Daily Archives: February 21, 2014

Ukraine president, opposition sign EU-brokered agreement on ending crisis

 Vitali Klitschko (left), leader of Ukraine’s UDAR opposition party, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (centre) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (right) after the signing of the Agreement in the Presidential Palace on Friday, February 21, 2014.

Vitali Klitschko (left), leader of Ukraine’s UDAR opposition party, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (centre) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (right) after the signing of the Agreement in the Presidential Palace on Friday, February 21, 2014.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders have signed an EU brokered agreement on ending the political crisis in the country.

The Ukrainian opposition representatives included the leader of the UDAR political party, Vitaly Klitschko, the head of the Batkivshchyna opposition party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the leader of the nationalist Svoboda opposition party, Oleg Tyagnibok.

The breakthrough agreement was witnessed by EU foreign ministers who brokered the deal, including Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as Director at the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Eric Fournier.

Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, who was present at the negotiations, noted the positive dynamic of the talks.

“We got acquainted with our partners’ position, and now we understand it,” he said. However, he added that “the biggest difficulty is that the situation is constantly changing” and there is no clarity as to who will fulfill the agreements and how.

On Friday, Yanukovich announced early presidential elections and the return to the constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers and widens the parliament’s authority. Ukraine’s Parliament has already adopted a law restoring the constitution of 2004 with 386 MP’s voting in favor.

Yanukovich also said a national unity government will be created.

Deputies of the Ukrainian parliament vote for a constitution change in Kiev on February 21, 2014.

Steinmeier has confirmed that the signed deal includes these points. The EU foreign ministers have welcomed Ukraine’s agreement and called for an immediate end to violence.

According to the conditions of the agreement, within 48 hours a law restoring the 2004 constitution is to be adopted and signed, after which in 10 days a national unity government is to be formed.

The agreement also states that as soon as the new constitution is adopted, no later than September, the presidential election must be held until December.

Yatsenyuk has confirmed the snap presidential election will be held between September and December.

In addition, there will be an investigation into the “recent acts of violence” committed during the anti-government riots. Under the deal, no state of emergency will be imposed in the country, while the government will adopt an amnesty “covering the same range of illegal actions as the February-17 2014 law.”

“Both parties will undertake serious efforts to normalize life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares” the text of the agreement reads.

Leader of far-right group Right Sector, Dmitri Yarosh, told the protesters at Maidan Square Friday that the deal reached between the president and the opposition is not acceptable. Yarosh said that his group will not be putting down their arms until President Viktor Yanukovich resigns. “The Right Sector will not lay down its arms. The Right Sector will not remove the blockade of one of the government buildings until our most important requirement is fulfilled – the resignation of Yanukovich,” Unian quoted him as saying.

Later on Friday, presidential impeachment bill was introduced in the Ukrainian parliament. The new initiative was authored by Nikolay Rudkovskiy, the head of the Socialist Party in Ukraine, which is part of the ruling Party of Regions coalition. The bill was published on parliament’s website, though no details were provided.

Also, the Ukrainian parliament voted on Friday in favor of an unconditional amnesty for all people detained, or who might face possible prosecution in the current unrest.

Under the agreement all illegal weapons should be handed over to the Ministry of Interior within 24 hours. After this, all cases of illegal carrying and storage of weapons will be prosecuted under Ukraine law.

The last article of the deal urges forces on both sides of the conflict to refrain from confrontation, adding that law enforcement should be used “exclusively for the physical protection of public buildings.”

Ukraine has been gripped by protests since November, with the opposition calling for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to resign. Initially the protests were triggered by Yanukovich backing down from the EU integration deal. However, these have turned into violent riots against the government. The situation escalated from January to February and saw its peak this week, after rioters reignited street clashes with police in the capital Kiev.

 RT News

U.S. Department of State : Situation in Ukraine “Press Statement”

state

John KerrySecretary of State

Washington, DC – February 20, 2014

It’s with anger and anguish that we have watched renewed violence on the streets of Kyiv today destroy more lives and rip apart more families. The people of Ukraine deserve far better than senseless death and suffering on the streets of one of Europe’s great cities.

