this is bbc world news. i'm mike embley. our top stories: the us imposes sanctions on two men it claims are "key leaders" of north korea's ballistic missile programme. counting is under way in the run—off presidential election in liberia. a fireworks display in cuba goes horribly wrong — doctors fear for the lives of some of the injured. brazil retaliates for venezuela's expulsion of its envoy, claiming political interference. snowed under — a christmas storm dumps record amounts on some north american states but it's not fun and games for everyone. the united states has announced sanctions on two officials who are developing north korea's ballistic missile programme. in a statement, the us treasury named the men, on the left, ri pyong—chol, and on the right, kimjong—sik. treasury secretary steve mnuchin
added, "treasury is targeting leaders of north korea's ballistic missile programmes, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate north korea and achieve a fully denuclearised korean peninsula." pyong chol is believed to be one of the top people in charge of the controversial programme. kimjong sik is thought to be behind the work to switch from liquid to solid fuel. new united nations sanctions were introduced last friday in response to north korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test in november. ijust spoke with dr balbina hwang, visiting professor at georgetown university's centre for security studies. she explained what effect, if any, these sanctions are likely to have. well, we have to remember that there are un security council sanctions as well is unilateral sanctions and these latest sanctions levied by the united states government are targeting individuals. these are really symbolic
more than anything else. they are a very important part of president tom's maximum pressure on north korea but they will have little practical effect because it is only about us jurisdiction and it is unlikely either of these two men at any assets, certainly in their name, or any property in the united states. the broader problem is that china and north korea and russia want to see the us off the peninsula altogether so at least china and russia will continue their support for pyongyang. certainly they will. the un security council sanctions are important because it sends a strong unified message but it is a very subtle and possibly a triple layered game that is being played. this is in the context of quite a lot of disorder and chaos in the united nations itself with the united states isolated on many other global issues. if that china, russia,
north korea and to some extent south korea are on the same page, and an alignment between us and japan, how will that play out? the united states and south korea and japan are all firmly on the same side. the president of south korea has made absolutely certain that he is fully behind these sanctions and also wants to increase the pressure but at the same time, he is talking about wanting a peaceful solution and frankly so, as has the trump administration. they've made this point repeatedly. it does seem that the north korean leadership is not suicidal. it doesn't want war but it has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, it seems. will the world have to get used to an a nuclear armed north korea? the thing here is the global non—proliferation regime and north korea is testing this but if we do accept north korea
as a de facto legitimate nuclear power, that means essentially iran, perhaps syria and many other countries could break away so we have a much greater global concern here. professor, thank you very much for talking to us. the international committee of the red cross says the evacuation of critical medical cases has begun from eastern ghouta in syria. the suburb near damascus has been under rebel control. almost 400,000 people there are besieged by forces loyal to president assad. the united nations had pleaded with him to allow the evacuation of patients who would die without medical care. there's plenty more information about the war in syria — as well as other top stories — on our website. just head to bbc.com/news.
you can also download the bbc news app. a former minister in ivory coast — hubert 0ulaye — has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for complicity in the killing of 18 people — including 7 un peacekeepers. the attack took place in 2012, as ivory coast tried to recover from the violence that followed the presidential election two years earlier. lawyers for the former minister say they'll appeal. ajudge in argentina has ruled that a prosecutor who died hours before testifying against the former president, cristina fernandez de kirchner, was murdered. alberto nisman died in his flat nearly three years ago — the official investigation said
he'd committed suicide angry kosovans have hung hundreds of neckties on the fence outside government headquarters. prime minister ramush haradi—naj has sparked outrage by insisting he's justified in doubling his salary, because wearing smart clothes is part of hisjob. he passed a measure raising his salary from about $1800 a month to $3,500. a peruvian football official accused of taking bribes has been cleared by a jury in the us. manuel burga, who led football in peru until 2014, was accused of taking cash in exchange for marketing and media rights to matches. two other south american football officials were convicted by the same jury on friday. counting is under way in a runoff election to choose the next president of liberia. it is a straight fight between the current vice president, voting went peacefully with no reports of incidents. accompanied by his supporters, vice presidentjoseph boakai cast his ballot. he sounded confident. asked as to whether he would accept the results if he lost, he responded with a qualified yes. after that, a decision will be made. we are willing to work for whatever the final result is. for supporters of the former football superstar george weah, it looked like a victory dance
when he went to vote. the man who won in the first round sounded incandescently confident. i'm not associated with losing. today's victory is set, and i will win. boakai cannot win, and george weah can. ellen johnson won't. what happened cannot happen again. initial indications are that the run—off was better organised than the first round. materials arrived on time and there have been no complaints so far of multiple voting according to the main local observation group. turnout seemed low. it has been quiet here at this high school. election officials are nibbling around without a lot to do. they say there's been like this for most of the day. only one person has come here in the last 30 minutes to cast their vote. with a result expected this week, liberians are looking forward to the outcome.
