Daily Archives: March 24, 2014

Russia not clinging to G8 if West does not want it – Russian FM

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Russia is not clinging to the G8 format, as all major world problems can be discussed at other international venues such as G20, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“The G8 is an informal club, no one gives out membership cards and no one can expel members,” Lavrov told a media conference at the Hague. “If our Western partners believe that this format has exhausted itself, let it be. We are not clinging to it.”

He went on to say that many believe that the G8 has already fulfilled its mission as many issues are now discussed at the G20 forum.

“Generally speaking, there are also other formats for considering many questions, including the UN Security Council, the Middle East Quartet and the P5+1 on the Iranian nuclear problem,” Lavrov told journalists.

The Minister also commented on earlier reports regarding Australia considering not inviting President Vladimir Putin to the November G20 meeting, which is going to be held in Brisbane.

“The G20 was not established by Australia, which voiced the proposal not to invite Russia to the meeting. We created the format all together,” Lavrov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends the opening session of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends the opening session of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Russia’s top diplomat is in the Netherlands, where representatives of over 50 states and chiefs of the UN, the EU, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Police Office have gathered for the Nuclear Security Summit to address the threat of nuclear terrorism.

On the sidelines of the gathering, Lavrov met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and yet again discussed the Ukraine question, which has caused quite a chill in relations between the two powers.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in The Hague on March 24, 2014.

Both Moscow and Washington understand that Ukraine needs constitutional reform, Lavrov said.

“We discussed the necessity to call on the authorities in Kiev to pay serious attention to the constitutional reform, which would take into consideration the interests of all Ukrainian regions,” he said.

However, Lavrov admitted, that it is their evaluation of the situation and they “cannot impose” this idea on the Ukrainian leadership. Still, it would be very difficult to overcome the “Ukraine’s deep internal crisis” without such a reform, the Russian minister believes.

According to Lavrov, Kerry realizes that it is necessary to “push” the Ukrainian authorities into fulfilling the February-21 agreement on the crisis settlement, which was signed by ousted President Viktor Yanukovich, opposition leaders and foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland.

On Friday, Ukraine’s coup-imposed government and the EU signed the core elements of a political association agreement; this is part of the deal with the EU (that was predominantly economic) that Yanukovich put on hold in November, which resulted in mass bloody unrest and his ousting.

In Lavrov’s view, the coup-installed authorities in Kiev should have waited until a legitimate government was formed in the country after elections, and should have only then decided whether to sign an agreement with Brussels.

“Presidential elections were announced for the end May rather than December as it had been agreed upon in the February 21 accords. A constitutional reform should be carried out before the vote,” he said. “Perhaps, it would be right from all points of view, I would say it would be more ethical towards [Ukrainian] people to wait for a more legitimate situation in Kiev, and within the Ukrainian leadership before signing any agreements on behalf of their state.”

At The Hague, Lavrov met for the first time with Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchitsa.

The tete-a-tete was initiated by the Ukrainian side.

“I told him how we see the steps that officials appointed by the Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) should take in order to finally establish normal nationwide dialogue,” Lavrov said.

Ahead of the meeting, Deshchytsa told journalists that he was hoping to discuss with Lavrov peaceful ways of settling the existing situation between Moscow and Kiev.

Relations between the two neighboring states – former Soviet republics – sharply deteriorated after the February military coup which brought ultra-nationalists to power in Kiev and split the country with eastern regions of Ukraine strongly opposing the new leadership and western regions of the country supporting it.

The Autonomous Republic of Crimea – home to an ethnic Russian majority – refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government which they feared would not respect their rights. In a move that proved Crimeans’ concerns, parliament voted to revoke the law that allowed regions to give Russian and other minority languages the status of a second official language.

Crimea held a referendum on March 16 where over 96 percent of voters decided to rejoin Russia rather than remain part of Ukraine. On March 21, Crimea and the city of Sevastopol officially became part of Russia – or rather “retuned home,” as many Crimeans say. The region was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev without consent of its population.

