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Russian envoy
2014.04.08 04:14:51

Those who want to return to Cold War times take upper hand in NATO

NATO representatives do not rule out that additional military forces, particularly a 4,500-strong brigade from the US military base Fort Hood, may be deployed in Eastern European countries

“A too harsh response to our questions over AWACS flights, double intensity of air patrolling over the Baltic states, intensification of military and aircraft activity at an airbase in the Polish city of Lask, assistance to “the government of winners” in Kiev exposes fully the architects of this campaign,” Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko told Kommersant daily, adding:

“It looks like someone in NATO really believes that the alliance is a source of political legitimacy [as NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in his recent speech] and therefore any NATO actions are correct by definition and cannot be discussed."

“This is a major misconception. Lessons of Kosovo, Iraq and Libya will not be forgotten.”

ITAR-TASS



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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Latvia bans Russian state TV broadcasts
2014.04.08 04:11:04

Latvia is joining Lithuania in banning Russian state television broadcasts because it found that several programs about the Ukraine crisis were tendentious and not in the Baltic nation's security interests.

A three-month suspension of broadcasts of all Rossiya RTR's programs begins April 8, following a decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council, the watchdog's spokeswoman Sanita Blomniece told The Associated Press on Monday.

The council said the decision was prompted by findings of the Latvian Security Police, which said events in Ukraine in several Rossiya reports last month were presented in a way that justified "military aggression against a sovereign state."

It also said they were "dominated by the view that despite international law, the president of the Russian Federation has every right to use the military in Ukraine to defend Russian speakers."

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow denounced the Latvian decision. Pnsyantin Dolgovsaid on Twitter called Latvia's ban "the latest attempt to censor inconvenient information and a violation of fundamental rights on access to mass media." [AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Latvia

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International assistance
2014.04.08 04:09:51

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his German counterpart on Monday that "international assistance" was needed in Ukraine to help carry out constitutional reform, his ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov told Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a telephone conversation that it was necessary "to take urgent efforts to organize international assistance for the soonest start of a national dialogue of all political forces and regions of Ukraine... in order to openly agree on a mutually acceptable constitutional reform."  [Reuters]



Tags: Germany | Russia | Ukraine

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US call Putin to stop destabilizing Ukraine
2014.04.08 04:08:19

The United States called Monday on Russia's President Vladimir Putin to stop destabilizing Ukraine, saying it was concerned about "several escalatory" moves over the weekend.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said:

We see them as the result of increasing Russian pressure on Ukraine. We call on President Putin and his government to cease efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Russia tells Ukraine to stop blaming it for problems
2014.04.08 03:35:59

Russia told the authorities in Kiev on Monday to stop blaming Moscow for Ukraine's problems after they accused President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating "separatist disorder" in the east and southeast.

"Stop ... blaming all the troubles of today's Ukraine on it (Moscow)," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It reiterated Russia's call for constitutional reform that would give Ukraine's regions more powers and said that Kiev could face more troubles, if ignored it.

"If irresponsible treatment of one's country, one's nation, by the political forces who call themselves the Ukrainian authorities continues, Ukraine will inevitably be facing new troubles and crises," it said.

Russia says that under the current constitution, the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine are violated.  [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Russian diplomats deny access to NATO headquarters
2014.04.08 03:35:01

NATO says it will deny access to NATO headquarters to Russian diplomats over Ukraine. Only Russian ambassador to NATO, his deputy and two support staff will be allowed in, Reuters news agency reports.

"Should any other staff from the Russian mission require access for official business, standard visitor rules will apply. That means that the staff member will have to be announced, registered and escorted during their visits," NATO said in a statement.

The move came after NATO ministers decided last Tuesday to suspend all practical military and civilian cooperation with Russia.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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Germany worried of pro-Russian demonstrators
2014.04.08 03:32:58

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday Berlin was watching events in the eastern Ukrainian cities Donetsk and Kharkiv closely after irate activists occupied government buildings there on Sunday.

On Monday, the demonstrators proclaimed independence from Kiev and vowed to hold a referendum on joining Kremlin rule.

Seibert told reporters:

We in the German government have been observing recent events in Donetsk and Kharkiv with a great deal of concern. We must renew our urgent call to work toward the stability of the region so that such flare-ups can be avoided.

Meanwhile, Seibert said Berlin was "disappointed" there was no "verifiable" sign of a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from a sensitive border region with Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin announced during a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week.

"Of course we are not the only ones waiting for such urgently needed confidence-building measures to become apparent," he said, adding that a troop withdrawal from the region would mark a "step toward deescalation".

