Pages: 1 ... 8 9 [10]
 91 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:16 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Pakistan Says Talks with Taliban in Comprehensive Phase

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 20:42

Pakistan on Sunday announced its talks with the Taliban militants to reach an accord will enter a "comprehensive" phase in days, with both sides set to put forward formal agendas, after weeks of negotiations.

The announcement came from the country's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan days after the infighting between the Taliban groups killed more than 60 people and a ceasefire deadline by the militants expired Saturday.

Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which announced a ceasefire last month and then extended it for six more days on April 6, has not announced any further extension, but there have been no attacks on the ground since.

"Formal comprehensive talks will start from the next meeting which will hopefully take place within the next couple of days," Khan told reporters in Islamabad.

"You will get to know the main agenda both from the government side and the other side in the next meeting. The next meeting will come up with the comprehensive agenda from both the sides," he said.

He said that the government is in the process of releasing more than 30 noncombatant Taliban prisoners in a bid to take the dialogue process forward.

"We will release up to 13 more prisoners. After their release, the number of total freed noncombatant prisoners will go up to more than 30," Khan said.

The government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) through intermediaries in February to try to end the Islamists' bloody seven-year insurgency.

The umbrella militant group had demanded the release of what they called "non-combatant" prisoners and the establishment of a "peace zone" where security forces would not be present.

In March the Taliban handed over a list of 300 people including women, children, and old men, seeking their release.

Last week, the government handed over 19 tribesmen based in South Waziristan, calling them "non-combatant Taliban prisoners."

Khan also suggested that the talks should be held in Peshawar, capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has been heavily hit by attacks from the TTP, but the militants are yet to announce their willingness for this.

The earlier meetings for direct talks with TTP leaders have taken place at undisclosed locations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan where the Taliban militants have their hold.

Khan said that the government has also taken up the issue of the release of a senior academic -- Professor Mohammad Ajmal -- as well the sons of slain former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and other abductees in return for its concessions to TTP demands.

He, however, did not make any predictions about the possible outcome of the talks.

"If we are moving along the process of peace through the dialogue, the whole process will continue, and God forbid if it fails, I don't have to announce it. You will all know," he added.

The peace talks were a key campaign pledge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year.

Pakistan has been in the grip of a homegrown Taliban insurgency since 2007, with more than 6,800 people killed in bomb and gun attacks according to an Agence France Presse tally.

A bomb attack at a market in Islamabad on Wednesday killed 24 people, though the TTP denied responsibility.

 92 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:15 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Series of Bombings Kills More Than 20 Across Iraq

By DURAID ADNAN
APRIL 13, 2014
IHT
   
BAGHDAD — Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gained control of the main road that links Baghdad with the northern provinces for a short time on Sunday, while a series of explosions around Iraq left up to 25 dead, according to security forces.

In the deadliest blast of the day, a car bomb was detonated as a joint patrol for the police and army passed through Mosul in the north, killing 10 and wounding 12 others, the security forces said.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a powerful jihadist group once affiliated with Al Qaeda, kidnapped five people, including an oil executive, who were traveling on the road in Salahuddin Province that links the north to the capital.

All of the attacks came less than a week after the 11th anniversary of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, an event that many Iraqis regard as the fall of the capital, and just two weeks before the first parliamentary elections since the United States withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. The vote is scheduled for the end of the month.

In Kirkuk in the north, a suicide bomber blew up himself near a security checkpoint, killing eight people, according to security sources. And in Salahuddin Province, gunmen attacked the home of a Sunni tribal fighter, killing three members of his family, and four police officers were killed when a car bomb exploded near their checkpoint.

 93 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Nuclear Chief Says Iran Needs 30,000 New Centrifuges for Fuel

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 18:03

Iran will need 30,000 of its new generation centrifuges to meet domestic fuel demands, far more than the current number, its nuclear chief said Sunday.

Ali Akbar Salehi's comments came just days after the latest round of international talks in Vienna aimed at securing a long-term deal over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The capability and number of centrifuges at Tehran's disposal has been a key concern among countries which suspect the Islamic republic's eventual goal is to build an atomic bomb.

Iran currently has nearly 19,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 of the so-called first generation being used to enrich uranium.

The country insists its nuclear activities are solely for civilian purposes.

"If we want to use the Natanz enrichment facility to produce the annual fuel of Bushehr nuclear power plant, we need to build 30,000 new centrifuges," Salehi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.

Under an interim agreement reached last year that expires on July 20, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.

Under the deal, Iran cannot increase its number of centrifuges, but in February it announced it was developing new ones that are 15 times more powerful than those currently used.

Any final deal with the West may involve Iran slashing its number of centrifuges, changing the design of a new reactor at Arak and giving U.N. inspectors more oversight.

The Bushehr plant, which produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity, came into service in 2011 after several delays blamed on technical problems. Tehran took control of the plant from Russia last year.

In October, Salehi said Iran had built a fuel production line for its sole nuclear power plant which would go on stream within three months.

However, he did not specify a date after which Iran could use locally produced fuel instead of that provided by Russia.

Iran has said it wants to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity from nuclear power, which would require building 20 reactors.

 94 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Most Ukrainians are neither loyal Russians nor fascists

In the propaganda war between Putin and the west, the complexities of Ukraine, and its people's interests, are ignored

James Meek   
The Guardian, Sunday 13 April 2014 20.15 BST          

Things weren't easy in Ukraine when I lived there in the early 1990s, just after the country voted to break from Moscow. There was hyperinflation. People lost their savings. There were petrol shortages. The airport in Kiev would close for days at a time for lack of fuel. Nothing got repaired; nothing got built.

But nobody starved. Nobody froze. The electricity was never cut off. The trains kept running, schools and hospitals limped from day to day. Most importantly, horrifying as it was for Ukrainians to watch on the television news how long-peaceful places they knew, such as Georgia, Moldova and Chechnya, were suddenly on fire with heavily armed men strutting across them, they were far away.

There was much grumbling about the Ukrainian government, its incompetence, its corruption. There always seemed the possibility, in the abstract, that Russia might try to come back. In the mid-1990s I wrote an article for the Guardian suggesting a scenario for a new Yugoslavia in the east, with Ukraine as Croatia, Crimea as Bosnia and Russia as Serbia. But I felt I'd pushed it. After all, Boris Yeltsin was no Milosevic.

I remember visiting Ukraine one springtime in the mid-1990s. Days earlier, in Chechnya, I'd seen shell-ruined buildings, terrified civilians, battle-hardened separatists and frightened Russian conscripts. In Ukraine I drove past Ukrainian soldiers gathered around a radar truck; each one was blissfully asleep, bathed in the soft May sunshine. It made me smile. After all, what did they have to worry about? Ukraine had given away its nuclear weapons and in return, the country's territorial integrity was guaranteed in a document signed by Russia, the US and Britain.

And then Russia got its Milosevic. Like his Serbian counterpart, Vladimir Putin is clever, articulate, popular, untrustworthy to those who are not his friends, ruthless, cynical to the point of absurdity and unable to account for his personal wealth. Like Milosevic, he has no compunction in exploiting the messianic, victim-narrative strain of his country's patriotism. Unlike Milosevic, because of Russia's nuclear arsenal, he is invulnerable to military attack from outside. Unlike Milosevic, he has had many years of income from raw materials exports with which to build up powerful, well-equipped security forces to carry out a well-targeted upgrade of Russia's military, to turn the media into a government mouthpiece, to repress or buy off dissenters, and to offer the outside world the convincing illusion that his country is prospering. (It is true that Russian pensioners are somewhat less miserably poor than those in Ukraine.)

Now, a generation later, long after it had been unthinkable, those same chaotic figures with Kalashnikovs and fatigues have appeared in Ukraine, under Russian sponsorship and, all evidence suggests, direction.

First came the direct Russian military takeover of Crimea. The weekend saw an apparent attempt by proxy to separate the eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, and perhaps others, from Kiev's control.

There are multiple possible interpretations of what is unfolding in eastern Ukraine. The Pigtinite "men in green", as they are now being called by Ukrainians, for the time being have the active support of some locals, particularly pensioners. But one essential point is beyond dispute. Nothing that has happened in Ukraine up to now justifies either military intervention by Russia or the injection of armed mercenaries and irregulars into a peaceful country.

