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Hala Gorani Tonight

Some Ukraine Agencies Hit By Apparent Cyber Attacks; Russia Says It's Withdrawing Some Troops From Ukraine's Border; Prince Andrew Reaches Settlement With Accuser Virginia Giuffre; Russia Says Some Troops Returning To Base; Markets Volatile As Investors Monitor Military Moves; Novak Djokovic Willing To Skip Tournaments Over Vaccine; Hong Kong To Expand Health Measures Amid COVID-19 Surge; U.S. Suspends Avocado Imports From Mexico; Canadian Prime Minister Invokes Rare Emergencies Act To Stop Protests. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 15, 2022 - 14:00   ET



HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello everyone, live from CNN in London, I'm HALA GORANI TONIGHT. Official Ukrainian statements have just

alerted us to an apparent cyber attack on two major banks and the defense ministry's website. What we know this hour, we're live in Ukraine. All of

that as Russia says it is withdrawing some troops from near the Ukrainian border after military drills, and Vladimir Putin says he's continuing work

on diplomacy. We're live in Moscow.

Plus, this hour, Prince Andrew reaches a settlement with his accuser Virginia Giuffre. What we have learned from the legal statement.

Well, we have many developments to cover this hour and the crisis over Russia's troop build-up around Ukraine, but we want to get right to the

very latest on those apparent cyber attacks on key Ukrainian websites. Alex Marquardt is live in eastern Ukraine tonight in the city of Mariupol and

joins me with the very latest. We know the Ministry of Defense website, a big bank as well were targeted. Tell us more.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, two ministries' websites, Hala. The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Armed

Forces as well as two banks. It appears that the banks' web sites are back up online. The two ministries, I was just checking, they do appear to still

be offline. These were attacks against these websites that are called DDOS attacks or denial of service attacks.

Essentially, what it does is that it prevents everyday users like you and me from if we Google it or if we go straight to their URL from actually

accessing the website, the public-facing website. There's no evidence to suggest now that the institutions themselves were attacked or that, you

know, in the case -- you know, were hurt, or that in the case of the banks, that money was stolen or anything like that.

So, the impact for now does not appear to be incredibly significant. It is of course, something to keep a careful eye on. Because we know that when

Russia conducts warfare, they do what's called hybrid warfare. So, they do it in a number of different tracks. You've got the military track which

would just be a traditional invasion, and then you would expect things like disinformation which we absolutely are seeing a massive spike in, and then

cyber attacks.

But this was not a series of attacks against say critical infrastructure like the power grid which they have done in the past, and which officials

say if there were to be a real invasion by Russia of Ukraine, that there could be a significant cyber attack that would take down critical

infrastructure. DDOS attacks are relatively simple, they're relatively cheap, they can be done by criminals. We do not know who is behind this,

but of course, it is notable because they went after these ministries and these very significant banks.

So there's still a lot to figure out. We're obviously keeping a close eye, but it seems like the impact was relatively limited in terms of the scope.

The number of attacks -- the number of sites that were attacked and in terms of the damage done, Hala.

GORANI: Sure. It looks as though it wasn't as severe as it could be. Thanks very much for that. Alex Marquardt live in Mariupol. We're keeping

close contact with Alex as we learn more about these cyber attacks and news of those attacks came shortly after Vladimir Putin wrapped up talks with

Germany's chancellor in Moscow, you remember, he was in Kyiv yesterday.

Now, the Russian president said he doesn't want war and is willing to stick with negotiations, but he says implementation of Russia's core security

demands, which the West has rejected remains, quote, "unconditional priority". The new Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz was cautiously

optimistic. Here's what he said.


OLAF SCHOLZ, CHANCELLOR, GERMANY (through translator): President Putin talked about his discussions with his foreign minister and defense

minister, and I agree. Diplomatic options are still there. We need to be courageous that we work on a peaceful solution here. Troops are

withdrawing and that is definitely a good sign.


GORANI: All right. Well, much of the West and Ukraine itself is taking a wait-and-see approach to Russia's claims of a partial troop pull-back from

Ukraine's borders. And even amid all this talk of partial withdrawal, Moscow is releasing new video of military exercises as it keeps up large

scale drills, especially in Belarus, those joint Russia-Belarus drills. Russia lawmakers also angered Kyiv today by calling on Mr. Putin to

recognize two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent nations.


