Armed men seize two airports in Ukraine’s Crimea, Russia denies involvement
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region on Friday in what Ukraine’s government described as an invasion and occupation by Russian forces, raising tension between Moscow and the West.Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in the region, denied its forces were involved in seizing one of the airports, Interfax news agency reported, while a supporter described the group at the other site merely as Crimean militiamen.Amid the confusion over the men’s identity, acting president Oleksander Turchinov called an emergency session of his security chiefs, while parliament urged Moscow to halt any action that might encourage separatism and asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss the crisis.Tensions have been rising on the Black Sea peninsula, the only Ukrainian region that has an ethnic Russian majority and the last major bastion of resistance to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich as president almost a week ago.Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russian naval forces of taking over a military airport near the port of Sevastopol, where the Black Sea fleet has its base, and other Russian forces of seizing Simferopol’s civilian international airport.Armed men seize Crimea government HQ in Ukraine Play video„I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” Avakov said on his Facebook page, describing it as a „provocation” and calling for talks.This met with a Russian denial of involvement in the military airport action. „No Black Sea Fleet units have moved toward (the airport), let alone taking any part in blockading it,” Interfax quoted a spokesman for the fleet as saying.Yanukovich is expected to appear before reporters in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don later on Friday, though President Vladimir Putin has not said whether Moscow will harbor the former leader, who is on the run and wanted by the new government for mass murder after the deaths of protestors in Kiev last week.The United States has told Russia to show in the next few days that it is sincere about a promise not to intervene in Ukraine, saying using force would be a grave mistake.”We believe that everybody now needs to take a step back and avoid any kind of provocations,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. „We want to see in the next days ahead that the choices Russia makes conform to this affirmation we received today.”Russian troops on war games alert Play videoORDERS FROM PUTIN-The Kremlin said Putin had ordered his government to continue talks with Ukraine on economic and trade relations and to consult foreign partners including the International Monetary Fund on financial aid.It also said Putin ordered the government to consider a request from Crimea for humanitarian aid but made no direct reference to the latest events.Yanukovich provoked protests in Ukraine in November by backing out of plans to sign landmark deals with the European Union and instead saying Kiev would seek closer economic and trade ties with its former Soviet master Russia.In December, Putin promised Yanukovich a $15 billion bailout, but Russia has put the deal on hold after releasing an initial installment, saying it wants more clarity about the new government and its policies.View galleryAn armed man patrols at the airport in Simferopol, Crimea February 28, 2014. A group of armed men in …Ukraine’s hryvnia currency has been in freefall in recent days as investors worried about Kiev’s ability to repay its debts. But with the new rulers seeking IMF help, it bounced back 5 percent to 10.50 per dollar on Friday, according to Reuters data, from the record low of 11.0 reached on Thursday.Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Ukraine hoped to begin receiving international aid soon and was determined to fulfil conditions needed for IMF support. A previous deal collapsed after Kiev failed to implement IMF demands for lower gas subsidies, which would have hurt Ukrainians by pushing up energy prices sharply.The IMF also wanted a more flexible currency regime, something that has now come about as Kiev gave up this week its attempts to arrest the hryvnia’s slide, which had burnt through its dollar reserves. Central bank Governor Stepan Kubiv also said foreign currency withdrawals from bank deposits would be limited to 15,000 hryvnia ($1,500) per day.ARMED FORCES IN CRIMEA-Kiev’s new rulers have said any movement by Russian forces beyond the Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol would be tantamount to aggression.View galleryArmed men stand guard at the Simferopol airport in the Crimea region February 28, 2014. Armed men to …But it faces a major challenge in Crimea which was Russian territory until it was transferred to Ukraine in 1954, during the Soviet era. Separatism there has often flared up at times of tension between Moscow and Kiev.Unidentified gunmen seized the Crimean parliament and raised a Russian flag on Thursday. The gunmen issued no demands and police were casually guarding the building.Armed men took control of Simferopol airport overnight and were patrolling its grounds on Friday morning.A Reuters eyewitness at the scene said the men, dressed in full battle gear and carrying assault rifles and