Daily Archives: March 1, 2014

صور السيسي وحفتر في مظاهرات ليبية رافضة لـ«الإخوان» وتمديد ولاية البرلمان

645789في إشارة ذات مغزى، رفع أمس آلاف المتظاهرين في بعض المدن الليبية صور المشير عبد الفتاح السيسي وزير الدفاع المصري، واللواء خليفة حفتر القائد العام السابق للقوات البرية في الجيش الليبي، في مظاهرات حاشدة ضد جماعة الإخوان المسلمين والجماعات الإسلامية المتطرفة، وقرار المؤتمر الوطني العام (البرلمان) تمديد ولايته التي انتهت رسميا في السابع من الشهر الحالي، إلى نهاية العام الحالي

وحذرت دار الإفتاء الليبية في بيان رسمي من وقوع مواجهات مسلحة، وقالت إنها «تتابع ما يجري في البلاد من انفلات أمني، وغياب لمظاهر الدولة ومؤسساتها، وتستنكر ما يجري من قتل واغتيالات، سواء تعلق ذلك بأبناء الوطن، أو بغيرهم من الوافدين على بلادنا»، في إشارة إلى الأقباط المصريين السبعة الذين قتلوا رميا بالرصاص في مدينة بنغازي مؤخرا. وبعدما دعت جميع المواطنين إلى الوقوف صفا واحدا، في سبيل حفظ أمن الوطن ووحدة ترابه والتمكن من مقدراته، فقد حملت دار الإفتاء الحكومة الانتقالية التي يترأسها علي زيدان وأجهزتها مسؤولية ما يحدث «لتقصيرها في حفظ أمن الوطن والمواطن، وحفظ مقدرات البلاد، رغم عشرات المليارات التي أنفقت دون أن يُرى لها أثر في حياة الناس أو صورة البلاد». وطالبت دار الإفتاء في البيان الذي تلقت «الشرق الأوسط» نسخة منه بالكشف عن كل الأحداث التي وقعت في البلاد ليتبين الناس حقيقة ما يجري بها، على حد تعبيرها

ويأتي هذا البيان بعد يوم واحد فقط من مطالبة جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في ليبيا عبر ذراعها السياسية، حزب العدالة والبناء، لزيدان بالتحلي بالشجاعة والتخلي طواعية عن منصبه كرئيس للحكومة منذ شهر نوفمبر (تشرين الثاني) عام 2012

وعلى الرغم من إعلان السلطات الليبية التي تطارد حفتر عن صدور قرار رسمي من المدعي العام العسكري باعتقال حفتر بتهمة الدعوة لقلب نظام الحكم بالقوة وتنفيذ انقلاب عسكري للاستيلاء على السلطة، فقد رفع مئات المتظاهرين خاصة في مدن بنغازي وطبرق ودرنة والشحات والبيضاء في المنطقة الشرقية صورا لحفتر إلى جانب المشير السيسي، كما رددوا الهتافات المناوئة للإخوان وللمتطرفين

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لكن أنصار التيار الإسلامي نظموا في المقابل مظاهرة أخرى مناوئة لحفتر في ميدان الحرية بشمال وسط مدينة بنغازي، حيث رفعوا شعارات رافضة لدعوته الشارع الليبي لمساندة تحركه العسكري لتغيير الأوضاع الراهنة في البلاد

وبينما ركز المتظاهرون في بنغازي على التنديد بعجز السلطات المحلية عن وقف ما وصفوه بالتردي الأمني وعمليات الاغتيال والتفجيرات المتكررة التي طالت مئات الناشطين السياسيين والمسؤولين العسكريين والأمنيين، فقد لاحظت وكالة الأنباء المحلية أن المظاهرات التي تواصلت أمس في العاصمة طرابلس للجمعة الرابعة على التوالي، والتي وصفتها بالحضارية والديمقراطية، قد اتسمت بالسلمية، وعدم الاعتداء على الممتلكات العامة والخاصة، مشيرة إلى أن هذه المظاهرات طالبت بعدم التمديد للمؤتمر الوطني وأعلنت رفضها لخارطة الطريق التي أقرّها للخروج من الأزمة السياسية في البلاد

