this is bbc news. i'm mike embley. our top stories: ukraine and russian—backed rebels complete one of the biggest prisoner exchanges since the conflict began. human rights groups warn of a potentially deadly diptheria outbreak amongst rohingya refugees fleeing myanmar. in syria, the first evacuations begin from a rebel held suburb near damascus. but there's no relief for hundreds more trapped in ghouta. an arctic cold snap brings heavy snow to large parts of the north—eastern united states and canada. the government in ukraine, and rebels backed by russia, have completed one of the biggest prisoner exchanges since the conflict began nearly four years ago. fighting between the two sides started in eastern ukraine soon after russia annexed ukraine's crimea peninsula. the conflict began about a month later after the deposed pro—moscow ukrainian president,
viktor yanukovych, fled to russia. the un says since the conflict began more than 10,000 people have died in the donetsk and luhansk regions. andrew plant has the story. in the war—torn east of ukrainian, carried on three plain buses, hundreds of prisoners are heading home, some after years in captivity. more than 300 people, in one of the biggest prisoner swaps since the ukrainian conflict began, the first such swap since september last year, arriving with their belongings, shivering in temperatures close to freezing, but glad to be finally free. translation: i am very happy that i am going back to ukraine, and i thank everyone for the work that has been done to be able to see my loved ones again. translation: i want to believe that people are tired of all of this and must find the strength
to engage in a dialogue, because without dialogue, we will be in a deadlock with no way out. the prisoner transports arrived in the early hours in the donetsk region, in easter ukraine, at the mayorsk checkpoint, near the city of horlivka. it happened watched by tight security. ukrainian armed forces on one side, on the other, the russian—backed eastern militia. the conflict began more than three years ago, soon after russia annexed ukraine's crimea peninsula, in march, 2014. the un estimates more than 10,000 have since died, the latest on wednesday, a soldier, the first death since a christmas ceasefire started last saturday. the prisoners released on wednesday then, a late present forfamilies and loved ones who have spent many months campaigning to have them set free. but this exchange has been far smaller than many had hoped for, and hundreds more prisoners are still held by both sides. andrew plant, bbc news.
we will hear from an expert later on. more than a0 british doctors, nurses and firefighters from the uk's emergency medical team are making their way to bangladesh to help thousands of rohingya refugees who are at risk from a rapid and deadly outbreak of diphtheria. 640,000 have fled. they are living in huge camps. this is the president
of refugees international. he visited the camps. it is as bad as you can imagine. one of the most densely populated countries in the world having to accommodate a rapid influx of something like 650,000 refugees in miserable conditions. they came over during the rainy season. they are living in extremely challenging circumstances. it is as bad as you could possibly imagine, and the risks of communicable diseases are just overwhelming. and, in addition, the international appealfor the rohingya is tragically underfunded. it is a problem that merits so much more attention from international governments of the world. why do you think it is not getting it? well, that is a great question. it is tragic, because this is not one of those cases
where we have the luxury of saying we did not know. 10 days after august 25 when the attacks started, my organisation accused the regime, the burmese, of crimes against humanity. many others have. the information is there. look, this is a brown—skinned muslim population, it is thousands and thousands of miles away from developed countries. it is tragic they do not get the attention and sense of outrage that this terrible situation merits. at the same time, the military in myanmar, across the border, has driven them out. they said they were terrorists and burned their own villages and wanted to leave anyway. the chance of them going back is minimal. the problem will have to be dealt with where it is. i think you are correct, it at least in the short and medium—term. it is hard to overstate the extent
of the atrocities perpetrated by this brutal military. and... and these people have to be held accountable. we cannot let this situation past. but you are right, in the medium term, the challenges in bangladesh and the issues of accountability in the atrocities have to be dealt with. but in the urgent situation that have now, the situation in bangladesh has to be addressed. in syria, aid workers have started to move critically—ill children from a rebel held suburb near the capital, damascus. after months of negotiation, four patients were taken out of ghouta on tuesday night. another 25 are expected to be moved in the coming days, although hundreds more are in urgent need of treatment. around 400,000 people have been under siege by government forces since 2013. from beirut, our correspondent, martin patience. seven—year—old imjy is preparing
for a shortjourney, and it will almost certainly end up saving her life. she is suffering from haemophilia, but last night she was among four critically—ill patients to be evacuated to damascus for life—saving treatment. this is what she's leaving behind. eastern ghouta is one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, fighting the government of bashar al—assad. it's been bombed and besieged for four years, with fighting intensifing in recent weeks. i think it's a combination of everybody‘s efforts that at this really low time in syria there is a ray of light, and it's the children. it's the children who are missing growing up in syria. we must sort them out, to give syria a chance of a prosperous and peaceful future.