Of course, Ukrainians see this as a major assault on the sovereignty of their territory, if indeed this measure passes the Duma. More from Moscow

in just a moment. But first, let's look at the situation on the ground. I want to bring you up-to-date with that despite Russia's partial withdrawal

claim and Mr. Putin's claim that he is focused on negotiations. Let's look at the fact. The Russian military's movements are visible all over social

media, and as CNN's Scott McLean reports while their locations are known, their plans are not.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian military convoys continue to head in one direction, the border with Ukraine. This one in the

Belgorod region just across the border from Kharkiv, the largest city in the eastern part of Ukraine. Geo-located by CNN here. CNN has been able to

independently verify all of these movements captured by amateur videographers in Russia and posted to social media.

Tanks were seen around the village of Sarateno(ph) around 10 miles from the border. By most estimates, Russia has about 100 battalion tactical groups

close to Ukraine. Russian forces are also moving at night in the area, in this case, tanks have just been offloaded from trains. Among the wide

variety of Russian hardware being moved forward, Iskander-M short range ballistic missiles. U.S. Intelligence expects that any offensive would

begin with an intense aerial bombardment which will include missile attacks on key infrastructure.

There are still convoys making their way south, this one spotted taking a break on the highway south from Kursk toward the border. And later, the

same unit is stopped again. Russian troops are trying to stay as dry and as warm as possible with a growing number of tent encampments set up. Where

and when they move next, still very much an unknown. Scott McLean, CNN, London.


GORANI: Let's get the Ukrainian perspective now on all these developments. We're joined by Vadym Prystaiko; Ukraine's ambassador to the U.K., he's a

former Ukrainian foreign minister who also served as his country's ambassador to NATO. Thank you, ambassador, for being with us. First, I'm

sure you heard what Vladimir Putin said in his joint news conference with Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany. I want our viewers to hear it and

then I'll get your reaction. Here's what Vladimir Putin said today.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Our intention is and we strive to negotiate with our partners on the issues which we raised

to resolve through diplomatic means. They are well known in terms of ensuring Russia's security. First of all, it's the non-expansion of NATO.

Moving NATO's military infrastructure back to 1997. A non-deployment of strike weapons near our borders. It all seems pretty clear.

We are ready to discuss the other issues which were indicated in the response we have received as well, but only in the context of what is of

the utmost importance to us.


GORANI: So ambassador, it sounds a little bit like the Russian president is leaving a door open for diplomacy. We are ready to discuss, he said.

What is your take on what you heard from the Russian leader?

VADYM PRYSTAIKO, UKRAINE'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: And it also means that he has his mind -- made his decision yet. His mind is still open, but I

agree with you. The window for diplomacy is also open. What I don't like is what he's saying that he's bringing immediately the NATO in 1997. First of

all, line of 1997 is not realistic. NATO is not rolling back to the 1997 line, meaning that they will leave exposed the new wave of enlargement,

eastern European nations which are already members of NATO. And second one, my question, what about Ukraine? Why Ukraine is a victim of this? Why we're

blackmailed if they have something with NATO, why threaten us in our borders?

GORANI: And this, the announcement from the Kremlin that there's been a partial troop withdrawal, that some troops have been sent back to their

bases after drills. Is your -- are you -- have you seen any evidence of this and are you at least encouraged by this announcement, the fact that

Moscow seems to want to at least send some sort of positive signal to de- escalate the situation?

PRYSTAIKO: There is -- there's a signal. I am quite happy that it is happening. At the same time, we have the Intelligence saying that they're

establishing new hospitals, mobile hospitals next to all the border. Intention is not clear. Is again put additional pressure on us or just, you

know, keeping them there because they need it for extended exercises. For Minister of Defense, Shoygu, yes, he reported to Putin that exercises are

over, they can't all of them go home. We still likened this, you know, decisive sort of withdrawal and towards all the way back to eastern Russia,

far east Russia.


GORANI: Does your Intelligence suggest that some troops have pulled back because we have not seen evidence of this. We just have the word of the

Kremlin on this pull-back.

PRYSTAIKO: We've seen -- we've seen pictures. We have to establish the credibility of these pictures of satellites, with the sort of vacant spots

for where previously the trucks were or the helicopters. At the same time, I had the conversation today with our diplomatic missions in Russia who

were reporting to me, that they see by their own eyes columns of the cars and trucks and tanks moving in our direction.

GORANI: So, you're seeing both potentially evidence of a pull-back, but also evidence that some military equipment and personnel is moving closer

to your border, including, you mentioned, some field hospitals. Let me ask you about this cyber attack though, because it's been said, and this is

part of the Russian playbook that part of the hybrid warfare that Russia could organize against Ukraine would include, potentially, these attacks on

big institutions, ministries and banks. Do you believe Russia was behind this one?

PRYSTAIKO: We still have to establish. We wanted to be our -- when we talk to you or media everywhere around the globe, we have to be -- we have to

justify the decision and solution for what we do. But I have to -- I have checked myself, the site of Ministry of Defense, it's, it

doesn't respond as of now. Two major banks, one of them is state bank, also not responding, the people complaining that they can't have access to their

money. So, we understand that something going -- who is behind the particular attack is very difficult to establish right now.