ورغم الأمطار والمناخ السيئ فقد تجمّع المئات مساء أمس بمنطقة باب بن غشير وسط العاصمة طرابلس، حاملين أعلام الاستقلال والشعارات المناوئة للمؤتمر الذي يعتبر أعلى سلطة سياسية ودستورية في البلاد، في ما سمي بـ«جمعة الخلاص». وعبر المتظاهرون عن تضامنهم الكامل والتام مع أهالي مدينة بنغازي ضد ما تتعرض له من عمليات اغتيال وقتل، كما طالبوا بتجميد عمل كل الأحزاب السياسية إلى حين الانتهاء من صياغة دستور للبلاد، وتفعيل الجيش الوطني والشرطة

وكتب المتظاهرون على حائط مقر المؤتمر الوطني شعارات تطالب برحيله والتحرك السريع لنجدة بنغازي التي تشهد انفلاتا أمنيا مستمرا منذ بضعة شهور

وكشف بيان لمكتب علي زيدان رئيس الحكومة الانتقالية عما وصفه بإجراءات عاجلة تم اتخاذها عقب اجتماع عقدته أول من أمس لجنة الأزمة بالحكومة برئاسة زيدان ومشاركة رئيس أركان الجيش الليبي وعدد من الوزراء لضبط الوضع الأمني في مدينة بنغازي. وأوضح البيان أنه «تقرر إعلان حالة الاستنفار في المدينة، كما تم الاتفاق على تحديد وحدات للجيش تكون تابعة للغرفة الأمنية المشتركة، بالإضافة إلى تفعيل الوحدات العسكرية التابعة لقيادة المنطقة لفرض الأمن وضبط المجرمين بالمدينة». ولفت البيان إلى أن الجميع اتفقوا على أن تعقد اللجنة الوزارية اجتماعها في بنغازي لوضع ما تم الاتفاق عليه موضع التنفيذ

إلى ذلك، نفت مصادر أمنية رسمية لـ«الشرق الأوسط» ما تردد أمس عن محاولة جديدة لاقتحام مقر وزارة الداخلية في العاصمة طرابلس على أيدي عناصر من ميليشيات مسلحة. وقالت المصادر إن ما وصفته بسوء تفاهم قد اندلع على نحو مفاجئ بين القوات الخاصة بتأمين مقر الوزارة وكتيبة السد التي تنتمي إلى منطقة ككل، ويقع مقرها خلف الوزارة مباشرة، مما نجم عنه إطلاق أعيرة نارية في الهواء وإصابة شخصين على الأقل

وأوضحت المصادر التي طلبت عدم تعريفها أن الكتيبة التي كانت تؤمن مقر الداخلية منذ نحو عام وتتبع اللجنة الأمنية العليا ورقمها 40 في العاصمة طرابلس تتبع الآن قوة التدخل والردع المشكلة بقرار من رئاسة الحكومة الليبية

إلى ذلك، نفى العقيد محمد سويسي، مدير مديرية أمن طرابلس، في تصريح رسمي استهداف مسلحين لمبنى القنصلية المغربية بطرابلس. وكانت بعض وسائل الإعلام الليبية المحلية قد أعلنت عن تعرض مبنى القنصلية المغربية لإطلاق نار من قبل مجهولين لم يسفر عن أي ضحايا. فيما قال بيان أصدرته وزارة الخارجية المغربية مساء أول من أمس إن صلاح الدين مزوار، وزير الشؤون الخارجية والتعاون المغربي، دعا خلال اتصال مع نظيره الليبي محمد عبد العزيز السلطات الليبية إلى تحمل مسؤوليتها في تعزيز الإجراءات الأمنية لحماية موظفي ومقرات البعثة الدبلوماسية والمراكز القنصلية المغربية بليبيا

وقال البيان إن المسؤول الليبي أبدى في المقابل أسفه واستنكاره لحادث الاعتداء المسلح، ووعد باتخاذ الترتيبات اللازمة لتأمين مقرات البعثة الدبلوماسية والمراكز القنصلية المغربية بليبيا، تفاديا لتكرار مثل هذه التجاوزات

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Algeria ends rally over president re-election

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Algerian police dispersed a demonstration in the capital staged by Algerians opposed to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika‘s decision to run for a fourth term in elections next month.

A group opposed to a fourth term for Bouteflika had called for the demonstration online, and those taking part on Saturday included journalists and rights activists.

Protesters chanted “no to a fourth term” and “15 years is enough”, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999 and turns 77 on Sunday, announced a week ago he would seek reelection in an April 17 vote, after speculation his frail health would stop him from running.

