Tag Archives: Friday

Crimea observes 3-day mourning over tragic events in Ukraine’s southeast

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The republic of Crimea is observing a three-day mourning over Friday’s tragic events, which claimed dozens of lives across Ukraine’s southeastern regions.

The days of mourning on May 3,4 and 5 were declared upon an order from Sergei Aksyonov, the acting head of Crimea.

All flags across the republic were lowered to half-mast and local authorities of all levels as well as radio and television administrations were asked to cancel festivities and entertainment programs dedicated to May 1 celebrations.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions in March after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia. Demonstrators, who are demanding referendums on the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings.

Crimea’s urge to reunify with Russia was caused by the republic’s refusal to accept the new Kiev authorities. In a March 16 referendum, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18.

On Friday, Ukraine witnessed the bloodiest violence since the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in February with the death toll exceeding the figure of 60.

The highest death toll took place in the southern city of Odessa. A total of 46 people were killed and over 200 wounded after radicals attacked pro-federalization activists and then set on fire Odessa’s Trade Union House with activists inside, burning them alive.

The violence erupted in Odessa in the daytime on Friday with a mass brawl at Grecheskaya Street. It was reportedly instigated by football fans from Kharkov and Right Sector and Self-Defense radicals from Kiev, who decided to organize a march on Odessa streets.

They provoked clashes with federalization supporters. Forcing them out, radicals set fire to a camp at Kulikovo Field where activists collected signatures to hold a referendum on federalization of Ukraine and the official status of the Russian language. Activists from the camp escaped to the located nearby Trade Union House, and radicals set fire to the building.

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Car bomb kills one in fourth explosion to hit Egypt Friday

A bomb blast near a court building in Cairo killed at least one policeman and wounded a few others on Friday

A bomb blast near a court building in Cairo killed at least one policeman and wounded a few others on Friday

CAIRO: One was killed when a car exploded in downtown Cairo in the late hours of Friday, the fourth explosion to rock the turmoil-hit Egypt on a day where Islamist demonstrations usually take place against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

The number of casualties was not immediately clear after a car blast in Cairo’s Ramsis street near a subway station, an interior ministry spokesman told state-run news agency MENA.

“A car with no plates exploded, killing its owner. Explosive experts are combing the area to make sure there aren’t any explosive devices,” the spokesman added.

Earlier on Friday, at least four were killed after triple explosions struck the restive Sinai Peninsula and Cairo.

Two suicide attacks in South Sinai targeted a checkpoint and a tour bus, leaving at least one conscript dead and nine others injured.

The first attack happened when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the “Wady El Tor” security checkpoint, killing himself and a conscript as well injuring five other security personnel. The “Wady El-Tor” security checkpoint is operated by both the police and the armed forces.

Shortly after the first attack, a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying workers of a tourist company in “Ras Gara” area in the South Sinai governorate.

In Cairo, a low ranking police officer was killed and four other security personnel – an officer and three conscripts – were injured following the explosion of a bomb in Heliopolis district at a traffic checkpoint.

A bomb blast near a court building in Cairo killed at least one policeman and wounded a few others on Friday

A bomb blast near a court building in Cairo killed at least one policeman and wounded a few others on Friday

Hundreds of police and army personnel have been killed since the toppling of Morsi in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Militants, including Al-Qaeda-inspired group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, have vowed to increase their attacks in the run-up to Egypt’s presidential elections later this month.

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Russia urges to immediately stop combat operations in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine

MOSCOW, April 25, 20:43 UTC+4 ITAR-TASS

Russia urges to immediately stop any combat operations and violence in Ukraine, to pull troops back and to begin the implementation of the Geneva agreements, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Bearing in mind the genesis of the current crisis, we think it right to begin with measures stipulated in the agreements of February 21, 2014 that was signed by the leaders of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] coalition and reaffirmed by foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France,” the ministry said. “It would make it possible to start practical de-escalation in line with the Geneva statement.”

Russia consistently supports its full realization, including the activities of the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine.

Lavrov told Steinmeier that, to stabilize the situation, it was necessary to put an end all types of violence and to stop the use of the Army units and armed nationalistic radicals in the towns and cities of Eastern Ukraine.

