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Syrian army seizes towns near Lebanon border
2014.04.15 01:14:38

Regime forces take rebel-held towns of Sarkha and Maaloula as they seek to cut their supply lines across the border.

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Tags: Syria | Lebanon

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US accuses Russia of orchestrating violence
2014.04.15 01:13:03

The US has accused Russia of orchestrating ongoing separatist violence in Ukraine, as Kiev said it was preparing a "full-scale" operation against pro-Russian forces which have overrun municipalities in several eastern cities.

To read the full story click here.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Rampant use of torture
2014.04.15 01:11:04

The UN's top human rights official has condemned the "rampant use of torture" in detention facilities in Syria.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Monday that her office has documented a "broad pattern of torture and ill-treatment" in government facilities as well as some run by rebel groups.

The report draws on detailed testimony from victims and witnesses, Pillay added. The abuses include rape, beatings and burnings, sometimes leading to death. [AP]



Tags: Syria

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Student shot dead
2014.04.15 01:10:13

A student was shot dead Monday during clashes between supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi and police in Cairo University, security officials said.

Clashes erupted when student supporters of Morsi staged protests on university grounds, the officials said, adding that police fired tear gas at from outside the campus and arrested 13 demonstrators.

Clashes were also reported in the University of Zagazig, north of Cairo, where three students were wounded and three were arrested.

Student backers of Morsi have regularly protested on university campuses as a police crackdown on the ousted leader's supporters has weakened their ability to stage large street protests.

A journalist was wounded while covering the clashes in Cairo University, his employer and witnesses said.

Youm 7, an independent newspaper, said Khaled Hussein was shot in the chest.

[AFP]



Tags: Egypt | Muslim Brotherhood | Mohamed Morsi

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Christian hamlet of Maalula
2014.04.15 01:09:07

Syrian regime forces retook the ancient Christian hamlet of Maalula in Damascus province on Monday, four months after mainly Islamist rebels overran it, a security official told AFP news agency.

"The army has taken full control of Maalula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamun," the official said, referring to the region in which Maalula is located.

The recapture comes after a string of successes of the regime in the strategic Qalamun region, including the seizure of the former rebel bastion of Yabrud last month. [AFP]



Tags: Syria

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Egyptian journalists shot
2014.04.15 01:08:10

The Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper is reporting that two Egyptian journalists were shot and injured while covering clashes at Cairo University between security forces and students.

One student was killed during the Monday clashes, local media said.



Tags: Egypt

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Sisi submitted his bid to run for president
2014.04.15 00:51:01

Egypt's ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday officially submitted his bid to run for president, with his lawyer handing over the required documents to the authorities, a spokesman said.

The 59-year-old had declared his intention to run for president in late March.

"Lawyer Abu Shoqa submitted the required documents on behalf of Sisi that include endorsements by citizens, medical reports, and an application for his candidacy," Ahmed Kamel told AFP news agency.

Under Egyptian law, candidates hoping to run for president need to collect at least 25,000 signatures.

"Sisi has already received more than 460,000 signatures from citizens across the country endorsing his candidacy," said Kamel.

The electoral commission is to announce the final field of candidates on May 2, and official campaigning starts a day later
.
[AFP]



Tags: Egypt | Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

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Improvised chlorine bomb
2014.04.15 00:49:09

Syrian opposition activists have posted photographs and video that they say shows an improvised chlorine bomb to back up claims that President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemical weapons in two attacks last week.

Rebels and the government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama, 201 km north of Damascus.

Both sides said chlorine gas - a deadly agent widely used in World War I - had been used. The gas, which has industrial uses, is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.

It is a so-called dual-use chemical, which would have to be declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a spokesman said. [Reuters]



Tags: Syria

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Power echoing State Department statement
2014.04.15 00:40:46


It appears Power was echoing a State Department statement issued earlier, entitled "Evidence of Russian Support for Destabilization of Ukraine".

"Many of the militants were outfitted in bullet-proof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed and carrying Russian-origin weapons.

"These operations bear many similarities to those that were carried out in Crimea in late February and culminated in Russia's illegal military intervention and purported annexation of Crimea.

"The events of April 12 strongly suggest that in eastern Ukraine, Russia is now using the
same tactics that it used in Crimea in order to foment separatism, undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, and exercise control over its neighbor in contravention of Russia's obligations under international law.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/04/224762.htm



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Ukraine's interim president blames Russia
2014.04.15 00:36:56

Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's interim president, blames Russia for violence in the east of his country and says a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" will be launched against pro-Russian armed groups.

Gunmen remain in control of government buildings in a number of eastern towns and cities.

Turchynov said pro Russian groups have until Monday to lay down their weapons.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Statement of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
2014.04.15 00:35:43

In the eastern regions of Ukraine, the Russian special service and saboteurs embarked on the large-scale separatist operations to seize power, destabilize the situation threatening the lives of citizens of Ukraine, as well as the separation of the regions of our country.

In order to protect the lives of people, territorial integrity and security of the State, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine has decided to launch an anti-terrorist operation against those who attempt to destroy our country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has all the necessary concrete evidence of the involvement of the Russian special service into the separatist revolt and capture of state institutions in the eastern regions of Ukraine. The relevant information and evidence will be presented to the international community at the meeting on April 17 in Geneva.



Tags: Ukraine

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UN Security Council on Ukraine
2014.04.15 00:24:02

The UN Security Council has called an emergency meeting at Russia's request to discuss the growing crisis in Ukraine.

Russia's UN mission sent a text message to reporters saying a closed meeting of the Security Council would begin at 8 pm on Sunday (0000 GMT). The Russian mission said it had requested the meeting.

The President of the Security Council confirmed in an email that members have been invited to attend "informal consultations" on Ukraine on Sunday evening.