There has been growing concern about Bouteflika serving another term, given the physical state of the president, who was hospitalised in Paris for three months last year after suffering a mini stroke.

He has chaired just two cabinet meetings since returning home in July, and has not spoken in public for nearly two years.years.

Even so, he is expected to win the election with the backing of the powerful state apparatus.

Calls for ‘peaceful’ change

Former Algerian premier Mouloud Hamrouche on Thursday called for a “peaceful” change of the regime, which he said was no longer capable of running the country.

And Said Sadi, former head of the secular opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy Party, also spoke out against Bouteflika on Tuesday.

He urged Algerians to “delegitimise” the upcoming elections, urging a political transition similar to the one that took place last month in Tunisia.

Several opposition parties have already called for a boycott of the election, saying its results would be a foregone conclusion.

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China Train Station Mass Stabbing: 33 Dead

At least 33 people have been killed and more than 130 wounded in a mass stabbing at a Chinese railway station.

According to Chinese state media, the “organised and premeditated” attack at Kunming train station in the country’s southwestern Yunnan province was carried out by separatists from the volatile Xinjiang province in the far west.

Reports from the city suggest a group of people armed with knives entered the train station at about 9pm local time on Saturday and attacked travellers with knives indiscriminately.

Photos on Chinese social media show horrific scenes with blooded bodies and luggage strewn across the station concourse.

One local resident, Yang Haifei, told China’s Xinhua news agency he was attacked and sustained injuries on his chest and back.

Mr Yang said he was buying a ticket when he saw a group of people, most dressed in black, rush into the station and start their attack.

“I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone,” he said.

Unconfirmed reports suggest police shot and killed some of the attackers and detained others.

Chinese police are not routinely armed which may explain why the perpetrators were able to attack so many people before being stopped.

According to eyewitness reports seen by Sky News, there is tension across Kunming amid concern that further attacks may be planned at other locations in the city.

Train stations in Chinese cities are vast and usually extremely busy.

The Kunming city government said the attack was orchestrated by ethnic separatists from Xinjiang, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Extreme elements of the Muslim population who live there have carried out attacks in the past – most recently in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last year.

The Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang believe their freedoms, culture and religion are being eroded and severely restricted by the Chinese authorities.

Xinjiang, 2,500 miles to the north of Saturday’s attack, has experienced repeated outbreaks of violence but the Chinese authorities have largely managed to contain the violence.

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Sisi stays as defence minister in Egypt’s new cabinet

20 ministers from El-Beblawi’s cabinet keep their posts, while 11 ministers are fresh appointees

New Egypt Cabinet

New Egypt Cabinet

Egypt’s new government was sworn in Saturday in a limited reshuffle that kept the powerful ministers of defense and interior in place under a new prime minister named days earlier.

State television aired the ministers being sworn in live from the presidential palace, led by new Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlib, the outgoing housing minister,

The new Cabinet keeps Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as the country’s defense minister. The 59-year-old el-Sissi is widely expected to run for president in elections expected by April.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who oversees the country’s police, also remains in place despite wide criticism of his performance in handling rising violence

The reshuffle comes after the surprise resignation Monday of the Cabinet, including then-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi.

The change of government before the presidential vote appeared orchestrated to curb rising criticism of the outgoing Cabinet, which was accused of failing to stem widening labor strikes and continued protests. It also would spare el-Sissi the disruption associated with forming a new one if he becomes president. Parliamentary elections are expected by the summer, after which a new government is likely to be formed.

In the new lineup, Mehlib kept 20 ministers from el-Beblawi’s government and appointed 11 new ones, mostly technocrats. The new Cabinet includes three Christians and four women, but no Islamists. It removes most ministers who were members of political parties formed after the 2011 ouster of Mubarak.

This new interim government is the sixth since 2011. It’s also the second interim government after Morsi’s ouster.

The new Cabinet will face a host of challenges ranging from Egypt’s unstable security situation to a battered economy drained of resources.

