former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Douglas Lute was serving in the role when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. He also served for decades in

the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant general.

Thanks for being with us.

When you hear Russia demanding watertight guarantees that NATO will not expand to include Ukraine -- and Russians obviously know that NATO will

never give Russia veto power over its membership or its expansion -- what do you think Russia's strategy is here?

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE (RET.), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, I'm afraid Russia's strategy is to make such outlandish, such maximalist

demands, which Putin certainly knows cannot be agreed, only as a pretext for other measures.

And of course, the major concern there is that these other measures could include invasion of Ukraine itself.

GORANI: Right.

But do you think that Russia is trying to find an excuse to invade Ukraine?

Why would it be in its interest now?

It knows that if it does that, already sanctions that are in place and hurting the country will be increased substantially.

Does Russia really want to open that can of worms that could hurt it considerably, do you think?

LUTE: Well, I think one of the products of the extraordinary diplomatic outreach last week -- so, first, bilaterally the United States and Russia

and then, on Wednesday of last week, a NATO-Russia council meeting and then subsequently an OSCE meeting on Thursday.

That round of negotiations made very clear to Russia what the consequences would be of military action.

The question is has Putin already decided that he's simply setting the stage for military action by way of these extraordinary demands and so


And we simply don't know. In fact --


LUTE: -- it may be that Putin is setting the stage but he, too, has not yet decided.

GORANI: What's an -- I ask this of guests, who in your position, were, you know, privy to sensitive conversations within NATO.

What is an off ramp?

What is an exit strategy here for both sides to avoid war once again, especially as Ukraine is basically being -- is the one with the gun to its

head in this scenario here?

LUTE: Well, this is a very important part of good diplomacy that's underway.


That is in the diplomatic arena, much like in combat, in physical warfare, you always want to give your opponent a bridge back, a bridge across the

river, a retreat option, if you like.

It is unclear right now what would be sufficient for Putin to back down. However, it is possible that he could simply take the status quo in NATO;

that is, that NATO has no intention in the near term or for the foreseeable future of inviting Ukraine to join. He could take that as sufficient

guarantee. But it is really up to him.

GORANI: So let's put ourselves in Russia's shoes here. From their perspective, they say they are being threatened, that the weapons that are

pointing at Russia, the fact that now we have Sweden and Finland also saying they may be considering NATO membership, Ukraine is a possibility

going forward, certainly, at least, there's, among the Western friendly governments, some elements who would like Ukraine to be part of NATO.

From Russia's perspective, they're saying we're really being threatened here.

Do you understand their position?

LUTE: Well, I think it is important to show some empathy, to try to understand their position but not to sympathize with it. Look, the reality

here is played out very cleanly in the facts.

There is no NATO, there is no U.S. and there's no Ukrainian offensive capability which should concern Vladimir Putin. We simply don't have the

forces in place.

On the other hand, he's amassed over 100,000 assault troops right on the border with Ukraine. So this is a rather ironic claim by him that he's --

he's concerned about an offensive capability when, in fact, it is his offensive capability that has sparked this crisis.

GORANI: What about Vladimir Putin himself?

He's been in power for a very, very long time. I mean, it has been said that he doesn't necessarily listen to advice, that he's quite isolated,

that people bring him only good news. I mean, this is kind of a typical progression for someone who is a head of state and has been for decades.

How do you think that plays in potentially to this whole ratcheting up of tensions between the U.S. and Russia?

LUTE: Well, I think it is very significant that Putin is essentially a one-man leader of Russia. He has some constituencies that he has to pay

attention to; he has to pay attention to the oligarchs, who essentially run, manage the Russian economy.

He has to pay attention to his security services, the military and the intelligence services. But look, he has one fundamental objective and

that's to remain at the top of the power scheme in Russia.

That's why Ukraine is important to him, because a Ukraine, which is democratic, free, prosperous, aligned with the European Union and NATO, is

too strong an example to the Russian people. And he doesn't want such an example, a democratic example in his neighborhood. That's the real threat

to Putin.

GORANI: All right. Douglas Lute, the former ambassador to NATO, thank you so much for joining us this evening. Appreciate it.

Japan is declaring a widespread state of emergency including Tokyo as it faces a record-breaking surge in COVID. Four out of five in Japan are

vaccinated against the virus but very few have gotten boosters. As Selina Wang tells us from Tokyo, the government is now taking steps to change



SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japan will put Tokyo and 12 other prefectures under a quasi state of emergency. COVID-19 cases are surging

rapidly across the country. The country on Tuesday reporting a record high of more than 30,000 cases.

But according to government data, only 281 people were in serious condition. Now under a quasi state of emergency, authorities can ask

restaurants to shorten hours and stop serving alcohol.

Residents are also asked to avoid traveling. Japan has frequently enacted state of emergencies (sic) throughout the pandemic. Last fall, Japan lifted

a months-long state of emergency.