The two ministers drew a conclusion on the importance of an active engagement of a mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

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Breaking News – Bouteflika wins fourth Algerian presidential term with 81.53 % of votes, interior ministry says

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Bouteflika wins fourth Algerian presidential term with 81.53 % of votes,  Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference on Friday.

The main opposition candidate, Ali Benflis, garnered 12.18 per cent of the vote. Official figures for voter turnout were 51.7 percent.

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Eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk rallies in favor of independence referendum

At least 1,000 protesters have gathered in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the industrial capital of the region, demanding that authorities respect their right for self-determination by allowing them to stage a Crimea-style referendum.

The rally was held in the city’s central Lenin Square. Demonstrators held Russian flags and signs which read, “The Republic of Donetsk.”

The protesters called for a general all-Ukrainian strike and distributed leaflets declaring April 18 a referendum day.

“Today a referendum remains a sharp political and social issue in Donbass region. People do not leave squares and require to hold [a referendum]. The fight for a referendum is accompanied by protests against rising prices for gas, electricity and food. The socio-patriotic movement ‘Eastern Front‘ offers trade unions to hold a general strike on April 18. The goal of the strike is to require that the authorities hold a referendum and introduce a moratorium on the increase of tariffs and utilities,” said the leaflet, according to local media reports.

Residents then marched from the square to the city council building. Law enforcement officers in riot gear gathered near the building.

The protesters demanded that local authorities meet them at the location. According to reports, a group of city council deputies came out of the building.

Demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Referendum” and “Berkut,” as well as “Russia” and “Taruta (the new Donbass governor recently appointed by the Kiev government) needs to go!”

Earlier, the press service of the city council reported that authorities had not received any requests or notifications from social organizations or political parties about the Saturday rally.

Deputies of the city council, Igor Ponomarenko and Igor Sviridov, promised to meet residents at Lenin Square on Sunday, according to local media.

On March 1, Donetsk City Council made a decision to support the residents in their calls for a referendum. The deputies of the city council said that the decision on whether to hold a referendum is currently being considered by the court prosecutor, and the next hearing will take place on April 22.

On Friday, a group of people gathered at the German consulate in Donetsk to protest against what they say is German interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs. They have signed a petition asking Berlin to stop meddling.

We ask you to convey to the leadership of your country our request of non-interference in Ukrainian internal affairs by Germany,” the petition reads.

“We ask you, based on Germany’s international authority, to warn other countries from this, not to enkindle war and not to support fascism in Ukraine,” said the people’s statement, as quoted by local media.

After President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by an armed coup in February, the Donbass region has been gripped by protests against Kiev’s coup-imposed government. Thousands of demonstrators have been demanding to hold a referendum to decide on the future of the region – just like in Crimea, which refused to recognize the country’s new authorities.

The Republic of Crimea declared its independence from Ukraine following the March 16 referendum, in which 96.77 percent of the voters chose to rejoin Russia. Despite calls to boycott the vote and provocation attempts, 83.1 percent of Crimeans took part in the poll.

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Power line accidents reduce energy supply from Ukraine to Crimea

Electricity supply to Crimea has been reduced by half and the region is experiencing rotating blackouts following two accidents on power lines coming from Ukraine, Crimea’s energy company says.

Earlier, Crimean Vice-PM Rustam Temirgaliev said that Ukrainian national energy company Ukrenergo reduced the electricity supply to Crimea by 50 percent. “Ukrenegro reduced the power in its power lines cutting the amount of supplied energy by half,” the top official told Kryminfo news agency.

Temirgaliev described the power shortages as “blackmail” on behalf of Kiev.

Crimean energy company DTEK Krymenergo said in a statement on its website that accidents on two power lines connecting the peninsula with Ukraine forced it to put them offline on Sunday.

There are a total of three power lines coming from Ukraine. All of them are operated by Ukrenergo.

This comes after Crimea and the port city of Sevastopol officially joined Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed law amending the Russian constitution to reflect the transition on Friday. Earlier, Russian lawmakers ratified both the amendment and an international treaty with Crimea and Sevastopol, which was legally required for the incorporation.

The Russian ruble becomes an official currency of the peninsula on Monday, alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

Temirgaliev also said earlier the reduction of the energy supply is Kiev’s attempt to blackmail the Russian Federation into some concessions. “It can be explained by these people’s foolishness,” he said. “We don’t have any debts. There is no reason for the blackout. They are just ‘training.’”