Ministers from El-Beblawi’s government who will remain in their posts are:

1. Minister of Defence Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi
2. Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim
3. Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou
4. Minister of Transportation Ibrahim Domeiri
5. Minister of Communication Atef Helmy
6. Minister of Local Development Adel Labib
7. Minister of Agriculture Ayman Abu Hadid
8. Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim
9. Minister of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation Amin A-Mahdy
10. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Noor.
11. Minister of Culture Saber Arab
12. Minister of Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf El-Arabi
13. Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy
14. Minister of Information Doreya Sharaf El-Din
15. Minister of Environment Laila Iskandar
16. Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail
17.Minister of Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa
18.Minister of Education Mahmoud Abou El-Nasr
19. Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Moteleb
20. Minister of Sports and Youth Khaled Abdel-Aziz

Newly appointed ministers:

1. Minister of Justice Nayer Abdel-Moneim Othman
2. Minister of Military Production Ibrahim Younis
3. Minister of Health Adel El-Adawi
4. Minister of Housing Mostafa Madbouli
5. Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Wael El-Degwi
6. Minister of Manpower Nahed Ashri
7. Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafy
8. Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker
9. Minister of Finance Hani Qadri Demian
10. Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali
11. Minister of Aviation Mohamed Hossam Kamal

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Ukraine nationalist leader calls on ‘most wanted’ terrorist Umarov ‘to act against Russia’

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Dmytro Yarosh (L), a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014

A leader of the Ukrainian radical group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmitry Yarosh, has called on Russia’s most wanted terrorist Doku Umarov to act against Russia in an address posted on Right Sector’s page in VKontakte social network.

The statement points out that “many Ukrainians with arms in the hands” supported Chechen militants in their fight against Russians and “it is time to support Ukraine now.”

The message, signed “leader of Right Sector Dmitry Yarosh” then calls on Umarov “to activate his fight” and “take a unique chance to win” over Russia.

Yarosh, who is a self-proclaimed deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, leads the far-right militant Right Sector group. He used to be a leader of radical nationalist group Trident, which became the core of Right Sector.

The radical leader has been consistently anti-Russian in his statements, calling for the destruction and division of the “Moscow Empire” and openly supporting Chechen militants and Georgian aggression. Yarosh believes Russia is Ukraine’s “eternal foe” and has said that war between the two countries is “inevitable.”

Yarosh attended the February 21st political gathering at the renamed Independence Square shortly after the signing of the deal that returned the country to the 2004 constitution. He shared the stage with virtually all of Ukraine’s prominent opposition politicians, including former superstar boxer and leader of the Democratic Alliance for Reform, Vitaliy Klitschko. In the following video, surrounded by masked units from his far-right following, he declares victory and vows to continue fighting, as the crowd cheers in a military fashion.

Aside from his beliefs on Russia, the Right Sector leader believes Ukraine should be “careful” with its future EU membership, as the “bureaucratic monster of Brussels” is “doing everything to bring to naught the national identity” of EU member countries.

Anti-government protesters from far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014.

Yarosh’s outrageous plea to terrorist Doku Umarov exhibits the “guts of the so-called new Ukrainian authorities,”Chairman of the Presidium of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus told Itar-Tass.

“Extremists, nationalists of all stripes, flooded the peaceful republic threatening it with chaos and violence,” Aliy Totorkulov said.

Even the fact of Yarosh’s address, whose “hands are stained with blood” shows that the Ukraine’s extreme right“Maidan sponsors” and the forces supporting the instability in Caucasus come from a “single-center” of extremism, Totorkulov stressed.

“We strongly support the deployment of Russian troops to resolve the situation in Crimea as well as provide assistance to other Ukrainian regions, where the population rejects nationalism and asks [Russia] for help and protection.”

During the recent riots in Ukraine, Yarosh rejected any negotiations with the Ukrainian government, calling on his supporters to defy the truces and agreements of the government and the opposition.

Right Sector has been referred to as the most active, the most radical and the best organized group in the Ukrainian unrest. Well-equipped masked rioters from Right Sector often used clubs, petrol bombs and firearms against the Ukrainian police. Some notorious members of the radical movement have continued to use rifles and pistols to intimidate local authorities, which they believe should be “afraid” of the people.

Although the violent acts of the group have been well-documented by media and placed on YouTube, Western powers have largely ignored its actions and persisted with describing the protests in Ukraine as “peaceful.” After meeting with Ukrainian protesters, including Right Sector members, in late January, Western representatives went as far as saying that they were “convinced that these people posed no threat.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights Konstantin Dolgov said that Moscow awaits the West’s reaction to Yarosh’s appeal to Umarov.