After a slow start, Japan now has widespread vaccination but its rollout of booster shots has been slow. Japan has fully vaccinated roughly 80 percent

of its population but only about 1 percent of its population has received a booster shot as of January 10.

The government has pledged to speed up the pace, announcing this week that it would help local governments establish large-scale vaccination centers

for boosters. Japan had managed to curb COVID-19 cases last fall, with the daily case counts falling to just a few hundred a day -- Selina Wang, CNN,



GORANI: India is reporting 70 percent of adults in the country have now had two doses of COVID vaccine. But it still leaves millions unprotected

and it is showing up in the country's case numbers.


India today reported its highest daily increase in infections in eight months, more than 280,000 and the number has surpassed 200,000 every day

for the past week.

The country is now turning to a targeted testing system to try to combat all of this. It means people exposed to a COVID-19 patient, who are

considered high risk for severe illness, are getting priority for tests.

And despite hopes that the Omicron outbreak will peak soon, Western Europe is still feeling its full force. France on Tuesday posted a record-setting

-- and I want to call it eye-watering number -- 465,000 new cases, smashing the record it set last week by 100,000.

It comes days after the French parliament cracked down on the unvaccinated, approving a new law completely banning them from restaurants, domestic

flights and other public venues.

Italy is reporting a new daily record, more than 228,000, along with its highest daily death toll since last April. Melissa Bell is tracking this

spike for us from Paris.

First, the French numbers; I mean, with all of those measures that were put in place, the masks, the COVID passes, you name it.

And we're still at almost half a million cases per day?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Hala. Eye-watering was absolutely the right word to describe this rise. Just 100,000 since the

last record last week, that's a staggering fast rise in the number of new infections.

Records as you say set in Italy, also in Germany since the start of the pandemic. This is how fast Omicron is spreading. Of course, as you

mentioned, those countries are also countries that have introduced a health pass, that have tried pretty much everything you can try to try to get out

of this cycle of waves.

This one turning into an even bigger one than any we have seen before in terms of infection rates. Now they've tried lockdowns, they've tried

curfews. One study here in France, published today by an economic body that advises the government, shows that the effect of the health passes is to

have saved thousands of lives in those countries, 6,000 in France, 1,100 in Italy and 1,300 in Germany.

That appears to have worked so far. Here in France, controversially, the government is trying to turn the health pass, which meant you had access to

places like bars, restaurants and so on, either if you are PCR negative or vaccinated, that will, on January 21st, if the constitutional council, the

highest court in the land, deems the bill approved by parliament is constitutional, that will become a vaccine pass.

So you won't be able to PCR your way out of it if you want to get into all those places that are a crucial part of day-to-day life. That, as you would

expect, Hala, has led to a great deal of anger on the streets of France and this just a few months from the presidential election.

GORANI: Well, if you want to play high-level tennis, I think you also need to be vaccinated now as we've learned. But let me ask you about

hospitalizations, because we heard -- and as I just told our viewers -- Italy is seeing a high number of hospitalizations.

In the beginning of the Omicron wave in France, similarly here in the U.K., the case numbers were high but hospitalization numbers were still

relatively low.

What is the situation in France?

BELL: That's right. And what you are seeing is that, despite the fact that we tend to see milder symptoms, specifically in those who have been

vaccinated with this particular wave, there is, Hala, just the sheer weight of numbers.

This is something that the health ministry here in France has been warning about for some time. If you have such huge rises in daily case numbers,

then a few weeks down the line, you will start to see larger numbers of hospitalizations, just because of the weight of those new number of cases

and because some people will sometimes get sicker than others.

Now we're seeing it in Italy. We are seeing the German health care system also being stretched. Here in France, on Monday, the highest number of

hospitalizations, Hala, since November of 2020. So that will have an effect on the hospitals.

Of course, the race is on to try to bring this latest wave beyond the peak to something that is more manageable again, Hala.

GORANI: OK. Melissa Bell, thanks very much. Live in Paris.

We will be right back.





GORANI: Well, this is very disturbing. There is video of an American basketball player getting racially abused in China.

Sonny Weems plays for a Chinese team and the video includes fans yelling racist insults at him after a fight broke out with a Chinese player last

week. With the story, here is David Culver.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a disturbing video circulating on social media, you can hear basketball fans

in China repeatedly shouting racist slurs, including the N word, at American basketball player Sonny Weems.

Telling the 35-year old to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of China.

CULVER (voice-over): Weems, who briefly played in the NBA, now plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, part of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The incident happened after a game last Thursday in Shenyang (ph), China.

On the court a fight broke out between Weems and Chinese player Han Dejun. Both were expelled from the game. As Weems exited his bus, post-game, some

fans, wearing the team's opposing jersey, shouted the racially charged words.

In a statement released Friday, the CBA condemned the incident, writing, "The CBA has a zero tolerance attitude toward any discriminatory words or

deeds," and in an open letter to fans asked them to, quote, "resist uncivilized behavior."