The violence must stop. We unequivocally condemn the use of force against civilians by security forces, and urge that those forces be withdrawn immediately. The people of Ukraine and the international community will hold to account those who are responsible for what has occurred, and the United States has already begun implementing sanctions through travel bans on Ukrainians responsible for the violence.

Protestors should exercise their rights peacefully, and we urge the Ukrainian military to remain true to its non-political heritage and its professional traditions.

There is no time for brinksmanship or gamesmanship. President Yanukovich must undertake serious negotiations with opposition leaders immediately to establish a new interim government that will have broad support. That is the only way to begin the difficult but essential constitutional and economic reforms that Ukraine needs.

We reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the people of Ukraine and urge all members of the international community to help Ukraine return to stability. We will work with our friends and allies to support Ukraine and Ukrainians in these difficult days.

Situation in Ukraine.

Kiev’s Maidan Square in surreal ‘Before & After’ images

The blackened ruins and gaping windows of Ukraine’s landmark Independence Square have left Kiev looking like a warzone for the first time since WWII. The square has always served as a main stage for Ukrainian politics – but not a literal battleground.

Featured on every postcard, the grandiose post-war complex of monuments has been the true – if slightly touristy – heart of Kiev.

But now, the square is divided by ad hoc barricades built from paving stones, wooden debris, and tires. The iconic Trade Union building, which has served as the protesters’ headquarters, was set on fire earlier this week and is now just a shell, after its floors and walls collapsed one by one.

In contrast to the normal, everyday hustle and bustle, the square is currently filled with hastily-appointed leaders deciding who mans the entrances and who is responsible for food and barricade building. But regardless of security measures, people in the area are an easy target for snipers lurking in the buildings that surround the square from all sides.

Police dressed in riot gear are stationed several blocks away, taking turns between sitting in their vehicles and patrolling the perimeter. Journalists with the world ‘PRESS’ written on their jackets float between the two sides, but find themselves in the crossfire once skirmishes begin.

Once the conflict ends, the square will have to be rebuilt. It may be more difficult to do the same with the country that surrounds it.

 RT News

Egypt – New photos of Nasr City cell members published

New photos of members of the Nasr City cell have been published in the Egyptian press. Many of the cell’s members, who are currently awaiting trial, were detained in late 2012.

The cell has multiple, direct ties to al Qaeda. In particular, Muhammad Jamal al Kashef, who has long served as a subordinate to Ayman al Zawahiri, is one of the cell’s leaders. Jamal founded his own al Qaeda network (conveniently referred to as the “Muhammad Jamal Network,” or MJN, in the West) after being released from prison in 2011. According to terrorist designations issued by both the US State Department and the United Nations, Jamal worked with al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The designations by the State Department and the UN confirmed previous reporting by The Long War Journal. We were the first to report, at least in the English-speaking press, that Jamal was in direct contact with Zawahiri in 2011 and 2012. Jamal’s letters to Zawahiri revealed his ties to AQAP and AQIM.

Some of Jamal’s fighters participated in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Jamal established training camps in both the Sinai and eastern Libya prior to the attack.

Here is one of the newly published photos of Jamal. It is almost as if he is trying to tell us something. According to my colleague Oren Adaki, the note Jamal is holding reads, “Al Qaeda is perched on the hearts of the believers.”

Jamal brandishes the photo of bin Laden in other pictures as well. We previously published another photo of Jamal at The Long War Journal.

The Nasr City cell loves the picture of bin Laden. Below is a picture of Sheikh Adel Shehato, a founding member of the cell, holding up the image. Like Jamal, Shehato was a senior member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which was led by Ayman al Zawahiri and merged with bin Laden’s venture before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Shehato was also one of the key al Qaeda ideologues who helped instigate the protest in front of the US Embassy in Cairo on the morning of Sept. 11, 2012 — just hours before the US Mission and Annex in Benghazi were overrun.