“The Ukrainian neo-fascist Yarosh has appealed to terrorist Umarov,” Dolgov wrote on Twitter. “Does the West place their stake on such Ukrainian ‘democrats’? Will they react to this?”

Anti-government protesters from far-right group “Right Sector” train in Independence Square in Kiev January 31, 2014.

Umarov, who commanded groups of militants in both Chechen wars and organized several large terror acts, is the most wanted terrorist in Russia. Umarov has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Russian civilians, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo International Airport bombing, which killed dozens of people and injured hundreds.

In March 2011, Umarov was put on the UN Security Council’s Al-Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee list of individuals. The US government has also announced a $5 million reward for information leading to the terrorist leader’s capture.

The self-proclaimed ‘Emir of the Caucasus Emirate’ routinely recorded video addresses, in which he incited terror attacks against Russian government forces and civilians. He last appeared alive in a video posted on the internet in summer 2013, calling to step up terrorist activities and thwart the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Umarov’s long absence led rumors of his death to spread, but so far this has not been officially confirmed.

Meanwhile the social media page of the Right Sector group, where the message has been posted, was taken down as it has violated company’s policies by posting prohibited content. The VKontakte page now states that the “community has been blocked at the request of Roskomnadzor as it has been added to the register of prohibited content.”

The Right Sector social media VKontakte page had over 375,000 followers and was used for coordinating the actions of the movement’s cells across Ukraine.

After the outrageous message caught the attention of world media, a Right Sector representative has claimed that the movement has nothing to do with the posting and that one of their administrator’s accounts was “hacked.”

Screenshot from Right Sector’s Vkontakte page

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Thousands rally against ‘illegitimate govt’, raise Russian flags in eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags and hold a banner reading "Donetsk region is with Russia" during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014

Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags and hold a banner reading “Donetsk region is with Russia” during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014

Thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators across eastern Ukraine and Crimea are protesting against the new government, with administration buildings being seized in several cities. Gunshots have been reported as anti- and pro-Maidan protesters clash.

Protesters in Kharkov and Donetsk stormed local government offices and removed Ukrainian flags, replacing them with the Russian tricolor on Saturday.

Between 7,000 to 10,000 demonstrators gathered in the center of Donetsk, a large industrial city in eastern Ukraine. Reportedly, protesters seized the regional administration building. While a group of demonstrators were storming the building from the central entrance, a crowd in Lenin Square in front of it kept chanting “Russia!”

Донецк. Площадь Ленина #Крыму #Украины #Ukraine #антимайдан #майдан #малороссия #евромайдан #новороссия pic.twitter.com/5uIxIJwND5

— Антимайдан (@anti_maydan) March 1, 2014

The participants of the rally were demanding to hold a referendum on the future of the region, and particularly, on the status of Russian language.

Later in the day, Donetsk City Council held an extraordinary session and approved an idea of holding a referendum on the future fate of the Donetsk region. The council also supported the initiative on setting up municipal militia squads to protect citizens from possible aggression by radical nationalists, reported Itar-Tass. Additionally, authorities decided to introduce Russian as a second official language in the region.

The City Council refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev and declared itself the only legitimate body in the city, according to ZN.UA.

The decisions were read out to the crowd of demonstrators, who praised the move.

Earlier, according to a local news portal, a scuffle occurred between Party of Regions supporters and the so-called Volunteers’ Crops commanded by activist Pavel Gubarev, who was spontaneously proclaimed “regional governor.” Addressing the crowd, Gubarev said the authorities in Kiev were illegitimate and called for establishing popular rule. He then urged demonstrators to set up a peaceful protest camp in front of the regional government’s office.

In Kharkov, the largest city in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian protesters managed to break through the cordon of Maidan supporters and captured the government building. The storming was accompanied by clashes and shooting, RBC daily reported.

Фото дня pic.twitter.com/4S5RyCLOIc

— Sputnik & Pogrom (@sputnikipogrom) March 1, 2014

Многотысячный митинг-антимайдан на площади свободы сейчас #Харьков pic.twitter.com/N8HT6MAlXT

— АлексАндер МихайЛов (@belgorodmaster) March 1, 2014

Some 111 people have been injured in clashes between anti- and pro-Maidan demonstrators, reported Itar-Tass, citing the city’s mayor, Gennady Kernes.

At least 10 explosions were heard, both in the building and in the area around it. At least one policeman was among those hurt in the clashes, according to Itar-Tass.