Seibert said that Germany was nevertheless committed to "dialogue" with Russia "with the aim of rapprochement, diplomacy and deescalation". [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Germany

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Russian-speaking industrial heartland
2014.04.08 03:30:46

Kiev said the overnight seizure of public buildings in three cities in eastern Ukraine's mainly Russian-speaking industrial heartland were a replay of events in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized and annexed last month.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in public remarks to his cabinet:

An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation ...under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country. We will not allow this.

"I appeal to the people and the elites of the east: Our common responsibility is to preserve the country and I am sure that no one wants to be under a neighbouring country," he said. " We have our country. Let's keep it."

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Pro-Russians say east Ukraine region independent
2014.04.08 02:53:53

Pro-Russian separatists who seized a provincial administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk proclaimed the region an independent republic in a move echoing the run-up to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Interfax news agency said on Monday that the activists demanded that a referendum be held no later than May 11 on the breaking away of the Donetsk region, which borders Russia.

In footage uploaded to the Internet, an unidentified pro-Russia activist in the provincial government headquarters in Donetsk asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to send peacekeeping troops to the region.

"Without your support, without the support of Russia, it will be hard for us to resist the Kiev junta on our own,'' he said, referring to the interim authorities that took power after the overthrow of Moscow backed President Viktor Yanukovych in February. [AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Food parcels
2014.04.08 02:51:26

The United Nations has been forced to cut the size of food parcels for those left hungry by Syria's civil war by a fifth because of a shortage of funds from donors, a senior official said on Monday.

Nevertheless, the United Nations' World Food Program managed to get food to a record 4.1 million people inside Syria last month, WFP deputy executive director Amir Abdulla told a news conference, just short of its target of 4.2 million.

As the humanitarian crisis within Syria intensifies, its neighbors are also groaning under the strain of an exodus of refugees that now totals around 3 million, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

We know that this tragedy, together with the tragedy of the people displaced inside the country, 6.5 million, now shows that almost half of the Syrian population is displaced.

Donor countries pledged $2.3bn for aid agencies helping Syria at a conference in Kuwait in January, but only $1.1bn has been received so far, including $250m handed over by Kuwait on Monday, UN officials said.

Guterres's office needs more than $1.6bn to fund fully its operations this year in response to the crisis, but has received only 22 percent to date, a UNHCR statement said.



Tags: Syria

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Pro-Russia protesters clash with opponents in Ukraine's second city
2014.04.08 02:49:26

Vastly outnumbered, a small group of pro-European protesters were ordered to their knees on the streets of Ukraine's eastern city of Kharkiv on Sunday for a humiliating ritual.

"Crawl to your Europe!" shouted members of a heaving pro-Russian crowd who had grabbed the group in unclear circumstances after a day of peaceful rival protests in the city which, only 40 kilometers from the Russian border, has been torn in two by an East-West tug-of-war over Ukraine's future.

The baying mob shoved and chanted "Kharkiv is a Russian city!" as they harried their terrified prey, crawling on their knees down the steep cobbled street, protected by riot police who formed a corridor around them but did little to stop the spectacle.

Spat on, kicked and abused, the men were eventually bundled into a waiting police van. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Egyptian police arrested a top aide to al-Qaida chief
2014.04.08 02:48:03

Egyptian security officials say police have arrested a top aide to al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri in a Nile Delta city and are interrogating him.

The officials say Tharwat Salah Shehata was caught in an apartment in the 10th of Ramadan district of the city of Sharqiya. Officials said he has been training militants in eastern Libya, a hub of extremist Islamist militia
groups. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Shehata, a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group that assassinated former President Anwar Sadat in 1981, was sentenced to death for an assassination attempt on a former prime minister in the 1990s. In 2001, his group merged with al-Qaida.

Shehata is listed by the United Nations as an al-Qaida affiliate. [AP]



Tags: Egypt

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Assad: Tell Putin that I am no Yanukovich
2014.04.08 02:28:27

A former Russian prime minister who recently met Bashar al-Assad said Monday the Syrian president told him he would not flee like the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.

"The Syrian president told me:

Tell Putin that I am no Yanukovich and that I will not go

Sergei Stepashin told reporters in Moscow after meeting the Syrian president last week. Stepashin, who served a brief stint as prime minister in 1999, said Assad also told him that he expected much of the fighting to be over by the end of this year.

"Within this year the active phase of military action in Syria will be over," Stepashin quoted Assad as saying.