this is the first time in over 70 years that this country has set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another. scenes of utter destruction are coming out from remote villages in the philippines, hammered by tropical storm tembin. homes were all but flattened in tugaya village, where 30 people died and 60 are missing in floods and mudslides. many local villagers were not evacuated in time. on average, the philippines is hit by around 20 typhoons each year. tembin battered the southern island of mindanao last friday, leaving at least 200 dead and around 70,000 homeless. it is really sad for us. even if we are working with people, rescuing them, it is not easy for us to accept the reality. vladimir putin has been formally
nominated by his supporters for re—election as russia's president. his main rival, alexei navalny, has been barred from standing. he has called for a boycott of the vote. mr putin is seeking a fourth term in office, and will run as an independent. from moscow, sarah rainsford reports. it was a big gathering of big names — athletes, musicians and filmmakers all here to nominate their candidate for president. absent from this presidential nomination was vladimir putin, apparently so confident of winning this election he did not turn up. that did not dampen the enthusiasm of his supporters. they voted unanimously to back mr putin for a fourth term. translation: our country has been transformed from a country that was destroyed and without future, into a really powerful state. their candidate, meanwhile, was here with children invited to a new year's party at the kremlin. this was vladimir putin
the benevolent. thinking of the future of his country. earlier, russian saw images of putin the powerful meeting his cabinet. here he told a boy that ruling a country like russia was not hard. but after 18 years of him doing just that, the kremlin is struggling to inject energy into this re—election race to ensure people come out to vote when everything is so predictable. this man is now planning to make their task even harder. alexei navalny calls himself the only real rival to vladimir putin but this week the popular anticorru ption campaigner was ruled out of the presidential race. he has a criminal conviction he says is politically motivated.
translation: it is not about me. it is about the fact that a candidate is needed who will finally come to the election and speak openly about everything that happens in our country now, who will describe our reality honestly. absence of prospects, poverty. i did that and that is why you don't want to let me take part in the election. so now, mr navalny is calling for a boycott of the whole process, to undermine its legitimacy. mr putin will not be too worried unless that boycott and any street protests really grow. otherwise, he is betting that his message of strength and stability and plenty more images like these will secure him another six years in power. video has emerged of a fireworks display going horribly wrong
at a popular festival in cuba. 39 people were hurt, including some children. doctors have some of the injured listed as "very grave" to "extremely critical." virginia langeberg has the story. the moment christmas celebrations sparked into terrifying chaos. fireworks are flying in all directions, what was intended as entertainment, ended up as a barrage of missiles. raining on spectators as they ran from the scene. people can be heard screaming during the harrowing video captured during a popular cuban carnival on christmas eve. the incident has left 39 people injured, including six children. of those taken to hospital, doctors say 20 are seriously injured, with some clinging to life. translation: we have six patients in extremely critical conditions, which is the most grave status of a burn victims. two are in very grave condition. the central town has this festival every christmas eve,
drawing thousands of tourists. all of the victims up to be locals. an investigation is thought to be under way into the cause of the explosion. stay with us on bbc world news. still to come: we meet a sea lion brushing up on a special skill as the new year approaches. we saw this enormous tidal wave approaching the beach, and people started to run, and suddenly it was complete chaos. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said the operation had been 90% successful but it's failed in its principal objective —
to capture general noriega and take him to the us to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day breaks slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan am's maid of the seas, nosedown in the soft earth. you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys high, a football pitch wide, falls from 30,000 feet. christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkoder glad to have you with us. this is bbc world news. the latest headlines: two north korean missile developers are hit with sanctions as efforts to curb the country's nuclear programme continue.