#ХАРЬКОВ ШТУРМУЕТ ЗАСЕВШИХ В АДМИНИСТРАЦИИ МАЙДАНОВЦЕВ pic.twitter.com/u4IHbgfNuD

— АлексАндер МихайЛов (@belgorodmaster) March 1, 2014

One of the demonstrators got on to the roof of the administration building, waving the Russian flag. Meanwhile, pro-Maidan activists, who barricaded themselves inside one of the offices, are hanging a white flag out of the window. Police were accompanying injured supporters of the new government out of the building to ambulances, Unian agency reports.

Activists from Right Sector radical group, who were inside the building, “were throwing explosives, perhaps even grenades, into public transport,” Kharkov Mayor Kernes told journalists. “They also opened fire at protesters,” he added and showed a cartridge for a Kalashnikov assault-rifle which was found inside the building. According to the mayor, “120 cocktail bombs, two mines and drugs” were discovered at the site.

Pro-Russian protesters raise a Russian flag in front of the regional administration building during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014.

In the Crimean capital of Simferopol, around 6,000 people marched, chanting “Russia!” and “No to Fascism!” and carrying a huge Russian flag.

Thousands were also demonstrating with Russian and Soviet flags in Odessa, the third-largest city in the country. According to police, around 5,000 people took part in the gathering, while organizers insist there were up to 20,000.

Protests were also held in Lugansk, Melitopol, Yevpatoria, Kerch and Mariupol.

Pro-Russian protesters wave a Russian flag during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014.

Crimeans began protesting after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official documents in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

Pro-Russian protesters with Russian flags take part in a rally in central Donetsk March 1, 2014

A line of police stand guard as pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in front of the regional administration building in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014

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Russian senators vote to use stabilizing military forces on Ukrainian territory

Federation Council meeting

Russia’s Federation Council has unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to use Russian military forces in Ukraine. The move is aimed to settle the turmoil in the split country.

The upper house of the Russian parliament has voted in favor of sending troops to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which would ensure peace and order in the region “until the socio-political situation in the country is stabilized.”

DETAILS: Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approves sending Russian troops to Ukraine http://t.co/7Cb2xX8MiX pic.twitter.com/bnoiti15Ik

— RT (@RT_com) March 1, 2014

The debate in the Federation Council has revealed that Russian MPs are united on the issue, with many of them sharing concerns on the recent events in Ukraine. The common notion was that since the power was seized in Kiev, the situation has only been deteriorating with radical nationalists rapidly coming to power and threatening the lives of those opposing their actions, most notably the Russian citizens living in Ukraine.

The developments follow an appeal by the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, who requested that Russia to help cope with the crisis and ensure “peace and calm” in the region.

Crimeans began protesting after the new self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages in official circumstances in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language in their everyday life. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil

Putin on Saturday requested the Federation Council to use the Army for normalizing the socio-political situation in Ukraine in connection with the “extraordinary situation” there. The events in Ukraine indicate there is a “threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation… and the personnel of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory,” the Russian president said.

According to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the president has not yet made a decision on sending the troops to Ukraine.

Moreover, taking the decision to use the Armed Forces in Ukraine does not mean that it will be carried out immediately, Grigory Karasin, Putin’s official representative in the Federation Council, has said.

“The approval, which the president will receive, does not literally mean that this right will be used promptly,” Karasin said.

Russian citizens are among the victims of the turmoil gripping Ukraine, the speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, has said. In Crimea, there were Russian casualties during the storming of the local Interior Ministry building by gunmen overnight, she added.

“During the attempts to seize the building of the Interior Ministry in Crimea some were injured, there were victims also, the people are being threatened, and in this situation they are naturally voicing concerns for the security of their lives and families. This compelled the government of Crimea to ask Russia for help,” Matvienko said.

The speaker’s words coincided with the statement issued by Russian Federal Migration Service noting that some 143,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum in Russia. The number represents a sharp rise in such requests, the authority said.

The new Ukrainian authorities have been formed “under the dictate of Maidan” and “continue to use force in the forming of the decision-making structures,” Karasin said.

“We are particularly concerned with the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where, in accordance with the international treaty, the Black Sea Fleet is stationed; where 1.5 million Russian people live,” Putin’s representative stressed.

The Crimean population “resents” the attempts to seize local administration buildings and the threats thrown at regional authorities, and demands stability, he said.