machine guns, were moving freely in an out of the control tower.A man called Vladimir, who said he was a volunteer helping the group, said: „I’m with the People’s Militia of Crimea. We’re simple people, volunteers … We’re here at the airport to maintain order. We’ll meet the planes with a nice smile – the airport is working as normal.”View galleryArmed men stand guard at the entrance to Belbek Airport in the Crimea region February 28, 2014. Arme …The Belbek military airport near Sevastopol was taken over by what Avakov said were military units of the Russian fleet, and armed men in camouflage were guarding the perimeter fence.One of the men was quoted as saying the aim was to prevent Avakov flying to Crimea.”Tension is rising,” Avakov said. „While we don’t have direct military clashes, diplomats should talk.”SOVEREIGNTY CALL-The regional parliament in Crimea managed to hold a session inside the building on Thursday despite the siege, where it voted to stage a referendum on „sovereignty” for Crimea.View galleryAn armed man stands guard at the entrance to Belbek Airport in the Crimea region February 28, 2014. …Russia’s flag still flew from its roof, and lights were on in the windows of its top floor. It was not clear whether the armed men were still inside.Acting-president Turchinov warned Russia on Thursday not to move personnel beyond areas permitted by treaty for those using its naval base.”Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory will be seen by us as military aggression,” he said.Russia has repeatedly declared it will defend the interests of its citizens in Ukraine, and announced war games on Wednesday near the border, involving 150,000 troops on high alert. Kerry said Lavrov told him the exercises had been pre-planned.Although Moscow says it will not intervene by force, its rhetoric since the removal of its ally Yanukovich has echoed the run-up to its invasion of Georgia in 2008, when it sent its troops to protect two self-declared independent regions and then recognized them as independent states.Witness accounts suggest those who captured the Crimean parliament building in the early hours of Thursday were pro-Russian gunmen of some kind.(Additional reporting by Piotr Pilat in Simferopol, Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Elizabeth Piper in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage, Richard Balmforth and David Stamp; Editing by Will Waterman)
Russia Denies Blocking Airport In Crimea
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – Armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region on Friday in what Ukraine’s government described as an invasion and occupation by Russian forces, raising tension between Moscow and the West.Russia’s Black Sea fleet, which is based in the region, denied its forces were involved in seizing one of the airports, Interfax news agency reported, while a supporter described the group at the other site merely as Crimean militiamen.Amid the confusion over the men’s identity, acting president Oleksander Turchinov called an emergency session of his security chiefs, while parliament urged Moscow to halt any action that might encourage separatism and asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss the crisis.Tensions have been rising on the Black Sea peninsula, the only Ukrainian region that has an ethnic Russian majority and the last major bastion of resistance to the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich as president almost a week ago.Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russian naval forces of taking over a military airport near the port of Sevastopol, where the Black Sea fleet has its base, and other Russian forces of seizing Simferopol’s civilian international airport.View gallery
Ukraine crisis deepens as Russia scrambles jets
The moves pose an immediate challenge to Ukraine’s new authorities as they seek to set up an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West.Ukraine’s new prime minister said the country’s future lies in the European Union but with friendly relations with Russia. Moscow, meanwhile, has launched a major military exercise involving 150,000 troops and put fighter jets on patrol along the border.Respected Russian news organization RBK reported that Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven out of Kiev by a three-month protest movement against his government, was staying in a Kremlin retreat just outside Moscow after first staying at a hotel.”I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” the fugitive leader said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Thursday. He said he still considers himself president and sees the new Ukrainian authorities as illegitimate.The same agencies then quoted an unnamed Russian official saying that Yanukovych’s request for protection „was satisfied on the territory of Russia.”Raw: Pro-RussiaGunmen Seize Offices in Ukraine Play videoYanukovych will reportedly hold a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said they had no information about Yanukovych’s reported arrival in Moscow.Yanukovych’s decision to ditch closer ties to the European Union and turn to Moscow instead sparked weeks of protests in Kiev. He fled after riot police attacked protesters in Kiev’s central square, killing more than 80 people, and European and Russian