"Afterwards we will be forced to switch to what we've been doing all the time: fighting terrorists and suicide bombers."

Stepashin said he met Assad in one of his residences.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria | Russia

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Czech Republic calls for NATO troop deployment
2014.04.08 02:25:16

"If Russia decides to extend its territorial expansion to eastern Ukraine, the fun is over," Milos Zeman, president of the Czech Republic, told public Czech Radio.

"In that case, I would promote not only the toughest EU sanctions possible, but also let's say military readiness on the part of NATO, for instance with its troops entering the Ukrainian territory," he added.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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Egyptian appeals court upheld convictions
2014.04.08 02:24:04

An Egyptian appeals court on Monday upheld convictions and three-year prison sentences handed down to three of the country's most prominent political activists, a ruling that is likely to revive opposition to a draconian protest law they were accused of violating.

It is also certain to deepen the rift between Egypt's liberal and secular pro-democracy campaigners _ many of whom participated in the 2011 popular uprising against Hosni Mubarak _ and the current military-backed government.

The ongoing campaign against dissent and pro-democracy activists has been overshadowed by a much larger crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood group and other Islamists. That push has led to the death of hundreds and the jailing of at least 16,000 people since the July ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.

The ruling sparked a storm of anger on social media networks, with dozens of activists calling for a sit-in outside the presidential palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. The wife of Ahmed Douma, one of the three activists, wrote on her Twitter account that she was headed there. Douma suffers from stomach ulcer and has complained in past court hearings that he was not being properly treated in jail.

The three activists _ Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel and Douma _ were leading figures in Egypt's 2011 popular uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Mubarak. [AP]



Tags: Egypt | Muslim Brotherhood | Mohamed Morsi

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Vatican voices shock over priest's killing in Syria
2014.04.08 02:22:13

The Vatican on Monday voiced outrage over the killing of Dutch priest Frans van der Lugt in Syria's central city of Homs, saying he had been "a man of peace".

"According to his companions, he was taken away by two gunmen who beat him and then killed him with two shots to the head," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

"This is the death of a man of peace, who showed great courage in remaining loyal to the Syrian people despite an extremely risky and difficult situation," he said.

Van der Lugt spent nearly five decades in Syria, and told AFP in February that he considered the country to be his home.

He gained renown for insisting on staying on in besieged Homs despite daily shelling and dwindling supplies.

A Jesuit, Father Frans arrived in Syria in 1966 after spending two years in Lebanon studying Arabic.

"In this moment of great pain, we also express our great pride and gratitude at having had a brother who was so close to the suffering," Lombardi said.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria | Vatican

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Avakov vowed to restore order
2014.04.08 02:20:46

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov vowed to restore order in eastern Ukraine without using violence and also accused Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, whose political base was in Donetsk, of conspiring with Putin to fuel tensions.

"Putin and Yanukovich ordered and paid for the latest wave of separatist disorder in the east of the country. The people who have gathered are not many but they are very aggressive," Avakov said in a statement on his Facebook page.

"The situation will come back under control without bloodshed. That is the order to law enforcement officers, it's true. But the truth is that no one will peacefully tolerate the lawlessness of provocateurs." [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Assad is no longer in danger of falling
2014.04.07 03:41:06

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah group says that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is no longer in danger of falling.

Hassan Nasrallah said in interview with Lebanon's daily As-Safir newspaper that the danger of the Syrian government's "fall has ended." Excerpts of the interview were published Sunday by Lebanon's official National News Agency.

The full interview will appear in the newspaper's Monday edition.



Tags: Syria | Lebanon | Hezbollah

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29 people killed in Homs
2014.04.07 03:39:47

At least 29 people were killed, most or all of them believed to be rebels, in the besieged Old City of Homs when a car bomb exploded, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

"The death toll is likely to rise because there are dozens of people missing and body parts in the area of the blast," the Britain-based group said on Sunday.

Read the full report here.



Tags: Syria

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Syrian refugee camp in Jordan
2014.04.07 03:37:24

The United Nations says it is alarmed at "violent nature" of a demonstration in a massive Syrian refugee camp in Jordan that killed one person and wounded dozens.

The UN refugee agency says a "heated demonstration" in Jordan's sprawling Zaatari refugee camp Saturday turned to "a violent one" after hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees started throwing rocks at a police post.

The agency said Sunday that the protest started over a refugee family being held there after police detained them and a driver who tried to smuggle them out of the camp.

Read UNHCR statement here.



Tags: Syria | Jordan

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