At the same time, Karasin said he believes the international community and those states that backed the February 21 agreement between the opposition and the legitimate Ukrainian government “have the power” to influence the self-proclaimed Kiev authorities to bring the situation back to “constitutional ways.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that Moscow is expecting that the international community will influence the self-proclaimed Kiev regime to normalize the situation in the country.

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Putin: Russian citizens, troops threatened in Ukraine, need armed forces’ protection

russian defense minister sergei shoigu

russian defense minister sergei shoigu

Russian President Vladimir Putin has requested the use of Russian military forces in Ukraine to settle the situation there. The Russian population and the Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet are threatened by the situation in the country, he said.

Facts you need to know about Crimea and why it is in turmoil

Putin’s request was filed after the Chairman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, said that in order to “protect the people” Russia could theoretically send troops to Ukraine. She particularly referred to the crisis in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where Russians make the majority of the population.

“It’s possible in this situation, complying with a request by the Crimean government, even to bring a limited contingent of our troops to ensure the safety of the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian citizens living on Crimean territory. The decision is for the president, the chief military commander, to make, of course. But today, taking the situation into account, even that variant can’t be excluded. We need to protect the people,” Matvienko said.

The Russian government has so far been careful in its assessment of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian government in Kiev. Matvienko said the reason for that was Russia counting on its Western partners, who vowed to guarantee the February 21 agreements between ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition.

“Russia did not interfere in the situation in Ukraine for a very long time and showed restraint, assuming that the Western states, which became backers of the agreements, would see that strict compliance with the deal is observed,” she said.

However, after “violent upheaval” took place in Ukraine, the Western states did not come up with “any reasonable measures or responses,” Matvienko said.

Russia, in contrast, for a very long time has urged the situation to be resolved by lawful means, and called for the anti-coup sentiments in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine to be heard, she said.

“Not seeing an adequate reaction from the West, we could no longer maintain status quo,” the speaker concluded.

Matvienko spoke as thousands of pro-Russian demonstrators rallied in the Crimean cities of Simferopol, Melitopol, Yevpatoria and Mariupol, protesting against the rule of new Kiev authorities.

The Russian leader held detailed phone discussions on “various aspects of the extraordinary situation in Ukraine” with US President Barack Obama, the Kremlin press service reported.

Putin stressed that in the case of further spread of violence in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, Russia reserves the right to protect their interests and the Russian speaking population.

Putin emphasised the existence of real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens on Ukrainian territory.

In a separate conversation with French President Francois Hollande, Putin said that there is a real threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, Itar-tass reports.

The Russian commander in chief also held a telephone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the case of an escalation of violence against the Russian-speaking population in the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea, the Kremlin announced.

Putin stressed that Russia cannot remain on the sidelines and will apply the necessary measures within the framework of international law to prevent further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.

According to the Russian Constitution, the use of Army on foreign territories can only be approved by the majority of the Federation Council members upon a request by the President.

Pro-Russian protesters wave Russian flags during a rally in the industrial Ukrainian city of Donetsk on March 1, 2014.

The developments follow an appeal by the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, who requested that Russia to help cope with the crisis and ensure “peace and calm” in the region.

The tension in Crimea escalated following an attempt to seize the building of the local Interior Ministry by gunmen overnight. Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the move in a statement, blaming the new authorities in Kiev for intending to “destabilize the situation on the peninsula.

Meanwhile, self-proclaimed Ukrainian Acting President Aleksandr Turchinov has signed a decree ruling that appointment of the pro-Russia premier in Crimea is “illegal.”

Aksyonov, who is the leader of Crimea’s Russian Unity party, was appointed as the new Prime Minister of the autonomy after the Crimean Supreme Council dismissed the regional government. Peace and order in the region has been maintained by local armed self-defense squads, which were widely misreported as Russian troops on Friday.

Massive media speculation also arose around claims that the Russian military have been making “illegal” moves in Crimea. The Russian Foreign Ministry sent an official note to Ukraine, stressing that all the moves are carried out “in full accordance with basic Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet.”

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Breaking news / Crimea PM asks for Russia’s help in ensuring peace, says firearms used in clashes

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The Crimean premier, Sergey Aksenov, has declared that firearms have been used in the clashes in the region, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

He said he will be managing all national security forces in the region, and has asked Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for help in ensuring peace in Crimea.