but food is hard to come by. malnutrition is now widespread. human rights groups accuse the syrian government of trying to starve the rebels into submission. this evacuation may have the appearances of a humanitarian gesture, but that's simply not the case. we've been told by two sources that the syrian government only agreed to it as part of a prisoner exchange. the main rebel faction in eastern ghouta agreed to free 29 syrian government hostages, and in return the same number of critically ill patients are being allowed to receive urgent medical care. bf government 5151111157 "w he lost his left eye. his mother was killed. despite a prominent social media campaign, he is not being allowed to leave eastern ghouta.
translation: karim is injured, he's going to lose his sight. here in the ghouta he can't get treated. the doctor wants to perform an operation, so that he doesn't lose the sight in his other eye. for some there is now hope, but for most, help is not coming international laws designed to protect the most vulnerable. it says children are being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds. an improvised explosive device has gone off in a supermarket in the russian city of st petersburg.
local officials say ten people are in hospital, one is in a serious condition. the incident is being investigated as attempted murder, but no theories have been ruled out. the bbc‘s tim allman reports. ambulance siren. emergency services were quickly on the scene. the explosion taking place at around 6:30pm local time. media, in a lock—up where shoppers leave their belongings. packed with pieces of metal, equivalent to around 200g of tnt, it could have caused carnage. "0ne woman's face was covered in blood," said this eyewitness, "and one man was limping." from outside the supermarket, the damage looked fairly limited. some broken glass and shattered windows. there have been injuries but no deaths. now the authorities are on the hunt for the bomber or bombers. so far this has not been described
as a terror attack but nothing is being ruled out. translation: an investigation is underway, which includes experienced officers from the federal security service and the interior ministry. all possible theories of what happened are being worked on. russia and saint petersburg itself is no stranger to bomb attacks like this. in april, 16 people died when the city's metro system was targeted. and next summer saint petersburg is due to host games in the football world cup. so an incident like this will have the authorities on edge. russia is a target and whoever carried out this latest attack is still at large. tim allman, bbc news. an arctic cold snap is bringing sub—zero temperatures and heavy snow to large parts of north—east america and canada. temperatures have been reported as low as minus fifteen in toronto. while the us lakeside city of erie, in pennsylvania, had a record 1.5
metres of snow in 48 hours, with more on the way. parts of the us are literally frozen. many places are well below zero. this is eyrie, pennsylvania, which got 70 centimetres of snow. this place has been placed under a state of emergency because of heavy snow. officials are asking everyone to stay inside and stay off of the roads because they are treacherous and dangerous. we have heard of many places around the country with people killed in accidents as a result of the weather. four people died in a car crash in kansas. back here in pennsylvania, people are trying to take it all in and enjoy it, but at the same time, obviously, because of the system, 70 inches of snow, it has broken a record in this area, and flights have been delayed or cancelled. we are not sure when the state of emergency will be lifted, but the national guard has been
called an to help the locals get back on track. bbc weather presenter, ben rich, explained for us why this particular snowstorm has been so severe. north america is used to cold winters but they rarely bite quite as hard as this. temperatures are well below average and some places, particularly on the eastern shores of the great lakes, have seen a huge amounts of snow courtesy of something we call lake—effect snow, it happens when cold winds from the arctic blow across the slightly less cold waters of the great lakes. that slightly less cold moist air rises, it forms clouds which are then blown into the eastern shores of the great lakes and that moisture in the cloud is released not as rain but as huge amounts of snow. over the next few days we can expect more of this because of the cold air that is sitting in place is not going anywhere fast and the winds
will still be blowing down across the great lakes picking up that moist and slightly warmer air and delivering it in the form of snow fall across the eastern shores. perhaps not in the huge amounts that we've been seeing over the last few days but any further snow across this part of the world will not be welcomed. stay with us on bbc world news. still to come: the harry and barry show. the former president talks to the british royal about the irresponsible use of social media. the most ambitious financial and political change ever attempted has gotten under way with the introduction of the euro. tomorrow in holland we will use money we picked up in belgium today
and we will use the same money in france. it has got to be the way to go. george harrison, the former beatle is recovering in hospital after being stabbed at his oxfordshire home. a 33—year—old man from liverpool is being interviewed by police on suspicion of attempted murder. i think it was good. just good? no, fantastic! that's better. this is bbc world news.
