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Upcoming meeting
2014.04.10 03:47:32

The United States said Tuesday it was going into an upcoming meeting with Russia, Europe and Ukraine on the crisis in the former Soviet republic with low expectations.

"I have to say that we don't have high expectations for these talks but we do believe it is very important to keep that diplomatic door open and will see what they bring," said Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European affairs.

US and EU diplomats have agreed with Russia to hold four-way negotiations involving Ukraine next week to de-escalate the worst European security crisis in decades.

An EU diplomat said the talks would likely be held on April 17 in Vienna. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday accused Moscow of sending agents into eastern Ukraine to stoke a secession crisis in ethnic Russian areas of the country. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Ukraine to pay for gas in advance
2014.04.10 03:46:22

President Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia's state-owned gas company could ask Ukraine to pay for gas in advance, according to Russian state news agencies.

In a meeting Wednesday with government ministers, Putin said that asking for advance payments "corresponded with the contract" between Ukraine and Russia, but asked that state energy giant Gazprom refrain from such drastic measures until "additional consultations" between both sides.

Russia has tightened the economic screws on Ukraine since its Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power in February after months of street protests.

Last week, Gazprom said it would be scrapping all discounts on gas to Ukraine, meaning a 70 percent price hike that will add to Ukraine's $2.2 billion in gas arrears. [AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation
2014.04.10 03:44:30

The United States Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is to meet in Washington to debate Ukraine.

The witness is Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. The US has recently stopped cooperating with Russia through organizations such as the G8 and even NASA because of the annexation of the peninsula.

Sanctions against senior Russian officials are also in place. President Obama has said that the next step, should Russia move further into Ukraine, would be harsher economic sanctions, even though that would begin to effect the worldwide economy, not just Russia’s.

Military action has been ruled out, even though the NATO commander in Europe says that the Russian Army have the capability to cross into eastern Ukraine and take key objectives within five days.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Al Jazeera's journalists
2014.04.10 03:43:06

Amnesty International urged Egypt on Wednesday to end the "vindictive" detention of Al Jazeera's journalists ahead of the trio’s latest trial hearing.

Al Jazeera English staff Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with five Egyptian students, stand accused of belonging to or assisting a banned terrorist organization -in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Their trial resumes on 10 April.

“What the Egyptian authorities are doing is vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director.

“So far, the Prosecution has failed to produce any convincing evidence and the journalists appear to be pawns in the hands of the authorities in their ongoing dispute with Qatar. The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”



Tags: Egypt | Al Jazeera

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Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group
2014.04.10 03:15:50

The US Department of State has announced the designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), according to a statement it posted on its website on Wednesday.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is an al-Qaeda-inspired armed group based in the eastern Sinai peninsula, and has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks that have rocked Egypt since the 2011 revolution, and spiked following the military-led coup.



Tags: Egypt | United States

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Democratic Dawn
2014.04.10 03:13:48

Al Badil newspaper, a Cairo-based private-owned publication, reported on Wednesday that members of presidential hopeful Abdel Fattah's el-Sisi's electoral campaign will launch a party called "Democratic Dawn" in support of the former defense minister and the country's army.



Tags: Egypt | Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

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Egyptian appeals court
2014.04.10 03:11:22

An Egyptian appeals court rejected Wednesday a request that new judges be appointed for two trials involving ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, judicial officials said.

The trials are part of a sweeping crackdown waged against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood since the army overthrew him in July, and the former president could face the death penalty if convicted.

The court is now expected to set a date for the resumption of each of the two trials involving jailbreak and espionage charges, the officials said.

Defense lawyers had requested that a new panel of judges examine both cases involving Morsi and Brotherhood figures, complaining about a soundproof glass cage in which the accused are held when the court is in session. [AFP]



Tags: Egypt | Muslim Brotherhood | Mohamed Morsi

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Egypt Independent report
2014.04.10 03:09:45

Egypt's private-run newspaper Egypt Independent reported on Wednesday that the cabinet will submit the new counter-terrorism draft law to the president for approval after it has been revised by the state council.

According to the publication, the draft bill's 86th article defines the  terrorist act as the use of force, violence, threats, or intimidation in order to disturb public order or endanger the safety, interests and security of the society, harming individuals, intimidating them, putting their lives, freedoms or security at risk, harming the national security, harming the environment, monuments, natural resources, money, buildings, public and private properties, occupying or seizing public and private properties, hindering the work of, activities or some of the activities of public authorities, judicial bodies, local units, houses of worship, hospitals, education institutions and institutes, regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions.