Both teams likewise condemning the fans' behavior and the Alning (ph) team writing, "What a fan should do is to cheer for players on the field rather

than insult, disrespect or even abuse opponents off the court."

Taiwanese American player Jeremy Lin immediately jumped to Weems' defense, posting on his Chinese social media Weibo account, "The abuse Weems

received really was disrespectful. That word carried so much hurt, unfairness and hatred, that I couldn't put into words."

CNN reached out to Weems but did not immediately hear back. His last post on his official Weibo page, hearts. A surge of supportive comments from

Chinese fans followed.

"Peace and love."

"We will always be behind you," one fan wrote.

Another apologizing. "I'm sorry. Are you all right now? We always support you and stay here with you."

The incident follows what has been a tumultuous few years in which U.S.- China sports and politics have repeatedly clashed.

In 2019, comments made by the then Houston Rockets GM in support of Hong Kong pro democracy protests nearly severed a multi-billion dollar deal

between the NBA and China, by far its largest market outside of the U.S.

In less than three weeks, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics. Publicly, China has worked to portray a welcoming atmosphere ahead of the games.

Speaking to the media on Monday in Beijing, former NBA star and Rockets center Yao Ming, now president of the government-affiliated CBA,

highlighted the role of sports in building bridges between countries.

YAO MING, PRESIDENT, CHINESE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION (voice-over): There's bound to be traffic on bridges. So sometimes we see collisions. It may take

some time to resolve some issues. But we want to keep the bridges intact.


CULVER (voice-over): But a rising nationalism, coupled with state media fan claims, that COVID-19 was originally imported into China, have added to

tensions between Chinese nationals and foreigners living in the country.

And videos like this one fueling what is already a fiery relationship between China and the West -- David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


GORANI: And still to come tonight, Rome's Villa Aurora is still up for sale, with all of the rare classical art that comes with it. You do not

want to miss a look inside this property.




GORANI: If you have ever wondered what $535 million can buy you, how about a villa in the heart of Rome, with a one-of-a-kind Caravaggio mural?

The Villa Aurora will be reauctioned because there weren't any winning bids the first time around. CNN's Ben Wedeman shows us around.



And here's Gwendoline Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury's daughter, who married Marcantonio Borghese. And they had a child named Alathea (ph)

Borghese, who became my husband's great-great-grandmother.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Texan born Rita Carpenter, better known in these parts as Her Serene Highness

Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, shows me around Rome 16th century, Villa Aurora, her home for almost 20 years but not for much longer.

The villa valued at around $535 million has been at the center of a bitter legal dispute between carpenter who was the third and final wife of her

late husband, Prince Nicolo Boncompagni Ludovisi and his sons by a previous marriage.

An Italian judge ordered the house to be put up for auction with a starting price of just over $400 million. In real estate, it's all about location,

location, location but in this case, it's also about the villas interior jam packed with priceless artwork in almost every room.

LUDOVISI: It is the only ceiling painting ever done by Caravaggio that's done in 1597 when he was 23.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The villa is just a few minutes' walk from Via Veneto, Rome's most exclusive shopping district.


It's brimming with art but it needs about $10 million worth of renovations starting with the heating.

WEDEMAN (on camera): What's it like to live in this house?

It's cold, it's very cold.

LUDOVISI: I'm freezing right now. We didn't think about the pipes burst. All the other things you have to think about no don't normally have to

think about in a modern house in America. I mean, there are things that go wrong here all the time. And so trees that fall down and hit a car on the

street or whatever it might be.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Villa Aurora is out of the price range of all but the billionaire class carpenter who spent years documenting the villas

history looks to a heavenly buyer.

LUDOVISI: I hope that an angel buys it and that they understand the depth of history here.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): By law, the Italian government can match the winning bid and take possession of the villa, a stretch perhaps in a country where

the state is in a perennial financial crisis. For art historian Elizabeth Lev, that would be the ideal solution.

ELIZABETH LEV, ART HISTORIAN: Well as an adopted Italian there's nothing I would love more than to see it in the hands of the Italian state, so that

we could continue to enjoy our tremendous works from one room to another.

You are looking at masterpieces, exciting moments in the history of art and then absolutely absolute unique exemplars in the history of art.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): As it turned out, there were no takers in the auction which closed Tuesday, Villa Aurora goes back on the block in April,

prepare your bids -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.


GORANI: It is like living in a museum crossed with Versailles.

All right. Lastly tonight, you may remember this hit from the '90s. .


GORANI: That was, of course, a clip from "Cool Runnings," the film inspired by the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team in 1988. I cried when I

watched that movie. Now life is imitating art once again. Jamaica's four- man bobsled team has qualified for the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the first time in 24 years that they'll be competing.

The Jamaicans will face powerhouses like Germany, Canada, Austria, the U.S. and Switzerland. Oh, it's -- you just want to root for the Jamaican bobsled

team, you just do.

Thanks for watching tonight. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is coming your way after a quick break. Don't go away.