officials intervened. He hasn’t been seen publicly since Saturday, when he said he remained the legitimately elected president — a position that has been backed by Russia.In Kiev, lawmakers chose Arseniy Yatsenyuk as the new prime minister. He will face the hugely complicated task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.Shortly before the lawmakers chose him as the leader of the new Cabinet, Yatsenyuk said Ukraine doesn’t want a fight with Russia, but insisted the country wouldn’t accept the secession of the southern Crimea region.He said Crimea „has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”Hagel Urges Russia to Act Cautiously on Ukraine Play videoThe Black Sea peninsula, where a majority of residents are ethnic Russians and where Russia maintains a naval base, has become the latest flashpoint in Ukraine’s political crisis. A day after pro- and anti-Russian rallies in the regional capital of Simferopol, witnesses said gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms and carrying rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and other weapons seized local government buildings and raised the Russian flag over the regional parliament.They didn’t immediately voice any demands and threw a flash grenade in response to a journalist’s questions. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of the victory in World War II, and put up a sign reading „Crimea is Russia.”Later in the day, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters gathered outside the parliament, waving Russian flags and signs calling for Crimea to join Russia. Oleg Slusarenko, a protest organizer, announced to the crowd that deputies had voted to hold a referendum on expanding Crimea’s autonomy on May 25.Russian news agencies reported that the Crimean legislature had held an emergency session — despite the occupation of the building — and removed the local governor, replacing him with Sergei Aksyonov, the head of Russian Unity, the main pro-Russian party on the peninsula.It wasn’t immediately clear what effect the decisions would have in practice.View galleryPro-Russian demonstrators march with a huge Russian flag during a protest in front of a local govern …Phone calls to the Crimean legislature rang unanswered, and its website was down.Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as Ukraine’s acting president after Yanukovych’s flight, denounced the gunmen who seized control of the government buildings in Crimea and warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea „will be considered a military aggression.””I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings,” he said.Ukraine’s ambassador to NATO, Ihor Dolhov, told The Associated Press in Brussels that Turchynov was supposed to go to Crimea later Thursday. Russian news agency Interfax later reported that he wasn’t going.In another sign of the ongoing tensions in Crimea, an AP freelancer saw a convoy of seven armored personnel carriers on a road near the village of Ukromnoye, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Simferopol. The soldiers manning the APCs didn’t answer questions, and the APCs turned away and headed away from Simferopol. Their nationality wasn’t immediately clear.View gallery
View PhotoAFP/AFP/File – This picture taken on February 21, 2014 shows the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych before a signing agreement with opposition leaders in KievUkraine’s general prosecutor said Friday Kiev would ask Moscow to extradite ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, who is thought to have fled to Russia and is expected to give a press briefing there later in the day.”Ukraine’s general prosecutor intends to ask for citizen Viktor Yanukovych, who is wanted on an international level, to be extradited if his presence in Russia is confirmed,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
View PhotoAFP – Judicial authorities in Geneva said Friday they have launched a criminal investigation into alleged money laundering by ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych and his son.The Swiss government also announced it was freezing the assets of 20 Ukranian officials, including Yanukovych and his son and a number of former ministers.
Reuters/Reuters – Homme armé devant l’aéroport de Simféropol. Le ministre ukrainien de l’Intérieur a dénoncé vendredi l’occupation de deux aéroports de Crimée, à Simféropol et Sébastopol, par des …plus News MondeL’opposant russe Alexeï Navalny assigné à résidenceAFP – il y a 10 minutes
View PhotoAFP/Ria Novosti/AFP/File – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (front) rides with the ‘Night Wolves’ during an annual motorbike festival in the southern town of Novorossiysk, on August 29, 2011
View PhotoAFP/AFP – Unidentified armed men patrol outside of the Simferopol airport, on February 28, 2014 Ukraine’s security authorities said on Friday they had regained control of two airports on the volatile Crimean peninsula that had been seized by gunmen that officials in Kiev said had links to the Russian military.”There was an attempt to seize the airports, but we have localised those attempts. The airports are now controlled by Ukrainian law enforcement authorities,” Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council chief Andriy Parubiy said in televised remarks.