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Human rights violations by Syrian government
2014.04.10 03:07:32

Human rights violations by Syrian government forces "far outweigh" those by armed opposition groups, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Tuesday, prompting the Syrian UN envoy to accuse her of acting like an irresponsible "lunatic."

Pillay briefed the 15-member UN Security Council on the human rights situations in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and Libya. She again called for the situation in Syria, which has been ravaged by a three-year civil war, to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Pillay said monitors in her office and investigators with the UN commission of inquiry in Syria, led by Paulo Pinheiro, had consistently blamed both parties to the Syrian conflict for human rights violations "but you cannot compare the two."

"Clearly the actions of the forces of the government far outweigh the violations (by rebels)," Pillay told reporters.

It's the government that is mostly responsible for the violations and all these perpetrators should be identified and can if there's a referral to the International Criminal Court.

The council has so far been unable to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court because Russia is opposed to the move, diplomats say. Russia, supported by China, has shielded ally Syria from council action during the civil war.



Tags: Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin
2014.04.10 02:40:52

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he hoped Kiev would not take any irreversible steps amid the crisis in Ukraine and Russia's diplomatic efforts would be successful.

"I hope that the acting (authorities) will not do anything that can't be fixed later," Putin said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Putin also said he hoped Russian efforts to calm tensions through talks would "have consequences" and a "positive" result. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Vladimir Putin

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Ukrainian security service building
2014.04.10 02:39:47

Armed activists who have been holed up inside of the Ukrainian security service building in the eastern city of Luhansk for days said on Wednesday they were Ukraine's "last hope" and pleaded for supporters to gather outside of the building in larger numbers for them to be successful.

"I understand that we will be trying to resolve all this by ourselves. But we may fail," said Vitaly, who called himself the group's commandant.

He then addressed Russia's President Vladimir Putin, asking him to help: "Mr. Putin, have mercy on your fighters. If you lose us then you will lose the last hope to create a good neighbour."

"This is out last chance. Kharkiv is lost, Donetsk is lost, Mykolaiv has been lost long ago, Odessa is almost lost. That's it, we are the last remaining hope of all Ukraine," Vitaly added.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Russian gas exports to Europe
2014.04.10 02:38:39

Russian gas exports to Europe through Ukraine were stable on Wednesday and Ukraine has been importing gas as usual despite a standoff between Moscow and Kiev, said a spokesman for state-controlled gas producer Gazprom.

Russia increased the price it charges Ukraine for gas to $485 per 1,000 cubic metres last week. On Tuesday, Gazprom said Ukraine had failed to pay for its March gas supplies on time and had not reduced its gas debt of $2.2 billion.

Gazprom ships about half its gas flows to Europe via Ukraine. The Russian company caters of about 30 percent of Europe's gas consumption.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Ukraine's Security Service
2014.04.10 02:37:36

Ukraine's Security Service said that 56 people held inside an agency's local headquarters in the eastern city of Luhansk occupied by pro-Russian separatists have been allowed to leave the premises.

The Luhansk security services building was among several government offices seized by pro-Moscow groups Sunday in an escalation of protests against the interim government in power since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

All the cities affected by the uprisings are in Ukraine's industrial heartland in the east, which has a large population of ethnic Russians and where hostility is strong toward the government that took power in February after the ouster of Kremlin-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

As of Wednesday morning, protesters in Luhansk had erected high barricades along a thoroughfare running in front of the security service premises.

Security services said on Tuesday that separatists inside the building, armed with explosives and other weapons, were holding 60 people hostage. It was not immediately clear if the 56 allowed to leave Wednesday were among that number, or how many people were still being held.

[AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Kiev counts on NATO allies
2014.04.10 02:35:51

Ukraine, locked in a confrontation with Russia, is counting on the United States and other NATO members to supply equipment ranging from uniforms to aircraft fuel but is not asking for weapons, Ukraine's ambassador to NATO said on Tuesday.

Ihor Dolhov said Kiev had handed a "tentative list" of its army's equipment needs to NATO.

"The US government have already decided and delivered some part of this list," he said, declining to give details of what the United States had supplied.

Dolhov added that more was needed:

Fuel for airplanes or spare parts or some equipment or uniforms. Basic things, and the list is unfortunately rather long because what we discovered when the extraordinary situation in Crimea, when we faced this situation, that preparedness of Ukrainian defence forces was not as high as it was expected. So we need to implement additional measures.