votes are being counted in liberia, where a presidential election run—off has been taking place between a former international football star, george weah, and the current vice president, joseph boakai. a british woman has been sentenced to three years in an egyptian prison. laura plummer was found guilty of smuggling drugs. she was arrested in october, carrying 290 tablets of the painkiller, tramadol in her suitcase. daniela relph reports. laura plummer‘s family and friends say she is naive, not a criminal. but today the 33—year—old shop workerfrom hull is beginning a three—year sentence injail in egypt. her mother, roberta, and her egyptian partner, 0mar caboo, have been at court to support her during the hearings this week. laura plummer had been travelling to the red sea resort of hurghada to visit 0mar in october when she was stopped by the authorities. in her suitcase were 290 tramadol tablets, a painkiller which is legal on prescription in britain, but banned in egypt. she said the tablets were for her partner, who suffers from severe back pain,
but she was arrested and has been held since then in a communal cell with up to 25 women. herfamily at home in hull have described today's sentence as horrendous. she's just a normal girl who works in hull. she just sells clothes, she comes home, she watches telly and she goes to bed. she doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke, she doesn't do anything. she lives to go to egypt. she loves egypt. she loves the egyptian people. she's in love with 0mar. we cannot believe this has happened to her. we are absolutely devastated. her supporters say she has been let down by the country she has loved. the foreign office says it will continue to provide support to laura and herfamily. it also says its embassy in egypt is in regular contact with the authorities there. this woman doesn't deserve to be incarcerated in an egyptian prison and, to be honest with you, as much as i respect the customs of egypt and the laws
and the judiciary and everything else, this will put people off travelling on holiday to egypt in the future, and i think the egyptian authorities need to be mindful of that. the egyptian legal system is complex. laura plummer will now appeal against the three—year sentence, a jail term her family say is shocking and unjust. daniela relph, bbc news. around 150 migrants are in a stand—off with police along the border between serbia and croatia. the group, who have set up an improvised camp, are demanding passage through croatia and other countries in the european union. shuba krishnan reports. migrants desperately plead for safe passage. chanting: please open the border! even women and children join the chorus. chanting: please help us! police dressed in riot gear refused to let them enter. both sides unrelenting. the migrants have set up an improvised camp. they have food, and water,
but what they really want is to find a new home. we don't want to stay here until we die. maybe they open the border and we can go. just, we want, go from serbia. we don't want food and water, we just want permission to cross this border. it is an all—too—familiar story in the region, with 11,500 migrants in camps across serbia. and many continue to arrive as smugglers test new routes into europe. the former president of peru, alberto fujimori, has asked peruvians to forgive him, just days after the current head of state pardoned him and freed him from jail, despite his conviction for corruption and human rights abuses. in a video posted online, mr fujimori said he had let people down when in power. translation: this has had
a strong impact on me. i have had mixed feelings of extreme joy and sorrow. i am aware that the results produced by my government were well received by some but i recognise that i have let others down. to them, i ask forgiveness from the bottom of my heart. brazil is expelling venezuela's top diplomat, just days after venezuela asked brazil's ambassador to leave. relations between the two neighbouring nations have deteriorated since michel temer took office in brazil last year, after dilma rousseff was impeached. leonardo rocha is americas editor of the bbc world service. he told me more about the spat. what is the latest? brazil decided to act three days after its own ambassador was expelled from venezuela. brazil said he is not welcome any more. he will have two leave the country. the whole crisis started on saturday when venezuelan decided to expel the top diplomats from brazil and canada on the same day. candour retaliated on monday with the same measure. —— canada.
relations have been bad. brazil in particular, the president, nicolas maduro, never recognised the government of michel temer, because dilma rousseff was a left—wing socialist president close to his government. they were building together oil pipelines to take venezuela's oil and gas to brazil. there was a strategic left—wing partnership in south america that has gone. so, the reason given by venezuelan to expel the ambassador is because he broke the constitutional rule of law by impeaching dilma rousseff. they say relations would not be mended until that is sorted which is possibly never, because dilma rousseff has that going on. it is a difficult issue.
it seems venezuela is completely isolating itself to be how important is this to trade? trade for venezuela is mainly oil, 98% of its income. and it is with the us. with brazil, it is a very important strategic relationship in south america. but what president nicolas maduro seems to be doing now is his pre—election, he is running for re—election next year, he is getting closer to his left—wing allies, mainly russia, cuba, bolivia, oil countries, and making a statement to those against him. brazil has been critical, canada, very critical, they are making it very clear they will not put up with that. a heavy snow storm on the island
of sakhalin in russia's far east has caused severe disruption. authorities have opened mobile "warming centres" for pedestrians, many of them forced to walk because public transport has all but ground to a halt. a pensioner is recovering in hospitalfrom being blown off a balcony. the airport and the ferry service with the mainland have been closed. and parts of the us are receiving a full dose of winter, with some northern states in a deep freeze. in pennsylvannia, one of the country's snowiest cities has declared a state of emergency, after smashing its highest ever daily snowfall record, by more than a foot. georgina smyth reports. winter whiteout. trees buckling under the snow, streets choked with ice. all the hallmarks of winter and then some, with a record—breaking snow dump of 53 inches — that's nearly 1.3 metres — in erie, pennsylvania. at four times the city's previous all—time christmas record, it is the snowiest day on record for what is already one of america's snowiest cities.