GORANI: Yes, how severe was it? Was any sensitive information accessed? Was any money of bank account or account holders accessed? Can you assess

that at this stage?

PRYSTAIKO: i am a client of the Central Bank of Ukraine which is also working with just people like me. I checked the account, the amount on the

account balance is there. I unfortunately can't transfer money, but they are telling that they are fixing this technical difficulty.

GORANI: But was your balance in tact?

PRYSTAIKO: I hope so. I have to check it again, I don't remember what was the exact number, but it's still -- I can see it on my screen.


GORANI: But at least, you're reassured you can get in there, even if you can't transfer the money --

PRYSTAIKO: One day --

GORANI: That's at least -- that's something --


GORANI: Let me ask you, good luck, by the way. Let me ask you about what Boris Johnson has said. Because as you know full well, London has been a

place where oligarchs close to the Kremlin have been able to buy property through shell companies, they've certainly been able to enjoy in some cases

a very luxurious lifestyle. Not necessarily in any illegal kind of way, but certainly, they have not had their access to their money blocked.

Now, Boris Johnson, the U.K. prime minister is promising to crack down on at least the quote, unquote, "dirty Russian money". Do you -- what's your

reaction to that? Because those promises have been made before and not necessarily fulfilled.

PRYSTAIKO: The discussion is not new. Recently, just last year, they had the special report given by the parliament to the government, talking about

this dirty money in the British economic system -- financial system, somewhere in the city. To react to this, you know, you have to take a

couple of very painful decisions. But finally, last week, it was a -- it was a decision to introduce some sanctions as sort of prophylactic rather

than, you know, treating the problem.

And this was quite obvious, and this was introduced into parliament, it's still waiting for a vote, and the reason for this, because Russia has to

react to this. They told Russians that if you cross this particular line, which is Ukrainian border, these sanctions will be introduced. And then --

very painful.

GORANI: Yes, I mean, I wonder, do you believe, as some believe, that this is the way to get to Vladimir Putin and his inner circle to kind of block

access to some of the western institutions, to raising capital abroad, to buying property abroad? Doing that type of thing. Do you believe that, that

might be even more effective than, for instance, bringing up treaties or human rights or anything like that?

PRYSTAIKO: I believe that this is a very good step. It is still a civilized way to treat the aggressor. The nations aren't still trying to

avoid fight in the real terms, in the real weapons. How effective it is to the inner circle of Putin, some people will argue that most of these people

were stealing money from their own nation, knowing and supported or allowed by Putin. So if they had said that you have to bring it back, they will be

obliged to do so. They have -- in no way, they are so dirty rich.


GORANI: Let me ask you one last question as we've spoken before and we've been covering the tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border for weeks now. Do

you believe that we're -- I mean, that we've moved at least one tiny step away from war in your country, against your country? Are you a little bit

reassured today based on the news?

PRYSTAIKO: I believe and I hope that tomorrow, the day -- 16th of February that Ukrainians are fearing so much. It was reported that this day, the day

of attack on Ukraine, full scale attack. I just hope that tomorrow morning when I wake up, I won't see the report that Ukraine has been attacked.

GORANI: Yes --

PRYSTAIKO: So this is -- it's positive. The problem is, what will happen Thursday, Friday? Where's the long solution, strategic solution which might

be NATO or something, which is to allow us to seem more optimistic in the distant future than now.

GORANI: All right, thank you so much, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko for joining us live from London this evening. Thank

you. We can go now live to Moscow now, our Nic Robertson is standing by there with more on what Vladimir Putin is saying and these reports of a

troop pull-back, but at the same time, we were discussing there with Ambassador Prystaiko that, there seems to be troops and material going in

the other direction.

So troops may be pulling back, but he's saying Intelligence in Ukraine suggests some field hospitals are being set up near the border.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, and this is the nature of what Russia has said this time, that it's imprecise, it lacks

details, it lacks locations. And this was the same scenario a month or so ago when they did a small reduction in the number of troops, and then right

afterwards, carried on building up their forces. And the announcement from the Russian military this morning was that while they were pulling back,

you know, some troops in some areas, they were continuing these massive large scale military operations.

They said that. That -- and this would be continuing and the push-back came from the Kremlin spokesman as well, saying that, again, you know, what

we've heard before that, this is sovereign Russian territory, they're doing their legitimate training and really, it's up to us, Russia, not up to

anyone else to tell us when not to do this on our own territory.