The story of the Nasr City cell and the Muhammad Jamal Network is a fascinating one. It challenges so many of the widely-held assumptions about al Qaeda’s current operations. The MJN is a good example of how various al Qaeda organizations and parties are linked in a global network, with Jamal receiving cash and assistance from AQAP while he is also working with AQIM. The story also shows that Zawahiri is still very much in the game. Jamal’s letters to the al Qaeda master in 2011 and 2012 were fawning, and clearly showed that he was seeking Zawahiri’s permission for his operations.

But sometimes a picture, or pictures, are worth a thousand words. Jamal, Shehato, and the other Nasr City cell defendants are quite proud of their al Qaeda roles.

New photos of Nasr City cell members published – Threat Matrix.

Related Link :

Egypt arrests al Qaeda-linked Benghazi suspect – The Long War Journal.

Venezuela’s President Maduro accuses Obama of fanning violence

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused President Obama of promoting ongoing protests in the country, and of backing members of the opposition alleged to be behind violence.

In a communique, the Latin American leader demanded that the US explain its motives in “financing, promoting and defending members of the opposition that promote violence against our country.”

Maduro went on to denounce declarations made by President Obama regarding the situation in Venezuela, saying that they presented a “gross interference in internal affairs.”

Supporters of Leopoldo Lopez, an ardent opponent of Venezuela’s socialist government facing an arrest warrant after President Nicolas Maduro ordered his arrest on charges of homicide and inciting violence, light fires outside La Carlota military base, where he was taken after turning himself in, on February 18, 2014, in Caracas.

The new accusations come amidst a spike in the unrest that has gripped Venezuela, with some six people killed since demonstrations mounted by the opposition turned violent last week.

Wednesday night saw sporadic clashes between demonstrators in the capital of Caracas, the majority of which are middle class students who are frustrated with the country’s sputtering economy and soaring crime rate, and are seeking a regime change.

Maduro, who was elected last year as the heir apparent following the death of long-time President Hugo Chavez, has accused the opposition of fomenting a coup and inciting violence.

“There is an international campaign to justify a foreign intervention in Venezuela,” Maduro said on Wednesday.

Members of the Venezuelan opposition have appealed to the international community over what they say was a tainted election, though little has been presented in the way of evidence of electoral impropriety in what was a closely contested runoff. Spearheading that effort has been Henrique Capriles, the opposition’s two-time losing presidential candidate.

Venezuela’s ruling party, meanwhile, has long maintained that the US is playing a role in propping up the country’s opposition, and seeking to subvert the Maduro administration. That vitriol was sustained during Hugo Chavez’s tenure as the country’s leader; he often referred to an unsuccessful 2002 coup which heavily implicated US coordination.

The latest spout of violence came on the heels of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s surrender to government authorities during a large rally in Caracas. Lopez, who has recently become a rising star among Maduro opponents, is alleged to have played a role in the 2002 coup attempt.

Lopez, the Harvard educated 42-year-old leader of the Popular Will party and a former mayor, is being held responsible for the casualties that have resulted as demonstrators continue to clash with government forces.

“I said, ‘Send him to jail,’ and that’s what happened and that’s what will happen with all of the fascists. I won’t allow him to challenge the people of Venezuela, the constitution,” said Maduro shortly after his arrest.

Lopez is being held in Caracas’ Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence. According to his lawyers, prosecutors have dropped the most serious charges of murder against him.

Related to allegations of international meddling, Venezuela recently blocked broadcasts by Colombian based NTN24, and on Thursday Maduro warned US broadcaster CNN that it would be booted from the country if it did not “rectify” its programming, which was described as propaganda.

“I asked the minister of Communications, Delcy Rodríguez, that she notify CNN that the administrative process of removing them from Venezuela has begun if they do not rectify (comply). CNN will leave Venezuela. Enough of the war propaganda,” said the Venezuelan leader.