In the wake of the revolution in Kiev that drove the corrupt president Victor Yanukovych to flee, Ukraine faced a world of problems. Not one of those problems has been made easier by Putin seizing Crimea or sponsoring insurrection in eastern Ukraine. Ever since the revolution, the Pig has promoted the idea that Ukraine is in "chaos". But there was no chaos, so he made some. The only chaos in Ukraine has been caused by Russian intervention.

The Pig has promoted the notion that ethnic Russians were in danger. There has never been evidence for this unless you count as brutal repression a failed attempt to revive an old law making Ukrainian the sole language for court hearings and government forms. The Pig calls for greater autonomy for the south and east of Ukraine, and more rights for Russian-speakers, while doing all he can to obstruct elections that would bring them back into the political process.

A dangerous line was crossed today when a Ukrainian security service officer was killed by one of the "men in green" at a roadblock set up by the Russian proxies near Slavyansk – the first time since the Pig invaded Crimea that blood has been shed during an attempt by Ukrainian government forces to assert control.

The Pig has put Ukraine's weak transitional government in an impossible position: fail to resist and I will invade. Resist and I will invade more, and there will be corpses. Although they would never admit it, the authorities in Kiev are resigned to the loss of Crimea. But they don't know where or when Pig Putin will stop. His strategy has blighted the future of Ukraine's 46 million people, making it impossible for any part of the country to move forward.

Hearing the opinions of people in Britain, Europe and America since Russia began to dismember Ukraine, I've been struck by how disagreement tends to focus on which of the two sides has behaved worst: Pig Putin or the west. The complexities of the people of Ukraine tend to vanish in this binary view, alarmingly close to the Putinite consensus, which is that if you live in Ukraine you must either be a loyal vassal to Russia or a fascist.

The truth is that between the minority of archaic radical nationalists in Ukraine's far west, whose role in the revolution won them a few posts in Kiev's otherwise moderate government, and the minority of neo-Soviet extremists in the east, there is a larger group of Ukrainians for whom the difference between the two cultures and languages is trivial. What they want is for their country to be an east Slav space that is fairer and less corrupt than either Putin's Russia, Yanukovych's Ukraine or Lukashenko's Belarus. Whichever way Europe and the US act, it must be with the interests of that group in mind.

In a haunting article, written during Putin's invasion of Crimea, the Ukrainian writer and ethnic Russian Yelena Styazhkina said: "Ukraine is my motherland. The Russian language is my native language. Let Pushkin save me and liberate me from sadness and anxiety. Pushkin, but not Pig Putin."

 95 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Pig Putin and Ukraine - what newspapers think of the Russian president

the Guardian
04/14/2014   

The drama being played out in eastern Ukraine (and the UN) is an invasion by stealth by suspected Russian soldiers, says The Times's splash.

Violence in a region with a large ethnic Russian population has, says The Independent report, "ratcheted up the tension in one of the worst crises in recent times."

What is to be done? The Times, in pointing out that the "false flag" incidents resemble those used in the Crimean takeover, argues that "the West cannot allow this drama to unfold before its eyes" and it is therefore "right to begin inflicting pain on Russian decision-makers."
It continues:

    "Restricting access to capital by Russian state institutions and capping the loans of the country's state banks will hurt the EU, and the City of London in particular.

    If the Pig's adventurism is not restrained, though, the destabilisation of Ukraine will have a sapping effect across Eastern Europe. Financial sanctions demonstrate that the West is not indifferent to Moscow's transgressions.

    The most obvious measure that must be taken is curtailing military co-operation or arms trading with Russia."

The Times recalls that the notorious "false flag" operation in August 1939, when German soldiers disguised themselves as Poles to simulate an attack on a German radio station and thus provided a pretext for Hitler's invasion of Poland.

The paper concludes: "Mr Pig Putin does not want to be lumped together with the Nazi dictator. He should behave accordingly."

The Independent agrees that the Pig's  "irredentist aggression [is] masked in a way that deceives no one." But Russia's president "holds most of the cards in the contest for eastern Ukraine."

It argues that the West might thump the table and ratchet up sanctions but it would not be willing "nor able" to reverse an invasion.

But the paper believes Putin is "acting not from strength but weakness" because "Russia is a nation in steep decline." It concludes:

    "At the four-way talks in Geneva next week – if they go ahead – the West's words must reflect a recognition that what Pig Putin is attempting has no justification and must be resisted by every other means available."

Christopher Granville, writing in the Financial Times, agrees that "Russia's pre-existing economic malaise" makes the country "vulnerable to an international crisis."

He therefore thinks Pig Putin, who understands the economic problems, will "soon" make "determined efforts to repair relations with the US and, above all, Europe."

The Daily Telegraph asks: "What is the Pig's Putin's game?" It cannot see what the Russian government hopes to gain from its latest incursion:

    "Does he think he can simply snip off further pieces of territory at will, or hope to set up more 'autonomous' enclaves on his borders where Russia's writ can run?

    With every day that passes, it becomes harder to see how further violence, chaos and diplomatic and economic turmoil can be avoided. The only one who can calm the situation is Pig – and he seems to be in no mood to back down."

James Meek, writing in The Guardian, likens Putin to the late Serbian leader, Slobodan Milošević:

    "Like his Serbian counterpart, the Pig is clever, articulate, popular, untrustworthy to those who are not his friends, ruthless, cynical to the point of absurdity and unable to account for his personal wealth.

    Like Milosevic, he has no compunction in exploiting the messianic, victim-narrative strain of his country's patriotism. Unlike Milosevic, because of Russia's nuclear arsenal, he is invulnerable to military attack from outside.

    Unlike Milosevic, he has had many years of income from raw materials exports with which to build up powerful, well-equipped security forces to carry out a well-targeted upgrade of Russia's military, to turn the media into a government mouthpiece, to repress or buy off dissenters, and to offer the outside world the convincing illusion that his country is prospering."

He draws on his knowledge of Ukraine, having lived there previously, to illustrate the differences of opinion and political stance:

    "The truth is that between the minority of archaic radical nationalists in Ukraine's far west, whose role in the revolution won them a few posts in Kiev's otherwise moderate government, and the minority of neo-Soviet extremists in the east, there is a larger group of Ukrainians for whom the difference between the two cultures and languages is trivial.

    What they want is for their country to be an east Slav space that is fairer and less corrupt than either Pig Putin's Russia, Yanukovych's Ukraine or Lukashenko's Belarus. Whichever way Europe and the US act, it must be with the interests of that group in mind."

 96 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:51 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Russia spends more of its wealth on arms than US in 2013

Russian defence spending rises by 4.8% to $88bn, devoting larger share of GDP on military than US for first time since 2003

Richard Norton-Taylor   
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014   

Russia spent a higher proportion of its wealth on arms than the US last year for the first time in more than a decade, according to figures published on Monday by a leading international research body that highlights Moscow's resurgent military ambition as it confronts the west over Ukraine.

Western countries, including Britain and the US, reduced defence budgets, but Russia increased arms spending by 4.8% in real terms last year to almost $88bn (£52m), devoting a bigger share of its GDP to the military than the US for the first time since 2003, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

China and Saudi Arabia were also among a list of countries that increased arms spending, but overall world military expenditure fell by 1.9% to $1.75tn in 2013. Britain is estimated to have dropped to its lowest place in the military spending league since the second world war.

Under Russia's state armaments plan, Moscow plans to spend $705bn to replace 70% of the country's military equipment by 2020. Although Russia's 850,000-strong armed forces are by far the biggest in the region, dwarfing that of Ukraine, for example, much of its hardware is in need of modernising.

And despite devoting ever more resources to defence, Russia still trails far behind the US in absolute terms. America spent $640bn in 2013 (down by 7.8%) – more than three times than China, with $188bn. China increased its defence expenditure by 7.4%, Saudi Arabia by as much as 14% (to $67bn). Spending on arms by Iraq and Bahrain increased by more than 25% during the same period. Military spending in the Middle East as a whole increased by 4% last year, reaching an estimated $150bn. The Saudi increase is partly owing to tensions with Iran, but also the desire to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential Arab spring-type protests, says Sipri.

It adds: "Maintaining regime survival in the face of internal opposition is also the likely motive for Bahrain's 26% increase."

Afghanistan accounted for the biggest increase in arms spending – 77%. "Not only did Afghanistan have the world's highest increase in military expenditure in 2013, at 77%, spending had risen by 557% over the decade since 2004," says Sipri.

