World Tour: Prisoner swap in Ukraine and fires in Australia

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Protest leaders released in Nicaragua—We start today in Central America.

The Nicaraguan government freed 91 protesters on Monday in what it called a goodwill gesture.

AUDIO: [Nicaraguan protesters]

While they celebrated their freedom, many of the activists said they would continue their fight to have President Daniel Ortega removed from office.

The largely student-led protests started in April 2018 over a social security overhaul. But they spread to include demands for Ortega to step down. The government suppressed the protests with violence, and more than 300 people died. Three months later, Ortega’s government passed a controversial anti-terrorism law that allows his regime to arrest democracy protesters as terrorists.

Critics accuse Ortega of running a repressive dictatorship. He has held power since 2007, and his current term in office runs through 2021.

Ukrainian prisoner swap—Next we got to Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed home 76 people freed by Russian-backed separatists in a prisoner swap on Sunday.

AUDIO: [Zelensky]

The swap included 200 prisoners in all. Ukraine freed detained separatists and got soldiers, civilians, and journalists in return.

Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin negotiated the exchange in December. It’s part of a wider peace plan to end fighting in the eastern Donetsk region.

International leaders hailed the progress toward ending the conflict. But Zelensky faces criticism at home for including five riot policemen in the exchange. They are accused of killing 100 protesters shot during the 2014 uprising that forced the pro-Russian government from power.

Chinese scientist sentenced to prison—Next to China.

The scientist who claimed to be the first to genetically modify human embryos will spend the next three years in jail.

A Chinese court sentenced He Jiankui for illegal medical practice. He also faces nearly $500,000 dollars in fines.

During a forum last year in Hong Kong, the scientist defended his work.

HE: And also for this specific case, I feel proud, actually. I feel proudest.

But the international scientific community denounced the experiment as dangerous and unnecessary. And the Chinese government opened an investigation amid the outcry.

He Jiankui initially announced the birth of twin girls genetically modified to prevent them from contracting HIV. In reports about his sentence, state-run media confirmed the birth of a third child with altered DNA.

Australia endures worst day in brush fire crisis—And finally, we end today in Australia.

AUDIO: [Australian fires]

Thousands of people spent New Year’s Eve camped out on beaches as brushfires circled popular tourist areas along the south-eastern coast. The fires cut off all escape routes on land, forcing people to consider jumping into the ocean to avoid the flames.

Tuesday was the worst day yet in the country’s month-long brushfire crisis. The blazes were so intense they caused dry lightning storms in some places. Record-breaking heat and strong winds have made Australia’s annual fire season especially bad this year.

That’s this week’s World Tour. For WORLD Radio, I’m Onize Ohikere. reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks during an interview at his laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China’s Guangdong province. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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