So, the narrative continues to be this sort of ambiguous one, and sort of slightly ambiguous on the -- on the issue as well of getting into

negotiations because, of course, as you've been saying earlier, what President Putin is calling for in terms of negotiations, is already the

things that he's been told he cannot negotiate on the core issues. So there's a lot of ambiguity built into this current position, Hala.

GORANI: Thank you very much, Nic Robertson live in Moscow. A lot more to come this evening. A sudden turnaround in the sexual abuse lawsuit against

Prince Andrew. The British royal has now settled the case out of court. We'll discuss the details with a legal expert. And later, the Russian

figure skater who failed a drug test took to the ice Tuesday and dominated the competition. We'll have reaction to that from Beijing.



GORANI: Well, this was quite a surprise today when we saw this news cross. Prince Andrew has agreed to settle sex abuse victim Virginia Giuffre's

lawsuit against him out of court. She claims that you'll remember that he sexually abused her when she was a teenager, and she says Jeffrey Epstein,

the convicted sex offender who died in prison in 2019 had trafficked her to the British royal. A court document that Giuffre's lawyers have filed says

that the prince will make a substantial contribution to her victim's rights charity and they say her lawsuit likely will be dismissed within 30 days.

Let's turn now to our royal correspondent Max Foster. So, Max, our viewers will remember that Prince Andrew had previously said he really wanted a

jury trial, this happened last month. Do we know why he decided to settle in the end?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: It's difficult to work out what was posturing, what was, you know, honest on the record strategy. Certainly,

both sides were -- seemed determined to go to trial. It would have been very awkward for Prince Andrew to go to full trial, particularly with the

deposition, particularly knowing how bad he is at interviews, frankly, after that last one he did with the "BBC".

And through the whole disclosure process, all of extra details about his sweating, for example, conversations he might have had with other members

of the royal family would have come out, there would have been pressure on him from the royal family I'm true to try to settle out of court. And then

Giuffre had to be -- Virginia Giuffre had to be convinced as well. So, a lot going on behind the scenes I'm sure, but suddenly, as you say, quite

surprising we get this -- you know, I get a message saying that they've settled, pointing us towards this statement which had that information that

you described there.

Crucially, we don't know what sum they've agreed on. So, we don't know how much he paid her. He -- the case is over, basically. He hasn't lost --

GORANI: Yes --

FOSTER: He hasn't won, but you know, in the court of public opinion, his reputation is in tatters. I think we can assume that.

GORANI: Yes, he lost his HRH title and he does not take part in any official royal business anymore. We don't know the amount of the

settlement, but we do know from this statement that he's not acknowledging any wrongdoing. He's not even acknowledging that he knew her or had any

sexual relations with her, he is simply regretting this association with Jeffrey Epstein.

FOSTER: Now, there is acceptance about his strategy as well. So, he talks about how he never intended to malign this Giuffre's character and he

accepts that she's suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks. He had questioned her mental health, you

saw this in the sort of depositions he was calling up, and also, you know, there was suggestion that she was trying to make money from all of this.

He's agreed that, that isn't the case anymore.

That's all on the record. So he's accepting some guilt around his strategy but as you say, no, he's not accepting guilt of the charges that she laid

against him, which was being abused in three different locations including when she was 17, really big allegations, which would have overshadowed the

jubilee later on in the year, probably for the queen, all of these things. It was very damaging, not just to him, but for the wider royal family.

Giuffre's team are referring us to the statement Prince Andrew's team referring us to the statement, it would be interesting to see why they both

settled because also Giuffre wanted her day in court we understood as well. But clearly, she's happy with what he's doing now, and sticking up for

victims, showing empathy for victims which she's been accused of, you know, being very cold about, actually, as part of the strategy for this trial.

GORANI: All right, Max Foster, thanks very much. This settlement is a complete u-turn for Prince Andrew, as I mentioned, just last month, it

seemed he would try to clear his name in court and restore his reputation. Virginia Giuffre on the other side also said she wanted her day in court.


CNN legal analyst Areva Martin joins me now. Areva, I wonder, in cases like this, when both sides just weeks ago were saying we want our day in court,

decide to settle for an undisclosed sum. What could have led to this? It was surprising to us. We've been following this story for a while now.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Hala, what happened in this case is not unusual at all. In fact, it's quite typical in these kinds of cases.

You hear the parties come out with both statements about how they want their day in court. A lot of that is just posturing to gain momentum, to

gain an upper hand in settlement negotiations. I suspect the settlement negotiations in this case have been going on all along, even as those

statements were being made.

I suspect the lawyers were talking about settlement. The prince had so much to lose once discovery got started in this case. Depositions, written

interrogatories, a document request, his whole life essentially would have been laid out in this civil trial. So, often times, defendants take the

easy road out. They go for a settlement with a non-disclosure agreement like we've seen in this case where they don't admit liability, they don't

disclose the amount that is settled, but they end the lawsuit.