The vice-PM added that Crimea was prepared for such developments. “We understand what we are signing up for. We will economize on consumption, but we won’t have any disaster, crisis or collapse.”

via Power line accidents reduce energy supply from Ukraine to Crimea — RT News.

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Gunmen kill 100 in central Nigeria

Gunmen killed more than 100 people in an attack on three villages in central Nigeria, an area where longstanding disputes over land, religion and ethnicity often erupt into violence, two local government officials said on Sunday.

The police confirmed the attacks by Fulani herdsman late on Friday but declined to give a death toll.

 euronews,.

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For First Time, Kremlin Signals It Is Prepared to Annex Crimea

MOSCOW — Russia signaled for the first time on Friday that it was prepared to annex the Crimea region of Ukraine, significantly intensifying its confrontation with the West over the political crisis in Ukraine and threatening to undermine a system of respect for national boundaries that has helped keep the peace in Europe and elsewhere for decades.

Leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament said that they would support a vote by Crimeans to break away from Ukraine and become a region of the Russian Federation, ignoring sanction threats and warnings, from the United States and other countries, that a vote for secession would violate Ukraine’s Constitution and international law. The Russian message was yet another in a series of political and military actions undertaken over the past week that outraged the West, even while the Kremlin’s final intentions remained unclear.

As new tensions flared between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea, the moves by Russia raised the specter of a protracted conflict over the status of the region, which Russian forces occupied last weekend, calling into question not only Russia’s relations with the West but also post-Cold War agreements on the sovereignty of the nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The developments underscored how quickly the crisis has evolved. Earlier this week, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia. But on Friday, Russia’s parliamentary leaders, both strong allies of Mr. Putin, welcomed a delegation from Crimea’s regional assembly and declared that they would support a vote to break away from Ukraine, now scheduled for March 16.

The referendum has been denounced by the fledgling national government in Kiev, which said it would invalidate the outcome and dissolve the Crimean Parliament. President Obama has also rejected the referendum, and the United States government announced sanctions on Thursday in response to Russia’s de facto military occupation.

Russia denounced those sanctions in a blunt rejoinder on Friday evening, posted on the Foreign Ministry website. The statement said that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had spoken by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry and warned that “hasty and ill-considered steps” to impose sanctions on Russian officials “would inevitably backfire on the United States itself.”

Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry would soon meet again. A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Kerry, who was flying back to Washington after a trip to Europe and the Middle East, confirmed that Mr. Kerry had spoken with Mr. Lavrov, but that it was unclear when they would meet again.

The Russians also sent menacing economic signals to the financially ailing interim central government in Kiev, which Russia has refused to recognize. Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, which supplies Ukraine with most of its gas, warned that it might shut off supplies unless Ukraine paid $1.89 billion owed to the company.

“We cannot deliver gas for free,” Russian news agencies quoted Gazprom’s chief executive, Alexei Miller, as saying.

Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine for nearly two weeks in January 2009, causing severe economic problems for Ukraine and for other European customers who were dependent on supplies delivered through Ukraine.

Valentina I. Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, compared the planned referendum in Crimea to Scotland’s scheduled vote on whether to become independent from Britain. She did not mention that the national government in Britain had agreed to hold a referendum, while the Ukrainian government has not.

The speaker of the Russian lower house, Sergei Y. Naryshkin, echoed Ms. Matviyenko’s remarks. “We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea,” he said.

Their assertions came a day after Crimea’s regional assembly voted in a closed session to secede from Ukraine and apply to join the Russian Federation, and to hold a referendum for voters in the region to ratify the decision. On Friday, a delegation of lawmakers from Crimea arrived in Moscow to lay the groundwork for joining Russia, strongly supported by senior lawmakers.

In another telling sign of Russian government support, the Crimean delegates were cheered at an officially sanctioned rally in central Moscow that was shown at length on Russian state television, with songs and chants of “Russia, Moscow, Crimea.” News agencies quoted the police as saying 60,000 people attended.

Even if the referendum proceeds, it was unclear what would happen next, given the wide gap between the positions of Russia and the West — most notably between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama, who spoke for an hour by phone on Thursday night.