the latest headlines. the ukrainian government and russian—backed rebels have carried out the biggest prisoner exchange since the conflict began nearly four years ago. more on that story now. i spoke just now to jars balan, director of the canadian institute of ukrainian studies. he was in ukraine a few months back. i asked him how significant this prisoner exchange is. it's significant for the families of the prisoners who have been released. many have been there since 2014, 15. it is wonderful news for them. as for its long—term significance, that remains to be seen. the hope is that there is some momentum from this release, at least other things. to be honest with you i don't think there is a lot of cause for optimism. there are reasons that this is done for russia's image abroad and the image
of the rebel areas abroad. it is useful for domestic purposes in ukraine but it won't change a lot of the facts on the ground and the fact that the war is continuing. what chance do you think of there are more prisoners exchanged? the ukrainian president has said to the prisoners remaining that they have not forgotten about them and will do everything in their power to obtain their release. there are still many other ukrainians held in rebel territories and there is a commitment from the ukrainian government to try and get their release but it is hard to tell if that is going to happen quickly, these are all bargaining chips on the table. how does the american decision to provide lethal weapons to ukraine change all of this? i don't know how big of a game changer it is. what it is is it will dissuade russian backed rebels to try and grab more land if they know it
will cost them a lot more in casualties. it is a symbolic gesture of support for ukraine that is very much appreciated by the ukrainian side and i think that will boost morale on that front. it's not going to change the total balance of power on the front. there has been a lot of blood shed in eastern ukraine, particularly recently. i think that christmas ceasefire barely lasted any time at all. are we in a situation where almost any movement is good news? obviously this is welcome news and the hope is that it leads to other things, but the hopes and realities are two different things and we will see how it plays out in the next couple of weeks, but of course, putin has an election coming up, this could all be a part of his strategy. it doesn't seem to getting a lot of media play in russia proper, it is from their side
it is more used to them for international consumption than it is for the domestic audience. the electoral authorities in liberia say initial results —— in the latest stage of peru's political crisis, the culture minister has resigned — although it's not clear why. there have been mass protests over president kuczynski's decision to pardon and free from jail his predecessor, alberto fujimori. president kuczynski had just avoided an attempt to impeach him — with the help of mr fujimori's daughter. bill hayton explains. isa is a sick man, forced from power 17 yea rs is a sick man, forced from power 17 years ago but still the centre of controversy. —— high and the president. ex president alberto fujimori embezzled millions and ordered the deaths of dozens. that has all been pardoned. is doctor says he remains gravely ill with an irregular heart beat. translation: he continues to be hospitalised in the intermediate care unit, which is also the critical care unit. it has
also the critical care unit. it has also been determined that he will continue to be hospitalised, undergoing treatment so he can be com pletely undergoing treatment so he can be completely stabilised. during his decade in power, he oversaw a successful campaign against ultra— left—wing rebels, but his methods we re left—wing rebels, but his methods were brutal and sometimes illegal, including kidnappings and killings of activists. survivors have not forgiven him. translation: this is a pardon of human rights violations without acknowledging the gravity of those crimes. it acknowledges impunity and deepens the pain that we feel. president kuczynski says he ordered the pardon on humanitarian grounds, but came up two days after an attempt to impeach him for corruption. he survived after supporters of a party led by alberto fujimori's daughter abstained.