It adds: "This huge increase is the result of Afghanistan's efforts to build its defence and security forces from scratch, heavily supported by foreign aid. The particularly large increase in 2013 is the result of an increase in salaries and wages for the Afghan national army, which reached its target goal of 195 000 soldiers in 2012, and as a result of preparations for the departure of most foreign forces at the end of 2014."

Military spending in Africa increased by more than 8% in 2013, reaching an estimated $44.9bn. Algeria became the first country on the continent with a military budget of more than $10bn. Angola increased its spending by 36%, overtaking South Africa as the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa. High oil revenues appear to be a factor driving greater spending in Algeria and Angola, the survey says.

"The increase in military spending in emerging and developing countries continues unabated", said Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, director of Sipri's military expenditure programme. "While in some cases it is the natural result of economic growth or a response to genuine security needs, in other cases it represents a squandering of natural resource revenues, the dominance of autocratic regimes, or emerging regional arms races."

 97 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/11/2014 03:10 PM

Victim of Its Own Success: German Jobs Program for Southern Europeans Falls Short

By Markus Dettmer and Claus Hecking

When Germany announced a program to attract jobless young adults from Southern Europe, they had no idea how high demand would be. Funding has temporarily run out for travel, training and language learning subsidies.

Luis Ribeiro doesn't know Angela Merkel personally, but he counted on a promise she made. It may turn out to have been a mistake.

"We cannot allow a generation to be lost," Merkel said last July during a crisis summit with the leaders of numerous European Union member states held in Berlin to address the problem of rampant unemployment among young adults in large parts of Europe. At the time, the German chancellor and other EU leaders pledged €8 billion ($11 billion) to address the problem. And Germany already had a program ready to help.

So Ribeiro, who asked that his real name not be published in order to protect his identity, applied for assistance at the end of 2013 through the program, which carries the bureaucratic moniker MobiPro-EU. The program is intended to help young unemployed people, particularly those from Southern Europe, start careers in Germany. At the same time, it aims to help German companies fill vacant job positions in a country where firms in many sectors are having trouble recruiting enough skilled workers.

A Nice Gesture Turns into a Problem

But what was intended as a generous gesture has become a problem for the German government. Ribeiro himself is currently experiencing the program's shortcomings. The 27-year-old, who hails from northern Portugal, studied nursing at a college in Braga, but he hasn't been able to find a job at home. "I have sent out at least 20 applications," Ribeiro says, "but I haven't received a single response." With the economy at rock bottom as a result of the euro and debt crisis, prospects on the labor market for nurses are virtually non-existent in Portugal these days.

Through a private placement company, Ribeiro obtained a contract to work in an old-age home in a town in the Black Forest. For months now, he's been attending daily German classes in Braga; next week, he is supposed to fly to Germany to start his job and complete further language training. The MobiPro program is supposed to pick up the costs of his travel and German classes, but Ribeiro hasn't seen a cent yet.

On March 27, he received a letter from the Federal Employment Agency's International Placement Services (ZAV) office in Germany informing him that his application couldn't be decided on at the moment because the agency hasn't been provided with sufficient federal funding for the program in 2014.

Money So Well Spent There Should Be More of It

Although the program was launched by then-Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen with great pomp last year, it is dramatically underfunded. The program may make sense, pairing as it does young workers from Southern Europe, with its persistently high unemployment rates, with companies in Germany with acute needs for trainees and skilled workers. In addition to travel and language class expenses, the program also picks up costs for vocational training for young people seeking to build a future in Germany.

But it appears that German leaders have been caught off guard by the sheer number of young people interesting in pulling up stakes and establishing themselves here. Figures supplied by ZAV show that 9,000 young people from around the EU had applied for the program by the end of March.

Berlin budgeted €33 million for the program this year. However, the federal government's 2014 budget is still provisional and only part of the funding has been provided. The amount already disbursed to ZAV had already been spent by the end of February, prompting the agency to suspend the processing of applications.

The Federal Employment Agency also appears to have been caught off guard by the massive demand. Sources at private placement agencies claim that the ZAV's central hotline was getting so many calls that it was often unreachable during the month of February. And people who sent in their applications by email got an autoreply: "The recipient's mailbox is full and cannot receive any additional messages."

Berlin Scrambles to Find a Solution

The budget for the rest of the year has since been increased to €48 million, but the Federal Employment Agency's own internal calculations show that it will be nowhere near enough to cover demand. Officials have calculated that after the costs are covered for the 3,500 youth seeking traineeships and 1,300 skilled workers who have already been accepted into the program this year, only €6.7 million in funding will remain for additional applicants. They estimate that will be enough to cover about 500 youth seeking traineeships for the rest of the year, but the agency already has 2,300 such applications. It hasn't even factored in outstanding applications for people applying for the skilled workers part of the program.

Officials at the Federal Labor Office say their actual funding needs for the program this year will be around €100 million, with an additional €105 million needed in 2015, a sum they assume will continue to grow in subsequent years.

Currently, MobiPro is scheduled to run through 2018, with the government envisioning a total of €359 million in funding. If the demand remains as high, though, the needed sum could swell to €800 million.

Politically, it's a hot button issue for Chancellor Merkel's government, which is scrambling behind the scenes to try to find additional funding. The program was in part intended to improve Germany's image across the EU -- an image which had suffered as a result of Berlin's strict stance in the euro crisis. Furthermore, a promise is a promise. Currently, a meeting in German parliament is set to seek a solution on May 5.

By then, Luis Ribeiro should be busy at work at his new job in the Black Forest -- with the hope, of course, that his bills will someday be paid by the German government.

Translated from the German by Daryl Lindsey

 98 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:47 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/14/2014 01:07 PM

Investigating Surveillance: German Parliament Divided over Snowden Subpoena

By SPIEGEL Staff

Berlin has insisted it wants to scrutinize NSA spying in Germany. But actually inviting Edward Snowden to testify before a paraliamentary investigation is proving delicate. Some in Chancellor Merkel's party are now casting doubt on Snowden's suitability as a witness.

It was, of course, purely coincidental that Glenn Greenwald found himself in Berlin last week, just as the debate in Germany was swelling over whether Edward Snowden should be invited to testify before the NSA investigative committee in the Bundestag, the federal parliament.

Greenwald had flown in from Brazil, where he lives, to speak at the presentation of the Liberty Award, a prize honoring foreign correspondents from Germany. And he didn't pass up the opportunity to pay tribute to Snowden, the man whose source material he has relied on in helping to shed light on the global surveillance system maintained by the United States and Britain. "Every country," said Greenwald, 47, has a moral obligation to help Snowden. That, he added, is particularly true for Germany. Top politicians in Berlin were targeted by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ, and Germany would have been none the wiser but for Snowden. Meanwhile, Snowden's visa for political asylum in Russia, where he now lives, is set to expire this summer.

Just a few hours prior to Greenwald's speech, and not even two kilometers away, politicians belonging to Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition made clear that help would not soon be forthcoming. The Greens and the Left Party, both in the opposition, had moved to invite Snowden to testify before the parliament's NSA committee, but conservative and Social Democratic members of the committee are in no hurry and it remains unclear when they might reach a decision. Opposition politicians are furious.

The squabbling within the committee -- which led to the resignation of Chairman Clemens Binninger of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) -- is more than just the standard Berlin bickering. Ten months after the NSA spying affair began, the parliamentary investigation has presented Merkel's government with the perfect opportunity to finally demonstrate its resolve in getting to the bottom of US and UK spying activities in Germany. Berlin has frequently insisted it is committed to probing the depths of the scandal, with Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (of the CDU) even claiming that "boundless" American surveillance would be addressed. But if the handling of Snowden provides any indication, the government's resolve is to be doubted.

Lasting Damage

It is perhaps not surprising that Berlin would seem to have gotten cold feet. Snowden's presence in Germany would be delicate in the extreme from a foreign policy perspective. And trans-Atlanticists in the Merkel government have for months been uncomfortable with the fact that many of Snowden's closest supporters have chosen the German capital as their base of operations. Should Snowden, 30, be allowed to join them, many in Berlin fear that US-German cooperation could suffer lasting damage, particularly on intelligence issues.

Were Snowden to testify before the Bundestag investigative committee, says Heather Conley, a former US diplomat who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, it would result in significant friction in German-American relations. His testimony, she continues, would intensify anti-American resentments in Germany and Europe just at a time when the Ukraine crisis is demonstrating just how important trans-Atlantic ties are.