"We expect to receive more assistance from NATO. And of course we started to work on more precise and concrete measures what can be expected and received from NATO," Dolhov said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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proloybagchi
Tea in Indian politics
2014.04.09 18:57:01

By being undiplomatic in his language in a talk he delivered at a recent All India Congress Committee session Mani Shankar Ayer, a Cambridge graduate, a former career diplomat and a Tamil Brahmin to boot brought chai (tea) back into politics. Ayer promised to the gathering that the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi would never become prime minister of the country in the 21st Century. And, he went on to add, “But if he wants to distribute tea here, we will find a place for him."

Tags: india

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admin
Pro-Russian activists
2014.04.09 02:05:17

Ukraine's security service (SBU) says pro-Russian activists have placed explosives in seized building in the eastern city  of Luhansk, holding around 60 people against their will.

"The anti-terror group of the security services of Ukraine (SBU) .. has established that the criminals have mined the building ... and are holding around 60 people, threatening them with weapons and explosives."

"These actions are extremely dangerous and endanger the lives of people both inside and outside of the building. They are using terrorist measures,"  the SBU said in a statement.

Luhansk protesters quickly denied the claims.

"There are no explosives,  no hostages. We do not need hostages to get what we want," said Anton, one of the protesters who described himself as a coordinator of the action. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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France: Assad policy to 'wipe out' his people
2014.04.09 02:03:56

France said on Tuesday Syrian President Bashar al Assad had a policy to "wipe out" his people in his bid to stamp out a three-year uprising, but this would leave Syria at a total impasse.

Assad has forecast that much of the fighting in the Syrian civil war will be over by the end of the year, a former Russian prime minister was quoted on Monday as saying.

Responding to those remarks, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal appeared to acknowledge that the international community may have to accept the new status quo.

A military victory against his own people? The only objective of Bashar al Assad is to wipe out his own people.

Nadal said. "Maybe he will remain the sole survivor of this policy of mass crimes, but it is a total impasse for Syria."

France was was also the first Western power to recognise the opposition National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

However, Nadal said there was now no other way to reach a solution in Syria other than a proposed peace plan which he admitted was "very slow" in developing.

"The only plan of the international community is a political transition. There is no other path. The Geneva process must continue.Military action will only lead to further violence."

The Syrian government made clear on Tuesday it had no intention of delaying an election that is likely to hand Assad a third term, regardless of war or politics.



Tags: Syria | France

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admin
American missile strike
2014.04.09 01:06:38

A threatened, but averted, American missile strike to punish Syria's government for a chemical weapons attack last summer would not have been powerful enough to change the course in the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday, in an attempt to deflect criticism that the US hasn't done enough to stem the violence there.

Under pointed questioning by a Senate panel he used to chair, Kerry said the scrubbed strike would have been limited, and would have been aimed only at preventing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from delivering more chemical weapons to his forces.

It would not have had a devastating impact by which he had to recalculate, because it wasn't going to last that long.

Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry predicted that the war will end only through a negotiated political agreement, not a military strike by outside forces.

Sen. John McCain, a Republican who has long pushed for more lethal aid for Syrian rebels, scoffed.

"Any objective observer will tell you that Bashar al-Assad is winning on the battlefield," McCain said.

[AP]



Tags: Syria | United States | John Kerry

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Syrian army offensive against Rankus
2014.04.09 01:01:25

Syrian government forces have shelled the Rankus area ahead of an operation to retake the town, one of the last rebel-held regions in the Qalamun area, a monitoring group said Tuesday.

Al-Manar television, which belongs to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, also reported that the Syrian army had begun an offensive against Rankus.

A military source, meanwhile, told AFP news agency that government forces had taken a hilltop position by Rankus and were surrounding the town.

"The area of Rankus in Qalamun has been under heavy shelling and continuous air raids since Monday, ahead of a plan to storm it," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.



Tags: Syria

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admin
Telephone and Internet shut down in Egypt
2014.04.09 01:00:03

Security officials in Egypt say they shut down telephone and Internet networks to the southern province of Aswan for several hours, as authorities moved to try to end a bloody tribal feud that killed 25 people the past week.

The officials say the shutdown Tuesday was part of a plan aimed at preventing contacts while security forces prepare operations to disarm the two feuding sides, an Arab clan and a Nubian family.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to reporters.

The shutdown lasted about three hours, during which attempts to reach Aswan residents by phone were unsuccessful. By the afternoon, communications at least partially returned.

One of the officials said the fighting, which began Friday, had become a "national security issue."

[AP]



Tags: Egypt

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