According to the White House, Mr. Obama urged Mr. Putin to authorize direct talks with Ukraine’s new government, permit the entry of international monitors and return his forces to the bases that Russia leases in Crimea.

In a statement, the Kremlin offered a starkly different account of the phone call, emphasizing Russia’s view that the new government in Kiev had no authority because it was the result of what Mr. Putin called an anticonstitutional coup last month that had ousted Viktor F. Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin president.

The official Russian account of the phone call went on to say that the current Ukrainian leadership had imposed “absolutely illegitimate decisions” on the eastern and southeastern regions of the country, where pro-Russian sentiment is widespread. “Russia cannot ignore appeals connected to this, calls for help, and acts appropriately, in accordance with international law,” the statement said.

In the United States, Mr. Obama was taking a wait-and-see attitude. He spoke by phone to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has been reluctant to pursue muscular sanctions against Russia because of the deep and interwoven economic relationship between the two countries. He headed to Florida for a speech on education and then a weekend off with his family, but aides promised he would be monitoring the crisis.

“We’re hopeful that in the next few days, we’ll get greater clarity about whether or not the Russians are willing to take some concrete steps toward this offramp here,” said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.

In Kiev, anti-Russian sentiment was hardening. The Right Sector movement, a nationalist group that was important in the deadly protests last month that drove Mr. Yanukovych from power, announced that its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, would run for president. Andriy Tarasenko, chairman of its local branch, also said the group was prepared to fight, in Crimea and elsewhere, “if the Kremlin tramples on us further.”

With Washington and Moscow trading heated accusations of hypocrisy on the issue of respecting state sovereignty, validating Crimea’s secession would carry pointed political risks for Mr. Putin, given longstanding demands for independence from Russia by its own similarly autonomous republics in the Caucasus, including Dagestan and Chechnya.

Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia, noted the parallel in a sharp post on Twitter. “If Russian government endorses Crimean referendum,” Mr. McFaul wrote, using abbreviations needed for a 140-character limit, “will they also allow/endorse similar votes in republics in the Russian Federation?”

The West, which has insisted that the Ukrainian people are entitled to decide their future without interference from Russia, faces similar challenges as it seeks to explain why the people of Crimea should not necessarily decide their own fate.

The United States and its European allies typically support self-determination, but have opposed independence for regions within their own borders, like Scotland in Britain or Catalonia in Spain.

There was no sign on Friday that Russian armed forces were relaxing their tight clench on the Crimean Peninsula, with military bases surrounded and border crossings under strict control. There were news reports late Friday that pro-Russian militants had smashed through the gates of a Ukrainian Air Force base in the port of Sevastopol housing 100 Ukrainian troops, but that no shots had been fired. There were also reports that a number of Ukrainian journalists had been beaten by masked attackers and were missing.

For the second consecutive day, an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 57-member organization that includes both Ukraine and Russia, was prevented from entering Crimea at a checkpoint blocked by armed men.

Astrid Thors, an envoy from the group who had gone to Crimea earlier in the week, said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam that she had faced noisy, threatening crowds chanting pro-Russian slogans during her visit and had been forced to leave. Ms. Thors, the group’s high commissioner for national minorities, said she could have experienced the sort of predicament faced by a senior United Nations diplomat, Robert H. Serry, who was chased out of Crimea by gunmen earlier this week.

“There was a risk the same could happen, that our movement could be hindered by the crowds,” Ms. Thors said. “We took precautionary principles. We shortened our stay.”

For First Time, Kremlin Signals It Is Prepared to Annex Crimea – NYTimes.com.

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Flautre accuses Erdoğan with being ‘irresponsible’ in corruption scandal

Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, speaks in an exclusive interview with the Cihan news agency.

28 December 2013 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL

Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EUTurkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, released a statement on Saturday in which she criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with being “irresponsible” for accusing those who investigate the recent corruption probe.

“I observe the recent developments in Turkey with extreme vigilance, which greatly affect the credit of Prime Minister. In his statements, he accuses those who investigating the probe rather than require light on serious allegations of corruption involving his family is irresponsible. Allegations are certainly not findings, and justice must now continue its work in serenity and independence,” Flautre said.

Flautre’s statement came after the Council of State‘s decision on Friday to cancel the Erdoğan government’s executive order requiring police and prosecutors to notify their superiors of all investigations, effectively giving the government advance warning of what should be secret investigations.