Partly for that reason, Merkel decided early on not to grant Snowden asylum in Germany. Her fear of a clash with the US is just as great as her concern over a potentially divisive domestic political debate. Government sources say it could lead to a grave fissure in her governing coalition, which pairs her conservatives with the center-left SPD. The final say over visa issues lays with the Interior Ministry, under the control of de Maizière, one of Merkel's closest allies.

There is, however, an exception: Were a parliamentary investigative committee to subpoena a witness from abroad, the Interior Minister's discretion "could be reduced to nil," according to an expert opinion provided by the Bundestag's research service. On the contrary, he would then be required to do everything within his power to prepare such a visit, unless, the expert opinion notes, the welfare of the state is at risk. That, though, is a "question that can only be answered on an individual basis" -- and parliament has a significant say in the answer.

Both the Greens and the Left Party have been adamant that Snowden should be allowed to come to Germany and the expert opinion produced by the Bundestag's research service has made it clear that the investigative committee provides the best tool to reach that goal. Once Snowden is here, both opposition parties would like to see him stay.

That, though, is an impossibility from the perspective of Merkel's conservatives. "Were Snowden to come to Germany," says conservative domestic policy spokesman Stephan Mayer, "then the government, in my opinion, would be required to accede to the legally unobjectionable extradition request from the US." A final decision in this hypothetical could ultimately lie with the judiciary.

'A Dead-End'

Senior Green party figure Hans-Christian Ströbele says that it is paramount for the investigative committee to learn as much about American surveillance practices as possible. But, he notes, "there is a second important aspect for me: We have to make it possible for a man, whom we have so much to thank for, to live a normal life in a country based on the rule of law." And there isn't much time to achieve that goal, he adds. Snowden's asylum visa in Russia expires in August and nobody knows how long Russian President Vladimir Putin might continue to allow his presence.

The Left Party and the Greens sought to petition for a Snowden subpoena in the very first session of the investigative committee, but conservatives rejected the move. Indeed, the committee chairman, Clemens Binninger, unexpectedly resigned in response last Wednesday, saying that he stepped down to protest opposition efforts to turn the committee into a Snowden circus. In his statement, Binninger said that Snowden was not of particular interest as a witness. "Focusing only on him would lead the committee into a dead-end," he said.

The Greens immediately became suspicious and claimed, with no evidence whatsoever, that Binninger had been pressured into resignation by the Chancellery. Merkel, according to the Greens, didn't want to have a potential Snowden subpoena hanging over her during her trip to Washington at the beginning of next month. Binninger was quick to deny the accusations. "During the entire preparations for the committee, there were no discussions with the Chancellery -- formal or otherwise -- regarding how to approach the witness Snowden," he said, adding that his decision was his alone. Ströbele is not convinced and is now considering subpoenaing witnesses from the Chancellery.

But the Chancellery too was caught off guard by Binninger's sudden resignation. Chancellery sources note that Binninger was apparently unprepared for the political nature of most parliamentary investigative committees. To be sure, Merkel's staff has also denied accusations that it sought to influence the investigation, but sources also admit that Merkel is eager to avoid travelling to the US under the shadow of an impending Snowden visit to Berlin.

During the investigative committee's second session last Thursday -- now under the leadership of Patrick Sensburg -- coalition politicians listed a number of concerns related to the potential Snowden subpoena. Myriad questions pertaining to such a visit would have to be resolved, including organizational issues and Russia's potential stance.

The When and the How

When the Left Party and the Greens refused to back down, coalition lawmakers resorted to a procedural trick. Although the opposition can make as many motions to collect evidence as they like, the majority decides on when and how such motions are addressed.

The majority decided to delay the vote on whether to subpoena Snowden until its next meeting. By then, the government is to determine if and how such a visit could be arranged. Whether coincidence or not, the government has been asked to provide that information by May 2, precisely the date on which Chancellor Merkel embarks on her next trip to the United States to meete with President Barack Obama.

Committee Chairman Sensburg believes this is sensible, saying that it must be determined in advance whether Snowden has "anything relevant" to say. "Only then can we consider the question of when, where and how" it can take place, he said. The politician also said that the questioning didn't necessarily have to take place in Germany. The SPD's senior official on the committee holds a similar view. "I admonish all members of the committee not to use the Snowden issue to create media attention," he said. "That would be cheap and inappropriate."

Green Party politician Konstantin von Notz, on the other hand, is annoyed. "The Christian Democrats and the SPD are defending the government's interests," he said. "If that continues, then the next four years are going to be terrible." He says his faction is considering challenging the procedural tricks now being used by the majority at Germany's Federal Court of Justice. Notz said he finds it absurd that there has been a debate for weeks now on whether or not Snowden would make an important witness. "He is one of the most important ones," he said.

One man suspected early on that people would seek to discredit the whistleblower: Snowden himself. Even as he began his flight, he said that the American government would seek to impose long-term damage to his credibility as a witness.

Snowden wasn't a senior employee at the NSA, but he was an unusually perceptive and critical one. He says he made the decision to turn against his employer when, while working as a systems administrator, he stumbled across a document from the NSA's general inspector dating from 2009. In it, an NSA lawyer at the agency's headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, outlined the tectonic changes that had been made to America's security structures following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It described in detail how the NSA had been given wider leeway for its operations with significant support from former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Significant Value

That's the point at which Snowden came up with the idea of obtaining as many documents as he could. He had been planning his departure from the NSA for over a year. US officials claim that he then used a webcrawler to automatically detect and download data. Among other areas, they claim he used the software program to obtain reports from the powerful technical surveillance unit, which had a sort of online black board behind the firewall where reports were posted with information about various secret operations.

Information about that alone could be significantly valuable to the parliamentary committee. It would allow members of German parliament, who know little about the NSA's structures, to learn how the US intelligence service is organized, which data is stored, where it is stored and for how long, and the importance of certain types of documents. Even just the way he handled the material shows how deeply he dove into the NSA's inner workings. He sorted the data into categories that document the NSA's various secret programs -- the surveillance of other countries or Internet infrastructure, for example. He stored the some 50,000 documents from Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) separately. The papers include diverse clues that are also important for the investigation in Germany. They would spotlight, for example, the close cooperation between the NSA and the largest American telecommunications companies, like AT&T -- a cooperation which, documents show, sought to direct part of international data traffic through the United States to make it possible for the NSA to access it.

Of particular relevance to Germany is a program called "Tempora" which is operated jointly by the NSA and GCHQ. The program, operated out of Bude in Cornwall, is used by the intelligence services to tap parts of international data traffic in the large fiber optic cables that run across Europe. "Tempora is the first 'I save everything approach' ('full take') in the intelligence world," Snowden says. He claims "it sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which rights are violated by it." Last week, Bloomberg reported that the NSA has been exploiting the Heartbleed bug in order to tap encrypted data. The US government has denied the allegation.

One of the parliamentary committee's key objectives is to determine the extent to which the NSA is surveilling the German people. Tempora would seem to be an important piece of this puzzle. Snowden spent a lot of time looking into Tempora and would likely be able to say a lot about the program.

'Think Twice'

Snowden's German lawyer, Wolfgang Kaleck, is convinced of this. Last Friday, he assured members of the committee in writing that Snowden occupied a "unique work status" in the US intelligence service structure. "He possesses expertise that for this reason alone is of crucial importance because he may be the only specialist of such rank who would also be willing to or is in a position to share his knowledge with the NSA investigative committee."

The decision on whether the former NSA employee testifies is a decision that Snowden himself must make. Diplomatic sources in Berlin suggest that Snowden would have to "think twice" about traveling to Germany. Even if he had hopes for applying for amnesty here, the risks for the 30-year-old in traveling from Moscow to Berlin would be considerable.

Memories in Berlin are still fresh of how vigorous efforts were in July 2013 to force a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales to land in Vienna. At the time, the Americans suspected that Edward Snowden was on board the aircraft.

BY NIKOLAUS BLOME, HUBERT GUDE, RENE PFISTER, JÖRG SCHINDLER AND HOLGER STARK

 99 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:46 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Armenia Names New Prime Minister

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 18:38

Armenia on Sunday named parliament speaker Ovik Abraamian as its new prime minister.

