World this week
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought Western support for his country in surprise visits to Britain and France on Wednesday (Feb. 8), pushing for fighter jets to battle Russian invaders in a dramatic speech to the U.K. Parliament, and then flying to Paris to meet the French and German leaders over dinner at the Elysee Palace. Then on Thursday, Zelenskyy joined EU leaders at a summit in Brussels, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a "signal of European solidarity and community."
Zelenskyy's European tour and pleas for more advanced weapons came as Ukraine braced for an expected Russian offensive and hatched its own plans to retake land held by Moscow's forces. Western support has been key to Kyiv's surprisingly stiff defence, and the two sides are engaged in grinding battles. Zelenskyy thanked the British people for their support since "Day One" of Moscow's invasion nearly a year ago, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said fighter jets were "part of the conversation" about aid to Ukraine.
More than 200 prisoners jailed by Nicaragua's authoritarian regime during a ferocious two-year political crackdown were freed and flown to the United States. The released prisoners include key members of Nicaragua's political opposition such as the former presidential candidates Cristiana Chamorro and Arturo Cruz. Also on the plane was the opposition activist Félix Maradiaga, who was detained in June 2021 in the lead-up to a presidential election later that year.
The crackdown began as Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, moved to obliterate any challenge to their Sandinista government before the November presidential election. Over the following months scores of opponents were thrown in jail before Ortega - a former revolutionary icon who has been in power since 2007 - won another five-year term in an election the US claimed had been "rigged". Washington praised what is reportedly one of the biggest such releases it has ever negotiated, with a state department spokesperson calling the move "positive and welcome".
Armed government officials with Brazil's justice, Indigenous and environment ministries pressed illegal gold miners out of Yanomami Indigenous territory, citing widespread river contamination, famine and disease they have brought to one of the most isolated groups in the world. People involved in illegal gold dredging streamed away from the territory on foot. The operation could take months. There are believed to be some 20,000 people engaged in the activity, often using toxic mercury to separate the gold.
An estimated 30,000 Yanomami people live in Brazil's largest Indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and stretches across the Roraima and Amazonas states in the northwest corner of Brazil's Amazon. The authorities - the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama, with support from the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples and the National Guard - found an airplane, a bulldozer, and makeshift lodges and hangars, and destroyed them - as permitted by law.
North Korea held its largest display ever of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), that analysts say could potentially pose a challenge to the US's missile defence system. About a dozen long-range ICBMs were shown at Wednesday's (Feb. 8) military parade. Leader Kim Jong-un was seen at the midnight parade with his young daughter elevated to his side. Kim Ju-ae's appearance has fuelled speculation she's being positioned as the successor.
The number of long-range missiles shown in the parade has prompted concern. Analysts say such a number of the missiles - some of which can in theory make it as far as the US mainland - could potentially overwhelm US missile defences if a sufficiently large number carrying warheads were fired in quick succession. Also on display was a new ICBM launcher which appears designed to accommodate a solid-fuel missile, which can be launched more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles. North Korean state media did not provide detail, but said such an arsenal demonstrated the country's "mighty war deterrence and counterattack capabilities".
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