The meeting comes as the new Ukrainian government declared it would deploy armed forces to quash an increasingly bold pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian special forces exchanged gunfire with a pro-Russia militia in an eastern city on Sunday morning, with at least one security officer killed and five others wounded. [AP]



Tags: Ukraine

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Ukraine's ousted president blames CIA
2014.04.15 00:22:39

Ukraine's ousted president has accused the CIA of being behind the new Ukrainian government's decision to deploy armed forces to quash an increasingly brazen pro-Russian insurgency.

Speaking late on Sunday on Russian state television, Viktor Yanukovich claimed that CIA director John Brennan had met with Ukraine's new leadership and "in fact sanctioned the use of weapons and provoked bloodshed."

There was no independent confirmation that Brennan was in Ukraine or in any way involved in the decision to send troops to eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia men have seized a number of government buildings. [AP]

Yanukovich also told journalists referring to the events in the eastern city of Slovyansk:

Blood was spilt today. Now our country finds itself in a totally new situation - with one foot in the door of a civil war. The Kiev junta has issued a criminal order to use armed forces and the army against the protesters. During my time in Kiev, we never used such methods against radicals or extremists.

[Russia Today]

Yanukovich is blamed for authorizing Berkut riot police to shoot at anti-government protesters in the Independence Square of Kiev during anti-government demonstrations that ousted him in February.



Tags: Ukraine

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Russia's Foreign Ministry
2014.04.14 03:14:21

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that an announcement by the authorities in Kiev that they will mobilize the army to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine was a "criminal order".

The ministry said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine's government under control. "It is now the West's responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine," it said in a statement posted on Facebook.

It also said that Russia would put an urgent discussion of the situation in eastern Ukraine on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.

The statement said:

The situation in southeastern Ukraine is taking on an extremely dangerous character. The authorities in Kiev, who put themselves in power as a result of a coup d'etat, have set a course to use force to put down popular protests.

"We decisively condemn attempts to use brute force against protesters and activists ... We are particularly indignant about the criminal order of (Ukrainian Acting President Oleksander Turchinov) to use the army to put down protest."

The statement said the West had sponsored the rulers in Kiev and should now "rein in its out-of-control proteges, force them to distance themselves from neo-Nazis and other extremists, stop using armed force against the Ukrainian people, and immediately start a genuine dialogue". [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Full-scale anti-terrorist operation
2014.04.14 03:12:25

Ukraine's authorities plan to launch a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" involving the army against pro-Russian separatists, acting president Oleksander Turchinov said on Sunday in a televised address to the nation.

Turchinov said Russia was waging a war against Ukraine by sowing disorder in the east of the country, but he offered not to prosecute any militants who gave up their weapons by Monday morning. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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US ambassador to the United Nations
2014.04.14 03:11:08

The US ambassador to the United Nations said Sunday that reports of a poison gas attack in a rural village north of Damascus were so far "unsubstantiated," adding that the United States was trying to establish what really happened before it considers a response.

Both sides in Syria's civil war blamed each other for the alleged attack that reportedly injured scores of people Friday amid an ongoing international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons.

"We are trying to run this down," said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

So far it's unsubstantiated, but we've shown, I think, in the past that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response.



Tags: Syria | United States

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EU High Representative Catherine Ashton
2014.04.14 03:09:41

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton discussed the situation in Eastern Ukraine in a statement published on Sunday:

I am gravely concerned about the surge of actions undertaken by armed individuals and separatist groups in various cities of Eastern Ukraine, who have seized in the last 24 hours police stations and branches of the Ministry of Interior and erected check points around the city of Slavyansk.

Ashton said the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission would continue to play a crucial role in actively observing and reporting about these developments and "thus contributing to prevent a further escalation of the situation.

She reiterated the EU's "strong support for Ukraine's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" and called upon Russia to do so as well.

To this end, the Russian Federation is urged to call back its troops from the Ukrainian border and to cease any further actions aimed at destabilizing Ukraine.

Ashton also urged the Ukrainian authorities "for pursuing their law and order operations in a measured way, in order to establish the authority of the state".

She also expressed hope that a meaningful dialogue would start in Geneva on April 17, when Ukraine, Russia, the EU and the United States are due to meet for talk



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | European Union | Catherine Ashton

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Syrian warplanes
2014.04.14 03:06:34

Syrian warplanes on Sunday launched a fierce offensive against a string of opposition bastions on the edges of the capital, including the besieged Eastern Ghouta area, a monitoring group said.

"Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma" northeast of Damascus, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that "at least five people including one child were killed and several others injured".

One of the strikes on Douma, an opposition stronghold since early in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, hit a crowded marketplace, said the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of activists on the ground.

Douma and other towns and villages in Eastern Ghouta have been under army siege for a year.

The Observatory also reported air strikes against Hammuriyeh east of Damascus, and highly destructive barrel bomb attacks on Daraya, an opposition bastion southwest of the capital.

The air raids came as fighting raged on the edges of Daraya pitting rebels against the army, which for more than a year has waged a bitter campaign aimed at securing the capital.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria

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Military-Political Research Center in Ukraine
2014.04.14 03:04:35

Dmirty Tymchuk, director of Military-Political Research Center in Ukraine, says on his Facebook page:

There are about 600 people of the main forces of extremists in Slavyansk. Besides special forces of the Russian Federation, about 500 members of different movements of Donbass are also active in the city, they arrived there and split into 2 big groups. A group of 200 people is being controlled by representatives of one of the oligarchs. The second group of about 300 people is run by representatives of one of the mafia bosses. The whole action is being coordinated by Russian Intelligence.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad
2014.04.14 02:33:35

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday the three-year war tearing the country apart is turning in the government's favor, state television reported.

This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army's achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country.

The television quoted Assad as saying.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria | Bashar al-Assad

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