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China demands end to US spying activities after new Snowden leak

China has demanded that the US stop the snooping activities of its National Security Agency against Chinese officials and companies. Beijing has also asked Washington to explain the reports on the illegal spying.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said on Monday that China is “extremely concerned” about allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) infiltrated the servers of Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, targeting the Chinese Trade Ministry, national banks, leading telecommunications companies and the country’s top officials.

“China has already lodged many complaints with the United States about this. We demand that the United States makes a clear explanation and stop such acts,” the spokesman stressed.

Hong cited media reports on “eavesdropping, surveillance and stealing of secrets by the United States of other countries, including China,” which were based on the revelations of the former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

The Snowden leaks published by The New York Times and Der Spiegel on Sunday exposed the details of the NSA’s activities in China, which allegedly involved spying on the former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

China’s reaction comes amid the European trip of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met US President Barack Obama in The Hague on Monday.

The US first lady, Michelle Obama, on Saturday addressed college students in Beijing, saying that open access to online information is a “universal right.”

However, the two countries’ governments clearly had a different understanding of “open access” to the global net.

“We consistently believe internet communication technologies should be used to develop a country’s economy in a normal way, and not be used in stealing secret information, phone-tapping and monitoring,” Hong said.

Huawei Technologies is the world’s largest network equipment supplier and one of the leading mobile phone handset vendors, which employs about 150,000 specialists around the world, and made $39 billion in profits in 2013.

In 2012, the US Congress called on American firms to stay away from doing business with Huawei, justifying the boycott by a “national security threat” allegedly posed by the company to US security. NSA then used the same pretext to launch the alleged spying activities on the Chinese company. According to the leaked NSA documents, the major goal of the operation was to find proof that Huawei is closely cooperating with cyber warfare units in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In view of recent revelations, Huawei’s vice president of external affairs, William B. Plummer, called the alleged NSA spying an “irony.”

“If such espionage has been truly conducted, then it is known that the company is independent and has no unusual ties to any government and that knowledge should be relayed publicly to put an end to an era of mis- and disinformation,” Plummer said.

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‘Revival of anarchy’: Ukraine radicals rob Russia-Moldova train passengers

The recent robbing of passengers, traveling from Russia to Moldova via Ukraine’s territory, by a local ultra-nationalist Insurgent Army is a manifestation of “anarchy,” the Russian Foreign Ministry has said.

On March 21, the train, en route from Moscow to the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, made a scheduled stop in the city of Vinnitsa in central Ukraine.

“To the horror of passengers…people dressed in the uniform of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) got into carriages and began a ‘document check’. People who showed Russian passports were then made to hand over their money and golden jewelry,” the Russian Ministry said on Monday in a statement published on its website.

The robbery was accompanied with “political sensitization,” diplomats said.

Moscow also said it was “bewildered” by the refusal of the Ukrainian police to take any action when the victims attempted to file a report.

“That is the kind of ‘rule of law’ that is currently being formed in Ukraine,” the ministry said. “It seems that the anarchy of the beginning of the 20th century is reviving.”

A similar incident occurred with passengers traveling from the Ukrainian city of Krivoy Rog to the Russian capital, reported the NTV channel. However, this time it was either Ukrainian border guards or customs service officers who were involved.

According to passengers, during the border control procedure, Ukrainian officers grabbed passports from Russian citizens providing them with no explanation.

Passenger, Angela Piskokha, told NTV that Ukrainian officials then offered her the opportunity to buy back her own passport for 6,000 rubles (US$ 166).

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Time to grab guns and kill damn Russians – Tymoshenko in leaked tape

Ukrainians must take up arms against Russians so that not even scorched earth will be left where Russia stands; an example of former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko’s vitriol in phone call leaked online.

 

Tymoshenko confirmed the authenticity of the conversation on Twitter, while pointing out that a section where she is heard to call for the nuclear slaughter of the eight million Russians who remain on Ukrainian territory was edited.