Abraamian, 56, takes over from Tigran Sarkisian who resigned earlier this month. Under the constitution, he now has 20 days to form a government.

"Given Ovik Abraamian's experience, we believe that he can and will resolve the problems our society faces," said deputy speaker Eduard Sharmazanov as he announced the appointment.

Sarkisian's government had come in for sharp criticism over a scheme requiring people born after 1974 to deposit five percent of their pay in private pension funds.

Thousands took to the streets to protest what they called a government "racket."

A landlocked country of 3.2 million, Armenia was badly affected by the global downturn and unemployment is a major issue.

The former Soviet state is economically isolated with its borders to Turkey and Azerbaijan both blocked due to ongoing international disputes.

Sarkisian surprised many last year by turning his back on years of negotiations toward a free-trade deal with the European Union in favor of joining the Moscow-led customs union, a pet project of Russian President Pig Putin.

 100 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 05:43 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Crisis-Hit Ukraine Eyes National Status Referendum

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 14:27

Ukraine's interim president on Monday made a dramatic about-face aimed at defusing tensions in the separatist east by backing a national referendum on turning the ex-Soviet republic into a federation with broader regional rights.

European powers meanwhile sought to raise the pressure on Russia -- which it blames for fomenting the tensions -- with Britain calling for "further sanctions" on Moscow ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

And Germany signaled its own resolve to take a tougher stance against a partner from which it imports 40 percent of its gas by noting there were "many signs" that armed groups operating in eastern Ukraine were "receiving support from Russia".

Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov's u-turn came only hours after pro-Kremlin militants who reject the authority of the new Western-backed leaders ignored an ultimatum to end their occupation of strategic buildings or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" involving both internal security forces and army troops.

The coordinated raids and dual threat posed by Russia's deployment of 40,000 troops on Ukraine's border and warning of a possible gas cutoff have left Kiev's untested leaders desperately seeking Western help in averting a further dismemberment of their crisis-hit state.

EU foreign ministers -- their capitals bracing for what might be the third halt in Russian gas supplies since 2006 -- gathered in Luxembourg to discuss whether to pursue a third and most punishing-yet round of economic sanctions against Moscow.

But Washington has also advised Kiev to devolve powers in order to remove any argument Moscow might make about discrimination against Russian speakers -- a charge that has fed fears of a further invasion following the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea last month.

Turchynov had long and furiously resisted Russia's idea of turning Ukraine into a federation. But he said on Monday that he was ready to put it up for a national vote to prove that most shared his view.

"In recent days, there has been a lot of talk about a national referendum," Turchynov told leading lawmakers in nationally televised remarks.

"We are not against holding a national referendum that -- if parliament adopts the corresponding decision -- could be held together with the presidential elections," Turchynov said in reference to the May 25 vote.

"I am certain that a majority of Ukrainians will support an indivisible, independent, democratic and united Ukraine," he added. "This is my conviction, and I think that all those present share my view."

Pro-Kremlin protesters in rundown eastern rust belt regions such as Donetsk and Kharkiv are seeking local referendums on either broader rights or an option to join the Russian Federation.

Turchynov's announcement stops well short of meeting those demands and it remains unclear how the gunmen -- or Russia -- intend to respond.

The outcome of a national vote on federalization is uncertain because most in Kiev and the Ukrainian-speaking west share more nationalist ideals and support a strongly unified state.

The pro-Kremlin gunmen's latest raids were especially unsettling for Kiev and Western leaders because of their remarkable similarity to events leading up to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The balaclava-clad gunmen were armed with special-issue assault rifles and scopes most often used by nations' crack security troops.

Many wore unmarked camouflage uniforms similar to those seen on the highly trained units that seized the Black Sea peninsula in early March. They also moved with military precision and cohesion.

Turchynov had warned on Sunday evening that he would launch a "full-scale" assault against the militants if they failed to give up by Monday morning.

AFP reporters across the Donetsk region saw no signs of a Ukrainian offensive.

The streets of Slavyansk -- a rundown coal mining town of 100,000 that has been under the militants' effective control since Saturday -- were deserted and silent except for a crowd of 1,000 that had gathered near the seized state buildings to show their support for the insurgents.

Protesters had set up road checks along the main highway leading into the city while many inside Slavyansk itself spoke in favor of joining Kremlin rule.

"We would have preferred autonomy within Ukraine," said a 46-year-old teacher named Oleksandr. "But under current circumstance, we are seeking unification with Russia."

But Donetsk Governor Sergiy Taruta told local residents in an official statement that the army operation had already begun.

"They are terrorists and we will not allow them to lord over our land," the Donetsk governor said.

***************

Yet Another Building Seized in East Ukraine

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
APRIL 14, 2014, 7:09 A.M. E.D.T.

DONETSK, Ukraine — A pro-Russian mob on Monday seized a police building in yet another city in Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine, defying government warnings that it was preparing to act against the insurgents.

Dozens of angry men hurled rocks, smashed the windows and broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka not far from the border with Russia, while hundreds of onlookers cheered them on. Thick white smoke rose from the entrance to the building, from which the insurgents hoisted the Russian flag.

The events in Horlivka were the latest sign of trouble in Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions, in which pro-Russian gunmen have seized or blocked government buildings in at least nine cities demanding more autonomy from the central government and closer ties with Russia.

Oleksandr Sapunov, one of the men who took part in storming the police building in Horlivka, said the insurgents were fighting against appointees of the Kiev government, including the local police chief, and wanted to appoint a leadership of their own.

"The people came to tell him that he is a puppet of the Kiev junta and they won't accept him," Sapunov said.

One of the insurgents later announced that some of the police have switched over to their side, retained their weapons and will continue serving on the police force.

Hundreds of onlookers outside chanted "Referendum!" and "Russia!"

One man climbed on the roof of the porch to put up a Russian flag. A policeman came through a window to chase him, and the man fell off the roof. Several minutes later the policeman, his head bloodied, was carried out of the police station to an ambulance.

Acting Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Velichkovych acknowledged Monday that some police officers in eastern regions were switching sides. "In the east we have seen numerous facts of sabotage from the side of police," Velichkovych told reporters.

Kiev authorities and Western officials have accused Moscow of instigating the protests, saying the events echoed those in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia last month. Ever since pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in late February, Russia has demanded constitutional reforms that would turn Ukraine into a loose federal state.

After refusing demands for a referendum by separatists in the east, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov indicated Monday that holding a nation-wide referendum on the nation's status was a possibility and that such a vote could be conducted on May 25, along with presidential elections. Turchynov expressed confidence that Ukrainians would vote against turning the country into a federation and against its break-up.

Meanwhile, a deadline set by the Ukrainian government for pro-Russian gunmen to leave government buildings in eastern Ukraine and surrender weapons passed early Monday, with no immediate sign of any action to force the insurgents out.

Turchynov had issued a decree Sunday that those protesters who disarm and vacate government offices in several cities in the Russian-leaning east of the country by 0600 GMT Monday will not be prosecuted. Turchynov vowed that a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" would take place to re-establish control over those areas and that the fate of the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia last month, will not be repeated.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the deadline passing.

But Serhiy Taruta, governor of the Donetsk region, where government buildings in several cities, including the regional capital Donetsk, have been seized by pro-Russian gunmen, said an "anti-terrorist operation" was underway in the region, according to the Interfax news agency.

Taruta did not give any details of what the operation would entail. The governor usually does not have authority to launch such measures on his own and he was likely acting on the orders of top security officials in Kiev.

Taruta said the action would be aimed at "protecting the peace and order on our land, which today is being taken away from us by armed, aggressive fanatics cynically and cold-bloodedly," he was quoted as saying. "They are terrorists and we will not let them rule on our land." He did not provide any details of the operation.

The West has accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest. Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, claimed that the Kiev government was coordinating its actions with the CIA.

Russia has warned the Kiev government against using force against the protesters in the east and has threatened to cancel an international diplomatic conference on the Ukrainian conflict scheduled for later this week.

European Union foreign ministers were meeting in Luxembourg Monday to consider broadening the list of people sanctioned because of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

***************

Ukraine's deadline for pro-Russian rebels to surrender passes

Acting president says operation to seize back government buildings in east Ukraine occupied by separatists will begin soon

Alec Luhn in Donetsk
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 10.40 BST     

An ultimatum issued by Ukraine's acting president for pro-Russian protesters in control of government buildings in the east of the country to lay down their arms or face an "anti-terrorist" operation passed on Monday with no sign of movement on either side.