“This is a serious political crisis and the European Union must stand firmly on the side of the defense of the rule of law, avoiding any exploitation of the situation,” her statement added.

After the cancellation of the order by the Council of State on Friday, Erdoğan said he would prosecute Turkey’s top judicial body if he had the authority because it “committed a crime.”

Erdoğan claimed the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has committed a crime by issuing a statement about a judicial police regulation while it was being assessed at the Council of State. On Thursday, the HSYK has harshly criticized the new judicial police regulation, saying that it is in violation of the Turkish Constitution.

The Erdoğan government’s interference into and pressure on the judiciary was met with a huge backlash from opposition parties, bar associations, advocacy groups and the media. It has raised concerns of an attempted government cover-up of the corruption probe that has implicated prominent people in the business community and government.

Flautre accuses Erdoğan with being ‘irresponsible’ in corruption scandal – Today’s Zaman, your gateway to Turkish daily news.

Obama defends NSA programs during rare White House press conference

United States President Barack defended the surveillance tactics used by the National Security Agency during a rare press conference from the White House on Friday in which he denied allegations that the NSA has abused those programs.

Earlier this week an independent review panel selected by the president to audit the NSA’s operations in the midst of a far-reaching surveillance scandal supplied the White House with a report containing 46 recommendations for the intelligence agency.

“Over the next several weeks I’m going to assess, based on conversations not just with the intelligence community but others in government and outside of government, how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations,” Pres. Obama said Friday afternoon during his last scheduled press conference of 2013.

“I think they did an excellent job,” he said of the five-person Review Group.

The president will wait until January to decide what suggestions, if any, the NSA should heed, however, but during his exchange with journalists on Friday he again dismissed accusations that the spy agency has unlawfully conducted surveillance operations.

Compelling telecommunication companies daily for the phone data pertaining to millions of Americans is not on par with “domestic surveillance,” the president said, instead insisting that “having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time” is a crucial counterterrorism tool. Among the recommendations made in the Review Group’s 208-page report are relying on the telecoms or another third-party to hold into that data, which the president said on Friday “is possible.”

“I think it’s important to note that in all the reviews of this program that have been done, in fact, there have not been actual instances where it’s been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data,” Obama continued. “But what is also clear is from the public debate, people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse.”

On the contrary, though, a federal judge in Washington, DC wrote earlier this week that the dragnet collection of telephony metadata is likely unconstitutional and that the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the Obama administration can have an injunction protecting themselves from having their own phone records collected by the NSA. And despite the president’s claim, in another instance the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — the body that approves these programs — accused the NSA of having NSA “frequently and systematically violated” its own oversight requirements,

Should the White House agree to reform that and other practices, the president said the intelligence community would be without a tool that’s been hailed by proponents of the agency’s operations as critical for national security.

“The question we’re going to have to ask is can we accomplish the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in ways that give the public more confidence that in fact the NSA is doing what it’s supposed to be doing,” Obama said. “I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around, but I also recognize that as technologies change and people can start running algorithms and programs that map out all the information that we’re downloading on a daily basis into our telephones and our computers that we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence. And I’m going to be working very hard on doing that.”

Fox reporter Ed Henry was quick to follow up the president’s remark by reminding the commander-in-chief that just six months earlier he said his administration struck “the right balance” between security and privacy concerns with regards to the NSA’s operations.

“You can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance,” Henry quoted from a statement made by the president on June 7 — two days after the media began to report on the NSA’s metadata collection program due to leaked documents disclosed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

“That was only six months ago,” Henry said. “Now, there’s judges are saying no; your own panel is saying no; even you’re saying no, we haven’t really struck the right balance, perhaps, that changes have to be made.”

“My question is, were you wrong then because you were not fully read in, not just on these programs, but on other programs, outside of the ones you just talked about, where we were potentially listening in on the German leaders, the Brazilian leaders and others, that suggest there were abuses, number one?” he asked. “On surveillance, you looked the American people in the eye six months ago and said, we’ve got the right balance. And six months later, you’re saying, maybe not.”

“What is absolutely clear to me,” the president responded, “is that given the public debate that’s taken place and the disclosures that have taken place over the last several months that this is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust.”

That confidence could come through way of reform, the president suggested, which some say would not have been possible without Snowden sharing those files with the media.