 

She tweeted “The conversation took place, but the ‘8 million Russians in Ukraine‘ piece is an edit. In fact, I said Russians in Ukraine – are Ukrainians. Hello FSB 🙂 Sorry for the obscene language.”

 

The former Ukrainian PM has not clarified who exactly she wants to nuke.

 

Shufrych’s press service flatly contradicted Tymoshenko, slamming the tape as fake. The press release reads “The conversation didn’t take place,” as quoted by korrespondent.net.The phone conversation with Nestor Shufrych, former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, was uploaded on YouTube on Monday by user Sergiy Vechirko.

 

The leaked phone call took placed on March 18, hours after the Crimea & Sevastopol accession treaty was signed in the Kremlin.

 

While Shufrych was “just shocked,” Tymoshenko was enraged by the results of the Crimean referendum .

 

“This is really beyond all boundaries. It’s about time we grab our guns and kill go kill those damn Russians together with their leader,” Tymoshenko said.

 

The ex-pm declared if she was in charge “there would be no f***ing way that they would get Crimea then.”

 

Shufrych made the valid point that Ukraine “didn’t have any force potential” to keep Crimea.

 

But Tymoshenko, who plans to run in Ukraine’s presidential election, expressed confidence that she would have found “a way to kill those a*****es.”

 

 

 

“I hope I will be able to get all my connections involved. And I will use all of my means to make the entire world raise up, so that there wouldn’t be even a scorched field left in Russia,” she promised.

 

Despite being incapacitated by spinal disc hernia the ex-PM stressed she’s ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot that m*********er in the head.”

 

Tymoshenko rose to power as a key figure in the pro-European Orange Revolution in 2004, becoming Ukrainian prime minister 2007-2010.

 

She was imprisoned in 2012, under president Viktor Yanukovich, after being found guilty of exceeding her authority by signing a gas supply and transit deal with Russia.

 

The deal is claimed to have cost Ukraine’s national oil and gas company, Naftogaz, around US$170 million.

 

Tymoshenko served part of her seven-year sentence in prison before being relocated to a Kharkov hospital.

 

She was released immediately after the Kiev coup which ousted Yanukovich.

 

 

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MH370 lost, plane went down in Indian Ocean, no survivors – Malaysia Airlines

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Malaysian airlines have announced beyond any reasonable doubt that flight MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived.

The airline has informed the relatives of those on board the doomed flight that the plane is “lost” with no survivors.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has made an announcement, saying “It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

The Boeing 777-200 disappeared from civilian radar screens on the night of the March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, en route for Beijing.

There were reports that military radar picked up an unidentified plane, after the stricken jet lost contact with air traffic controllers, which had made a sharp turn as well as descending to a much lower altitude before heading out into the Indian Ocean.

There have been no confirmed sightings of the plane or any debris that can be conclusively linked to it after an international search that has lasted two weeks. The search over the Indian Ocean entered its fifth day on Monday.

The UK Air Accidents Investigations Branch told the Malaysian authorities that the planes final location was above the southern Indian Ocean.

By this he meant satellite data automatically sent by the stricken plane, concluded that the flight ended in an air corridor over the southern Indian Ocean.

“We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles guiding this information.”

A crewman of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft looks at a screen while searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean March 24, 2014.

A crewman of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft looks at a screen while searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean March 24, 2014.

His somber announcement comes just a few hours after the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said that an Australian navy plane searching the area had spotted debris floating in the sea and that a ship from the Australian navy, HMAS Success, was just a few hours away and would hopefully be able to identify the floating objects.

Many theories have been put forward by a range of experts on what could have happened to the missing plane. One of the most convincing was by a Canadian pilot, Christopher Goodfellow, who said there may have been an electrical fire on board, which would have disabled many of the plane systems, although not all of them.

The pilots would have dropped altitude quickly and changed course to try and land the crippled plane at the nearest available airport, but before they could do this they and everybody else on board would have been overcome by smoke inhalation, while the plane flew on auto pilot before running out of fuel over the Indian Ocean.