GORANI: But this is not at all what Virginia Giuffre said she wanted. She wanted to be able to confront Prince Andrew, she says she was trafficked to

him, she was sexually abused by him. Does this mean she cannot talk anymore about publicly about her allegations against him?

MARTIN: It probably does mean that there's certain aspects of her allegations that she has agreed not to speak out publicly about. But you

have to keep in mind that even for victims like Virginia Giuffre, these trials are incredibly --

GORANI: Yes --

MARTIN: Emotionally and psychologically draining. So, although she said she wanted her day in court, she is getting probably a very large

settlement amount. She's gotten this statement, and I suspect that this was negotiated with the settlement where he would come forward and not

necessarily admit liability, but acknowledge that she's been harmed. He would talk in a positive way about sexual assault victims, and then he's

making a donation to her charity to support sexual assault victims.

So these cases are always difficult. They're not easy to win, so if a settlement can be reached, often times victims will forego the public trial

in favor of this kind of settlement.

GORANI: And in this statement, it's noted that the prince commends the bravery of Miss Giuffre, and as you mentioned, will donate to her charity.

By agreeing to a settlement, it's not -- there's no acknowledgement of guilt in this -- in this statement, but people will be asking, well, why

are you settling if you have nothing to worry about?

MARTIN: Absolutely, Hala. Obviously, this case is not going forward in a trial court, but in the court of public opinion, this is a huge victory for

Virginia Giuffre. It's a huge victory for the MeToo movement. Again, here, you had a powerful man like Prince Andrew, you know, rich, powerful, up

against. That was what Virginia Giuffre was up against. And she, the victim now is able to claim some level of victory, some level of justice, and

that's what the MeToo movement has been about.

Women challenging powerful men and being able to hold them to account. So, again, no admission of liability, but a big victory for the MeToo movement

because this is settlement after six months of filing the lawsuit, we see from what the public opinion, I think, is going to be, Prince Andrew caving

and making huge concessions in order to make this lawsuit go away.

GORANI: All right, Areva Martin, thanks so much, really appreciate it. Still --

MARTIN: Thank you.

GORANI: To come tonight, Russia says it doesn't want war, and is trying to de-escalate the conflict over Ukraine. Why the U.S. and NATO are skeptical

about that claim, for now. We'll be right back.




GORANI: Back to our top story: there's apparent cyberattacks hitting Ukraine's defense ministry and one of its largest commercial banks. It's

not clear who's responsible.

And meantime, the U.S. is asking for proof of Russia's claim that it's moving some of its troops away from the border with Ukraine. The U.S.

ambassador to the U.N. says Russia has, quote, "made a similar claim" about deescalation in December, which didn't turn out to be true.

The U.S. secretary of state spoke today with Russia's foreign minister. So the diplomatic track is still functioning. CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us

now from Washington with more.

What should we make of these developments?

Is Russia trying to send a message from the United States and its allies, that it is deescalating?

Or is it just playing for time here?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what the U.S. is kind of scrambling to assess today. They do see this rhetoric

coming from Russia as a fairly positive sign. They see it going in the right direction.

But at the same time, they have not seen signals on the ground to support those assertions by Russia that they are actually deescalating.

Now the Russian ministry of defense has released a number of statements today, saying that they are pulling forces back, primarily from Crimea. But

again, U.S. officials telling us they don't actually see any of that deescalation happening yet. That could take a day or two.

But they're still very wary, of course, of listening to what the Russians are saying here and are monitoring very closely instead what they're

actually doing. The U.S. has said multiple times that they don't know whether or not Putin had actually made a decision to go ahead and invade


And they are still leading with that assessment. They still do not know whether Putin intends to fully go forward with this. However, a U.S.

official did tell us last night that the U.S. government does believe that, at this point, it is more likely than not that an invasion could happen

this week -- Hala.

GORANI: All right, so still more likely than not, based on what intelligence or evidence?

BERTRAND: Well, they say they're picking up signs on the ground. They have their sources, they have intercepted communications. They obviously will

not disclose what kind of intelligence they have in a more raw form to us.

They say this is just intel they have collected in recent days, particularly, over the weekend. That gave rise to a lot of alarm in the

U.S. about what Putin could be planning, caused a bit of a scramble. Obviously, we saw that the U.S. has closed temporarily the embassy in Kyiv.

So they saw something in that intelligence that led them to believe that an attack could happen as soon as Wednesday. But we still don't know exactly

what that is or, again, whether or not Putin has made this decision.

GORANI: OK, thanks very much, Natasha Bertrand.

Well, what about markets?