and the white stuff isn't making it easy for motorists. outside the city, it forced the festive traffic to a standstill on christmas day. officials have since declared a snow emergency, with some roads deemed dangerous and impassable. but for those at home with nowhere to go, there was only one thing to do. head out and enjoy the winter magic. scenes like this are likely to continue for several days, with the snow still falling thick and fast, erie could receive another foot of it in the next day. 0n the west coast, hopes for a white christmas were granted when seattle had its first snow in nine years. portland had its sixth since 1884. in boston, icy conditions sent a plane skidding down a taxiway. heavy snowfall put a freeze on arrivals and departures at logan
international for close to an hour. for most of us, christmas is now out of the way, next up, new year. but one special animal injapan is thinking a little further ahead — looking forward to the lunar new year. and this animal is trying to develop a special skill, in preparation. tim allman explains. meet mr chen, one of the stars of the show at this aquarium in yokohama. he's no ordinary sea lion. he has literary aspirations. with quite a bit of help from his trainer, he's trying his hand — or flipper — at calligraphy. that is something that sea lions have a natural gift for, apparently. translation: it is a very smart animal and can perform delicate movements, so he is good at doing this.
we want to practise more so he can perform cool drawings on new year's day. and what exactly has he been drawing? well, it's the symbol for a dog, the animal that will represent the new year in the chinese zodiac. his audience seemed fairly impressed. he still has a little time to practise. the lunar new year does not begin until february. tim allman, bbc news. don't forget, you can get in touch with me and some of the team on twitter. i'm at bbc mike embley. hello there.
some of us have already seen snow already this festive season. for a few more, we're starting wednesday on a wintry note. we have an area of low pressure. this swirl of cloud drifting northwards in the cold air. while the system is delivering rain, mixed in with that, sleet and snow drifting across southern and south—eastern areas to start the day. further north and west, especially, northern england, northern ireland, scotland, potential for icy stretches with clear skies through the night. through the day, scotland, northern ireland, western areas of england and wales, that will have the best of the sunshine. towards the south and east, struggling to improve through the day. skies improving for the likes of 0xfordshire and berkshire. but the london area will stay pretty cloudy. across kent, up into east anglia, here, outbreaks of rain sleet and snow mixed in right through the afternoon, coupled with a strong northerly wind. that combination could actually cause a little bit of disruption. but across northern england, and the heart of scotland, a fine and crisp
and cold sunny afternoon. some wintry showers filtering down into northern scotland. showers filtering into northern ireland. three degrees in belfast. a scattering of showers in wales. the west midlands and parts of the south—west as well. sunny spells in between. temperatures, four degrees in plymouth. a cold and fairly breezy day wherever you are. wednesday night, staying cold. temperatures widely dipping below freezing. again, that will lead to some icy stretches. still one or two showers in northern fringes particularly. temperatures close to freezing, perhaps below in some spots. thursday, this bump in the isobars, the ridge of high pressure, promising a decent day for many. yes, a cold and frosty start. but we will see some good spells of sunshine.
still some wintry showers in the north. then a change to the south—west. clouding over, with outbreaks of rain temporarily. snow on the leading edge, especially on the high ground. cold at this stage, six degrees at best. during friday these outbreaks of rain will slide northwards. a breezy day. but there'll be a lot of cloud, it'll often be windy, and there will be outbreaks of rain at times. this is bbc news. the headlines: the us has imposed sanctions on two north korean officials it says are "key leaders" in developing north korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programme. on friday, the un imposed new sanctions. analysts have told the bbc they are unlikely to be effective and are largely symbolic. pyongyang has described them as an "act of war". evacuation of critically ill patients in a besieged area
of syria has begun. it's understood four have been moved from eastern ghouta to a hospital in damascus — the first of 29 to be transported for medical treatment. the un has pleaded with the syrian government to allow about 500 to leave. votes are being counted in liberia, in the presidential election run—off between the former international football star, george weah, and the current vice president, joseph boakai. there are hopes for the first smooth transfer of power in 73 years. now on bbc news — hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm steven sackur.