critics say a dodgy deal was done. three mps and now the minister of culture have resigned from the governing party, but the prime minister is playing down the controversy. translation: these are decisions of conscience and i respect them. however i want to emphasise that several of those who have resigned have been completely loyal to the president and to me, but i understand their position. this is unlikely to be the end. a cabinet reshuffle is expected and fresh street protests have been called for thursday. electoral authorities in liberia say initial results from the presidential run—off vote will be published on thursday. the former international footballer george weah is taking on the country's vice presidentjoseph boakai. the result is expected to lead to the first democratic transfer of power in liberia for more than seventy years. umaru fofana reports from monrovia. election staff and iberia count the
results in a painstaking process of. they have received results from each polling station around the country, which they are putting together, finding them and collating those figures for this county. it is happening all across the country in every county. it is only when they are finished doing this at the announcement of the result will happen. national election commission officials say final results will be announced before the end of the week but already some are graduating. here at the headquarters of the cdc opposition party, the mood is ecstatic. supporters are in a jubilant mood because we are already aware of the results. we know our result from how room. it is in sharp
contrast to what is obtained here. this is the central office of the governing party. the few people who are here are wearing long faces. but one of the youth leaders is upbeat and insists they are winning. we have a tactical team on the field and getting results. are you winning? absolutely. as the waiting continues, wide hearings have reasons to pat themselves on the back. with this election, they have for the first time since 1944 set the stage for one of the critically elected president to succeed and other. a civil society coalition of over 1200 observers is analysing results from all over the country. we use these figures to have a minimum picture of what is unfolding, we are very much relu cta nt to unfolding, we are very much reluctant to not begin to predict the. because we don't know what figures may be coming from all
opposing places that we do not observe and we don't want to be making statements that are not official. green means the data has arrived, they are filling up. but it will be for the intellectual commission to announce a final result of liberia's presidential election. barack 0bama has issued a warning about the irresponsible use of social media. in an interview with the bbc, by britain's prince harry, the former us president said such actions were distorting people's understanding of complex issues. the prince and the president didn't just discuss politics and social media. they also took time to tackle some of the big questions. let's have a listen. clips from the interview are proving very popular on the bbc news website. there is a much longer version they're. thank you for watching. ——
there. if you are out and about early this thursday morning, bear in mind that conditions could be slippery out there. frost and ice to contend with where we had wintry weather during wednesday and that cleared away. then the sky cleared overhead and thursday starts off with the risk of ice. there are still wintry showers exacerbating the risk across some northern and western areas. freezing fog developing across parts of northern ireland as well perhaps, and if that fog develops it could linger through the day. for most of us, thursday is a cracking day. plenty of sparkling winter sunshine. a closer look at three o'clock in the afternoon. despite the sunshine through the midlands, central southern england, temperatures will only reach three degrees, possibly hitting five in london. kent into east anglia, a much drier day with a lot of sunshine. fine for the bulk of northern england. a few showers drifting across north—west england, fading as the day goes on. sunshine across much of scotland
butjust a couple of degrees. wintry showers still in the far north. any fog that develops early across northern ireland could stick through to the end of the day. sunny skies for the most part. fine for much of wales and for the bristol area. somerset and dorset into devon. but for cornwall a change. cloud and outbreaks of patchy rain. it will not amount to much as we go on into thursday evening. thursday night will be another cold and frosty one for the majority. the odd fog patch as well. but then things begin to change from the west. rain sliding in from the atlantic, running into that cold air and that could temporarily give snow to northern ireland, wales, the midlands and during friday proper, northern england and southern scotland could see some snow, even to fairly low levels. still a lot to play for with the details on that and we will keep you posted and up—to—date. to the north of the weather system is still cold and to the south is much milder.
10 degrees there in the far south—west. as we go on into the weekend, that mild weather will increasingly make its presence felt. the frontal system bringing rain and perhaps some hill snow in the north through the early part of saturday and then once it clears we are left with fairly brisk and mild south—westerly wind. some showery rain, spells of sunshine as well. mild in the south but still cold air holding on further north. that mild airedging northwards as we enter sunday. still some showery rain and spells of sunshine as well. that is all from me. bye for now. this is bbc news, the headlines: the government in ukraine and rebels, backed by russia, have completed one of the biggest prisoner exchanges since the conflict began nearly four years ago. the red cross says more than 230 people have now crossed a checkpoint back to rebel—held territory. more than 40 doctors, nurses and firefighters from the uk are making their way to bangladesh to help thousands of rohingya refugees at risk from a rapid and deadly
outbreak of diphtheria. there are nearly 1500 suspected cases and 20 reported deaths from the airborne disease. in syria, the first critically—ill patients have been evacuated from a rebel—held suburb near damascus. in total, 29 are being taken out of eastern ghouta under a deal with the government. aid groups had urged president assad to allow treatment for urgent cases, including seven children with cancer. now on bbc news, it's time for hardtalk.