They react obviously to what happens on the news. And they are reacting to Russia's claim that it's moving some troops away from Ukraine's border.

The Dow, after suffering quite a bit yesterday, jumped about 400 points. It's still in positive territory. But another thing that's surging in the

U.S. is inflation. And now analysts are telling CNN that the crisis over Ukraine could send consumer prices soaring, if there is a war.


Matt Egan joins me now from New York with more on that.

So talk to us about the reaction today.

Was it sort of a sigh of relief from yesterday's tumble?

Or is there actually some optimism building on the markets, that things will settle down?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Investors are hanging on every single headline that comes out regarding this Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Yesterday, markets were up on hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough.

Then they were down after the United States announced it was closing the embassy in Kyiv. And then today, we saw this pretty significant bounceback

in stocks in the United States but also in Europe as Russia announced that it's going to pull back some of its troops. That is being seen as a


I think that there's a healthy amount of skepticism here about whether or not that that's actually going to happen, whether or not Russia's really

backing away from the brink here. But it certainly is better than the alternative.

And so we have seen markets rebound. And we've seen oil move the exact opposite way. Yesterday, Brent crude hit $96 a barrel for the first time

since 2014. But we've seen this big reversal, down about 4 percent, up 3 percent right now, trading at about $93 a barrel.

Similarly, U.S. oil prices are down. And that is, again, on hopes that maybe Russian energy supply won't be impacted by a potential conflict. But

what's clear, Hala, is that investors are watching every single development very closely.

And, also, that if this ends up being a head fake and we see an escalation of tensions, I think we're going to see the exact opposite of reaction of

markets in the coming days.

GORANI: All right, yes, they're sensitive to the news headlines for sure. They have been these last few days. Matt, thank you so much.

Well, the figure skating world is holding its breath. The Russian skater, who's at the center of the doping scandal at the Olympics, dominated the

event today. And that event picks up again on Thursday.

The 15-year-old Kamila Valieva was cleared to compete, despite testing positive for a banned heart drug. Her case won't be resolved, though,

before the Winter Games wrap up.

So if she ends up in the top three for women's singles, no medals will be awarded for the event. Imagine being the competition. And that's not a very

-- certainly not the news anyone wants to hear. Selina Wang is in Beijing for us.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva took to the ice here at Beijing under the shadow of a doping scandal. Outrage is

growing that she was allowed to compete, despite testing positive for a banned substance less than two months before the games.

She appeared to be struggling to hold back tears when she finished her performance but there was loud applause for her before and after coming

from the Russian delegation and what appeared to be the Russian media on the press side.

She walked off the ice, clutching her stuffed animal as soon as she got off, a stark reminder that she's only 15 years old. She's a victim, many

say, of a system of Russian state-sponsored doping.

A strong message from the World Anti-Doping Agency president, who tweeted, quote, "The doping of children is evil and unforgivable. And the doctors,

coaches and other support personnel who are found to have provided performance-enhancing drugs to minors should be banned for life. And

personally, I also think that they should be in prison."

Earlier today, an IOC official said that Valieva had blamed the positive test on a mix-up with her grandfather's medication. No further detail was

given on that. However, what we do know is that the drug she tested positive for, it is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It Is

considered to be a performance enhancer. It improves endurance and blood flow.

This is as outrage is growing over Valieva's ability to continue to compete, some anything calling a mockery of clean competition -- back to



GORANI: All right, Selina Wang, thanks very much.

Staying with sport, the tennis superstar, Novak Djokovic, says he is willing to miss the French Open and Wimbledon rather than be forced to get

a COVID vaccination.

Djokovic was not allowed to play in the Australian Open as we covered last month, because he refused to comply with Australia's vaccine rules. As

you'll see, he told the BBC he would rather skip tournaments than put something in his body that he is unsure about.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TENNIS WORLD NUMBER 1: And I understand that not being vaccinated today, you know, I am unable to travel to most of the

tournaments at the moment.

QUESTION: That's the price you're willing to pay?

DJOKOVIC: That is the price I'm willing to pay.


QUESTION: Ultimately are you prepared to forgo the chance to be the greatest player to ever pick up a racquet statistically because you feel so

strongly about this jab?



GORANI: There you have it.

Still to come, a sharp rise in Hong Kong's COVID cases is forcing some hospitals to treat patients outdoors. We'll show you how this city is





GORANI: Well, Hong Kong has confirmed more than 1,600 new COVID cases, one of its highest daily totals yet. The surge in infections is quickly

overwhelming public hospitals across the city. Some are actually running out of space and have set up outdoor centers to treat patients. You see

images there on your screen. CNN's Will Ripley has more.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For all of the sacrifices that Hong Kong has made during this pandemic, from quarantines

of 21 days to heavy-handed government restrictions on daily life, all of that has led to this.