Also earlier today a Chinese plane sighted objects in the search area, but different to those seen by the Australian air crew.

Three areas were identified for operations on Monday, totaling 20,000 square nautical miles with 10 aircraft being used.

While Australia is currently the only country to have a ship in the area, a number of Chinese vessels will arrive on Tuesday together with a further three aircraft – two from Japan and one from the UAE.

While 6 Malaysian ships are in the north part of the southern corridor and HMS Echo, a British survey ship, is in the Maldives refueling and will sail to the southern corridor on Monday evening.

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Two more colossal pharaoh statues unveiled in Egypt

A statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye are unviled in Egypt's temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

A statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye are unviled in Egypt’s temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

Luxor (Egypt) (AFP) – Archaeologists on Sunday unveiled two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt’s famed temple city of Luxor, adding to an existing pair of world-renowned tourist attractions.

The two monoliths in red quartzite were raised at what European and Egyptian archaeologists said were their original sites in the funerary temple of the king, on the west bank of the Nile.

The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi — twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

“The world until now knew two Memnon colossi, but from today it will know four colossi of Amenhotep III,” said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.

The existing two statues, both showing the pharaoh seated, are known across the globe.

The two restored additions have weathered severe damage for centuries, Sourouzian said.

“The statues had lain in pieces for centuries in the fields, damaged by destructive forces of nature like earthquake, and later by irrigation water, salt, encroachment and vandalism,” she said, as behind her excavators and local villagers washed pieces of artefacts and statues unearthed over the past months.

“This beautiful temple still has enough for us to study and conserve.”

One of the “new” statues — its body weighing 250 tonnes — again depicts the pharaoh seated, hands resting on his knees.

It is 11.5 metres (38 feet) tall, with a base 1.5 metres high and 3.6 metres wide.

Archaeologists said with its now missing double crown, the original statue would have reached a height of 13.5 metres and weighed 450 tonnes.

The king is depicted wearing a royal pleated kilt held at the waist by a large belt decorated with zigzag lines.

– Well-preserved alabaster head –

Beside his right leg stands nearly a complete figure of Amenhotep III’s wife Tiye, wearing a large wig and a long tight-fitting dress.

 new statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye is unveiled in Egypt's temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

new statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III and his wife Tiye is unveiled in Egypt’s temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

A statue of queen mother Mutemwya, originally beside his left leg, is missing, archaeologists said.

The throne itself is decorated on each side with scenes from that era, showing the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The second statue, of Amenhotep III standing, has been installed at the north gate of the temple.

The team of archaeologists also showed several other ancient pieces of what they said were parts of other statues of the ancient ruler and his relatives, including a well-preserved alabaster head from another Amenhotep III statue.

“This piece is unique, it is rare, because there are not many alabaster statues in the world,” Sourouzian told AFP.

The head, shown briefly to some reporters and fellow excavators, has also weathered centuries of damage.

Its nose, eyes and ears are intact, and some signs of restoration centuries ago are clearly evident, archaeologists said.

Close to the head lies a statue of Princess Iset, Amenhotep III’s daughter.

Sourouzian said the aim of her team’s work was to preserve these monuments and the temple itself, which according to her had suffered at the hands of “nature and mankind”.

“Every ruin, every monument has its right to be treated decently,” said Sourouzian, whose dream as a student was to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.

“The idea is to stop the dismantling of monuments and keep them at their sites,” she said, adding that what was required was steady “international funding” to conserve such world heritage sites.

The ongoing work to conserve the Amenhotep III temple is entirely funded through what she said were “private and international donations”.

 journalists walk past a newly displayed statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt's temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

journalists walk past a newly displayed statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt’s temple city of Luxor on March 23, 2014

Pharaoh Amenhotep III inherited an empire that spanned from the Euphrates to Sudan, archaeologists say, and he was able to maintain Egypt’s position mainly through diplomacy.