The deadline – 9am local time (0700 GMT) – passed after the UN security council met in an emergency session in New York, where Russia called Ukraine's threat to mobilise armed forces a "criminal order".

Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said on Monday that the operation would begin soon. In a nationally televised address on Sunday night, he promised amnesty to those who had not fired at security forces if they laid down their arms and vacated seized government buildings.

The statement came after pro-Russian protesters seized more government buildings in several cities in the Donetsk region on Sunday, actions for which locals have claimed credit. Kiev and Washington have blamed Russia for inciting the takeovers.

Protesters have been occupying an administration building in the regional capital, Donetsk, and a security service building in neighbouring Luhansk region for over a week, and this weekend they took over several buildings in Slaviansk and nearby cities.

On Monday morning, Sergei Taruta, the Kiev-appointed governor of Donetsk, said an "anti-terrorist operation" was under way in the region and called on citizens "not to react to provocations", but Slaviansk and the capital appeared to be quiet.

A man who identified himself as Vyacheslav Ponomaryov in a video uploaded from a barricade in Slaviansk on Monday said government forces were moving towards the city from an airfield outside it and said one civilian had been wounded in a clash with them. He said the previous mayor had fled and he had been appointed as his replacement.

Also on Monday, the Ukrainian security and defence council head Andriy Parubiy said intelligence services had detained Russian secret agents in Ukraine, but did not provide further details.

The pro-Kiev analyst Dmitry Tymchuk, a Ukrainian army and defence ministry veteran, wrote on Facebook on Monday that Russian intelligence services had created "agent networks" in Ukraine in 2010-13, laying the groundwork for the "saboteurs and co-ordinators from Russia".

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on Monday that no Russian agents were in eastern Ukraine. He said any powers that encouraged Kiev to use force against protesters must take full responsibility for their actions.

Sunday saw the first deaths in the burgeoning crisis in eastern Ukraine, where a majority speak Russian as their first language. The Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said one state security officer had been killed and five wounded in an operation in Slaviansk on Sunday, and the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that one pro-Russian activist had been killed.

The Guardian found evidence of shootouts in Slaviansk on Sunday, including a clash between government troops and unknown men on a road outside the city.

A video of the aftermath of the gun battle showed a wounded man in camouflage and a man in a black uniform with a machine gun, apparently dead. A witness said the man in the black uniform was a provocateur who had tried to spur the reluctant troops to attack civilians, but other video from Slaviansk showed Ukrainian forces dressed in similar black uniforms in a standoff with unarmed locals.

Troops ultimately pulled back without moving into the city, where locals continue to occupy a police station and a security service building.

Both the US and Nato have accused Russia of staging another Crimea-style intervention, with Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, saying events were following the same pattern as in the Black Sea peninsula, where unidentified military forces took over government installations before the area was in effect annexed last month.

"[The unrest] is professional, it's co-ordinated, there is nothing grassroots-seeming about it," Power said. "The forces are doing, in each of the six or seven cities they have been active in, exactly the same thing. Certainly it bears the telltale signs of Moscow's involvement," she told ABC's This Week.

The Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described the protests as "a concerted campaign of violence by pro-Russian separatists, aiming to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign state".

He said the appearance of men carrying Russian weapons and wearing uniforms without insignia was a "grave development" and called on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine's border.

EU foreign ministers are to meet on Monday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Lady Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said she was "gravely concerned".

*************

Russia calls on UN security council as Ukraine issues deadline to rebels

Ukraine threatens dawn attack on rebels
Russia requests UN meeting, calling Kiev 'criminal'
UK says Kremlin has up to 40,000 troops on border

Staff and agencies
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 07.57 BST   
    
The United Nations security council held an emergency session on Sunday night to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine as the war of words between its western allies and Russia continued.

Just hours before a deadline by Ukraine for pro-Russian separatists in eastern cities to disarm by Monday morning or face all-out attack, the security council convened at Russia's request. Moscow called Kiev's plans to mobilise the army "criminal".

Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, denied western and Ukrainian claims that Moscow was behind the violence, and told the meeting that Ukraine has been using radical neo-Nazi forces to destabilise its eastern region.

"It is the west that will determine the opportunity to avoid civil war in Ukraine. Some people, including in this chamber, do not want to see the real reasons for what is happening in Ukraine and are constantly seeing the hand of Moscow in what is going on," Churkin said. "Enough. That is enough."

Churkin's comments were a direct rebuke to US and its allies which continued on Sunday to link the Kremlin to the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

His US counterpart Samantha Power told the meeting: "These armed units ... raised Russian and separatist flags over seized buildings and have called referendums and union with Russia. We know who is behind this."

Britain's UN ambassador said Russia had massed tens of thousands of well-equipped troops near the Ukrainian border in addition to the 25,000 troops it recently moved into Crimea, which Moscow effectively annexed last month.

"Satellite images show that there are between 35,000 and 40,000 Russian troops in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine equipped with combat aircraft, tanks, artillery and logistical support units," Mark Lyall Grant said.

Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two comrades near the flashpoint eastern city of Slaviansk, Ukrainian acting president Oleksander Turchinov gave rebels occupying state buildings until 0600 GMT (0200 EST) on Monday to lay down their weapons.

"The national security and defence council has decided to launch a full-scale anti-terrorist operation involving the armed forces of Ukraine," Turchinov said in an address to the nation.

He blamed Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea region when Moscow-backed former president Viktor Yanukovich fled after months of pro-Western protests, for being behind the rash of rebellions across Russian-speaking towns in eastern Ukraine.

"We will not allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern regions of Ukraine," Turchinov said.

The deadline and the standoff with Russian troops at the border have raised fears of a military confrontation with Moscow.

The head of Ukraine's state security service (SBU) said government forces would respond ruthlessly if pro-Russian separatists opened fire.

"If they open fire, we will annihilate them. There should be no doubt about this," Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said in a televised interview.

Earlier, Power said on ABC's This Week that the United States was prepared to step up sanctions against Moscow if pro-Russian military actions in eastern Ukraine continued.

"The president has made clear that, depending on Russian behavior, sectoral sanctions in energy, banking, mining could be on the table, and there's a lot in between," she added.

Ukraine has repeatedly said the rebellions are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region's Russian-speakers if they come under attack.

One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five were wounded on the government side in Sunday's operation in Slaviansk, interior minister Arsen Avakov said. "There were dead and wounded on both sides," he wrote on his Facebook page.

The separatists are holed up in the local headquarters of the police and of the state security service, while others have erected road blocks around Slaviansk, about 150 km (90 miles) from the Russian border.

Kiev accuses the Kremlin of trying to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25 that aim to set Ukraine back on a normal path after months of turmoil.

However, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Kiev was "demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country" and warned that any use of force against Russian speakers "would undermine the potential for cooperation", including talks due to be held on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.

Relations between Russia and the West are at their worst since the Cold War, due to the crisis that began when Moscow-backed Yanukovich was pushed out by popular protests in February.

Moscow then annexed Crimea from Ukraine, saying the Russian population there was under threat. Some Western governments believe the Kremlin is preparing a similar scenario for eastern Ukraine, something Moscow has strenuously denied.

In Kramatorsk, about 15 km (9 miles) south of Slaviansk, gunmen seized the police headquarters after a shootout with police, a Reuters witness said.

The attackers were a well-organised unit of more than 20 men, wearing matching military fatigues and carrying automatic weapons, who had arrived by bus. Video footage showed the men taking orders from a commander. Their identity was unclear.

Their level of discipline and equipment was in contrast to the groups which have occupied buildings so far in Ukraine. They have been mostly civilians formed into informal militias with mismatched uniforms.

Washington and Moscow have maintained regular dialogue throughout the crisis and on Saturday John Kerry, the US secretary of state, spoke by telephone to Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

But on Sunday night the US state department released a statement saying that the pro-Russian operations over the weekend were highly organised and "planned in advance" with militants "outfitted in bullet-proof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed and carrying Russian-origin weapons".

The actions were "inconsistent with political, grassroots protests" and that the Ukrainian government had evidence that Russian intelligence officers were directly involved in orchestrating the activities.