Omicron and thousands of new cases -- or preliminary confirmed cases -- on a daily basis. The numbers for Tuesday, 1,600 confirmed; 5,400 preliminary

positives; 4,000 of those rolled over from the day before. Labs are having to step up their manpower. They're working 24/7 to process all of these

COVID tests.

And public hospitals are overwhelmed. It used to be that everyone who tested positive went to hospital and there were beds to spare. Now if

people have mild cases or no symptoms, they go to a government quarantine center.

And even, you know, hospitals with these new loosened restrictions on who has to go, they're still at 100 percent or more capacity. There were more

than 100 million rapid antigen tests for Hong Kong, which would be enough, theoretically, to test everybody who lives in this city of 7 million 14 or

so times.

They're not locking down the whole city. They are continuing this district phased approach. So if somebody in a building tests positive, if there's a

cluster of cases, the whole area will get locked down and everybody has to stay in their homes and get compulsory COVID testing.

And this is not affecting one particular income group. I mean, this is all over the city, even the upper echelons of Hong Kong government. Chief

executive Carrie Lam has not been affected personally by COVID yet.


(voice-over): But her number two, the chief secretary for administration, John Li (ph), second highest post in the city, he is now isolating at home

because his domestic helper is a preliminary positive case.

And just last week, he was in Xinjiang, the Chinese border city, talking about antiepidemic measures because Hong Kong is pretty much in lockstep

with Mainland China on the zero COVID approach, even with Omicron cases surging in a lot of countries, saying it's just not feasible to try to

restrict life.

They just have to live with these instances of COVID-19. But Hong Kong is still determined to get it back down to zero -- Will Ripley, CNN, Taipei.


GORANI: A word now on the normally wet winter months in countries like Spain and Portugal. Instead of being wet, they've given way to the second

driest January in more than 2 decades. One of the region's worst droughts in years has sent water levels around many dams plummeting.

And as CNN's meteorologist Tom Sater shows us, the water at one reservoir in Portugal has fallen so low that it has revealed a long submerged

village. Take a look.


TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): On the border of Spain and Portugal, a village, swallowed by this very river in 1992 to make way for a

reservoir, has now emerged as a ghost.

Visitors walking on the muddy ground, cracked by drought, found partially clapped (ph) roofs, bricks and wooden debris that once made up doors or

beams. Over the years, onlookers were able to see the rooms peeking out of the water during drought season.

But the extreme drought this year has revealed the village in its entirety. The Iberian Peninsula, home to Portugal and Spain, is experiencing one of

the driest winters on record, which is draining out reservoirs, worrying farmers and residents.

Official records show Spain received only a quarter of the precipitation it normally gets in January and water reserves are now at less than half of

their capacity.

RUBEN DEL CAMPO, SPOKESPERSON, SPANISH METEOROLOGY AGENCY (through translator): If, in these months, when it should be raining the most, it

is not raining, then the reserves don't refill.

Also their capacity, their water quantity, will continue to drop. And that can be quite worrying for the future.

SATER (voice-over): In neighboring Portugal, drone footage shows boats docked along dry banks as river waters recede. Earlier this month, Portugal

ordered five of its hydropower dams to halt water use for electricity production to save enough for people's daily use.

Antonio Estavello (ph) is one of the farmers who is struggling to feed his livestock. Many are worried their crops for the season will be ruined.

ANTONIO ESTAVELLO (PH), FARMER (through translator): It is simple. There is no water, so the grass does not grow. I only water a very small plot

there but only once a week, because the water sources have very little flow, very weak. Here in this whole area that is not watered, nothing grows

and therefore the animals eat little.

SATER (voice-over): Parts of Spain and Portugal sit in a semiarid zone, historically prone to drought but an environmental specialist describes the

severity of the recent dry spells as one of the most serious consequences of climate change -- Tom Sater, CNN.


GORANI: Still to come tonight, a rare move from Canada's prime minister, as he tries to put an end to protests that have paralyzed the country's

capital for weeks. We'll have those details next.





GORANI: The former president of Honduras says he's willing to surrender to authorities, hours after a warrant was issued for his arrest and

extradition to the U.S. Juan Orlando Hernandez, who only left office last month, says he wants to, quote, "face the situation and defend myself,"


Just hours before making his statement, police surrounded the former president's house. The U.S. State Department says Hernandez participated in

drug trafficking and corruption and used the money to fund his political campaigns.

Bad news for avocado lovers in the U.S. as prices may be set to spike. The country announced it's temporarily suspending avocado imports from Mexico

after a U.S. inspector in the state of Michoacan was threatened.