View PhotoAFP/Pool/AFP/File – Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Cathedral of St. Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro, on July 27, 2013
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused a U.S.-based cleric of conspiring against him with the opposition by faking recordings, and dared him to „stand up in the squares” and do his politics in Turkey.An audio track purporting to be of Erdogan giving his son business advice was posted anonymously on YouTube on Wednesday, following one earlier in the week that fuelled a simmering government corruption scandal and unnerved markets.Addressing his first campaign rally for March’s local elections since the recordings appeared, a combative Erdogan said Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen had collaborated with the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) to spread the fabricated „montage”.”Hodja (scholar), if you have not done anything wrong, then don’t live in Pennsylvania. If your country is Turkey, then come back to your country,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters in the southern town of Burdur, using Gulen’s honorific title.”If you want to go into politics, then stand up in the squares and do politics,” he said to cheers, throwing down the gauntlet to a cleric widely held to have considerable sway over parts of the state bureaucracy but less influence at the ballot box.Gulen, whose followers say they number in the millions, is believed to have built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades and leads a powerful worldwide Islamic movement from a forested compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains.Erdogan’s supporters accuse the cleric of orchestrating the corruption investigation, which erupted in mid-December with the arrest of businessmen close to him and of three ministers’ sons, in a bid to unseat him.POPULARITY LITTLE CHANGED-Opinion polls taken before Monday’s posting showed Erdogan’s popularity little affected by the corruption scandal. Political analysts suggest followers of Gulen’s Hizmet (Service) movement account for around 3-5 percent of voters.Through his lawyer, Gulen has described the accusation of complicity in the tapes as unjust and contributing to an atmosphere of „hatred and enmity” in Turkish society.Erdogan’s rift with a man who long supported the rise of his Islamist-rooted AK Party has grown into one of the greatest challenges of his 11 years in power. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu played the first recording during his weekly group meeting at parliament on Tuesday.”CHP’s Hodja from overseas has handed a montage to the general manager of CHP and assigned this mission to him,” Erdogan said. „He told him … we will prepare montages from here and you will talk about our montages in your group meetings.”Erdogan has said the recording posted on Monday, in which he allegedly tells his son Bilal to dispose of large sums of cash as the corruption detentions begin, was faked by his political enemies.The audio track posted on Wednesday under the pseudonym „Haramzadeler” purported to be of Erdogan advising Bilal to hold out for a better offer in an unspecified business deal.”The others are bringing. Why can’t he bring? What do they think this business is? … But don’t worry, they will fall into our lap,” says the voice on the recording.Reuters could not verify the authenticity of either recording and one of Erdogan’s four deputy prime ministers told reporters that Wednesday’s recordings were also fabricated.”On yesterday’s developments, almost everyone agrees that they are a montage,” Emrullah Isler said at a ceremony in Sudan, describing those responsible as an „illegitimate gang”.”A sort of political engineering is planned in Turkey through blackmail and tapes,” he said.POLICE OFFICER IDENTIFIED–Government officials say the Hizmet network has been illegally tapping thousands of telephones in Turkey for years to concoct criminal cases against its enemies and try to influence government affairs.”Can you imagine this? The police officer who works for me … places a bug in the most private part of my office,” Erdogan said, adding that the officer in question had been identified and legal