The 18th dynasty ruler became king at the age of around 12, with his mother as regent.

Amenhotep III died in around 1354 BC and was succeeded by his son Amenhotep IV, widely known as Akhenaten.

Luxor, a city of some 500,000 people on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, is an open-air museum of intricate temples and pharaonic tombs.

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Messi hat-trick gives Barcelona a 4-3 win over Real Madrid in El Clasico

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid, including the winner with less than 10 minutes remaining.

(CNN) — Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino said prior to Sunday’s El Clasico that it was his team’s last chance in the Spanish title race.

His side came through against Real Madrid — and it was a familiar face who led the way.

Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick to become the leading scorer in El Clasico history as part of a 4-3 Barcelona victory that featured just about everything in Madrid. The estimated worldwide television audience of 400 million for arguably football’s biggest club game couldn’t have been disappointed.

The first half alone produced four goals but it could have been six or seven. The referee was in the spotlight for awarding three penalties, two to Barcelona, and what would an El Clasico be without a red card?

It went to Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos midway in the second half with the home team leading 3-2 and predictably changed the complexion of the affair.

Out went Real Madrid’s 31-game unbeaten streak, a run that began following Barcelona’s win in this season’s first league meeting between the giants in October.

But a part of Madrid won’t be disappointed with the result, since Atletico Madrid assumed top spot in La Liga ahead of its city rival thanks to a better head-to-head record. Barcelona trails by a point.

The early moments of Sunday’s showdown suggested it would be an open contest and thus it wasn’t much of a surprise that it took a mere seven minutes to produce a goal.

Messi’s ball released Andres Iniesta, who shot into the top corner.

Karim Benzema should have quickly leveled but his effort sailed over the bar and four-time world player of the year Messi was guilty of a bad miss himself, scuffing his shot when in alone.

Angel di Maria outshone his fellow winger Gareth Bale, his first-half display scintillating. Messi’s fellow Argentine set up Benzema’s header in the 20th minute for 1-1 — although keeper Victor Valdes’ reaction suggested he knew he made a mistake.

With Barcelona reeling, Benzema’s left-footed shot in the 24th minute handed Madrid the advantage and the French international was denied a hat-trick when Gerard Pique cleared off the line.

Messi tied proceedings in the 42nd minute to break Alfredo di Stefano’s El Clasico record, with Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas and Real Madrid defender Pepe shown yellow cards in the aftermath when they touched heads — and then theatrically fell to the ground.

Bale — the world’s most expensive player who entered the game in his best form of the campaign — ran at the Barcelona defense to set up Benzema, who was deprived by Valdes to begin the second half.

Cue the controversy.

Referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco awarded Real Madrid a penalty when Dani Alves clipped Ronaldo but contact appeared to be outside the box. Ronaldo, who like Bale was mostly quiet Sunday, took the spot kick and the reigning world player of the year converted in the 55th minute.

Messi sent through Neymar and the Brazilian — about to be substituted after struggling — was ruled to have been fouled in the box by Ramos. Undiano Mallenco again pointed to the spot, Ramos as the last man received the 19th red card of his career and Messi leveled in the 65th to make history. He became the second leading scorer in La Liga history on 236 goals.

With Real Madrid forced to sit back and defend, the breakneck pace slowed.

Alves hit the post and when Iniesta went down under a challenge from Xabi Alonso, Undiano Mallenco awarded the third penalty.

Up stepped Messi in the 83rd minute and he showed no nerves, sending his kick into the roof of the net for a 26th career hat-trick and second in as many games.

Atletico earlier Sunday downed last-place Real Betis 2-0.

A dogged Betis frustrated Atletico for the opening 55 minutes but when Braian Rodriguez was sent off for a second yellow, the visitor pounced.

Gabi — with a long-range stunner — and Diego Costa scored in the 58th and 64th minutes, respectively, to give Atletico the win and ultimately first place in Spain.

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