******************

Ukraine warns of 'large-scale operation' against pro-Russian forces after clashes

President sets deadline for pro-Russia militiamen to lay down arms as minister says state security officer killed in Slaviansk

Alec Luhn in Slaviansk and Ian Black   
theguardian.com, Sunday 13 April 2014 19.56 BST   
  
Ukraine is to launch a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" to resist pro-Russian forces, the country's president warned on Sunday following a shootout that claimed one victim in the eastern city of Slaviansk. The threat came after gunmen seized control of government buildings and fuelled international alarm about the escalating crisis.

Events on the ground suggested that the authorities in Kiev – anticipating a repeat of the Russian takeover of Crimea – were rapidly losing control of the situation, while Moscow, which denies any direct involvement in Ukraine, warned of the danger of civil war.

Armed men, widely believed to include Russian commandos, took over buildings in Slaviansk on Saturday and targeted four other cities. Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said a state security officer had been killed and five others wounded. There had been an "unidentifiable number" of casualties on the side of the separatists, Avakov said.

Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's interim president, announced on state television that an amnesty would be granted to anyone who laid down their arms by 6am Monday morning, but he warned: "We're not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine's east. Today's Palm Sunday celebrations were marred by aggression and blood. The terrorist troops co-ordinated by the Russian Federation seized a number of government buildings."

Turchynov said the situation was especially dangerous in Slaviansk where "trained criminals, dressed in camouflage and armed with Russian guns", were operating. "The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine," he said. "The aggressor has not stopped and is continuing to sow disorder in the east of the country."

On a day of high tension fuelled by rumour and propaganda, Mi-8 helicopters were seen hovering over Slaviansk to the sound of gunfire. Residents were told to stay indoors in anticipation of clashes around official buildings occupied by pro-Russian forces. "Pass it on to all civilians: they should leave the centre of town, not come out of their apartments, and not go near the windows," Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted Avakov as saying.

A video seen by the Guardian showed the aftermath of the fatal attack, including a wounded Ukrainian soldier and what appeared to be a dead man in a black uniform with a machine gun, thought to be one of the militiamen. It was the first fatal incident reported in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Kolodchenko, a council member in nearby Nikolayevka who witnessed the incident, told the Guardian that a convoy of seven armoured personnel carriers had arrived in the city to try to end the occupations. Commanders had gone to negotiate with the protesters and the convoy had come under attack in their absence. After the firefight, the unknown men fled, leaving their car at the scene. The troops later withdrew, he said.

Outside an occupied police station, masked men with machine guns and pistols warmed themselves by barrel fires while others manned barricades on either end of the street. Protesters on the other side of the barricades chanted "Russia!", "You won't put Donbass on its knees" and "Putin, help!"

It is clear that some militiamen are locals, while others, in green uniforms but without insignia, are better armed and more disciplined – and similar to the forces that were deployed before Russia's annexation of the Crimea last month.

Unrest has spread to several municipalities in the eastern part of Ukraine, including the major industrial city of Donetsk, which has a large Russian-speaking population. New checkpoints were appearing along the road between Donetsk and Slaviansk throughout the day, the Guardian found, with civilians checking the documents of those driving through.

Donetsk was the support base for Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who was ousted in February following months of protests in Kiev that were triggered by his decision to back away from closer relations with the EU and turn toward Russia. Ethnic Russians in Ukraine's east fear the new pro-western government will suppress them.

Gunmen also took control of police headquarters in the nearby city of Kramatorsk, a witness said. A video from a local news website showed a group of camouflaged men armed with automatic weapons storming the building.

The website also reported that supporters of the self-declared separatist Donetsk People's Republic had occupied the administration building, built a barricade with tyres and flown a Russian flag nearby.

A regional news website, Ostrov, said three important administrative buildings had been seized in another city in the area, Enakiyeve. In Mariupol, a city south of Donetesk on the Azov Sea and 30 miles from the Russian border, the town hall was seized by armed masked men.

A local news website 0629.com.ua said about 1,000 protesters were building a barricade while unknown armed men raised the Russian flag over the building.

On Saturday in Donetsk, witnesses said the men who entered the police building were wearing the uniforms of the Berkut, the feared riot police unit that was disbanded in February after Yanukovych's ouster. Berkut officers' violent dispersal of a demonstration in Kiev in November set off the mass protests that culminated in bloodshed in February when more than 100 people died in sniper fire. The acting government says the snipers were police officers.

Meanwhile, at least 10 people were injured in clashes between pro-Kiev and pro-Russian demonstrators in Kharkiv.

****************

Moscow accuses Kiev of issuing 'criminal orders' and warns of civil war

Russia orchestrating latest violence in east Ukraine and is staging another Crimea-syle intervention, claims US and Nato

Paul Lewis in Washington and Alec Luhn in Slaviansk
The Guardian, Sunday 13 April 2014 20.35 BST     

The crisis in Ukraine escalated dramatically on Sunday night as Russia accused Kiev of issuing a "criminal order" against protesters and warned of a civil war in the country, which has been hit by a wave of unrest that America believes has been orchestrated from Moscow.

The Russian statement came after unknown armed men attacked a convoy of Ukrainian troops in Slaviansk, about 100 miles from the border, launching the first gun battle in Ukraine since the standoff began, in which at least one person was killed. Both the US and Nato accused Russia of staging another Crimea-style intervention, with Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, saying events were following the same pattern as in Crimea, where unidentified military forces took over government installations before the peninsula was in effect annexed last month.

"[The unrest] is professional, it's co-ordinated, there is nothing grassroots-seeming about it," Power said. "The forces are doing, in each of the six or seven cities they've been active in, exactly the same thing. Certainly it bears the telltale signs of Moscow's involvement," she told ABC's This Week.

The Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described the protests as "a concerted campaign of violence by pro-Russian separatists, aiming to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign state".

He said the appearance of men carrying Russian weapons and wearing uniforms without insignia was a "grave development" and called on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine's border.

Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, went on television on Sunday night to announce that the army would take part in a "large-scale anti-terrorist operation" against the protesters, adding: "We're not going to allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine's east." He set a deadline of 6am GMT for the separatists to give up their weapons.

But the Russian foreign ministry said the west should bring its allies in Ukraine's government under control. "It is now the west's responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement on Facebook. "The situation in south-eastern Ukraine is taking on an extremely dangerous character. We decisively condemn attempts to use brute force against protesters and activists … We are particularly indignant about the criminal order [by Turchynov] to use the army to put down protest."

Alarm at Moscow's behaviour is certain to dominate discussions on Monday when EU foreign ministers, including Britain's William Hague, meet to discuss the crisis. Lady Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said she was "gravely concerned".

Britain also called on Moscow to disown the rebels. "Assumptions that Russia is complicit are inevitable as long as Moscow does not publicly distance itself from these latest lawless actions," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Washington and Moscow have maintained regular dialogue throughout the crisis and on Saturday John Kerry, the US secretary of state, spoke by telephone to Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

A senior state department official said Kerry expressed strong concern that attacks by "armed militants" in eastern Ukraine had been "orchestrated and synchronised". "The secretary made clear that if Russia did not take steps to de-escalate in eastern Ukraine and move its troops back from Ukraine's border, there would be additional consequences."

Sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and western allies have so far been restricted to visa bans and asset freezes targeting senior officials in Moscow accused of undermining Ukraine's sovereignty. However, Washington has repeatedly warned those could be expanded to include far-reaching sanctions attacking Russia's banking, energy and mining sectors.

The White House announced at the weekend that the US vice-president, Joe Biden, will travel to Kiev this month in a show of solidarity with the country's new government, which is planning presidential elections in May.

****************

Europe's rule of law in worst crisis since cold war, says Council chief

Thorbjørn Jagland's report on democracy in Europe argues lack of human rights in Ukraine paved way for Russia's actions

Joshua Rozenberg   
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 10.40 BST   
  
The rule of law in Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the end of the cold war, according to the chief executive of Europe's largest human rights body.

Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary general of the 47-nation Council of Europe, made his assessment before tensions in eastern Ukraine rose over the weekend and before the council's parliamentary assembly voted last Thursday to suspend Russia's voting rights over its annexation of Crimea. Jagland argues that a lack of human rights in Ukraine has paved the way for Russia's actions.

He writes: "In Ukraine the absence of an independent judiciary, and lack of the checks and balances which a functioning parliament and free media should provide, allowed endemic corruption and misuse of power to thrive unchecked. This caused mistrust, social unrest and ultimately a revolution."