Mexico's president has slammed the decision, saying economic and political interests are behind the ban. Let's bring in CNN's Matt Rivers in Mexico


Avocado is in every dish these days in the U.S. and abroad. And I mean, it is -- I don't know if it's a fruit or vegetable -- it is a food but it will

have a huge impact in terms of restaurants and of people's consumption habits in the U.S.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. And the growth you're talking about there, Hala, has just exploded over the

last 15 years or so in terms of global consumption of avocado. It is something that Mexico has really capitalized on, especially in the state of


That is the one state here in Mexico that has this export license to the United States. Now a little bit of background here about this threat, with

the U.S. government, basically what happens is the U.S. government sends inspectors down here to Mexico to make sure that the product, the avocados

sent to the U.S., meet U.S. standards.

And at some point, one of these inspectors apparently received a verbal threat via cell phone from someone here in Mexico. And while the U.S.

government didn't give us details on what exactly that threat consisted of, they took it seriously enough to take this very drastic step of temporarily

suspending this export license for the state of Michoacan, to send that product north.

Just to give an idea of the numbers here, you're talking about, in last year alone, more than 2 billion pounds. That's billion with a B, pounds of

avocados were shipped to the United States. The U.S. is the largest importer of Mexican avocados.

And that industry employs hundreds of thousands of people here in Mexico. So it's going to have a major impact on Mexico itself.

But when you are talking about the United States, you're talking about supply. And what is going to happen over the next days, weeks, even days,

it could just be as soon as days, is that this inventory of avocados that come from Mexico that's already in the U.S. will run out.

And what happens, simple economics at that point. When the supply goes down but demand stays consistent or even rises in this case, price is going to

rise as well. It's going to be a lot harder to find avocados in supermarkets in the United States. And if consumers can find them, what's

going to happen is the price is going to go up.

GORANI: All right, Matt Rivers, thanks very much for that.

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau has invoked rare emergency powers to try to quell protests in the country.

The demonstrations over COVID-19 measures have now entered their third week and have paralyzed the center of Canada's capital city. Now CNN has learned

that Ottawa's police chief just resigned. As Paula Newton reports from the scene, many residents are just fed up with the protests.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rowdy backdrop for these protest obscures a threat the Canadian officials say is real. This movement

they say now in its third week is a threat to public safety.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement's ability to effectively enforce the


NEWTON: In a historic move, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Act for the first time.


(voice-over): And while he said it will be limited geographically and in scope, it will allow for stronger enforcement.

The protests right across the country, especially at border crossings have proven to be determined and apparently potentially dangerous.

TRUDEAU: This is not a peaceful protest.

NEWTON: Police in Alberta allege a small group within the protests had a stash of weapons and were willing to do harm at the Alberta Montana border

if attempts were made to disrupt the blockade.

And the war of words spills out daily on Ottawa streets, differences on COVID pitting protesters against residents.

MARK TRANTER, PROTESTER: I mean, there's people here that traveled across the country. Have you ever talked to real people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). He's awesome. He's from Alberta, whatever.

TRANTER: Yes, sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're destroying the Canada but --

TRANTER: Talk to someone who's lost their job, talk to someone who's lost their business and we'll give you a clearer perspective on what's going on

here. We don't want to be in Ottawa. We don't want to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll get the real picture from him. He took it from Facebook.

TRANTER: The people from around this country have come here because we want to stand up for freedom and we will -- we will stand up for freedom.

NEWTON: The so-called quest for freedom has made many of those in downtown feel like they're in a noisy, chaotic prison.

ALEX WOZNICA, BIKE SHOP EMPLOYEE: To shut down the city, to -- you know, harass and intimidate local residents to this extent, I wouldn't have

thought that the police and the government would allow it.

NEWTON (on camera): And so, Trudeau is saying enough. Now while he says the military won't be called in, he is using more enforcement power and

imposing stiff financial penalties which could bankrupt some protesters and risks further inflaming an already tense situation -- Paula Newton, CNN,



GORANI: The world's wealthiest man, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has donated almost $6 billion worth of his company's stock to charity. The shares were

given some time in November, although it's not known which organization received them.

The donation would make Musk the second biggest U.S. donor in 2021, after Gates and Melinda French Gates, who gave $15 billion.

Now Musk's whopping donation came after the head of the U.N. World Food Programme challenged him and other billionaires to make a multibillion

dollar donation to alleviate world hunger.

So there you have it, though the company paid zero in federal tax, it has to be noted.

Now thanks for watching this evening. After a quick break, we'll have a lot more. And next hour, we expect the U.S. President Joe Biden to talk about

the Ukraine-Russia tensions. And we'll be taking that live on CNN. I'll see you in a bit.