proceedings started.The latest political tensions briefly unnerved the markets. The lira fell to a three-week low of 2.2525 to the dollar overnight, with nervousness over the graft scandal compounded by worries over mounting tension in Ukraine, but bounced back to 2.2255 by 1535 GMT.No company names are mentioned in Wednesday’s audio recording but the voice purported to be Bilal Erdogan refers to a „Mr. Sitki”, saying he could not carry out a transaction.An accompanying text within the YouTube clip says the reference is to Sitki Ayan, the chairman of Istanbul-based company Turang Transit Tasimacilik. The basis for that conclusion was not clear.It could not immediately be determined what ties, if any, Turang or its chairman have to the Erdogan family.Representatives of Turang were not immediately available to comment on Thursday.Turang received a licence in 2010 to build part of a pipeline intended to carry Iranian and Turkmen gas to Europe through Turkey, according to its website.It was granted government incentives including tax exemptions on investments of up to 11.5 billion lira ($5.2 bln) in December, according to the Economy Ministry’s website.($1 = 2.2279 Turkish lira)(Additional reporting by Asli Kandemir and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Daren Butler; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
N. Korea snubs South request on detained missionary
View PhotoAFP/Ju Dong-Shik/AFP/File – South Korean missionary Kim Jeong-Wook gives a lecture at a church in Cheorwon, on November 20, 2013
AFP/Rodrigo Arangua – Die Arbeiten am Panama-Kanal können weitergehen Der Streit um die Mehrkosten beim Ausbau des Panamakanals ist nach Angaben des Firmenkonsortiums GUPC beigelegt. Nach langen Verhandlungen mit der Kanalbehörde gebe es eine „prinzipielle Einigung”, teilte das von der spanischen Firma Sacyr angeführte Konsortium am Freitag mit. Die Dokumente würden „in Kürze” unterzeichnet. Die Einigung sieht laut GUPC vor, dass ein Schiedsgericht entscheidet, wer die Verantwortung für die Mehrkosten trägt.In dem Streit geht es um eine erwartete Kostensteigerung von rund 1,6 Milliarden Dollar (1,2 Milliarden Euro). Grund sind geologische Probleme. Beide Seiten werfen sich gegenseitig vor, für die Kostensteigerung verantwortlich zu sein. Das Konsortium GUPC hatte die Ausbauarbeiten wegen des Streits für zwei Wochen komplett ausgesetzt.Der 1914 eröffnete Kanal soll verbreitert werden, um größeren Containerfrachtern die Durchfahrt zu ermöglichen. Der Panamakanal verbindet Pazifik und Atlantik und macht auf diese Weise für Schiffe den teuren und schwierigen Weg um das Kap Hoorn an der Südspitze Amerikas überflüssig. Dem aktuellen Zeitplan zufolge sollen die Arbeiten im kommenden Jahr abgeschlossen werden.
Bitcoin-Krise verschärft sich: Größte Börse Mt.Gox insolvent
dpa/epa Michael Reynolds – Der Tian’anmen-Platz in Peking. Hier hatte die kommunistische Führung 1989 die Demokratiebewegung blutig niederschlagen lassen. Foto: Michael Reynolds/Archiv Die Angehörigen der Opfer der blutigen Niederschlagung der chinesischen Demokratiebewegung 1989 fordern eine Aufarbeitung des Massakers vor 25 Jahren.In einem Brief appellieren sie an die Delegierten des Volkskongresses, der am Mittwoch in Peking zu seiner Jahrestagung zusammenkommt, «das Schweigen zu brechen».Die Wahrheit müsse aufgedeckt, die Opfer entschädigt und die Verantwortlichen zur Rechenschaft gezogen werden, heißt es in dem Appell des Netzwerkes der «Tian’anmen-Mütter», den die Menschenrechtsgruppe Human Rights in China (HRiC) am Freitag verbreitete.Die Delegierten sollten ihrem Gewissen folgen. Es wäre schon Fortschritt, wenn es überhaupt zu einer Diskussion darüber käme. Alle Führer, von Jiang Zemin über Hu Jintao und jetzt Xi Jinping redeten nicht über das Massaker vom 4. Juni 1989 – als wenn es nicht passiert, in weite Ferne entrückt und «der Schatten nicht mehr zu sehen wäre». Auf ihre jährlichen Appelle haben die Angehörigen, die während der Tagung meist unter besonderer Beobachtung der Staatssicherheit stehen, noch nie eine Antwort bekommen.Die genaue Zahl der Opfer des Militäreinsatzes gegen die friedlichen Demonstranten in der Nacht zum 4. Juni 1989 ist nicht bekannt, doch dürften es einige hundert gewesen sein.