Jagland addressed his remarks to member states in an unpublished report on the state of democracy in Europe. The report is due to be released after it has been considered by delegations from the member governments meeting at a summit in Vienna early next month.

Most of the 72-page report is devoted to identifying "very worrying" challenges to human rights, democracies and the rule of law across Europe.

These include discrimination against ethnic and national minorities (in 39 member states); prison overcrowding (30 states); corruption (26 states); ill treatment by police (23 states); social exclusion and discrimination against Roma (20 states); and restrictions of free expression (eight states).

Problems with the judiciary are identified in 20 countries and deeply embedded judicial corruption has been reported in "many" of the 47 Council of Europe states, the report says. In some, the justice system was "completely corrupt". The European court of human rights, which is operated by the Council of Europe, continues to find violations of the right to a trial within a reasonable period of time. In some states, prosecutors sit in court alongside the judges, exercising powers that are too broad and lack transparency.

To avoid the risk that its publication will be vetoed by member states, the report does not name and shame individual governments. But each country was told last November, in confidence, of the three main challenges it is seen as facing. These are not necessarily its worst violations of human rights; they may include persistent and politically difficult issues as well as those that the Council of Europe believes it can best assist in overcoming.

These problems are not confined to eastern Europe. Calling for an improved gender balance within the judiciary, the report notes that two countries have supreme courts that are over 90% male. The UK must be one of them.

"Senior members of the executive branch in some member states have publicly criticised court decisions," the report continues. That was certainly a problem in the UK at one time, although it's fair to say that members of the present government have been more restrained.

More broadly, the council's monitoring bodies have raised concerns about police and prisons as often in northern and western Europe as in central and eastern Europe. Discrimination and social exclusion are widespread, although targeted groups vary from region to region.

The report identifies more effective monitoring as one of the paths to progess. Some standards, such as freedom of expression, are not specifically monitored within Europe. Others, such as the status of minorities, are monitored by overlapping bodies. And some bodies are too slow to cope with emergencies. The report also finds that some countries are reluctant to seek help because of the damage to the state's reputation that might follow.

It offers reassurance that Europe is not divided into countries that have human rights problems and those that do not. But it adds that Europe can be divided into those that are willing to cooperate in addressing their problems and those that are unwilling to do so.

Inevitably, increased monitoring and support will cost more money, which would have to come from member states – although Jagland says that reforms in recent years have led to a "leaner and more efficient organisation". He also wants to hold a summit next year at which heads of state would agree a five-year agenda for democratic security.

If this goes ahead, its recommendations are bound to need funding. But if they give member states less justification for invading each other's territory, it would surely be a small price to pay.

****************


Most Ukrainians are neither loyal Russians nor fascists

In the propaganda war between Putin and the west, the complexities of Ukraine, and its people's interests, are ignored

James Meek   
The Guardian, Sunday 13 April 2014 20.15 BST           

Things weren't easy in Ukraine when I lived there in the early 1990s, just after the country voted to break from Moscow. There was hyperinflation. People lost their savings. There were petrol shortages. The airport in Kiev would close for days at a time for lack of fuel. Nothing got repaired; nothing got built.

But nobody starved. Nobody froze. The electricity was never cut off. The trains kept running, schools and hospitals limped from day to day. Most importantly, horrifying as it was for Ukrainians to watch on the television news how long-peaceful places they knew, such as Georgia, Moldova and Chechnya, were suddenly on fire with heavily armed men strutting across them, they were far away.

There was much grumbling about the Ukrainian government, its incompetence, its corruption. There always seemed the possibility, in the abstract, that Russia might try to come back. In the mid-1990s I wrote an article for the Guardian suggesting a scenario for a new Yugoslavia in the east, with Ukraine as Croatia, Crimea as Bosnia and Russia as Serbia. But I felt I'd pushed it. After all, Boris Yeltsin was no Milosevic.

I remember visiting Ukraine one springtime in the mid-1990s. Days earlier, in Chechnya, I'd seen shell-ruined buildings, terrified civilians, battle-hardened separatists and frightened Russian conscripts. In Ukraine I drove past Ukrainian soldiers gathered around a radar truck; each one was blissfully asleep, bathed in the soft May sunshine. It made me smile. After all, what did they have to worry about? Ukraine had given away its nuclear weapons and in return, the country's territorial integrity was guaranteed in a document signed by Russia, the US and Britain.

And then Russia got its Milosevic. Like his Serbian counterpart, Vladimir Putin is clever, articulate, popular, untrustworthy to those who are not his friends, ruthless, cynical to the point of absurdity and unable to account for his personal wealth. Like Milosevic, he has no compunction in exploiting the messianic, victim-narrative strain of his country's patriotism. Unlike Milosevic, because of Russia's nuclear arsenal, he is invulnerable to military attack from outside. Unlike Milosevic, he has had many years of income from raw materials exports with which to build up powerful, well-equipped security forces to carry out a well-targeted upgrade of Russia's military, to turn the media into a government mouthpiece, to repress or buy off dissenters, and to offer the outside world the convincing illusion that his country is prospering. (It is true that Russian pensioners are somewhat less miserably poor than those in Ukraine.)

Now, a generation later, long after it had been unthinkable, those same chaotic figures with Kalashnikovs and fatigues have appeared in Ukraine, under Russian sponsorship and, all evidence suggests, direction.

First came the direct Russian military takeover of Crimea. The weekend saw an apparent attempt by proxy to separate the eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, and perhaps others, from Kiev's control.

There are multiple possible interpretations of what is unfolding in eastern Ukraine. The Pigtinite "men in green", as they are now being called by Ukrainians, for the time being have the active support of some locals, particularly pensioners. But one essential point is beyond dispute. Nothing that has happened in Ukraine up to now justifies either military intervention by Russia or the injection of armed mercenaries and irregulars into a peaceful country.

In the wake of the revolution in Kiev that drove the corrupt president Victor Yanukovych to flee, Ukraine faced a world of problems. Not one of those problems has been made easier by Putin seizing Crimea or sponsoring insurrection in eastern Ukraine. Ever since the revolution, the Pig has promoted the idea that Ukraine is in "chaos". But there was no chaos, so he made some. The only chaos in Ukraine has been caused by Russian intervention.

The Pig has promoted the notion that ethnic Russians were in danger. There has never been evidence for this unless you count as brutal repression a failed attempt to revive an old law making Ukrainian the sole language for court hearings and government forms. The Pig calls for greater autonomy for the south and east of Ukraine, and more rights for Russian-speakers, while doing all he can to obstruct elections that would bring them back into the political process.

A dangerous line was crossed today when a Ukrainian security service officer was killed by one of the "men in green" at a roadblock set up by the Russian proxies near Slavyansk – the first time since the Pig invaded Crimea that blood has been shed during an attempt by Ukrainian government forces to assert control.

The Pig has put Ukraine's weak transitional government in an impossible position: fail to resist and I will invade. Resist and I will invade more, and there will be corpses. Although they would never admit it, the authorities in Kiev are resigned to the loss of Crimea. But they don't know where or when Pig Putin will stop. His strategy has blighted the future of Ukraine's 46 million people, making it impossible for any part of the country to move forward.

Hearing the opinions of people in Britain, Europe and America since Russia began to dismember Ukraine, I've been struck by how disagreement tends to focus on which of the two sides has behaved worst: Pig Putin or the west. The complexities of the people of Ukraine tend to vanish in this binary view, alarmingly close to the Putinite consensus, which is that if you live in Ukraine you must either be a loyal vassal to Russia or a fascist.

The truth is that between the minority of archaic radical nationalists in Ukraine's far west, whose role in the revolution won them a few posts in Kiev's otherwise moderate government, and the minority of neo-Soviet extremists in the east, there is a larger group of Ukrainians for whom the difference between the two cultures and languages is trivial. What they want is for their country to be an east Slav space that is fairer and less corrupt than either Putin's Russia, Yanukovych's Ukraine or Lukashenko's Belarus. Whichever way Europe and the US act, it must be with the interests of that group in mind.

In a haunting article, written during Putin's invasion of Crimea, the Ukrainian writer and ethnic Russian Yelena Styazhkina said: "Ukraine is my motherland. The Russian language is my native language. Let Pushkin save me and liberate me from sadness and anxiety. Pushkin, but not Pig Putin."

Pages: 1 ... 8 9 [10]